Friday, February 28, 2014

The Elder Scrolls 4's Add-Ons

Blah blah blah, same tired intro explaining that even though the game by now comes bundled with all the add-ons I’m still gonna rate them as though they were being sold separately, blah blah blah, same spiel about how I’m only rating add-ons involving actual story content, not just stupid extra accessories like horse armor and houses.

Mehrunes’ Razor: Oh, boy, a bare bones story about some jerk creating an army to take down the Empire as a flimsy pretext to have you go gallivanting through a very long, very generic dungeon for hours in order to obtain a slightly-more-powerful-than-average dagger. What a delight. Because if there’s one thing Oblivion doesn’t have enough of, it’s tedious dungeons to explore for little-to-no plot-related reason! This snore of a quest was apparently originally bundled in with another add-on package, the Knights of the Nine one, so I guess it sort of didn’t cost anything, but frankly the simple cost of your time for essentially no story at all isn’t worth it.

Orrery: This add-on was also bundled in originally with the Knights of the Nine, like Mehrunes’ Razor, and like Mehrunes’ Razor, it’s boring and tedious. The story to it is that bandits stole parts for the Imperial Orrery. You go to the bandits’ camps, kill the bandits, get the parts, and deliver them to someone, and get a special power from it. And you’re done. That’s it. Again, free, but a plot-less fetch-quest is not worth the time anyway.

Knights of the Nine: This add-on, originally sold for $20, is at least better than the ones I’ve mentioned so far in that it DOES have an actual bit of story to it that actually maintains some relevance through the add-on's course. I’ll give it that much; someone at Bethesda actually managed to give half a shit about it, unlike Orrery and Mehrunes’ Razor. But since the story is rather generic and dull, again making it not even worth the time it takes to complete it let alone the 20 bucks you paid for it (back in the day, at least), I still give it a thumbs-down.

Shivering Isles: Alright, finally we have something halfway decent! This expansion adds a slightly small new land to explore, several new sidequests, and a line of main quests involving saving the land of chaotic madness from the encroaching forces of rigid order. I wouldn’t call Shivering Isles anything amazing, and its sidequests are only slightly more interesting than the dull-as-dirt sidequests of the main game, but at least it’s got an interesting set of characters, a new setting that will catch your attention for at least a little while, and an overall plot that’s fairly worthwhile. The main figure of the expansion, Sheogorath, is quite a hoot, and the overall story of the cycle of order to madness and madness to order for this Daedric realm is kind of neat. In all honesty, Shivering Isles is the only part of the entire game that I found at all engaging. I can appreciate TES4 for the many impressive feats it accomplished as an RPG in terms of gameplay, but its story and characters were at very best average; Shivering Isles is the only part of it that stands out at all.

And that’s it for that. Not much to say, really--in terms of add-ons, Oblivion overall stays true to itself with a bunch of boring filler that wastes your time while giving you nothing of worth to experience. Shivering Isles is the one exception, and I even doubt the price for admission into that was worth the small positive experience it provided. Just as I do when comparing the main game of The Elder Scrolls 4 to that of Fallout 3, I look at these add-ons and then at the DLCs of Fallout 3, and I shake my head in confusion. Is this really the work of the same company that would go on to make such an excellent game as Fallout 3 from the same programming building blocks?


  1. Humm I wonder if your should have a separate tag for Ad-ons I guess if you do enough of it.

    Also if your would please take a look at this if you haven't already should be really interesting to you

    1. Interesting stuff. Not terribly surprising, of course, it's hard not to get that impression after you've played enough JRPGs and/or seen enough anime. Obviously there are plenty of exceptions (as the video itself says, Nintendo, though the video doesn't give Nintendo enough credit on the point), but in general, that seems correct from the impressions I've gotten.

      That said, there's something to be said for keeping one's culture distinct. Obviously Japan is doing so too much in all regards, to the point of being unrealistically separated intellectually from the rest of the world...still, I'm not sure I'd want every, or even most, JRPG manufacturers to jump forward and change the way they make their products. Obviously SquareEnix should do so, but that's because SquareEnix's works of the last 10 years have been a sea of worthless garbage punctuated at rare intervals by something halfway decent (such as Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, and The World Ends with You). But as a general rule, JRPGs have a lot of unique value as storytelling platforms, and the western mentality when it comes to RPGs is most often SEVERELY lacking. You get some classics like Planescape: Torment, Mass Effect, and Fallout, but most of the time the plot and characters take a back seat to everything else about the title--in fact, looking at some prominent western RPG titles, such as The Elder Scrolls 4, or Spell Force 1, or Icewind Dale 1, or Divine Divinity, "back seat" is way too good a term for the lack of importance everything actually important is given in many western RPGs. In the case of those I just mentioned, plot and characters aren't so much in the back seat as they are tied up, gagged, and unceremoniously tossed into the trunk, never to be seen again. Even when a JRPG's story and cast suck--and heaven knows that happens a LOT--they're usually still at least considered very important to the game. When I get a western RPG, I figure I have a 50-50 chance that it will actually give a shit about the only reason to play an RPG, the writing aspects, and if I win those odds, I have to roll the dice again to see whether the writing aspects will be any good. With JRPGs, I can at least be relatively assured that the plot and/or characters will be important, and only have to take my chances on whether or not they'll be any good. Would JRPGs maintain that all-important writing focus if they tried harder to adapt to outside audiences? I can't know for sure. I'd sure hate to lose that, though.

  2. Really great post.. Thank u very much..

  3. This is the stuff that makes Return to Ostagar look like the Sonic & Knuckles expansion cart to Dragon Age: Origins. I can't even summon up some annoyance by proxy, it sounds that dull.