Thieves Guild HQ – Unhealthy Competition created by Punk Stevo, released in 2010 and last updated in 2011, adds a new player home along with a post-thieves guild quest line. This mod requires the Shivering Isles expansion and for the player to have completed the original Thieves Guild quest line.
This review has some spoilers to the ending of the original Thieves Guild quest line and the Thieves Guild HQ story, consider this your warning in advance.
You began your journey as a lowly pickpocket in the guild, slowly advancing the ranks till you were doing jobs for the infamous Gray Fox himself. In the end, you pull off the ultimate heist which allows the curse on the Gray Fox’s cowl to be broken, allowing him to resume his former identity. With the curse broken, the cowl and mantle of the Gray Fox is passed down to you, as the new guild master of the Thieves Guild.
As the new Gray Fox, you are now responsible for the Thieves Guild. Complete contracts for clients, steal valuable items, take residence in a new hideout/player home and recruit new members to collect increased profits. Be careful however, there are rumors of a new guild in Cyrodiil…
Thieves Guild HQ – Unhealthy Competition includes a variety of new content such as:
- A total of 17 story quest and 3 side quests
- New base of operations for the Thieves Guild
- A new landmass
- New weapons and armor (including offhanded weapons)
- New spells and potions
- Hidden routes into Bravil and the Imperial City > handy for avoiding those pesky guards
Last but not least, even the ability to disguise yourself! Disguises come in handy to hide your bounty and avoid detection from the guards. Similar to how your cowl acts as a second identity separate from your character.
As for the headquarters, there is plenty of room ranging from but not limited to:
- Your personal bedroom/office area
- Training room
- A massive vault to display your favorite stolen loot
- A bar because even the king/queen of thieves needs to kickback and have a drink once in a while
- A store run by a fellow thief who can also provide you with disguises
- Mage’s area (spell making and enchanting)
- Some hidden rooms for you to discover
While this mod does have some combat, stealth is the main emphasis as you are meant to be a thief. Therefore expect lots of sneaking and paying attention to your surroundings. While there are map markers to guide you to your objective in general, it is up to you to find the item and solve any puzzles you come across.
While I like the idea of having a storefront hiding the new headquarters; I cannot get over the fact the sign has the Italian flag on it and how the storefront is a deli. It just feels too out-of-place in the fantasy setting of Oblivion for me, I can handle some game breaking but not to that extent. I think instead of calling it a “deli” you can have the front as a rest stop or a small inn, since that way it actually fits in with the world. Also, why the Italian flag? Is it because of the Deli thing or reference to the man who runs the front? Ignoring the immersion breaking sign, the idea is good and would have fit seamlessly into the world.
The headquarters itself while I enjoyed the different rooms and how large it was, just felt too barren for me. Personally, I would had preferred if it felt a little more lived in even if it meant scaling some of the rooms down. Even after recruiting the new members for the guild, the “main” floor of the headquarters just felt empty. Considering it consists of a small corner for footlockers to put armor and weapons (if this area was the armory, then that is just lazy), a large ruined rug, a wanted poster for the Gray Fox, a crudely walled off section to server as your quarters, and a little area for the members to sleep in. Why such a large empty space? Is it just to display the ruined rug’s design? The design did not seem very fitting for a guild of thieves, more fitting with perhaps pirates or an assassin guild. Unless I missed the significance of the rug’s design. Ignoring that, I liked the addition of the custom books written by an expert thief who gives advice and the hidden room revealing the treasure room belonging to the thief who once called the place home. Thought it was an excellent touch.
Speaking of members, recruiting only a total of three members for such a large base seems such a waste. Recruiting people who had specialties such as a smith, an archer and a mage and convincing them to join. I feel that this area could have been expanded upon. Why just those three? Actually why the archer? I can understand having a smith and mage as members, unless you use archery to remove obstacles that are unavoidable? I know the Thieves Guild most likely already has pickpockets, but why not include more members who were experts in different thievery skills? Expert(s) in lock picking or pick pocketing, scammer or even a smuggler come to mind as potential recruits. It would bring more life into the headquarters and give the impression that the guild is growing/expanding under your leadership.
Out of all the three new members, only one of them offers a side quest which is not a bad thing, I am just curious as why the other two did not have a side quest to offer. Although, the side quest she does offer is rather time-consuming, so perhaps that explains why the others did not have a side quest for the player to undertake.
Out of the quests, I found the first and second quest the most annoying, simply because I had to find the member who had the letter for me. In my defense for the first quest, I really had no idea who I needed to speak to, as I automatically approached the two guild mates who I believed were high-ranking therefore most likely to be the quest-giver. Only to find out it was the member I brushed off as the least likely one to be the quest-giver. For the second one, it was mainly because I couldn’t just get the quest directly from Armand, I had to run back to the Bravil headquarters and get a letter from him first.
