Monday, February 18, 2013

The Elder Scrolls IV - Knights of the Nine

Though not truly an expansion, it features some of the most fun quests in Oblivion.
Rebyew By XBassXUmbraX

In 2006, after countless delays, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was finally released. It received wide praise from old and new fans of the series alike. It boasted over a hundred hours of gameplay including various side-quests and guilds to join. But even with all of that, fans still craved something more. While the game had tons of lasting value, many players who had a lot of time on their hands were able to see every quest the game had to offer. Luckily Bethesda promised players periodical downloadable content. Those that played on the PC also had access to some cool mods, some which blew DLC out of the water. Xbox 360 gamers were not so fortunate and got delays on new DLC over and over again, hoping for their castle of fighters to come out, but instead were given the cheap though disappointing Spell Tomes.

What was holding up the good folks at Bethesda? Turns out they were busy developing a port of Oblivion to the PS3, but more importantly, it also boasted a new joinable faction called "Knights of the Nine". It was later announced that it would come to the Xbox 360 and PC versions on November 21, 2006, four days after it was scheduled to launch on PS3. But the PS3 version was pushed back to Q1 2007 and the PC downloadable version was pushed back to December 4, 2006. But yesterday, the Knights of the Nine "expansion" came out for the Xbox 360 on the Live Marketplace for 800 points ($9.99) and $19.99 for the PC at retail (with previous DLC included).

With the lengthy introduction aside, let's start with the basics of Knights of the Nine. Unlike previous DLC, you have no journal indication pointing out where to go. Instead, you are given a new topic to ask people about. After you ask an NPC about the attack on the Anvil chapel. When you arrive on the scene, you'll be referred to a crazy old man claiming to be a prophet of the nine. He'll speak of the evil aylied king Umeril and the Divine Crusader that defeated him yet didn't. Turns out Umeril made a deal with the Daedra of Oblivion which allows him to cheat death, and the Divine Crusader died. The only way to defeat him is to use the relics of the crusader but you must first be deemed worthy by the nine themselves. Regardless of your past merits, he will take your help with the situation. Instead of investigating the chapel though, he sends you to go on a pilgrimage. This pilgrimage requires you to pray at all nine wayshrines scattered throughout Cyrodiil. Unfortunately this is made far more tedious than it could have been for various reasons. One is that rather than using the convenient map marker system used in other quests, you have to instead refer to a separate document that only contains the approximate locations of the shrines. The second reason is that half of the shrines are in the middle of nowhere and thus a lot of walking will be required.

In the end it will be worth it though. After you pray at all nine shrines, you will receive a vision, which ends up being a really cool cutscene in the clouds (you get a breathtaking view of the imperial city at this height) and you speak with the divine crusader himself. He tells you the location of his shrine which holds the first holy relic. After the vision ends, your infamy will drop to zero. If your infamy should go above zero, you can do the pilgrimage again to get rid of it all. However should you gain any infamy during the questline, you will have to do the pilgrimage again in order to continue doing deeds in the name of the nine.

Don't worry though, the rest of the quests in Knights of the Nine are not tedious at all. The rest of the questline includes item gathering which may not seem so exciting at first glance, but upon doing these quests, this is not the case. These quests are by far the best in the game, for they are not the linear dungeon crawlers you have done over a hundred times now, they are truly complex and require some thought put into them. For example, one quest tests your patience in combat; another is a series of riddles that open new path. These are nothing like those boring Fighter's Guild quests. 

But the refined quest design is not the only thing this new content has to offer. Knight's of the Nine is an entirely new faction. Throughout the questline, you will gain some powerful armor and allies. These aren't the wimpy allies you get from the Dark Brotherhood or the Mages Guild; these Knights are disciplined, carry leveled weapons, and are good at healing themselves so you won't have to worry about them dying as much. The divined relics you collect eventually become an awesome looking set of armor with not only enchantments but the inclusion of lesser powers and abilities when you where them. Keep in mind it is impossible to wear if you have any infamy.

There are also new monsters to fight. The most common are the Aurorons. They are basically huge armored minions of Umeril who are of spellsword class (mage and warrior) and are actually a challenge to defeat in numbers. Luckily you will usually have the help of your knights when you fight them. There is also a new wraith type but you fight only one of them, and again you will have your knights to help you. 

As for difficulty, many of the quests can be tough to solve on your own and fighting the Aurorons alone can be quite troublesome. Luckily the knightly help balances this out. It is still better to play this without a guide. Solving some of the more difficult puzzles and riddles will feel much more rewarding when you do them on your own.

In terms of graphical effects, the game still hold sup well, though the framerate and loading issues still haven't changed. But the game still looks great. There are even a few scenes and effects in the questline that look amazing, such as the heavens mentioned earlier or the cool warp sequences. Sound has also held well, the divine crusader appears to be voiced by Wes Johnson, the man who voiced Lucien Lachance, which is a good thing. There is still plenty of voice acting and most of it is on par with what is in the main game.

The PC retail version also has all of the previous DLC added on to it. Most of the DLC is basically building you own lair with some neat features like spellmaking and enchanting altars, fences, enchanted items, all without having to join a guild. The Mehrunes Razor quest is a linear but long and exciting one. Still Knights of the Nine is the real focus of the content.

If this "expansion" had one major flaw, it is just that it doesn't feel like an expansion. Unlike previous Elder Scrolls expansions, you aren't able to venture outside of the main province, in this game, Cyrodiil. We'll just have to wait for another expansion before we have any chance of shattering Cyrodiil's imaginary border. However, the real shame is that Knights of the Nine is a pretty short questline, spanning about eleven quests and seven hours of total gameplay, not at all close to the promised ten to twenty.

With that said Knights of the Nine is still worth the money. The fun and exciting quests are more than worth the measly $9.99 as no questline in Oblivion has ever been so fun. PC users should wait until December 4th and download the plugin from Bethesda's site because some of the extra included DLC isn't worth it. Overall, this expansion is highly recommendable. It features some great rewards, a decent storyline, and some cool puzzles. Knights of the Nine may not feel like an expansion, but it contains some of the most fun quests Oblivion has to offer.

NAME: THE ELDER SCROLLS 4 - KNIGHTS OF THE NINE
SYSTEM: PC, XBOX 360, PlayStation 3

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