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On Oblivion and Beyond: #1 – Alchemy

Matt Cuartero | Posted on September 27, 2019

Whenever I'm feeling down, I pray to draw strength from the words that the journeyman alchemy skill displays

Whenever I’m feeling down, I pray to draw strength from the words that the journeyman alchemy skill displays

Good Morndas and welcome to On Oblivion and Beyond, my weekly Elder Scrolls blog here at UIC Radio. My name is Matt Cuartero, and I will be your host; it is nice to make your acquaintance.

In this blog, I will analyze every aspect of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and compare it with other titles in the Elder Scrolls series. I will discuss what the game did well, what it could do better in future releases, and I will also talk about other RPGs that have similar mechanics and features.

Each blog post will deal with one aspect of Oblivion and only one. I don’t have a specific order to this, as each week can vary from skills to AI to world-building. In that regard, I’m going to start off this series with my favorite skill in the game: Alchemy.

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This dusty basement is the home to Sinderion, Cyrodiil's master alchemist

This dusty basement is the home to Sinderion, Cyrodiil’s master alchemist

Alchemy:

What Oblivion does well with Alchemy:

  1. It’s a lucrative skill: a lot of money can be made.

  2. It isn’t too hard to level up.

  3. Potions and poisons can be very useful.

What Oblivion does poorly with Alchemy:

  1. Potions cannot be instant.

  2. This is more towards the leveling system, but you cannot find higher-level alchemy equipment until you level up. You should be able to use master equipment but at stationary locations or find them among the alchemists in the world (Sinderion, for example).

  3. No stationary equipment.

  4. You should be able to brew food items/drinks (similar to Skyrim).

  5. You shouldn’t always make the best potion if you have lower skill/lower quality. There should be some randomness to making potions like in Morrowind. You should not be able to fail at making a potion but it can be stronger or weaker.

What I would love to see in the future:

  1. The ability to change how strong a potion or poison is. You can add more of an ingredient to make it stronger or add less to make it less potent.

  2. It would be nice if after you keep using a specific ingredient, you can find out more about that ingredient as well.

  3. Recipe pages: These were already in “Oblivion” but they weren’t put to use in a way. You can read them, but if you do not have the skill you cannot make the potion anyway.

  4. Eating ingredients makes you find the effects, similar to Skyrim.

  5. Asking people = you can find recipes this way.

2

The alchemy skill set falls under the magic specialization in Oblivion. While this makes complete sense, it is clear that the Alchemy skill is very different than the other magic skills such as Illusion and Alteration. While the other six magic skills deal with casting (Restoration, Destruction, Illusion, Alteration, Mysticism, and Conjuration) alchemy is all about making potions from the ingredients you find in Tamriel or other worlds. I might be alone in this one, but I want to say that Alchemy is the best handled skill tree or specialization in Oblivion. Alchemy in particularly unique as it inherently takes elements from the game world and uses them to create something for the character. For example, a character can find some Steel Blue Entoloma mushrooms and some Flax Seed and make a restore magicka potion with those ingredients. You have to find these things in the game world, and it utilizes the harvesting from flora, or the textures and assets that are seen in game. There is a real life aspect of enjoyment of taking a few things, mixing them up, and coming up with something new. Only Alchemy can do that.

Making potions is a very stimulating process, as finding out which ingredients do what is already an adventure. The idea of making potions to your advantage and poisons to the enemy’s disadvantage is so much fun, and I think that’s the response you should get. Alchemy is a well thought-out process and it’s similar to what we do with the real world. When you make a cake in the real world, you need to gather ingredients such as eggs, milk, butter, flour; things like that. It’s a nice process of taking what you have in the making something completely different, as I explained before.

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I do have some gripes about alchemy, despite all of its good qualities. One thing that I would like to see is a better perk system. As you rank up your skills in alchemy, you can find more uses for certain ingredients. For example, Fly Amanita has a burden effect, but when you rank up the journey man you figured out that it has a restore Health effect as well. I believe that Alchemy should be that if you use a certain ingredients a lot you will eventually find every single effects of that ingredient has despite your level of skill. One thing that Skyrim did very well over Oblivion is that if you ate an ingredient you found out what it did from eating it. The perks that you get through Alchemy is not all the attributes that you get from an ingredient, but other things such as making duplicate potions from one group of ingredients. Another thing I would like to see is to be able to read a book on how to make something and then making it. One thing that always disappointed me is that Oblivion did in fact have these recipe lists/books, however if you didn’t have the skill requisite to make that potion, you just couldn’t make it. There are notes lying around Oblivion: so if you want to create a potion of restore fatigue you would take two different kinds of fruits. It is strange because an ingredient has an effect whether you know it does or not. For example, in real life if you would look up a cookbook, you wouldn’t need to be a master chef to figure out that eggs are an important ingredient in cookies. In fact, it would be the other way around. If you were a master chef you would be using your ingredients to the fullest making more than you could have if you were less skilled or you can make a stronger taste your cake if you are more skilled.

One feature I would like to see is if you use a certain ingredient more you’ll find out more about the ingredient itself rather than just simply leveling your Alchemy and if you can find ingredients in books find out recipes for potions and things like that. I would also like to see a stationary kit that’s always better than what you can do in the field and also a portable chemistry set for Alchemy set that you can bring around that is similar to Morrowind or Oblivion. It would make weaker potions, but you can make the potions anywhere if you had the ingredients.

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