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TESIV, Knights of the Nine: A Critique
I won't lie: I was deeply disappointed by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's expansion, Knights of the Nine. While it does inspire the quests, environments and enemies of TESV: Skyrim (a style I'm familiar and happy with), I still don't get a kick out of this. In the title I've stated this is a critique, which often means I'll "emphasize" about certain objects of the game I don't like. Here, I'll be as honest as I can and remain polite. The key words being, "as I can". If you bought this DLC as standalone, I pity you, for you have wasted around £10 on four hours of content, when you could get more than 10x that, called The Shivering Isles. However, I won't go on about how you're now £10 closer to poverty, but rather enlighten you.... as much as I can. If you bought this content in the Anniversary edition of Oblivion, or the Game of the Year edition (as did I), I'll give you praise! You bagged a good deal, and you have around 50 more hours onto your infinite experience. Congratulations!
But why do I dislike this DLC? Well, keep on reading and find out! This, is my Knights of the Nine review!
Think of this as doing a really lengthy task for a Daedric Prince (are females "princesses"? And who's the king?), and I don't mean the standard Skyrim DP Quest. I'm talking about a four hour quest of getting people to murder each other, without much direct involvement. Or six hours of dogs falling out of a red sky. Now replace the Daedra with the Nine, and the shrine with the Prophet. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the plot to Knights of the Nine!
Indeed, this is an extremely long fetch quest that leads you in many directions at one time. Remember when you had to enlist the aid of all cities in Cyrodiil, just before the end of the main questline? It's similar to this, only replace the leaders with chapels and dungeons. Rumor has it that Umaril - some Ayleid sorcerer - has come to the "hood", and a Prophet in Anvil needs a Knight to gather some "homeboys" to "shank him". But to do this, the player will need certain relics in order to defeat him. These are the Relics of the Crusader, offering swords, maces, a helm, armour and such. Players will also pick up worthy followers of the Nine to join the cause, and defeat Umaril once and for all.
What does the DLC offer?
This is a rather short questline at a full price of £10-15, which has put many players off. It's a four hour campaign, though some may be able to stretch it out to nine hours. The quests will send you to many places, adding new buildings, NPCs and enemies for you to fight, though these are few. Much like the residence DLC (Thieves' Cave, Battlehorn Castle, Frostcrag Spire), players will also have a chapel in the Wilderness of their own, where they can recieve blessings, use an armour rack to wield and wear their Crusader Relics, and ask one of many Knights to join them as a companion.
Unfortunately, there are limitations. Heavy Armour wearers won't benefit, as the Crusader Relics are only Light Armour. My guess would be because they got the Imperial Dragon Armour at the end of the main questline, and this is the alternative. The armour barely scales with your level, so no matter what, its stats will be very little in comparison to many other materials. The weapons are one-handers, including a sword and an axe, but there is no Crusader Bow. This will put stealth/ranged players off, as there are few benefits of the expansion for them. And casters, you've been left out too - there's no staff or spells that can benefit you too.
The quests are few, hence the four hour playtime, and doesn't have any continuous quests after ("turn in so many vampire dust, get so much gold" is an example). It's unfortunate that your title as "Knight" and "Crusader" doesn't affect the NPCs of the game, as they don't recognize your accomplishments. Not even the chapels or blacksmiths comment on your unique chainmail gear. There's so much room for improvement, and for £10, you're not getting much other than a new house, some dudes and a questchain.
In all, I didn't feel like I'd accomplished much. Collecting the Relics is barely memorable, and I struggle to remember the epic quest I went on to find these holy grails. Throughout my second playthrough of this (on a different character, who I'd built to be like a Crusader), I kept wondering where the action was. But to my dismay, I was experiencing the action. As I played, I was unaware that what I was doing was the main thing, the big adventure. The fights were repetitive, the puzzles didn't do much for me, the enemies were overused. Umaril was made up to be this terrible beast, this unmaker of worlds, but all he is, is a bigger version of the gold men I've been fighting recently. The idea of fighting in the sky was brilliant, and seeing all of Cyrodiil as I fell was gorgeous. But this is known to be buggy, and if you haven't saved, it's a four hour leap backwards doing those quirky puzzles again. And yes, it's the same bug that happens in Skyrim with one of the Daedra Princes (Meridia, I think) - you either stay up there and don't come down, or you fall and die, instead of fade to black.
When the expansion came to a close, I didn't feel rewarded in either playthrough. I didn't feel like I'd saved the world of a terrible sorcerer, or gained some super-epic weapons. I still found that my uncharged Umbra or Mace of Mulag Bal was fancier than the Fine Steel Longsword titled, "Blade of the Crusader". The perks felt too small, especially when compared to The Shivering Isles, an expansion of the same price. Maybe if we were fighting a threat we were familiar with, or one that has been here for a long time (but not well known), I'd give this a much bigger chance. Even if Umaril has existed since The Elder Scrolls: Arena, he was introduced way too abruptly. It was sudden, and it was poorly executed.
So what happens when you're done? You continue what you were doing before: quest, kill or ask yourself, "why did Bethesda give horses buttholes"?
Element of Game
I won't give this DLC an 8/9 (or 8/10 like most critics have), because my experience was lacking. Not once did I level up through killing things or getting hit, nor did all the walking about affect my Athletics. Isn't that one of the main goals of expansions? To level up? The quests are there, but the content is so stretched out and the lack of action can bore most players. However, it's not as if you'll give up half way, but there's no penalty for it either. Unlike the main questline, there's no sense of "lost time for every loading screen", nor a rush from discovering Umaril's location or plot. For the most part, you're expecting to make progress, then on the second playthrough, you're walking rather than running to feel like progress. I went in with high expectations after playing TSI (The Shivering Isles), but I left more than disappointed, like I have to pay premium fees to get an ending. So this expansion gets a 7 out of 9, a score I was hoping never to associate with an Elder Scrolls game. With little reward or contribution to Cyrodiil in general, Knights of the Nine is a boring questline but gained quick buck. This is the keystone for Fallout DLC - you go in good, you get some nice things, you leave realizing you've only spent 3-4 hours on it. But hey, you got a shiny or five.
Knights of the Nine needed more oomph, instead of sending me all over Cyrodiil to make me think I'm spending more time on travel. How about a memorable cast, enemies, and a place I'm going to return to instead of just use because the questline tells me to go there. For £10, I feel forced to go through a time-wasting zigzag for a tabard with the Ace of Diamonds on it. I was hoping for more Christian Crusade-like adventure, much like the Battle of Kvatch. Where's the religious banter, the "burn the heretics" attitude? I thought we were Knights, not Monks!
So the expansion gets a 7/9 with no accolades. When I get more enjoyment from slobbering at the sight of Frostcrag Spire, you can tell this expansion is only for hardcore Oblivion fans. Don't get me wrong, I'm a major fan of the series, but this isn't my cup of tea.
The Ups and Downs of KotN, a TL;DR
- Gives players a new "safehouse", where they can store their Relics of the Crusader, a bed to sleep in, and new companions.
- A storyline that offers enough for casual Oblivion fans, and satisfies those who want to do other things.
- Gets off to a good start.
- Has some memorable moments and nice battles.
- Seriously lacks the rewards and content of other DLC, especially at its price of £15/$20.
- Not worth playing a second or third time, but at the price you've little choice.
- Enemies and items don't scale with player level, meaning that difficulty is either upped or decreased.
- Barely varies from other quests in the game, unlike The Shivering Isles.