Oblivion is old and broken. It almost goes out of its was to annoy you at times with some daft systems and odd choices. Some of it looks a bit wonky, some of it feels a bit wonky, and sometimes, strangely, you feel restricted for choice. Now, though, it’s 2010. People have had four long years with the bundled Construction Kit and we can fix it. We can make Oblivion the game that we (or at least I) always wanted – a game of survival, depth and gorgeous landscapes. With a few simple steps we can transform Oblivion into something fresh and worthy of getting wrapped up in all over again. None of these mods will stop Oblivion being Oblivion though – they don’t detract from the experience or change it into something unrecognisable. They are all finely polished too and none make it an easy game – far from it.
Just a quick note – with any mods you install it’s always worth having a quick nose at the readme files that come with them as they’ll explain the nuances of each mod and any irregularities you might encounter, but it should all be straight forward (I’ve not had any problems with any of the things I’m listing here). Also, where possible, get your mods in omod format as you can install them by just running them – so long as you follow the advice from the first thing in this list. Let’s get started.
1. Oblivion Mod Manager – a little application that installs next to Oblivion making the installation and management of mods a lot easier. You just need to point it at your Oblivion directory and it should handle the rest. When it asks to associate itself with omod files, let it – then you can just open mod files when you download them and let this sort them out. The first thing that you want to do with this when it runs is change the load order of the DLC packs if you have them installed. Select Frostcrag Spire from the list of installed packs on the left and move it below Battlehorn Castle – this will instantly solve a bug with a shop being permanently closed in the Imperial City.
2. Unofficial Oblivion Patch – fixes 1800 bugs. It’s nothing exciting really, but if you want the best experience you might as well install it.
3. Unofficial Shivering Isles Patch – fixes 270 bugs in Shivering Isles.
4. Oblivion Script Extender – god this is boring isn’t it. This is the last boring mod. Promise. The script extender allows mods to hook deeper into Oblivions systems, which we need for some of the stuff we’re installing later. Now we have all these boring patches and management applications installed, it might be worth firing off Oblivion to check it hasn’t exploded or anything.
5. Obscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul – this is the big one in terms of changes. It rips out that stupid levelling system that Oblivion put in where everything levels along with you. Now Bandits won’t ever start wearing Mithril Armour, Mudcrabs wont be more like Monkeylords, and you will be attacked, frequently, by things that you will have to run away from. Case in point: as a level one Assassin I was doing a bit of dungeon running for some loot. After killing a few easy wolves I went into an inner sanctum type place – I was chased out by Vampire Mages in Heavy Armour. It makes Oblivion brutal and unforgiving, and it’s far, far better. It also adds cloaks, capes, and an absolute ton of new equipment – it really is brilliant.
6. Qarl’s Texture Pack III – a re-texture pack that will make everything look stunning even by today’s standards. The difficulty with this is that it isn’t installed as a mod – rather it overwrites oblivions textures so you might want to backup your oblivion\data folder before installing this one, especially if you’re playing on a bit of an older PC because it’s pretty resource intensive (you can always turn the texture size down in the options to make it run smoother though).
7. Alternative Start – if you’re sick to the teeth of listening to Patrick Stuart reel off all the fantasy spiel again and going through the dungeon/training mission again and killing those Crimson guys again, why not start somewhere else? Alternative Start will give you the choice of how you come into Oblivion. I went for “Arrive by Ship” because that’s like Morrowind, and Morrowind is cool – I might have mention that before.
8. Darnified UI – Darnified fixes the rubbish interface by shrinking the font size to get more onto the screen and shrinking/repositioning the HUD. It’s a really subtle mod but it’s a vast improvement.
9. Elven Map Pack Redux – Makes your map colourful and zooms it out a bit. Again, it’s subtle, but after using it and going back to the default, the default feels clunky and horrible and bleugh.
10. Jogs Stealth Overhaul – The stealth system in Oblivion is crap. This fixes it. You now get proper stealth penalties for trying to creep in heavy armour, stealth hits are fixed to be more in line with the weapon you’re using, and, most importantly, it allows you to run away and hide again if you don’t make a one hit kill. Even if you don’t play a stealth class you should install this because it also has a little feature where you can bind load-out presets to switch between kit on the fly. Oh and it finally gives you the ability to de-nock arrows from your bow.
11. Thieves Arsenal – more improvements for stealth characters, this one’s pretty amazing. It adds in the special arrows from Thief (water arrows to put out lights, noisemaker arrows to create distractions, grease arrows to make people slip over, and rope arrows for creating climbable ropes) – all of which fully work. It also adds a blackjack to knock people out with, and – get this – a new, voiced quest giver who will hand out randomly generated missions to steal stuff. Amazing.
12. Further Reading and Odd Mods – there are tons and tons of other mods out there. The ones above should give you a new, fresh Oblivion that you can enjoy all over again, but if you want to go further you can. This list has all the mods that work and are worthwhile considering (some more than others). It will even tell you if something isn’t compatible with any of the big mods we’ve installed (The Overhaul, known as OOO; or Qarl’s texture pack). Also Tom Senior who left us – more or less – to go do words for PC Gamer compiled a list of his own which has a few that I haven’t mentioned here because they seemed to mess with Oblivion’s feel a little too much.