The Fight for Castle Ravenpride is a mod that I am going to admit right now that I have extremely mixed feelings about. While I feel this is not the fault of the mod. This is more of a case of being misled by the mod description. Why? Because I am someone who heavily reads into the description of a mod and literally expect what the description promises to deliver. This would be my fault since I read too much into the description although I usually try to not let the description influence my opinion until I have played the mod. Do not mistake this as a terrible mod. Do remember that this mod was released years ago (2009), therefore this is going to serve as more of a critique or criticism of what went wrong in a mod that had high potential. It is a great mod, just has a very misleading description. My personal opinion is if you are going to claim your mod delivers certain things, then I am going to expect your mod to deliver those points. There is no point in claiming to deliver those aspects if you are not going to provide that experience to a player.
The description promises you a lot of great things yet it was not fulfilled. It boasts of providing hours of great story-telling and quests to keep you engaged, yet in reality the story was linear and the overall quest time is about an hour which I found severely disappointing, like I was lied too. Where was the hours of amazing quests and story that I was promised? In the documentation, it claims to avoid the clichés yet it ended up reverting back to the clichés.
I also find it highly disappointing how this mod literally forces you: the Champion of Cyrodiil (and probably many more titles) who is a literal walking god-like being, into a literal whining tool. You never had a single choice since the only decision you could take was forced upon you. As if you were an ignorant fool who constantly needed advice of “do this, do not do that, if you do not follow my orders you could get killed” and so forth. The Elder Scrolls has always been about the freedom of choice, to explore the possibilities and facing the consequences of your decisions.Yet Castle Ravenpride seemed to snatch that all away from the player. You could not talk to anyone to make your own decisions or to get their side of the story, all the conversations is rather one-sided and linear to suit the story.
Speaking about conversations, while the voice-acting in the mod was relatively good although a bit louder than necessary in some cases. What is with the Captain of the fort’s guards constantly shouting at the player? It literally felt like he was constantly shouting at you when it wasn’t necessarily. Yes, the shouting from his character was needed in certain aspects of the dialogue but not for the entire duration of the conversation. It made me want to smack him in the face with my sword. He even still treats you like dirt despite the fact you were misguided and had atoned for your mistakes, although it is understandable considering how you murdered half his men blindly.
If you are going to have the player be manipulated by a character from the mod, you have to make them convince the player that they can be trusted. Since the moment he began talking, especially when you reach the supply depot I could already see who the real antagonist of the story was. Do not make the fool out of the character when it is so blatantly obvious to the people in front of the screen. Make the character be convincing in the way they act and talk. It does not work if they can’t even feign grief and are filled with contempt. Especially towards another character that willing sacrified their own life due to their misguided hero-worship. On that note, that mage character was seriously misguided. Good lord, I never seen the one who would literally kiss the floor that his hero walked on. Okay, he did not kiss the ground which is good because I would be so concerned for that fictional character. The final dialogue you have with the female npc was aggravating since your character would rightfully question her actions, yet she scolds you as if you were an idiot. As if the answer was so obvious when, her motives were not so clear. I just did not see the need for her character to raise her voice at the player, when calmly explaining everything would have sufficed in that scenario now that you have atoned for your wrong-doings. For someone who tried to give a warning that foreshadows the future consequences of your action, it was not very well-delivered. It did not leave me with a feeling of foreshadowing or anything of the like. When she disappeared, I was feeling extremely confused wondering what on Earth she was talking about. If you are going to make her deliver a warning, try to make it ominous and understandable to the degree the player can get the jist of what is trying to be said. Do not explain it cheaply at the end by her telling you she was “confused” when she first met you.
If you are going to deliver a story-telling experience, then let the player experience the story for themselves through their actions. Not by a strange woman who speaks incoherent sentences in the beginning and by the ending cut-scene only. It is not how story-telling works. On a side note, the ending cut-scene was actually rather good in explaining all the loose holes in the story to wrap everything up.
The castle or fort keep I should say, has a wonderfully well-thought background lore to explain its history. I do not ask for a large castle that is heavily cluttered, I want a castle that is believable to suit the lore that is given for the fort. It is described to be formerly used a prison yet there is no prison to be found in the fort. You can only access the main tower (the keep) in the fort and a few shacks that are scattered outside in the exterior. I see side-towers that I would like to be able to enter and have a look around. The fort had so much potential to match its astounding back-story but ended up lacking in so many areas. If this is meant to be a proud fort then it should have good infrastructure to facilitate access from the outside world to the castle. Having wooden planks is not good infrastructure, especially if you are going to realism. Wooden planks on the snow is not the best idea. Also, the main keep which serves as the residence of the lord of the fort, should be able to give you the feel that it is the seat of power of the fort. It just felt like an ordinary tower with less than spectacular living quarters.
The main thing I did not understand about this mod is in regards to the invisible walls. Why is there so many invisible walls placed all around the place? It gets the npcs stuck and causes a bunch of issues. If I am in the keep and want to go a certain way to reach the dining table, I should not be blocked by an invisible wall. It is something that I view as unnecessarily. Another aspect I did not understand was in regards to the helmet you were made to recover in the beginning. The whole logic behind the helmet is a jumbled mess. You were forced to equip the helmet in order to fight the leader of the bandits, since he uses an invisibility spell. The helmet is meant to reveal where the leader is by breaking his invisibility therefore taking away the advantage from the bandit leader. Now this is where logic should kick in, you are fighting in an extremely small and enclosed area. Even if you did not have the helmet equipped, you would be able to hit the bandit leader since he would not have anywhere to escape too. The helmet only works on the said npc, yet works on no one else. Even a life detection spell would had revealed where the bandit leader but the helmet was forcibly equipped on the player. I felt this was poorly executed as it forced the only option onto the player. You were not allowed to explore alternative methods to deal with the bandit leader, you were forced to follow with the option that the mod maker wanted you to take.
The Fight for Castle Ravenpride, had an interesting story to gain the castle as your own. I found the back-story to be fascinating. The voice-acting was great although it was loud in certain parts. I really do like the scripting in the Fort Redmount, where the torches lit up as you approached them. Some areas were extremely dark due to lack of light but it had good level design. Found the hidden easter egg which got a laugh out of me. The weapons and armor were interesting, really liked the design on it. Not sure if they are just re-textured vanilla objects, since the guard’s armor seems to be the Blackwood company armor. The throne room of the keep was promising, also serving as the dining hall. Not sure if the guard quarters should be in the same tower where the lord resides.
I think the guards should had their own tower, but connected to the keep. The bedroom of the lord should give a lordly feel, or the impression that it is a place where the owner of the keep spends most of their time. The sanctuary to hide from the duties. Custom loading screens were a nice touch, giving more of the lore behind Castle Ravenpride. Since Ravenpride has such heavy history serving as a prison, you should be able to find a prison so it honors the history of the castle. On a whole, a decent mod with a good story but as I mentioned before. The description is misleading. I now conclude my long-winded criticism and find a nice bottle of alcohol to drown myself in.