The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Falskaar Mod Impressions

The folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun have decided to give The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's mod Falskaar the hands-on impressions treatment and came away suitably impressed, though they note that it's obvious that it's the product of a level designer far less experienced than the ones from Bethesda's crew. Here's a snip:

If the exploration is a little bit lacking, it's only because the quests have been obsessed over. It's a remarkably well-crafted soap opera of men fretting over what they have and trying to defend it. It begins with a few bandit raids, but soon I was escaping from burning cities through secret passageways. Or I was raiding armouries for secrets, fighting my way though a multi-level bandit-hovel that took a few tries to get right. I don't know if the AI has been tweaked, or if it was the fact that my character was brand new, but that dungeon was a tough fight, with multiple opponents crowding around me, and it wasn't the only time I had to redo a dungeon. That said, they're well designed, and most will allow you to leave without backtracking.

Even if it is just a Nordic head-butting contest, those heads are wearing crowns. A lot is at stake, and it manages that odd Skyrim trick of presenting interesting challenges through interminable speeches. But the fact that those are happening at all is proof of the ridiculous steps that have been taken to make Falskaar what it is: hours of dialogue have been recorded for the mod. Vast speeches spill out of mouths that should be silent. The writing even manages to capture Skyrim's weary Nordic pretty acutely. Even NPC barks have been recorded, with one commenting on my Elvish appearance. This is ridiculous: a fully committed cast of hopeful amateurs very nearly catches up to Bethesda's efforts. They should be proud, and Bethesda should be a little bit ashamed.

Leaving the main story path and investigating the lives of the townspeople is a good way to get out of the headspace of angry Nordic politics. There are interesting diversions to be had: the story of a missing cow that leads to a cave full of necromancers. I helped a farm hand discover his parental lineage, and hunted down a missing family heirloom. Space for smaller, family dramas while the rest of the world is at war shows an understanding of the main game's structure, and there's been a lot of care lavished on the dungeons they'll often lead to.

On a side note, how would you feel if GameBanshee started publishing content of this kind too? Obviously trying to review or cover every single mod would be a completely futile attempt, but publishing reviews/impressions for particularly notable mods would be perfectly doable.