Nehrim: At Fate's Edge

Every once in awhile, a great mod comes along and people download it, have a blast for a few hours, perhaps a day, and then move on. Then there are those mods which are truly epic and make you spend 2 or 3 days working through it. These get wide praise and recognition, and rightly so. On occasion, a truly masterful work comes along. A total conversion. One in which you can spend weeks getting through all the content and still not have touched it all. In the case of Oblivion, I am referring to the German total conversion called Nehrim: At Fate's Edge, created by the German mod team knows as SureAI. Nehrim is the sequel to the Morrowind total conversion called Arktwend.

For those who are not aware, a total conversion means that you use Bethesda's core assets such as meshes, textures, sounds, basic items, etc, but you throw out the entire world and build your own to replace it. One which has nothing at all to do with TES lore in any way. An undertaking like this generally takes years to build, months to properly test, and in 99.9% of cases where they have been attempted, they have failed. Nehrim breaks this pattern and does so in a very dramatic way. Although the total body of work is not yet done, what exists now as of the version to be able to complete the entire main quest, many side quests, and explore the entire world at your leisure. Another update is pending some time in the next few weeks which will bring even more content to the table.

Perhaps the very first thing you'll notice when starting the game is that the dungeon you are in looks used. Lived in. Worked in. It should, because it is. You're in a large, actively worked mine deep within the mountain. This is no ordinary small dungeon either. This mine alone could take you several hours to properly explore your way through. The basics of all of the game's mechanics will be taught to you here, along with a well done supplement to it in the area outside the mine. Do yourself a favor and make sure you admire the view when you first get out. It's well worth it.

Though the exterior landscape was initially created with the region editor, it is crystal clear that the Nehrim team didn't stop there. They meticulously decorated the entire world with all manner of details to produce a vibrant and alive world to explore. There are huge, lush forests, dense thickets of undergrowth, villages with appropriate levels of clutter and clear activities that provide their economic engines. Large, massive, expansive ruins on the surface. Castles which have proper walls and supporting village and farming land around them. There is a wide variety of climates to see ranging from jagged snowy mountains to expanses of dry sandy desert. The two most unique regions of the world include the Dark Forest, which is something straight out of a horror movie with dark rocks, blackened trees, strange lights, and of course plenty of spiders and undead. The other region being the crystal forest and arcane crater area of the southeastern part of the continent. There, massive formations of glowing crystals dot the landscape mixed in with the cratered remains of some ancient impact site.

Cities are few, but those that exist are as unique as the regions they occupy. The capital city of Erothin is a truly amazing site both from a distance and up close and personal. Every major city, small town, and village is rendered in the main worldspace as an open area. So you can enjoy the full splendor of the view. The besieged city of Cahbaet contains an appropriate mix of burned out areas and functional sections, and has a large military presence. Ostian is a grand port city filled with markets and trade as well as containing the game's only battle arena. Though not technically billed as a city, the Arcane Sanctum is certainly large enough to qualify. None of which can begin to compare to the sheer size and awesomeness of the ruins of Treomar. The major cities are all much larger than those from Cyrodiil as well. Erothin easily dwarfs the Imperial City. Ostian makes Anvil look like a tiny village. Cahbaet puts Skingrad to shame.

Landscape and cities aren't enough for you? You'll have your hands full adventuring through numerous dungeons. I have no idea exactly how many there are, but you won't run short of enough to explore. Each and every one has some kind of actual purpose. Some hold magic symbols (more on those later), some hold bosses with unique gear to loot, some are part of quests and have detailed stories, others are simply there for economic support in the form of mines. Rogue battlemages have made some of them their homes for their illegal spell research. Still others house long lost secrets of the old Dwarven people. Each one has been hand crafted, no procedural generation here so each one has a unique layout and many contain some truly innovative use of the various tilesets. There are also supposed to be a few mega-dungeons that will put you to the ultimate test, but I never did find the keys to get in.

