Oblivion and Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul mod

If you’ve been playing TES IV: Oblivion for a while, you’ve probably noticed that while it’s a great game, there are some downsides, mostly due to balancing and the new levelling system. In Oblivion, most NPCs (and enemies) do not have a fixed level, but instead increase their level everytime you level – the idea behind this was to keep the game challenging, so that going into dungeons at a low level would not result in a complete pounding, but conversely, going in at a high level would not be a cake walk.

While this was an admirable effort to keep the game refreshing, it had its problems. After all, what’s the point in investing so much time to improve your character if you can’t “lay the smack down” on all the lesser beings once in a while? This seemed to be the biggest complaint about the new levelling system, especially among players who had previously spent a lot of time on the previous chapter in the series, Morrowind.

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest selling points of Oblivion is the ease with which the game can be modified, to not only add new content (dungeons, items, etc.), but to also change the core gameplay mechanices. Faced with the gameplay issues of levelling, enthusiastic modders quickly responded by releasing their own updates to the core gameplay aspects of Oblivion, effectively changing how the game works in order to address the needs of the community. This was a great move on the part of Bethesda Softworks, (the developers of Oblivion), as it allows people to play the game the way they want – without Bethesda having to tweak the game for everyone.

One of the more successful gameplay mods has been Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul, (available for download here or here), which features a huge list of hand-picked changes to improve gameplay – in many ways it changes things back to how they were in Morrowind – high level items are no longer off limits to lower-level characters, provided you can find a way to beat up the tougher enemies that are now out there. There are also many other changes included, as well as some smaller mods that have been incorporated. I won’t paste the whole list of changes here; I suggest you check out the aforementioned links to get a full idea of what’s being changed.

When I first saw this mod, I was very impressed and it seemed like it was exactly what I was looking for. However, one thing turned me off: Because the mod changes how NPC level data is changed/stored, if you don’t being a new game, NPC levels can get screwy if you apply the mod to an existing game. This doesn’t affect other aspects of the mod, however, since NPC levelling is a major part of it, I was hesitant to adopt the mod – I had already invested a lot of time in my existing character and didn’t want to start from scratch.

However, all that changed when I discovered the Wrye Bash utility for Oblivion. This utility, written in Python, can reset the NPC level data in your saved games, allowing Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul to use its corrected levelling data for NPCs, thus removing the need to begin a new game! (It’s available under the “Import NPC Levels” option of “Save File Commands”, if you read the page linked) The utility is a little complicated and can do much more than just this, and the documentation is a bit lengthy, but it’s well worth it when you consider the alternative of starting a new character. I highly recommend the mod and this utility for a better Oblivion experience.

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