57 hours later, I saw the credits once again. As soon as I booted up the revamped Steam version of Enderal, and saw the opening, I realized I was back home.
I will say that my play-through of Forgotten Stories was not complete. I missed out on at least a dozen quests including the latter half of one of the Golden Sickle questline, but it was a finished experience for me. I did finish everything during the 2016 run of the original game.
Enderal, the total conversion mod of Skyrim, is better than ever, and there’s no time like the present to return to such a gem. Even better, you can download and play it right off Steam for free, without the need for its own launcher or anything silly like that. All you need to own is a copy of the original Skyrim. This is a huge improvement on the old launcher and Steam makes it nice and easy to play.
SureAI has been making this mod for a long time, ever since Skyrim released back in November 2011. They have been responsible for making other total conversions such as Nehrim for Oblivion, and the lesser known Arktwend for Morrowind. I really want to give Nehrim another go, even though it is German voice only, with English subtitles.
You do not need to worry about that with Enderal. Everything is fully voice acted in English from the get go, which is nice. I’ll get into the characters and voice acting later.
Big mods for Skyrim are rare. They usually come out through heavy-release delays or are just cut-back. I do appreciate anybody who tries to make one, but it is disappointing to be met with constant big, ambitious projects being pushed back for years or discontinued, like Beyond Skyrim, Skywind, Luthraathan and countless others. Modding and game development is a difficult thing.
So, it was a great surprise to see Enderal not only get released, but it’s getting regularly patched. Initially launching in 2016 to great success, the revamped version launched on Valentines Day in 2019. And it’s bigger and better than ever.
This was the first thing which caught my eye. The game is beautiful.
Skyrim has the beauty of ENBs to improve its graphics (dated for 2020 standards, but quite pretty for 2011), so if you’re experienced at those, then Enderal won’t look much different. However, to people like me, this was a nice change. It really pushes the engine to its limit, and it does look exceptional at times. I found a few problems with moving while looking at the water with some odd flickering, with some odd flickering and glare when I moved around, but overall it looks great.
There is quite the mix of biomes at work here. We have the desolate desert of Duneville, rich grasslands, the massive city of Ark, the Frostcliff Mountains where everything is ice and snow and rich jungle, its quite impressive what the devs have done with the game. They really know their stuff, and the quality is shown time and time again.
Now, lets move onto the world size. It’s still a pretty big landmass, though it’s not quite as large as Skyrim was. I’d say roughly half the size? There’s some pretty massive dungeons and spaces to explore as well. I went on a rather dangerous jaunt exploring the centre and east of Enderal, probably discovered barely half of all the known locations and still got a long way to go. For a mod, this is incredible work. There is a hell of a lot to do, throughout. You will not be skimped on the size of the game.
Ark, the hub city of Enderal, is huge like a capital city should be. Take lessons, Skyrim. Two streets and a castle does not make a city. Points and glares to Solitude. True, there aren’t many big cities and towns in Enderal, but what they have picks up the slack. To quote Todd Howard, it just works. Only in Enderal’s case, it really does. I’ve often had to remind myself this is a Skyrim mod, but it really is a full game in its own right under the Creation Engine.
While the game is certainly similar to the Skyrim we know and love, there are changes. There is a completely new levelling system regarding talents and perks and an experience system which grants you points when you do pretty much anything. I prefer this to Skyrim’s perk system to be honest, and it makes things a bit more specialized. You need to think about what character you want to be.
You can no longer Fast Travel. You can however. travel using large, rather cool looking animals called Myrads, which can take you to other Myrads on the map for 25 pieces of gold each. There are also teleport scrolls, and a spell which allows you to mark a point on the map, then return to it from anywhere in Enderal. I like this mechanic because it encourages you to explore the map. Sometimes with fast travel, you’re too tempted to abuse it and never go exploring in the game world, but this one feels fair. There’s plenty of options for you to get back in a hurry if you want to. It restricts you for lore reasons, not as a game reason. This is good game design.
