Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this! I could
always use more feedback, so make sure to post a comment below.
Nehrim: Fate’s Edge Review
Pros: Unique world, epic plot,
all-around superior game.
Cons: Some inevitable yet
surprisingly negligible crashing errors.
WTF: How can a mod this good exist?
Nehrim Release Trailer (German, but Higher Quality)
Nehrim Release Trailer (English Subtitles, but Lower Quality)
There is no doubt in the minds of everyone who has played it that Oblivion is a great game. Its
release marked not only the pinnacle but also the end of an era of Western
RPG's, as it paved the way for games that we still play today such as Mass
Effect and Fallout 3.
Oblivion's biggest calling card at the time of its release was endless hours of beautiful gameplay. And great
gameplay it is. Oblivion's combat system is an example of apparent simplicity
marked only by the depth of the skill system, particularly the spell mechanics.
And there are many, many ways to play the game. The quests are all extremely
interesting with thousands of expertly written dialogue. For the first time in
an RPG, the world actually felt like one people could live in. Even the grass
behaved like the grass outside your window. Instead of just standing around,
the AI simulated a realistic schedule. It woke up, ate, and went to sleep at
the correct times. Simply put, the towns felt… alive.
In Oblivion, Everything is oh-so-cheery.
In Nehrim, things are usually this forboding…
Despite its plethora of strengths, most noticed the game’s flaws. The graphics, while
intricately styled and weaned of each spark of beauty, look generally primitive
to the new graphical and engine improvements apparent in the games released
from 2007 and onwards. The dungeons and Oblivion gates were algorithmically
generated, causing the large amount of gameplay to occasionally feel repetitive,
and the weapons and armor system allowed large abuses through enchantments such
as 100% Chameleon (complete invisibility) as the price of variety.
Some veteran gamers of the series raised different concerns. They opposed changes to some of
the mechanics they loved in Morrowind, such as the elimination of teleportation
in lieu of fast travel, the removal of certain RPG elements from the game such
as full armor sets, and the notable scarcity of environmental puzzles (Oblivion
had no more than a single puzzle quest: Through a Nightmare, Darkly).
In general, these veterans bemoaned that, due to these unnecessary changes, Oblivion fell short
of its true potential. They believed Oblivion could have been not just great,
but a landmark title up there with Ocarina of Time and the like.
A certain group of German Elder Scrolls enthusiasts, SureAI, decided to fix Oblivion’s missteps.
They took advantage of the modding tools good old Bethesda had made available,
little bit of creature and environment mods, and went to work. Now, SureAI is certainly
no stranger to modding Elder Scrolls games. They are veterans of two total
conversion Morrowind expansions, Arktwend and Myar Aranath. (neither of which
has been translated from German). As they have explained in numerous
interviews, working on these two long projects gave them plenty of experience
in time-management and game design, the latter of which can be strongly felt in
(Left) Arktwend Vets will see familiar areas…
Nehrim’s main focus is where the focus of every action based game should lie: the combat
system. The great thing about Nehrim’s game design is how it simplicity and
uniqueness into a ball of fun. Instead of completely replacing Oblivion’s
mechanics, it simply augments them, building more complexity into the spell and
combat system. As Paul Barnett from EA Mythic says, you know something’s a
great idea when you ask yourself, “why wasn’t this thought of before?” I asked
myself this same question many times while playing Nehrim, simply because the
tweaks and new ideas are so great that they feel like they should have been in
Oblivion to begin with. My favorite new mechanic idea is the freezing effect. In
Nehrim, frost spells have a small chance to freeze your opponent in place for a
couple of seconds, a rather useful effect that gives them that little extra
oomph that fire and shock spells have always had. However, it’s not just frost
spells that have become more powerful; now, every spell packs more of a punch,
without being overpowered. Nehrim recognized the strengths of Oblivion’s spell
system and capitalized upon it by focusing the core gameplay around magic. But
soldiers and rangers shouldn’t feel left out, as hand to hand weapons have
significantly more variety and length, while bows have received a significant
damage boost, making them worthwhile to use.
Plus, bows and swords have been
visually upgraded with cool looking skins brought over from weapon pack mods.