Besides adding a new landmass, Stevo also modifies some pre-existing locations such as Bloodcrust Craven, adding a new apartment in the Talos District and using Bawnwatch Camp as a place for shady characters to dock their ship. Especially when he modifies it and having it make sense why they are in those locations.
I really enjoyed the quests (minus the first two) and combined with the fact you had minimal quest markers, meant you had to pay attention to the information given to you. There were times you had to hunt information down by asking the beggars and really pay attention to your environment. The quest where you revisit some old “friends” was really amusing to me, I have no idea why. Even the quest which ties into the Fighters Guild vs Blackwood competition was wonderful, even though that quest would had made more sense if I hadn’t finished the Fighters Guild quest line by then. The quest giver for that particular job gave me such joy.
Now for the one job/contract you have to do, involves liberating some oil paintings for a really enthusiastic art collector. While this in itself is not an issue, the fact that each of the paintings used game characters from other franchises (i.e. Street Fighter), movie characters and real people did not sit too well with me. I realize this is an old mod, but I really think using fictional and non-fictional people is not the best of ideas. Although I don’t really have a suggestion on an alternative route for the painting subjects, beyond perhaps he could posted on the forums asking people to send screenshots of their Oblivion characters and using them as the basis of the oil painting collection.
Now one of these contracts requires you to go to a new landmass known as Plena, which is a sandy island populated by wealthy citizens. Hearing that had me imagining an island with a small town with lots of potential places for me to break into only to be disappointed. Mainly because of how sparse the island was with a total of 6 buildings. The island itself could have used a lot more work but I’ll ignore that in favor with the biggest problem I faced in Plena.
In Plena, you will notice there is a store which you may or may not be able to resist robbing. DO NOT ROB THAT STORE DURING NON-BUSINESS HOURS! I realize that advice is counterproductive to the idea of being a sneaky professional thief. Seriously though, don’t break in while it is closed. I broke into the store at about 11-12am in-game time to rob the place before leaving the island. I figured might as well since I have no intentions of returning to the island. Once my looting spree was over, I found much to my despair that I was literally trapped in the store. There seems to be a very odd bug with the door that only affects this particular shop as I never saw this problem anywhere else. The door will automatically relock itself in literal milliseconds regardless if you use an open spell, lock pick or even the console. I tried all three methods and none of them can get the door unlocked long enough for you to interact with it. I ended up waiting inside the store, hiding in a little corner till 10am in-game time (thank goodness I could wait inside the store to pass time quicker) before I bolted straight out of the store as they opened for business. Never has freedom been sweeter. You know, in hindsight, I probably could have just used the console to teleport myself out…if I knew what the console location code for Plena’s exterior was.
Enough about that now, let’s talk about the story shall we? The story reminds me a quest I did in Skyrim, problem is I have no idea whether it was vanilla Skyrim or a quest mod I was trying at the time. I vaguely remember it involved a guild called the Crimson Daggers…and I just got side-tracked. The story has the Thieves Guild finding out they have some nasty competition with another guild that is determined to gain a foothold in Cyrodiil. As the competition gets fiercer, you help the guild by taking on contracts and doing big heists. The stakes get higher which result in a death within the guild and you being ambushed by a team sent to kill you and steal the item you just retrieved. The situation cannot continue any longer and the only way for the Thieves Guild to survive, you need to remove the competition. How? By starting a guild war. The best part about this plan? You won’t have to do any of the fighting, you’re going to have an entirely different guild do it for you. Just plant some false evidence and profit, should be easy right?
I have to say the idea of creating a guild war between two guilds via planting false evidence to incriminate another is by far the most original I have seen so far. Especially when it comes to the “we have a rival guild and we need to get rid of them” plot. Out of everything in this mod, this idea was the one thing I adored the most. That alone probably reveals a few things about me.
A minor complaint I have is that the murdered guild member’s body is just forever stuck in the waterfront safe house/headquarters. However that is easily fixed by disabling it in the console. I would have preferred if the body was removed after you leave the Waterfront area. Also I really would have loved to been the one who extracts revenge on the mole…personally although I can accept the ending and how Stevo tied up that loose end.
As a whole, Thieves HQ – Unfriendly Competition is a very solid mod that is nearly bug free. The story, a tad cliché but enjoyable nevertheless. I still would had liked to have been able to track down the mole personally. The storefront was a good idea, it could have been something closer to the theme and setting that Oblivion has though. The pacing of the story was able to convey how serious things were becoming with the competition, even if it was a little slow at parts. The quests were very enjoyable despite the fact I had to figure out who was the quest giver in the beginning. Minimal quest markers gave an enjoyable challenge and makes the player pay attention to their environment and investigate everything. Still not happy about being trapped in the Plena store though. The best part of the mod is creating the guild war in my opinion. This review is mighty long so I am going to cut it short right here.