Natural health regeneration has also been removed. You need to either use food, potions of healing spells. Using magic or potions increase your magical fever, a new addition which raises whenever you use such magic and kills you when it hits 100%, so use it sparingly!
To get stronger, you also get a really cool Meditation system in order to grab new perks and abilities. How SureAI managed to input this into the Skyrim engine is astonishing, and it looks really good. There’s quite a lot of variance too with some nice trees. You can create potions to turn yourself into a werewolf, suck the soul from corpses to regain health, turn ash and bones into thralls to fight for you and a lot more. You can’t upgrade everything, so you have to pick. I went for Entropy and Phantasm first off. Next time I’ll try something else.
Now, I will say it still is a Skyrim game at heart, which comes with all the clumsy parts. While combat has some tweaks, it’s still the clunky system, and unlike Skyrim, Enderal is hard, especially in the beginning. That takes getting used to. The game plays off older budget RPGs like Gothic, where you’re left to discover things on your own.
Unlike Skyrim, Enderal is linear to a degree. You can still go off to explore, but you’ll find yourself constrained in what you can do, at least in the start. The game is pretty heavily scripted at least early on. There isn’t much you can do off the beaten path for at a few hours in the beginning, but you are able to explore different points as you go. This isn’t too much of a problem for me, because sometimes games can be rather too open. Travelling to the main and vast capital city of Ark is where the game really begins, and it can take a while to get there. It’s not too restricting, it’s just a jump if you’re used to the old Elder Scrolls titles.
This linearity also takes shape in terms of where you can go. There are many areas and quests which just aren’t accessible to you early on, so you may have to potter around and find some easier things to do in order to survive. The game isn’t levelled like Skyrim and Oblivion was, so there will be parts which you have to avoid or run away from. Even normal bandits are hard to kill sometimes. Expect to die a lot, even on easy mode. The game is tough early on, and while the game makes several improvements to Skyrim’s shitty combat system, its still Skyrim combat. Expect a couple of frustrations early on, but it gets easier, and it’s not as bad as a game like ELEX, where it takes a long time before the game can become fun (in spite of its stellar world and quest design).
A lot of the places and landmarks on the map are just bandit camps, but there is a lot of shit to kill and loot. Don’t let the linearity of this game fool you though. It is just a bit harder to get into then the Elder Scrolls, that’s all. Don’t expect to go in expecting to kill everything and everyone with just a knife, or breaking everyone with broken stealth archery. You can still do that, but it will take time.
There are quite a few side quests, but the meat in the sandwich so to speak comes from the large and branching main quest. I would, again, do everything possible in the game before the final few quests however. You’ll be warned of the tipping point.
Enderal: Forgotten Stories has added a fair few new quests, including a new secret third ending (which is really cool) and two pretty chunky side questlines: The Golden Sickle and the Rhalata. Both are pretty cool with some open-ended ways to complete them, but I seriously recommend the Rhalata. It’s one of the best questlines I’ve seen in a video game, let alone a mod, with a gut-punching story.
Some of the best visual, storytelling and character moments take place in there, I highly recommend you make a beeline for it when you get the chance. There’s a serious case of “Holy-hellism” with this part of the game and the main character Tharaêl is beautifully well written from start to finish. It’s fairly short, just six quests, but the quality is up there with the best.
Game length wise, Enderal: Forgotten Stories can last from 30-100 hours at least. I’ve probably explored only half of what the game has to offer in my first playthrough. If you beeline the main quest, 25-30 hours, but expect it to be twice that, easily. Unlike a lot of games out there, it is quality content from beginning to end.
Voice-Acting, Characters and Music
Voice acting is so important for a game. If it’s poor, people will judge it negatively no matter how good everything else is. There are excellent Skyrim mods let down by poor voice acting. Remember, Enderal is a mod. Of course, that does not excuse quality. Enderal shines on the voice acting across the board.
