Enderal: Forgotten Stories Review
A Nice Day In Summer
"Fantastic, immensely expansive experience for absolutely free, as long as you own the base game"
*This is an old review; much of what you will read here no longer fully represents my view, skills, and knowledge.*
Enderal is a free Skyrim-based project that strives to delve much further than the original base game, introducing lots of new interesting mechanics, overhauling some pre-existing ones, and at the same time adding new enemies, locations, and story in a brand-new world created completely from zero. The game was developed by SureAI, a team of fourteen people through the span of five years, and it uses the original Skyrim engine as its canvas to create an immersive, fully-fledged experience.
Despite the game being technically a mod for Skyrim, with high stakes and incredibly great values, the only thing that still recalls said game in the end are just the some reused assets, mainly models and textures. Enderal is its own thing, and a thing great enough to, over the years, conquer the hearts of a huge audience, with many even considering it a game with a better story and world-building than the one it was based upon.
With many incredible feats through its long adventure, Forgotten Stories has even managed to get its very own Steam page — a rare sight for what is, in essence, a mod, and sure an incredible feat by itself. With over eight-thousand ‘Very Positive’ reviews, the game breaks the ground for what we see as just a mod, and it raises the scope for what the modding community can achieve given enough time and resources.
Release Date: February 14, 2019
Aiming to create a brand-new world and story inside a pre-existing game, the biggest challenge SureAI had to face as a team from the very beginning was to make the game look and feel different from Skyrim. Certainly a very difficult task, if not a completely impossible one.
The game’s biggest role is to play an RPG styled story-telling adventure, all while keeping a great sense of progression, and it does that by providing the players with a beautifully constructed world with an interesting cast of characters that compose the game 50-90 hour-long story.
The plot of the game itself revolves around exploring and uncovering the secrets of the world, as well as all the powerful beings responsible for the extinction of all life every time it regains its forces. A game with an aura of mystery, and lots of blank spaces that are filled just as we venture in the mysterious world of Vyn, a place full of dangers and untamed wild magic.
Like Skyrim, the game also had its dosage of bugs and technical problems, but it does way better at fixing these issues, and to top that, the game also gives it a shot at balancing previously broken features from the base game that could have been easily overlooked and still be present in the final product.
Liberty, Exploration, and Player Influence In The World
In Enderal you have a huge world to explore right as soon as you start your adventure. The world of the game is huge, and when I say huge, I really do mean it. To give you some perspective, even though the total map size is only about 1/4 the size of Skyrim, thanks to the immensely well-crafted world SureAI brought us, literally every nook and cranny you look at you are sure to find something worth going out of your way just to explore.
All and every single structure you find don't exist just for decoration — they are there for a reason. So more often than never they will have a purpose, a reason behind their existence, and will always reward the player in some way for taking their time to explore their secrets, be it through a reward of gold and powerful items at the very end, or a piece of lore that helps the player build up the puzzling story that makes Enderal what it is. Surely most of these abandoned, forgotten places won’t just give their treasuries away like that for free, and to get to the end of these places, you’ll very frequently have to fight your way through a horde of deadly enemies, bandits or undeath.
The game isn't anywhere close to secretive about the world, and makes it clear that it’s only up to the player to decide what challenges they can take, where they can go and when. The world is always there, always open to be explored, with the only thing to ever keep the indomitable adventurous spirit of its players being the dangers many of the places in Enderal hold.
Now about player influence in the world, there’s not really a direct way the player can change the world, but instead, what little influence our actions have, it serves only to change the fate of the people we interact with, be it through quests and dialogue choices, or just normal decisions over events we decide to either take an action or not. Putting it that way, we are always, always somehow changing the world bit by bit, for the good, or for the worse.
As much as I wish our actions could have a more direct or profound impact in the world, I really do think Enderal is just good the way it is, and the player’s actions affecting the world in a more powerful way didn’t really feel like a very needed thing to make the world any more immersive.
The Dark Side Of A Beautiful World
Like every good thing, the lands of Enderal also have their own dark side. Ark, for example, the biggest city in all of Enderal has an entire sub-section called “Undercity”, that as the name implies, it sits right below the above-ground sections of the city. A foul, nasty place where all the poor and disgraced have to live at their own luck. Without opportunities raining from the skies, it’s not a rare sight to see people doing hideous acts in order to survive amidst deplorable conditions.
With little to lose, the inhabitants of the undercity even put up a tournament of sorts that plays every few weeks, giving the opportunity of the strong and capable to make a name for themselves, and possibly leave the undercity someday. Sadly, the losing side, not rewarded nearly as generously, lose the only most precious thing they had left — their lives.