You'll want to be sure and pay a visit to the bathhouse in Erothin, where you can take a bath and be rid of any diseases you've caught. Visit the theater in the Harbor District for a unique Easter Egg. Though be warned - turn the sound down or you'll blast yourself into the walls. Take a quick tour of the menagerie (zoo) and have a look at the stuffed creatures. Before you leave, stop by the bank and deposit some gold. Your account gains interest, and you can even be awarded partnerships in some businesses which earns you even more gold. Plus, robbing the place blind is fun!

Gameplay features several things which contribute to Nehrim's uniqueness, although many of these have been done by other games in some way, a lot of it has not been done well with Oblivion itself.

Leveling is handled by a straight experience point system. You kill something, you get points for it. Pick a lock, get points. Complete a quest, get points. Discover a new location, get points. When you've accumulated enough, you can advance your level and you'll see the traditional Oblivion attribute screen. You also amass training points each time you level which you can spend at various trainers all over the world to move your skill advancement along. You WILL need to do this too, gaining points through use alone is a much slower process.

Unlike Oblivion, Nehrim has no scaled opponents. Instead, the world is broken up into various regions which have an expected level range. For example, the beginning zone you start in is meant to support you up to level 7. From there, you're supposed to move on to the Fold Valley area which is roughly the 7-14 zone. Ranges vary widely depending on where you are, with zones that are farther away from major cities becoming increasingly more difficult. Yes, you can wander off to your death easily if you're not careful. You need to pay really close attention to this when pursuing certain parts of the main quest as you'll be asked to travel through regions that are leagues over your head, but are relatively safe as long as you stay on the roads. The highest rated zone I found was intended for level 35-45 characters.

There is a crafting system built in which allows you to use forges found in the cities and villages. At first, all you'll be able to do is smelt iron ore into ingots. As your skill improves, you'll be able to repair your own gear for free using an anvil. You can create new weapons and armor, smelt gold and silver ore into ingots, and sharpen weapons you've created. The system is not quite fully completed and there's supposedly going to be more added to it in a future update.

Enchanting items is done through finding gems that have been infused with magic. Though this is a bit more limited in comparison to what's available in Oblivion, it is something you don't need to go somewhere special to do. Found a nice ruby with fire magic? Go ahead and buff up that sword and enjoy the extra damage boost. There is no access to the spell making system, so custom magic types are going to be somewhat disappointed here, but the game really doesn't need this and it would probably throw off the balance of things if it were present.

Need some extra inventory capacity? You can buy yourself a pack donkey to hold extra gear and have it readily available to you. Though do be careful, the poor thing is easily killed and/or spooked. I eventually lost track of mine. Fortunately there wasn't much of any importance to lose.

You can find equipment sets, and collecting more pieces of each set provides you with increased bonuses. A completed set provides quite a substantial bonus and will often make up for the differences even in some very nice pieces of non-set gear that would otherwise have better stats. Scour those dungeons, sets are typically only found there. They're also not easy to come by, I never fully completed one. Although I did come close with one high level heavy armor set. I was only missing one part.

As if you didn't already have incentive to explore, SureAI has provided plenty of collection quests to embark on. You can gather up magic symbols, which are basically glowing orange renditions of the game's logo. There are a total of 100 of these, and finding one provides you with an experience point bonus. Every 10th one you find increases the bonus for the next 10 you find. They are VERY well hidden too. I only managed to scrounge up 50 of them. These are not limited to just the dungeons either.

Want to rid the world of crime and the criminal scum behind it? Stop by the wanted board. These are located in each major city and several of the smaller settlements. Go on a bounty hunt and bring down a wanted criminal for a nice fat paycheck. Many of these guys are hiding out in dungeons that are uniquely styled to go with their character. Also pay attention to the posters on the board. Some of them offer up other hidden quests as well, one of which is a pretty neat treasure hunt.

Need more carrying capacity? Keep an eye out for "Ice Claws". Distinctive blue plants than when consumed will give you a permanent +1 to your encumbrance rate. Very handy once you've found several of them. I have no idea how many there are, but I grabbed up tons of the things.

