Mudwater (Oblivion mod) review…

Mudwater (Oblivion mod) review after the break…

Mudwater (Oblivion mod) review…

In Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, villages seem to exist solely to be on the receiving end of a solitary quest. For instance, Border Watch’s existence stems entirely to be the punchline of a Daedric Lord’s (think: Oblivion version of a “god”) prank while Pell’s Gate has no other purpose but to receive the wrath of a rogue faction while completing a guild quest line.

Real-world logistics dictate that a game as complex as a modern-day role-playing game (RPG) can’t afford to provide deep characterizations into something as small as a settlement besides a few describing props and geography. After all, there are cities to populate, dungeons to create, quests to construct, items of all types to forge… Everything must have a purpose if it is to be created at all, much like the movie industry’s “Chekov’s Gun,” where no stage prop, however minor, is not just a stage prop to decorate the scene but plays a crucial role at some point in the production.

The Oblivion mod, “Mudwater,” by author “Phitt” (version 1.2), does serve a purpose… One that modern AAA-budget games should pay attention to.

Mudwater is populated by Argonians, a lizard-like biped race in the Elder Scrolls canon. Like the name, Argonians are at home in the swamps and marshes, where this particular settlement lies. The actual location of the mod (described in a README file, how convenient, is practically right next to Fort Bulwick (a location if you have the official “Knights of the Nine” plug-in) in the Blackwood forest.

Mudwater is a wonderful effort; The only shortcoming that I could write about this mod is that it ends.

To begin with, Mudwater uses unique meshes (think: physical objects) like new huts and “street lamps” to give the entire town a distinctive feel missing from so many other settlements. Border Watch, a primarily Khajit (think: Cat-like biped species) town that comes with every copy of the game, has stock houses that don’t accentuate that race’s uniqueness.

Mudwater isn’t just a pretty sight, though; There are several nice aural touches as well. Some houses have chimes and, when you walk towards them, the chimes get louder. I thought that this inclusion was a great touch and the only aspect missing to this was the ability to interact with the chimes. In a later version, perhaps?

There are 4 quests with this new settlement: One is a standard treasure hunt, the other is a rescue and escort, a 3rd involves some straight forward dialog with people in different cities and the final one involves a puzzle in 3 stages.

I’m not entirely fond of treasure hunt quests and the treasure hunt quest here does nothing to distinguish itself from so many others. Get map, follow the clues, find the treasure. In this case, an Argonian sells you a map which leads you to three other maps until you find a treasure filled with jewels. There was nothing really compelling about this quest – A seasoned explorer would know where to look in 3 of the 4 locations and the final location is more of a verbal hint then knowing where the location is by what is drawn on the map. Likewise, there was no real “conclusion” to the quest: You don’t get to say anything to the quest giver upon finding the treasure and there’s no deep history behind it. Do you want some nice gems along with some cash? Go on the quest.

The rescue and escort quest involves an unique mine where an Argonian’s friend was trapped and needs to be rescued (if still alive). The mine is mostly new meshes (at least to me) along with two new creatures. Once rescued, the friend needs to be escorted back out of the mine to safety. These quests always seem to employ enemies that arrive from nowhere, even if you’ve cleared the entire path beforehand. This quest is no different. Nice setting, but, like the treasure hunt quest, rather shallow. Again, I never felt that there was any “conclusion”: The two new creatures are never addressed and the entire ending felt like “Well, thanks for rescuing me. Bye” and “Well, thanks for rescuing my friend. Here’s your reward. Bye.”

The dialog request involves getting merchants to start traveling to the settlement to sell their wares. You go back and forth to two cities to find two merchants who are willing to split the cost of sending a regular caravan to the settlement. A nice little quest but little and again, “no conclusion”: I never saw a merchant arrive at the town.