The world of Enderal, Vyn, in its entirety also have had its very own dosage of wars and bloodbaths, that as much as they don’t happen with the same intensity when we set foot on land, the effects of these events are still seen in the people and the world, in the form of burning will and pulsating scars.
With disgrace everywhere, and the resurgence of some concerning afflictions, humanity is once again seen desperate, and at the verge of catastrophic events, people have to unite to face imminent destruction — a task that will prove to be very difficult to the leaders, heads of the major nations and its people.
In daring times such as these, tragedies are bound to happen, but the question we are left with is: what will we be able do to stop it from spreading ?
What Is Great About Enderal
What I liked about Enderal was that despite the familiar looks, it was something completely different… unique in a way. The strangeness, the oddity of all the things we experience right from the very beginning, with the possibility of starting from zero without much of a background to who we are meant to be, was probably what got me hooked and interested in progressing the story.
The game had lots of great values — lots of little details everywhere, being it in the form of the huge overhauled systems from the base game to the tiniest of them all, hidden in the deepest depths of a dark dungeon.
The world plays in a beautiful set, and is constantly telling us stories, in the form of little notes and diaries to entire structures, traces left by long-gone ancient civilizations. Enderal was a game that despite being based off of a thing some of us have seen and experienced a million times, it not once felt old, at least not during the entirety of my playthrough. In a single phrase, exploring the world SureAI created was all the way just incredibly fun, and definitely a really great experience all around.
It's Not All Sun And Rainbows
The game was really great overall, but now with all of the good stuff aside, we can’t just go off without listing some of the issues it certainly has, can we ?
As previously stated, Enderal, like the game it’s built upon, inherited a long list of technical problems and bugs from an old, very problematic engine — but do not worry, we won't be getting too technical here.
Simply playing through the game had a few very noticeable problems that were what made me take way longer to finish the main story than it should, and the main problems I encountered were two: first, combat, more specifically its melee counterpart was not as balanced as I had anticipated, and despite the visible efforts of improving the original Skyrim combat, fighting enemies still felt lacking in the sense that combat in the game is just too simplistic — swing until something dies. Even after including a handful of mods with the objective of improving combat, it still felt somewhat simplistic in the core, but it surely became way more enjoyable to play the game, thanks to the improvements to enemy AI and behaviour. Fighting enemies became actually much more engaging thanks to the sudden increase in difficulty, and as a result, my whole experience with the game turned out much better.
The second reason finishing the game took me so long was because I was just stuck for a really long time adding and tweaking mods for the game to work in a satisfactory way, or just to my liking. This probably was more of my fault for being too picky but, you know… I just couldn’t help. If the game didn’t have any problems in the first place, I, well, just wouldn’t even bother thinking of mods.
Apart from these, there were also some other smaller issues, but nothing too serious, or deal-breaking like the previous ones were to me.
Though I’m not completely certain if Enderal was actually any better than Skyrim, I adored every little aspect of playing it, so it was for sure an experience just as memorable. A free game is always a welcome sight, especially when it comes with this level of quality.
To think people were willing to create a piece of such high quality like this mod and distribute it for free is just unbelievable to me. If you ever get into Enderal, know that you'll be getting something very close to the amount of fun you can get with any major triple-A RPG title for absolutely free, that is if we take the costs of Skyrim aside.
Either way, if you still haven't played Skyrim yet, I super recommend doing so, as you'll be getting the opportunity to play two amazing RPGs for the price of just one.
Incredible and impactful experience that transcends what was thought to be the limit achievable by the modding community.
Astounding, immersive and hugely expansive fantasy world with countless super interesting places to explore.
Amazing cast of characters that thanks to great voice-acting create a strong connection between the player and the world.
Visible effort that has been put into making the game look and feel different from the base game it was worked upon.
A few bugs and technical problems (rarely game-breaking) — mostly inherited from the base game.
Somewhat limited and sometimes just plain stupid dialogue choices that can break the role-playing part of the game.
Considerable dependency on mods to balance some things that feel off (may not be a huge deal to everyone.)
Flawed enemy AI and combat, (nothing too new to any Skyrim veteran) but with a nice attempt to improve and fix things up.
Enderal: Forgotten Stories
An incredibly immersive experience created by a passionate team of developers who put out their ultimate efforts to create the amazing piece that is Enderal. Changing how we envision mods, Enderal shows what can be achieved with enough time and effort.
09/07/2020 - Caius, The Late Prophet