Of course, they don’t have too many different ones, so you’ll find the lines repetitive after a while.
This isn’t too big of a problem because it’s the same in any game, but there is rather a lot of depth even in the voice-acting. Pretty much everything is now translated into perfect English, which must have been hard to do. Good job overall, I’ve found very few voices I hate. In the original Enderal we had some really whiny kid voices but I was surprised to find this fixed in Forgotten Stories, removing my only real complaint.
Character design is brilliant. I have rarely felt connection to these, like ever before in a video game. You get two major companions in the game, Calia and Jespar, and their depth and love of a character outshines almost any other in any game I’ve seen. I actually felt sad for their struggles, and that is hard to do. You can romance and befriend them, and they felt alive. There is even a novel being written on Jespar by the lead designer Nicolas, which should be released by the end of 2020. I’ll leave Nicola’s Patreon down below so you guys can support him and the SureAI team.
Everything is just beautifully done, from the sinister “Daddy” from your nightmares, to the destructive force of Taelor, all the way down to Finn, the first guy who helps you out in the game. There was a moment in the main quest where you come across a poor, sick little boy, and the decision making during that quest-line was near heartbreaking. Forgotten Stories gives you a bit more chance to explore the bonds with other characters as well, and even some side quests become quite chunky adventures with well-written companions.
There will be characters you love, characters you hate, and some you just want to stab with a knife that has been in the river Ganges for a year. I’m talking about you, Natara.
Music. Again, I give them so much credit. Written and produced mainly by Marvin Hopp, it’s gotten to the point where I’ve got the entire OST on my computer and phone to listen to. Its just that good. The music is just so well done but you don’t have to take my word for it. Forgotten Stories comes with the full OST to download free of charge. There isn’t a single music track in the game I dislike. here’s also bard songs in there too, sung and played by wonderful people that tugs at your heartstrings. It’s a solid 10/10 for me on the music alone.
I’ll talk a little bit about the story. I won’t give any heavy spoilers or anything, but it is a deep and immersive quest exploring the darker aspects of life. Religion, your psychology, reality and destruction are all in here. As a Prophet, you must try and battle your mind and soul to free the world of a torn reality, as the deadly High Ones prepare to continue their cycle that is the Cleansing – the end of all mankind. Sure, it has a couple of comparisons with Mass Effect, but there is one hell of a story in here. You’re in for quite the ride.
It is one hell of a journey, and while it is depressing and deeply disturbing at times with its psychological analysis, I was gripped the entire way through. It has quite a lot of psychology exploring religion and atheism, challenging both belief systems to the extreme at times, so if you are one of those people who get offended by challenges like that, this game is not for you. Fair warning. I’d still go out and experience it. It never felt like it was overreaching itself to me.
Just something to think about.
I’ll be brief in this one, just a summary of the games best and worst parts. Like all games, Enderal does have some flaws.
|A well written story from beginning to end.||Requires Skyrim: Legendary Edition on Steam in order to play.|
|Large, well crafted world to explore.||A few bugs and glitches here and there, but this is based off Skyrim after-all.|
|Excellent worldbuilding.||Can get a little bit preachy at times, but this isn’t much of an issue. I thought I’d mention it for those who don’t like that sort of thing.|
|Quest Design.||While improved, the combat is still based off Skyrim’s, and it can be clunky.|
|Jespar and Calia for their brilliant character design.|
|Great Visuals for such an old game.|
|Relatively stable, especially for Skyrim|
|The Rhalata questline. Everything about it.|
|Voice acting is professional and puts even some AAA games to shame.|
|Free if you own original Skyrim, seperate installation.|
Final score: 9.1/10
Overall, I recommend this to anyone. It’s not just a mod, but a complete new game in its own right, an experience that tops many similar challengers out there. For something lovingly crafted by modders for free to the public, that is one hell of an achievement. It is a story you will seldom forget.
Now if you don’t mind, it’s time to have a nice, crisp piece of meat.