The gigantic Oblivion total conversion Nehrim: At Fate's Edge was release a few months back in its native German. The colossal four-year project is a remarkable undertaking, both revamping the standard Oblivion mechanics (improving skills by use being massively toned down, for example) and creating an world of its own, complete with lore and quest lines. The mod features a hand-crafted "continent-sized" map and a core storyline that could last over forty hours. Boonfully it has now been translated into English, so that all the UI and quest text is in English, and the German voice-acting is now subtitled. Clearly, Oblivion owners are going to want to consider this. But what should they expect? Some thoughts below.
I came quite close to giving up on Nehrim in its opening stages. That would have been a shame. It's a mod, after all, and so free. It fixes some of the stuff I found frustrating in Oblivion (bows are much more useful among other things). It' also staggeringly well-produced for an amateur venture - a complete overhaul of the original Elder Scrolls game, with some extremely pretty level design, plenty of scripted sequences, NPCs, new monsters, and so on. The game begins with you in a mine, which you seem to have ended up in, along with a few other innocents, due to responding to a spam letter from a mysterious man making threats. This issue of gullibility aside, you have to try and get out of the mine with due haste, because it's full of what appear to be gorillas.
The race to the surface is a tease. You get glimpses of the surface, and after about forty minutes, and some scripted puzzles, you break out into the sunlight in a lovely orchestrated moment of release. Freedom! It's a glorious feeling. A luscious valley stretching before you.
Except you are still trapped in the first couple of hundred metres of it, with no access to the sprawling world of Nehrim unless you... return to the mine to deal with rats? Oh god. This hideous imprisonment continues for a while, with a string of tedious quests, a huge pile of rat corpses, and resulted in me quitting in exasperation when I become trapped in a knee-high ditch.
But persistence will pay off. Surely? I returned to the quest to look for the items required. Wandered around aimlessly for a while longer. Then I went back and started trying to throw myself over the barriers in Nehrim. LET ME OUT LET ME OUT.
One more go? Ah, I've found a glowing item cache! Some shovels. Perhaps these are the "something" that the gate guard needs to bolster is defence? And it might have been. But it no longer matters, because there's a pitched battle at the gate, and I am free. And getting out into the world proper is - as with Oblivion's original out-into-the-world moment - quite the payoff. And this game still is Oblivion on the surface - the same pastoral landscapes, the same puffy faces, but that's okay because it has its own sprawling world to explore, too. I shall continue to wander. There's quite a bit more out there, as we shall see.