IT’S BEEN COOL OF BETHESDA TO begin offering extra downloadable content for its awesome Oblivion, but we really don’t need to drop $2 on the odd bit of horse armor or another couple of bones for an additional quest. Thankfully, the mod community is already on top of creating new gear and new worlds to explore. The best part? It’s all 100 percent free, no strings attached. Below are our five favorite mods to date. Before getting to it, though, we need to hand out a very honorable mention to the creators of Oldblivion (www.oldblivion.com), a mod equivalent of the Peace Corps, for bringing Oblivion to those with less-than-privileged graphics cards—even GeForce3!/Darren Gladstone
SENTIENT WEAPON 2.0 BY NARKYBARK
It s bad enough to die, but to have your sword mock you for getting your butt kicked? You’ve heard of smart bombs; well, Tamriel has smart swords. This mod starts a quest (look for the wandering weaponsmith named Krunk near the crossroads of Bravil) that ends with you owning your very own wisecracking weapon. You’ll have three choices of weapon, each with its own personality and abilities: Fred the Coward is an eternal pessimist that can instill fear with a critical hit; Atkivir the Murderer is a bloodthirsty psychopath that deals heavy damage; and Samson the (wannabe) Hero cripples enemies’ combat abilities.
4. BENEATH THE WALL
Oblivion only came out a couple months ago, so it’s still too soon to expect many brave new worlds and missions. However, this short and sweet adventure will have you doing some gangbusting in Bruma.
A secret cave under the city is the current hideout for the Black Bow Bandits. Keep a lookout for a door to the cave, which is hid-, den behind some shrubbery. We know, it’s not much to go on, but half the fun is finding the way in.
3. SADDLE BAGS V2.1 BY MABOROSHI DAIKON
Put that mount of yours to good use. Sure, it helps you roam through the countryside quicker, but we found it a little hard to believe that nobody in Tamriel ever thought to invent some saddlebags for your horse so that it can hold some heavy gear. And yes, it’s even compatible with Bethesda’s official horse-armor mod.
2. NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS A BY MAX TAEL
As if Oblivion weren’t pushing the graphical threshold enough already, the Natural Environments mod is a 9.3MB must-have for your game. Polishing textures and tweaking ESP files here gives a huge overhaul to the entire game.
1. BTMOD V2.20 BY TIKIGOD AND BEIDER
This is one of the first mods to race out after Oblivion’s release, and you simply cannot play the game without it. BTmod is a series of major improvements to the game’s UI, including increased view areas on the journals and larger inventory screens. In short, this cleans up the interface and shows you more info without your having to dig for it./