Bethesda’s PC gaming fans will more than likely be familiar with the fantastic modding ability afforded by their titles, and The Elder Scrolls series in particular.
Modding is one of the major attractions of Bethesda games on PC, and Skyrim is no different, being highly customisable and even friendlier to work with than any title before it. With the official Creation Kit yet to be released, we can expect some great community-developed mods in future.
Barely available for a fortnight, there are already hundreds of tweaks and full modifications available for Skyrim. Entire overhauls are beginning to take shape, and are available in the early stages of their development.
Over the years, one of my favourite website groups to visit for modding has been the Nexus Network. Their long established community of modders and users has made it a breeze to find and test the latest mods for games such as Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Oblivion and now Skyrim.
Below is a list of modifications for Skyrim that should get PC gamers on their way to tweaking the game for graphical and performance improvements, and leave then wondering how they ever played the vanilla version of the game.
Bear in mind that at this early stage, many of these mods will be getting regular updates. Many more of the larger projects are yet to come to fruition (a full UI overhaul mod is desperately required!).
This is a mod management tool that takes a lot of the pain out of installing many modifications. Depending on what you install, this will come in handy to keep everything running smoothly. Even though many of the mods on this list don’t make use of BOSS just yet, it’s worth getting it installed and becoming familiar with it if you plan on doing some long-term Skyrim modding.
Too lazy to configure and fiddle with your own .ini file settings? Then this set of pre-tweaked TES: Skyrim.ini & SkyrimPrefs.ini file are for you. Be sure to go and read the instructions on the mod download page, and make backups of your original files.
This tweaks the post-processing visuals in a number of ways to offer improved and altered visuals. It’s simple to use, but be sure to read the guide fully to understand the different effects.
The author of this mod is also working on an overall enhancement guide, discussed below.
User Interface improvements
For the world map, there are couple of options, depending on your taste. Be warned that there are a few bugs with fiddling with the map, but these will hopefully be resolved shortly.
This enhances the standard world map with features such as greater zoom levels, blur effects, enabling or disabling clouds, and the ability to fully rotate the camera and even gaze up at the stars.
This essentially gives a full 3D overview of the world of Skyrim, complete with most objects rendered into the map. It’s a bit resource hungry though.
Remaining true to form, Bethesda has delivered yet another abominable PC user interface. Luckily, we’ve got a mod for that. It’s still early days, and so what we have is a basic table structure for managing inventory items, but it is still a marked improvement.
Remember that this mod is mucking with your items, so backup a save file made before using the mod, just in case something breaks and your Dragonbane gets lost.
If Oblivion and Fallout 3 mod experience is anything to go by, expect many complete UI overhauls in the near future.
Character Model improvements
The mods listed below are all by the same author, and they all work seamlessly with one another to create generally higher detail skin, face, eyes and lips textures. These mods are continually updated, and the author is growing his library of improvements as well. These aren’t your only choice, but it’s a good place to start.
A high resolution texture replacer for the night sky of Skyrim. It uses photography of real star fields, and works seamlessly with the game’s own constellations – now in colour!
This increases the resolution of the blood spatter texture file to look more realistic. It also improves the “on-screen” bloodspray effect.
A variety of snowflake texture replacers, improving on the default fuzzy cotton-ball look. The selection ranges from a realistic ice-crystal, to whimsical, stylised snowflakes.
Some might say this is cheating, but I prefer to think that my character’s unwritten backstory includes training as a master lockpick. You always start out as a prisoner in Elder Scrolls games right; it makes perfect sense. Plus, if I’ve just slain a powerful dragon and shouted so loudly that hardened warriors need to change their greaves, I refuse to believe that a flimsy wooden chest can leave me stymied.
Lockpick Pro shows the sweet spot in the mechanism and the health of the Lockpick. An alternate version shows only lockpick health. If anything, it is interesting to get some insight into how the lockpick minigame functions.
Ones to watch
These are a couple of overhaul mods that are works in progress. These sorts of things usually take a long time to reach finalised versions, as the authors go through each an every texture in the game, and recreate or improve detailed high-resolution texture replacements. Expect more amazing overhaul packs to emerge over the coming months.
Do you know of any cool Skyrim mods? Let us know on the MyGaming forum.