Taking a break from playing the Transistor with a Skyrim mod, called The Fifth Gate made by GLArtMods. You may be more familiar with his Skyrim horror mod called Into the Depths, which was one of the earlier mods I reviewed for Skyrim. You can check out my review for that mod here.
I am going to admit now that I actually saw a video play through for this mod, or partly anyway before deciding to give this mod a try. Why? Well, it didn’t seem particularly scary. I am still undecided which I found scarier, Into the Depths or The Fifth Gate [edit: Into The Depths was scarier]. You will need Dawnguard for this mod as it uses some resources from the add-on.
To begin the quest, you need to find the Tomb of the Unknown Knight which is located a short distance away from High Hrothgar. It actually took me a little while to figure where the activation point was on the statues since it wasn’t clear where you were supposed to look.
I highly recommend you play this with earphones or headphones on, and have the volume at a decent volume as it will enhance the experience. The sound design in the game was well-done although it did over use the bass (is it base or bass..) tone, making it repetitive and loses the appeal and effect it has overall.
Atmosphere-wise, it was very creepy especially when combined with the sounds you hear throughout the game such as tortured screams. The mod is relatively dark so seeing could be difficult at times even with a moderately high brightness, but still manageable. It just makes certain sections hard to see, such as the mazes and towards the end of the mod when you need to go through the crypts.
There was a sense of vulnerability in the beginning. Why? Because you were stripped of all your equipment, unable to sneak and did not have the option of using your magic. You could not even use your fists to defend yourself during the beginning section. You were only allowed to use them, later when you were given the goal of finding a weapon to defend yourself with. The gear provided to you felt mostly overpowered since the majority of it was ebony. It just did not feel right to have that kind of gear, especially when you are trying to keep up the sense of vulnerability, perhaps providing weaker gear would gone a lot better.
Speaking about that, the vulnerability you would have felt actually disappears the moment you retrieve the temporary gear. I felt that was a real shame and hurt the experience a bit, since it becomes heavily focused on combat afterwards. In my opinion, this alone had a great impact on the mod in a negative way. It no longer became scary as you now had the means to defend yourself, and most of the enemies were weak. It went from being somewhat unnerving to being straight-forward hack n slash.
From what I seen on the description, there is no level requirement which may affect how strong the enemies are. The only enemies I had problems with were mainly the gargoyles. I hate those things with a passion, although I hate the goblins more in Oblivion. Those goblins are tough little
bastards jerks. I suggest playing the mod with a decent level character, perhaps between level 30 as a estimate. My character was around level 79 when I did this, combine it with a relatively high sneak and archery skill….you see why I would had found the enemies relatively easy. Although, I did move to using swords during the first part of the boss battle and using some conjuration.
The voice actor did an excellent job in this mod. However, it was difficult to hear what he was saying at times, I often struggled to hear what he was saying and only heard the last part of his sentences. With that, I found it difficult to understand what the story was but I think I managed to hear enough to get the overall idea.
Now, this mod has its own custom videos providing little cut scenes at certain points of the story. I found those videos to be the most unnerving out of everything. I thought the videos were very well-done.
As for the lighting aspect, while I did mention earlier that it was relatively dark, it made great use of lightning and limited light sources during the beginning. It did however, overuse the sudden red flashing light combined with bass tone. The red light and sound combination got old very quickly for me, becoming more of an annoyance than a real scare tool. The first few times will probably catch you off guard but afterwards you do not see the big deal with it.
There is one section of the tomb (?) that has Dwarven pipes which looked awfully out-of-place. I am not sure what GLArtsMods was trying to do, but it did not really work out in the end.
There is mini-jump scares but pretty soon, those become overused as well. Adding variety to the scares would have gone a long way for this, as well help keep the players on edge.
The maze sections, I did not find particularly difficult but that could just been plain dumb luck on my part. They were hardest to navigate due to the darkness and being the genius I was, I forgot I had torches and spells to help me see. I did not use them at all, yet I seem to remember to use my summoning spells to aid me in the last fight for some reason.
I did enjoy the little riddle since there were three possible answers (in a sense) but the wrong answers resulted in your death. Personally, the riddle was easily solved if you know the lore of creatures/monsters of Skyrim. I think my personal favorite was the jumping puzzle section, having to race against the spiked pillars crashing down was fun. For me anyway, although I did die once when I missed a jump and fell into the lava below.
For the boss fight, I had no clue what the avatar was saying. At all. Subtitles would been really useful there, I only managed to catch some sentences but for the most part, did not hear a single word. I did enjoy the boss fight, fighting the consecutive waves of zombies before fighting the real boss. The avatar you fight has an insane amount of health points, I ended up just summoning a dremora lord and staying at a distance firing arrows at it. It went down pretty quick actually, despite the high health. I found the ending a bit awkward, since I only just managed to loot the avatar before I was suddenly teleported out back to Skyrim. I figured that if you were told to look for an exit, then I had time to look around before finding an exit. Not being suddenly teleported out. Again, hearing the ending monologue was hard, I barely managed to understand how you saved the soul of the last victim and how ‘Nathan’ I think his name was, made a deal with a shaman to try save the victim’s soul and how the shaman predicts your arrival. Subtitles would be really helpful since I had so much difficulty understanding what was being said.
In the end, it had a solid start but felt it quickly lost sight of what it was trying to do. I felt it had a good story but with it being so difficult to hear what was being said, it ruined the delivery of the story. It relied too much on the same scares and sounds to deliver the scares. You were given gear that felt too powerful and ruined the sense of being vulnerable. I would had preferred to have weak armor to give a false sense of security but relying on non-combat related skills to navigate. The video cut scenes were unnerving, and felt to be the best part done about the mod personally. Level design was repetitive at certain sections. Boss fight was fun but even though the boss had high health, ended quickly. It is still a solid mod but leaves a lot to be desired. A shame really since the mod started well and had potential.