Speaking of classes, Nehrim is a bit more open in terms of class choice.
Specializations aren’t chosen until about midway through the first chapter,
which means that you will get a lot of time to experiment with the game before
deciding your play style. The specialization choices are quite broad: Mage,
Ranger, or Fighter, meaning that you have a lot of room explore inside each
class as the game progresses. This choice does have some effect on your
gameplay, as you’ll get two special powers for each class.
I chose the mage specialization, which gave me two different magic stances. One of these stances
strengthened the more passive spells schools such as Alteration at the expense
of more aggressive schools such as destruction, while the other stance was
vice-versa. My third choice was to switch both stances off and receive no
benefits or penalties. Choosing the Ranger class, for example, would have given
me different stance choices related to archery. Just having this extra layer of
choice made Nehrim’s combat significantly more tactical than Oblivion’s.
Regardless of the class you choose, your character’s stats are going to be dependent upon where
you place both your attribute and skill points when you level up. These systems
are huge improvements over the major and minor skill sets in Oblivion. When it
comes to your main attributes (such as endurance and intelligence), the skills
you’ve actually been using have less effect upon which skills you can level up.
Certain tweaks upon how the attributes affect your character have made the
system a whole lot more interesting and balanced, rewarding players who take
the time out to plan their skill progression.
Nehrim is torn apart by civil war
Your individual skills, such as destruction, light armor, and illusion, also level up a bit
differently than they do in Oblivion. While your skills do improve as you use
them in the field, a lot of your skill improvement has to do with how you spend
your learning points. Learning points are a currency you use to help level your
skills. While using your skills in the field will level them up, you can also
level whichever skills you like by spending learning points along with a
certain amount of gold on trainers. This ability to level up whatever skill you
like eliminates grinding, and gives you much more choice in how you want to
play the game. If the criticisms about Fable III have taught me anything, it’s
that money becomes worthless when you have nothing to spend it on. In Nehrim, the
fact that you have to constantly spend money on skill advances ensures that you
are always cash strapped. Nehrim allows you further strategic choice in how you
spend your money by instituting a bank that pays you interest, the same way a
bank would in real life. Spend it now on a nice piece of armor and a batch of
potions, or save it up for later? No other game has made economics so much fun!
On the RPG side of things, having a bank in the capital city does make it more
realistic, setting it apart from the dirt poor towns you may encounter. But I
If you get the feeling you haven’t maximized your character’s potential, more
specialization choices are available further down the road, even very late into
the main quest! You’ll get to specialize in a very innovative way…
Of course, the combat wouldn’t be any fun without good enemy design. The first improvement
about your enemies that you’ll notice is their appearance. Like all things in
Nehrim, the new monster skins (some of which are brought over from other mods)
are pretty sweet, and you get a lot of monster variety to boot. Remember how,
in Oblivion, you’d fight Stunted Scamps at levels 1-5, and Scamps at levels
5-12? Well, that’s gone. The monsters you fight are no longer tweaked versions
of the ones you fought in the last zone. And each zone has unique monsters to
go along with the habitat.
(Left) Before he got set on fire, his skin was a clammy yellow
The second thing you’ll notice, and notice very quickly, is that enemies are tough. Very tough. I wouldn’t call
them tough enough to have been pulled straight out of Demon’s Souls, but the
monsters in Nehrim can be rather nasty.
One of the problems with Oblivion’s enemies was that they could be easily defeated once
you deciphered their rather predictable attack patterns. Nehrim avoids this
pitfall by giving enemy monsters more advanced attacks and vague weapon lengths.
While being unable to guess a weapon’s actual reach from its apparent length might
usually be a sign of bad design, in this case it actually cuts a lot of
repetition that existed in Oblivion’s battle system. That’s because the
difference between the weapon’s actual reach and the weapon’s apparent length
strikes a balance by being quite minimal. This only keeps you on your toes,
instead of allowing your opponents to take cheap shots.
The toughest monsters to fight are the ones that use their bare hands or paws for fighting.
Wolves, for instance, get an attack that allows them to put up a continuous
wall of pain for a couple seconds, and then pounce on you in the next second.
You really do have to work your way around the wolf’s defenses and deadly
attacks using your armory of spells and swords to the best degree. The
challenge makes combat rewarding.
