Oblivion: Knights of the Nine Review
When The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released last March, people were falling over each other to buy it. It was one of few hardcore RPG titles over the years to sell millions of copies, and gamers loved its combination of complexity with accessibility. And now we've seen the release of many smaller downloadable content packs from Bethesda, but none really amounted much. Knights of the Nine is the first content pack to add a significant amount of new quests and gameplay, and it's also the first one to be sold in stores.
Knights of the Nine is essentially a good-guy quest line that has the player rebuilding the lost order of the Knights of the Nine (as in, the nine "modern" gods). You'll have to figure out the secrets of the dead knights, fight against their angry spirits in battle, recover their holy armor which has been scattered throughout Cyrodiil, and finally, take on an old evil that has returned in a very unique duel.
As you go through Knights, you'll notice that there aren't really any new technical tricks or the like here. As with many of the factions and downloaded add-ons, you'll get your own stronghold to use in the process of rebuilding the order, and you will even get the chance to bring a Knight with you into battle - whether it's to further the Knights or to work on other quests out in the world. While Oblivion doesn't have the classic "Paladin" seen in many RPGs, these holy knights are about as close as you can get.
One important aspect of this add-on is that the armor itself becomes a large part of the reward for doing the quests. And if you commit even only a couple of evil deeds, the armor will stop working and you won't get any benefit from it until you've done the Pilgrim's journey again (the first part of this add-on has you do it once). This is actually worse than it sounds because unlike just about anything else in the game, you can't fast travel to the Wayshrines - in fact, they don't even get placed on the world map. You'll have to travel to the closest point they've got and keep pulling out a map that's in your inventory to find the shrines. There are, as you might have guessed, nine of them around the land of Cyrodiil.
Unfortunately, that's really about it. Knights of the Nine will last a dedicated player little more than a few hours. Its price tag in the stores is $20, but the nice part is that the retail box includes all the previous downloadable content as well. Some of those, like Spell Tomes, Imperial Orrery, and Horse Armor are pretty useless, but others - like Mehrunes' Razor and The Thieves Den - are a little better fleshed out. If you haven't downloaded any of the previous packages, then as a whole, Knights of the Nine along with all the rest of the add-ons is a pretty good value.
But if you have downloaded at least a few of the add-ons, then there's not much point for you to go rush out to the store and buy Knights of the Nine there. Instead, you can go to Bethesda's official site, OblivionDownloads.com, and grab just Knights without the extra add-ons for $9.99. I think you'll find that for that price you might still feel a little bit disappointed in what you're getting, even with the wealth of new voice acting included.
All of this leads me to one conclusion: the add-on packs for Oblivion are really just not enough. If they had a team working on some free and some cheap add-ons while also having people work on a real, full-blown expansion pack for Oblivion, well, I think that's a step in the right direction. For now, if you've got the PC version, you'll find far more value in free mods like Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, AF_Leveling, and Qarl's Texture Pack than you will with anything Bethesda has released since Oblivion proper. While Knights of the Nine certainly maintains a high quality of gameplay that you might be expecting, it just doesn't last long enough.