Review By: Andrew Joy
|# Of Players:||1|
|Accessories:||Downloadable content, requires the base game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion|
Given how many titles are released for the Xbox 360 and then don’t see even a single piece of downloadable content – let alone a full-on expansion pack – I think it is safe to say that support for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has been pretty good. Oh, sure, there were a few niggles to work out in the beginning – in fact, I’m not sure the game will ever live down the whole horse armor pricing debacle – but, in the end, we don’t have much room to complain...and the end is exactly where we are. Fighter’s Stronghold, for those of you who don’t know, is supposedly the last official plug-in to be released for Oblivion, and, as a sort of parting gift, it was also offered free for an entire week.
If you’re reading this for any other reason than to be a loyal (but most appreciated) VGGEN reader, you either don’t download stuff simply because it is free, you just picked up an Xbox 360 or PC and a copy of Oblivion, or you were in some way incapacitated or unaware of it during the time that it was available for the low, low price of nothing. Well, whatever your excuse, if it's after October 21st, 2007, now need to find out whether or not this download is worth your 150 Microsoft Points or $1.89 on the PC (a price comparable to other plug-ins of this nature). The short answer to that is, yes, it probably is. After all, this is also the fourth and final quest house (others include Deepscorn Hollow, Frostcrag Spire and Dunbarrow Cove) and it includes a number of unique abilities and treasures to experiment with. However, beyond that, The Fighter’s Stronghold is a bit lacking.
First off, while the story around the castle does get a bit more interesting later on, the initial call that brings you there is actually a bit pathetic. When most people hear that a castle is under "siege," they likely think of more than just four marauders, especially when there seems to be almost that many people to begin with inside the castle. Granted, you’ll face off against a battlemage and a warlord in the mix, but it doesn’t take long to cut your way through them and become the new owner of the castle. In fact, using Ghost Walk and Goldbrand, I think the entire encounter was over for me in less than a minute. Later on in the quest, you can also encounter a skeleton warrior and a lich, but, again, the battle is so short that it makes you wonder why the developers even bothered including any combat at all, since they practically hand you your rewards.
Ah, the rewards – now this is where Fighter’s Stronghold really becomes worth paying for. While it isn’t as fancy as say Rosethorn Hall, it is an entire castle, which, like your other homes, you can re-furnish by purchasing upgrades. In addition to things like a bedroom and a dining hall, you get a number of other wholly unique rooms, such as a taxidermist who can create trophies of some of the creatures you’ve killed, and a training room with your own personal (and somewhat famous) sparring partner. You can also get your own blacksmith (and later a Dewmer Forge that helps you do it yourself) and a vintner to create exclusive wines for you. And, as you’d expect, being the new lord of the manor, you get servants and your own castle guards, though you can only take one of them into battle with you.
As far as actual treasures, poking around in the secret passages will net you a little bit of gold, a few Varla stones (which are always nice to have on hand) and, eventually, a nice sword and shield (actually, there are a few of those, but only one really worth mentioning). In addition to simply looking neat, the Dragonsword of Lainlyn does fire damage and absorbs fatigue on your opponents, and simply equipping the sword also gives you a spell called Dragon Breath, which is a pretty nice little bonus (especially for magic-inclined players who won’t get much out of this content, apart from a somewhat mundane magical staff from the previously mentioned lich). As for the shields, one is a rather ordinary shield called Shield of the True Horn and another, Lord Kain’s Shield, just lights your way, but the third is actually one of the better shields in the game. Lord Kelvyn’s Bulwark has one of the highest defense ratings of any shield, and it also fortifies your endurance, health and block!
While the premise behind this quest seems a little overstated and, frankly, disappointing, the rewards you get in the end make it worth the money and time to download and complete it, even if you don’t get the satisfaction of an epic battle. For more advanced players, the castle itself may not seem as swanky as some of the other in-game houses, but it is rather large and exploration yields some nice leveled items. For newer players, it still may not be very challenging, but in the end you do get a place to hang your hat, and without all of the runaround required for some of the other houses in the game. Veteran or newcomer, there’s a lot to be gained for everyone, including some lavish trophies and a gaggle of various servants. In the end, it may not be as big or grand as some other content, but Fighter’s Stronghold is still a fine end to Oblivion’s long run.
Posted: 2007-10-20 11:53:03 PST