What you can't see are the fifteen zombies standing behind this guy
Even with its focus on combat, Nehrim doesn’t neglect RPG elements by any means. It further
enhances the combat system with a great equipment system tied directly to
dungeon exploring. Gone with the spell crafting altars are the weapons
enchanting altars, and good riddance too. Enchanting in Nehrim is limited to
minimal stat boosts only useful in the earlier levels, but can conveniently be
performed anywhere. Enchanting, however, isn’t the mainstay of the game. For
most of the game, you’ll be using armor sets, which can be found at the end of
dungeons. If the idea of a new piece of shiny armor isn’t enough to incentivize
you into exploring dungeons, magic symbols can also be found in every dungeon
in order to further tempt the completionist inside of you.
The armor sets themselves are authentic and thematic, but also provide some badly needed
variety in addition to useful stat boosts. There’s nothing better than collecting
the entirety of an armor set, whether it be for the attribute bonuses or the complete
look. Acquiring a set of armor can be fairly essential to surviving in the
upper tiers where you’ll need every additional point you can get. Me, I spent
hours just raiding dungeons to get these armor sets.
But getting the armor sets wasn’t just a chore, as the dungeons that house these excellent
pieces of armor are extremely thematic and lovingly hand crafted. Gone are the
algorithms that made Oblivion’s dungeons boring and predictable. Monsters are
well placed, so making good use of the organically developed environments can
be key to surviving against particularly nasty foes. It never got boring,
because I never really felt like I was invading the same place over and over
Each and every place appeared to have its own little story, be it a
demonic cultist opening a portal to another world or a group of looters being
picked off one by one as they advance further into a crypt. At the end of every
large dungeon, usually guarding the treasure, is a unique boss with his own
backstory and flavor. You can discover this backstory by reading the letters
and scripts that abound in every dungeon. It’s well worth your time.
Unfortunately, not all of the notes have been translated from German, so we
Anglos do get a bit lost in translation.
(Left) What could be so bad about that dungeon?
Your introduction to the game!
Regardless, every dungeon possesses a dark and menacing tone that will keep you on your toes. The
best dungeons in the game can be truly terrifying. But not all in Nehrim is
drab and dry. The SureAI team drops a lot of Easter Eggs that help to alleviate
the game’s dark and desperate feel. I found myself laughing quite a bit at all
the witty humor scattered about.
Nehrim makes these dungeons even more interesting by saturating them with numerous environmental
puzzles. These puzzles strike the right balance between ingenuity and trial and
error; they’re not so hard to where you have to forums to figure them out,
neither are they so easy that you could solve them whilst heavily inebriated.
And to solve these puzzles, you’ll need plenty of light, making torches
actually worthwhile. Nehrim is such a hardcore RPG to where the torches even
come in three flavors.
(Left) Save Often!
Try jumping on top of the walls if you suck at mazes as much as I do
That’s not all you can do; you can gain a set of abilities such as forging, skinning, and even
heart removal. At the time of playing, forging and armor crafting were still in
development. The armor sets were good enough for me anyways, so I never really found
myself wanting to make my own armor.
Tying all these gameplay threads together are the quests. Nehrim has fewer side quests than
Oblivion, but the ones in Nehrim burst at the seams with originality and
excitement, where as the side quests in Oblivion were the only way you could
find an interesting, hand-crafted dungeon. Since Nehrim’s dungeons themselves
are all original with their own backstories, it’s almost as if every dungeon is
an Oblivion side quest in itself. As such, I don’t really mind not having all
that many side quests in the game. Were the modders actually paid for their
work, I daresay the actual side quests would be more plentiful. Sadly, some of
the side quests, one in particular, are incomplete, and could be as good as the
existing ones if the modding team had the time to finish them. But it is
important to keep in perspective the fact that Nehrim is just a mod, something
its polished and enjoyable gameplay may make you forget.