The largest of the 4 quests is the puzzle quest. Here, you wake up in a netherworld after a failed ritual where you have to duel wits with a wisp named “Twinkle.” This quest is the most complex and compelling – Twinkle doesn’t like to lose, where solving the final puzzle requires some “divine” intervention.  Again, new meshes and creatures allows this puzzle quest to really shine although the answers weren’t entirely obvious – I initially thought the solution for the first puzzle involved the shutters of a building before I happened upon the actual solution. I really liked this puzzle and I think that there’s some nice potential with having “Twinkle” be a recurring menace to the player if this mod is ever expanded.

Mudwater is a very nice mod; The only downside to this mod is perhaps it’s size (100+ megs) might make the 4 quests appear all the more smaller in comparison. Yet for any complaint I may have, the root of those complaints would be “I want more” – More quests, deeper quests, more NPCs with deeper dialog trees… For what is here, it is great but Mudwater has only skimmed the swamp of possibilities – Here is hoping that Mudwater expands further… Maybe into a city all it’s own or even (gasp!) an entire civilization much like the mega-mod Elswyr.

I understand why Bethesda may have paid little attention to their settlements when creating Oblivion, but Mudwater is what happens when you invest even a little more time into them… And that’s something to pay attention to.

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4 Responses to “Mudwater (Oblivion mod) review…”

  1. Phitt Says:

    Hey, thanks for the review. Stumbled upon this while looking for a japanese site that uploaded a translation of the mod (figured it might be funny to hear Twinkle with japanese voice).

    Thank you very much for the kind words, only some things I’d like to correct:

    1. The escort quest has a tiny background story if you look closely. The cave you enter was sealed shut for a very long time, maybe centuries. The goblins living inside look different from regular goblins and they are not hostile (some people may attack them on sight since they’re goblins, so maybe you didn’t notice that) as they’re not used to outsiders (they only know the rats living in the cave which they use as food supply). But they have a strange rock formation in their main room that looks very similar to the missing Argonian. That is their ‘idol’, a godlike being they pray to. When the two Argonians stumbled into the cave the goblins instantly recognized one of them as their ‘god’ and captured him. That is why they pray in front of him. They will only become hostile if you free the prisoner or, from their perspective, try to kidnap their god. You can decide to leave him to his fate and let the goblins live in peace. Just like in real life there is sometimes no perfect solution. Free the prisoner and kill the goblins or let him suffer and leave the goblins alone.

    The goblins attacking you when you flee from the cave also don’t appear from nowhere, they come from the upper level of the cave that is not accessible by the player. Of course you could ask ‘how do they get there?’ but there is a point where you have to make compromises between gameplay/workload and immersion.

    2. The merchant quest will add a merchant traveling to the village after completion (you can see the tent where he sleeps next to the village after the quest was completed). He will hang around in the shops in Bravil and Leyawiin during workdays and he will travel to Mudwater on Friday. Then he’ll stay there for the weekend and leave on Sunday in the early morning.

  2. Lutonaut Says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Your points are duly noted.

    1. I did notice the “idol” and made the Argonian/god connection. I did not notice the cave goblins’ initial non-hostility (my prejudices when dealing with other goblins overtook me). Nice touch. However, I do stand firm on the fact that, when you try to rescue the Argonian from the goblins, more opponents “emerge from nowhere,” despite clearing all of the areas beforehand.

    2. I did not notice this addition. While I no longer have the mod added to my game, I will look forward to it should I add the mod again.

    Again, thank you for visiting my blog.

  3. alex Says:

    Can you explain how to resolve the enigma of the mission with twinkle please

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Alex and thank you for reading my blog.

      Unfortunately, my memory of playing Mudwater rusts with each passing day. There are three stages for the puzzle you describe and I’m not certain which stage you need the help with. I’m going to presume that you mean the first stage of the puzzle where you encounter the walking mushrooms and the building. If memory serves me correctly, you must hit the walking mushrooms in a certain sequence. I do not remember which sequence but, upon striking a walking mushroom, they make a noise and you must replicate a sequence of noise by striking the appropriate combination of mushrooms.

      I hope that helps – If not, you might try to find the answer upon TESNexus where the mod can be downloaded from. Often times, there are hints towards solving quests in the discussion forums.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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