Are you an unlucky guy? No problem. In addition to Ice Claw plants, there are Fire Spark plants as well. They look like a cluster of Oblivion bog beacon plants, only they're red, and when you consume them you gain a +1 bonus to luck. Which is handy, because unless I missed something, you start the game with crap luck and are going to need as many of these as you can find.

There are also numerous random mounds scattered around that you can dig up if you have a shovel. They usually contain a good pile of random loot. You can go prospecting in the mines, so long as you remember to keep a pickaxe handy. The ore you get is the primary means to acquire crafting supplies.

The Countess of Stonefield will send you on an epic quest... for shoes. Yep, shoes. Not just any old shoes though. These are high class shoes! They're also incredibly hard to find, and I have no idea how many pairs there are lurking out there. The experience bonuses you get for turning each pair in are well worth it.

There's even achievements you earn for doing various things. For those who like that sort of thing. It's interesting when you get one, but I wasn't playing to rack them up either.

Though the voice acting is all in German, it is of very high quality and there are more voice actors to go around so you don't hear the same person all the time. To accompany this, there is a very good English translation provided by the team so if your German just isn't cutting it, at least you can read along. Pay attention too, because a lot of the quest related NPCs are serious chatterboxes.

By contrast though, the general population has little if anything of interest to say. In fact, they hardly say much at all other than bad mouthing the Aeterna. Outside of those directly involved in quests, you'll not find any NPCs to provide backstory, rumors, or even something special to say about where they live. Not even the tavern keepers ever have anything interesting to talk about, and worse yet, not one of them even has room rental options if you need a bed.

Many of the NPCs also have limited AI schedules. They're often found simply standing around doing nothing, or executing simple wander packages. There are a few who will play music using some custom animations, and those are cool.

The weather system is also severely screwed up, so you'll need a weather mod to bring it back in line. Unless you just love endless rain of course.

Over all, Nehrim is well worth playing through. In a nutshell, Nehrim is what Oblivion should have been. Future updates for it can only improve upon what is already a great mod. Screenshots will be uploaded to the gallery area soon.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Sep 17, 2011 4:54 am by Samson in: , | 6 comment(s) [Closed]
Great review! Wish I had time to play this :cry: I played the German version for a bit and found it really hard - took me forever to get out of the opening dungeon.

Yes, as with most games built on an experience system and segmented into difficulty regions, it can be hard to get off the ground. I found the overall difficulty to be somewhere between vanilla Oblivion and Oblivion with TIE.

There is something to be said for the balance in this game. It just felt...better than Oblivion, even when its been modded with a suitable overhaul. But yeah, I think Samson has covered this game fairly well; its basically gone and outdone Oblivion on almost everything. I've only really just started the main quest so far though; I got too distracted roaming around and enjoying the scenery (well, actually, I got a ring of waterwalking, went for a walk down the creek in Death Pass, got the the edge of the world, a level 35 zone while I was level 5, fought a whole bunch of extremely hard fights with high level enemies with assistance from an elephant to get into the war zone, found a book relating to the destruction of my village when i was a child, went looking for the hut in Death Pass, where the guy who wrote the book supposedly lived, but found that the all the huts there are destroyed because of the war, nearly got killed by a bunch of floating skeleton torsos before finally teleporting back to the sanctum. Woo, isn't this a fun game).

Word on the Nehrim forum has it that version 1.5 on the German side is done and they're in the process of translation into English. No time estimate yet on how long that's going to take because they're also fielding bug reports at the same time.

Hopefully they'll breath a bit more life into the north realm then. And expand upon the crafting system.

Anonymous [Anon] said:
Comment #6 Oct 19, 2011 2:47 am
Yes for sure. The north realm seemed huge in comparison to the middle realm, yet only a small part of it was accessible. It was interesting going to one of the locations which was like an excavation close by to the mountain monastery and then going beyond the game limits and seeing the monastery from above... beautiful :p

I just hope they tie up all the loose ends. because i wasnt sure after the main quest was done if i was the ruler of the middle realm, south realm, or both :P after nearly everyone who was with me died along the way

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