Partly there to lead you throughout the world, partly to give you one of the best stories to be
found in a computer game, is the main quest. It’s nice that it’s more like a
train that drops you off at locations throughout the world,
so that you take your time to explore the entirety of Nehrim. Once you finish the main quest, you
will still be able to go back and finish whatever it is you want to. In terms
of the quest structure, it initially feels similar to Oblivion’s main quest, but
is superior in most ways. You’re more than just a dungeon postal boy who
fetches items for Sean Bean; instead, you are quite an active player in a very
believable and realistically populated world. For instance, you get
revolution, the climax of which, unlike the one in Fable III, is rather
Nehrim is beautiful…
As you advance along the main storyline, you will be faced with some tough choices. Not all of them
dramatically affect the game, but they will force you to think deeply about
philosophy whilst playing. Fate, predestination, independence, representation,
monarchy, what do you think about them? You will constantly suspect each and every
character as you are tricked into judging the morality of their actions. It
feels a lot like Bioshock, really. As Bioshock showed us, a great story is one
thing, but add to that great presentation and even the most mystical of realms
can come alive in front of your very eyes. Nehrim definitely has good
presentation, as it uses a lot of cinematic moments to advance the plot, all of
which are enjoyable to watch. Oblivion’s main quest simply lacked any of these
moral ponderings and cinematic moments.
(Left) Speaking of Bioshock…
Nehrim is not always a nice place
There to make these cinematic moments and the rest of the dialogue savourable is a host of
German voice actors. (way more than Oblivion’s measly six…) I really wish I was
the game developer, because I also would like a ton of voice actors willing to
volunteer their services to me free of charge. As an Anglo-speaker, I still
enjoyed the eloquently acted German, though the well-translated subtitles at
the bottom definitely helped. And the words that come out of the voice actors’
mouths are scripted as thoughtfully as the dialogue in Oblivion.
In addition to original and all-around excellent voice acting, Nehrim also boasts a nice
soundtrack. One of the two lead designers on the project orchestrated the sound
for Nehrim, so the sound was designed with the rest of the game in mind. And
it’s good, as it manages to catch the idea of the minimalist soundtrack rather
deftly. However, compared to Oblivion’s excellent soundtrack, it doesn’t stand
a chance. Sure, Nehrim’s soundtrack sets the tone well, but it feels slightly
derivative of Oblivion’s at points and doesn’t really stand out like some of
the stanzas in Oblivion’s Reign of the Septims track. Most mods aren’t even good enough to have their own
soundtrack, but I’m not sure whether or not I would have preferred the original
Oblivion one. In the sound design department, not much has changed, as all the
effects are largely the same. The new sound effects are also well chosen and
While Nehrim is a mod that uses Oblivion’s engine, the Nehrim team really does a great job
artistically. Along the main quest, you will experience some very beautiful
scenes. There’s a certain point in the main quest where you look up at the sky
and think: “wow…”Actually, there are a couple of points like that. Just climb
up to the top of a mountain, and you’ll find yourself looking down upon a
beautifully carved vista.
As you descend to enter the different cities, be they
a feudal village, nothing but burned ruins, a mercenary camp, or a theocratic
kingdom, you will be amazed at the distinct artistic feel that embodies and
identifies each. I really, really, loved Nehrim’s sense of place. It really
felt like the world of Nehrim could actually exist, the characters and towns
were designed so realistically. Special kudos goes to the awesome weapons,
monsters, and even plants that made Nehrim feel like a totally separate game
instead of an Oblivion mod. The lack of fast travel in lieu of teleportation
helps here, as it allows you to truly appreciate the world around you.
A Concealed Jungle City
Ancient ruins crawling with ethereal creatures. Not my favorite place to hang out.
Despite its excellent gameplay, Nehrim has a few inevitable technical issues. Since SureAI
is only a modding group and not a professional game developing company, they
don’t exactly possess the resources necessary to maximize the in-game loading
sequences nor fix all system problems. The loading screens, however, were
thankfully just as short as Oblivion’s. While my computer could easily run
Oblivion on highest settings with only brief hiccups during in-game loading
areas, I had to cut the draw distance in half in order to stop Nehrim from
freezing upon me. It wasn’t a big issue, though, so long as I kept the draw
distance at a reasonable level. Furthermore, I found that if I had too many
saved game files still around from Oblivion, Nehrim would occasionally crash. Thank
god, though, that the crashes are not bad in the least, as it doesn’t take long
at all to restart your game. To combat these crashes, I had to consistently
alternate between two regular save files in addition to my quick save, and make
sure that I didn’t have too many Oblivion save files. If I did this, I found
myself to be okay for periods of up to four hours or so straight. And yes,
Nehrim can be that addicting at times. It may have just had something to do
with Windows Vista; perhaps it will run better on XP. I was also running a high
level graphics card, an i7 620 processor, and plenty of other high end stuff
In terms of bugs, Nehrim is completely free of all major ones. There are a couple of little
problems that occasionally crop up here and there, but they are only
forgettable ones that never kill the experience. SureAI has consistently been
adding patches to the English and German versions, so those little annoyances
continue to be steamrolled into Oblivion. (pun not intended)
In summary, Nehrim has a couple of technical issues that may appear game-breaking, but in reality
aren’t very annoying at all.
Whereas Vanilla Oblivion had enough content to satiate me for sixty hours in total, Nehrim
clocks in at about twenty-four hours. Sure, there’s more that I could possibly
do, but I’ve exhausted all of the quests and most of the other interesting
stuff to do. While twenty-four hours is not a lot in comparison to sixty, one
thing to keep in mind is that each and every single dungeon in Nehrim is completely
unique and never a chore, as opposed to most of the dungeons in Oblivion. Furthermore,
SureAI has consistently been fixing bugs and adding and finishing the side quests.
Each and every single piece of Nehrim is simply just amazing through and through. What’s
amazing is that the people making this were Elder Scrolls enthusiasts doing
this in their spare time for zero pay. There are so many games out there made
by professional companies that just don’t even come close to the quality that
Nehrim consistently and effortlessly evokes. While Nehrim is certainly an
amazing enough mod to have deservedly won 6th place in ModDB’s
reader’s choice contest and the highly coveted Editor’s Choice award, it is
good enough to be one of the best games to be released in 2010. Period. It
soars far above many of the full-priced games released today. I would even
recommend buying the Oblivion GotY edition for the PC just to play Nehrim. It
really is that good. And if you have a PC and haven’t played Oblivion, no more
excuses. Go get 100 hours out of Oblivion GotY and another 25 out of Nehrim.
You won’t be disappointed, unless of course your computer sucks and can’t
handle the Oblivion engine.
Regardless, Nehrim represents the pinnacle of modding and is a clear embodiment of the strengths
and depth of PC gaming. It’s obvious from every beautiful cut scene to each and
every last spell statistic that SureAI loved what they were doing. The game
just… exudes excellence. Like Oblivion, this is a huge world to explore, as is
immediately evident from the time you step outside in the beginning till the
ending where you watch a friend walk slowly back into his hut, the sunlight
gleaming off the nearby cliff. Nehrim truly is the RPG that Oblivion should
have been, but never was. Come, enter a world where destiny is balanced upon a
knife’s edge, where all is certain and uncertain. Enter the world of Nehrim:
Begin your journey…
Points are awarded using the Angry Joe scoring system, with a 5/10 being a merely average game.
Presentation: 10/10 Awesome, functional story with a great ending, nice plot twists.
Graphics: 10/10 Beautiful settings, unique artistic design.
Sound: 9/10 Nice to see that they even have a strong, unique
soundtrack, but it can't help but constantly remind you of Oblivion's
Technical Issues: 9/10 Some slightly irritating crashing issues, but
impressively more bug free than most premium games released these days.
SureAI is still working on fixing the remaining kinks.
Gameplay: 10/10 SureAI managed to
not only vastly improve Oblivion’s combat system, but also add a lot of RPG
elements that Oblivion was sorely lacking.
Lasting Appeal: 10/10 It has an
outrageous amount of content for a mod, with new content still being added. You
won’t forget the plot anytime soon.
Total: 10/10 AMAZING! Go download
Bethesda should cut a deal with SureAI
Don’t forget to check out SureAI’s
homepage (http://www.sureai.de/) or the
Nehrim Wiki that other community members and I have been working on. (http://nehrim.wikia.com/wiki/Nehrim_Wiki)
If you want a sneak peek of the gameplay footage, check out this
video. This part highlights one of the many cool moments throughout