The modding community dedicated to the Elder Scrolls series is probably the most productive and creative in the whole gaming playfield. Morrowind and Oblivion had hundreds of thousands of mods available, and some are still in production.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is no exception as the Creation Kit still isn’t out, but the community is already using whatever it can to improve the game over the already amazing original game. There already are more than 1200 mods ready to be downloaded, and that’s counting only the ones that I could personally find.
The purpose of this column is to help those that may be a little disoriented with the size and scope of what the Skyrim modding community offers. You’ll find here on DualShockers every Wednesday.
But let’s get down to business, and let’s start with the mods themselves.
As you may have read in Episode Zero of this column, Skyrim uses only 2 Gigabytes of your RAM, thing that can cause your system to choke a bit, especially when fed high resolution textures in large quantities. Unfortunately a recent update diwnloaded by steam made the previous fixes (including the one provided Spriggan, that I featured last week) useless. If you try to apply them Skyrim will not launch anymore, and you will need to check the integrity of your game cache via Steam to redownload the exe of the game
4GB Skyrim, created by MonochromeWench fixes the problem again, appliying the Large Address Awareness fix to the new exe and letting Skyrim use 4GB of your memory. Just make sure to have steam running when you run the program, and it will launch the game with no problems. You can download it here.
Last week I wrote about the Himmelsrand Custom Shader Suite, and today I will introduce a similar mod (actually the one that’s currently the most popular, quite a lot more than nude mods) that will radically change the way the game looks. Of course the two mods should be used alternatives and not together (even if there’s a way to use them together, but the result isn’t exactly the best).
FXAA Post Process Injector by Retspadez will apply effects like sharpening, bloom, technicolor, saturation and sepia to the game, with a minimum cost in performance. It includes four presets and it can be fully customized. Personally I found preset 1 the most satisfying in terms of final effect, but feel free to experiment.
To add value to the package, it comes with a full fledged installer that will allow for seamless installation/uninstallation without forcing you to dabble with individual files. You can download it here.
One of the biggest problems Skyrim players face is that they will find a lot of junk during their travels, and most of that junk has value when sold, not to mention weapons, armor and similar. Even just having to go back frequently to one’s home in order to unload some weight can be seen as a bother by many. Raising Stamina increases the weight that can be carried, but it’s still very much on the limited side.
This mod by WheresMyPocket mitigates the problem without making the items weightless or without going overboard. It will allow you to increase the weight allowance added by each point of stamina to 10, 15, 20 or 25, depending on which version you chose, reducing by a lot the frequency of your trips back home or to the shop. You can download it here.
Unfortunately, since the game updates the amount of weight your character can carry only in the very moment you raise your stamina stat, the mod isn’t retroactive, meaning that it will influence only your Stamina gains from the moment you install it and onwards. The author describes how to amend this using the console on the download’s page, but be careful. If you want to gain further Steam achievements after you used the console remember to save, quit and then restart the game. That way achievements will be reactivated.
Skyrim HD – 2K Textures by NebuLa is an ongoing project that aims to replace the current console-friendly low resolution texture of Skyrim with high-resolution, more detailed ones. At the moment it includes the village of Whiterun, mountains, cliffs, part of the nature props and tundra rocks, but it will be updated periodically with more additions.
What makes this mod stand over most of the rest is that it doesn’t use just an upscaled and sharpened version of the original textures (that tends to get average results at best), but textures made from scratch and native in high resolution. The effect is very visible and definitely pleasing. You can download it here.
If you want to use this mod and other high resolution texture mods I strongly encourage you to use 4GB Skyrim as well, as it will give your computer more breathing room to load the textures.
This mod by Kenney could be discounted as superfluous, but one of the best things of the Elder Scrolls modding community is how it provides many mods that, while not game-changing, add some convenience options that turn the game in a better one.
KenMOD – Item icons simply adds some very well designed and fitting icons to most of the items you can find in the game, identifying them at first sight when you browse your inventory. No more selling your favorite sword by mistake while you were trying to give away a simple gemstone.
You can download it here. Take my personal advice and give it a chance.
If you feel that the textures of the wildlife in Skyrim are a tad dull, you may very well be right. Bethesda’s designers went for a very desaturated look. So desaturated that it may in fact be less than brilliant. Of course this is a matter of taste, but, if you happen to agree, this mod by Sparkles will help, giving animals, monsters and even dragons a much more “lively” look, without falling over too much into the cartoonish side.
The author offers several combinations of saturation and contrast: for the full effect you can use the 30 saturation, 25 contrast version. My personal favorite is the 30 saturation, no contrast version, but again, it’s a matter of taste. You can find it here.
This mod by Xclear does pretty much the same thing as Skyrim HD – 2K Textures, but focuses on the natural environment. Both packs integrate each other rather well even if there’s some overlapping. If you want to use both I advise installing them separately and deciding which one you like most. When you have done that, install the one you like the least first, and the one you like the most second. That way your favorite texture will overwrite the others and they will work very well together, one way or the other.
I would avoid using it together with Lush Environments, as it they will pretty much overwrite each other completely. You can download it here in two versions: 2048×2048 pixels textures or 1024×1024. If your rig is pretty beefy use the first, if it’s old you may want to use the first. I strongly advise against using the first without the 4GB Skyrim mod.
The mod is still work in progress, so future updates are going to expand its texture range (you won’t notice, though, as the high resolution textures integrate well with the default ones).
This mod by Isoku improves drastically the looks of the water in Skyrim, that is already good by default, but still shows room for improvement. There isn’t much else to say about it, other than the fact that it looks damn good.
Another small but sweet mod by Kenney. Every time you load up Skyrim (and you may have to do it a lot if you want to test many mods) you waste almost ten second watching an unskippable Bethesda logo fading in and out. I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, but you get to see another Bethesda logo right after on the menu, so you may deem the first, time consuming one a tad unnecessary.
If you do, this mod is perfect for you, as it replaces the intro splash screen with a blank one that will be skipped immediately, launching you instantly to the initial menu. You can download it here (might also want to backup the original file, as this is one of the few cases in which you’ll be prompted to replace one of the default files of the game).
Last but not least, let’s end with something pleasant. Some say that the most alluring physical feature of women is their lips. I won’t disclose if I agree or not, but the only thing that didn’t really satisfy me fully of Xenius‘ awesome Detailed Faces mod (of which I wrote during episode zero of this column) were the lips.
Turns out that it wasn’t Xenius’ fault, simply because the colored part of the lips of all the characters in Skyrim is on a separate file, creating a tint mask that will appear on the skin. The problem is that the original tint mask is low resolution and badly compressed (didn’t someone at Bethesda say that they are really good at that?), turning mouths into aliased blobs from hell, especially when gazed at from up close.
Luckily Xenius noticed, and created a new tint map that removes the problem, letting us have beautiful, kissable lips on every character, regardless of gender.
You can find the file here, and since you’re at it, if you still didn’t, give a look to the other mods by Xenius linked on the same page. They’re definitely worth your time.
Since we’re talking about mouths, he also created Improved Teeth, that complements Detailed Lips very well. I definitely encourage you to install both together.
And that’s it for this episode 1. I hope you found something useful to improve your game. Do come back next week for more. Unfortunately no one really replaced those ridiculous default hairstyles yet, but Xenius is working on it, and I’m sure he’s not the only one.
Read More Episodes of The Skyrim Mod Forge: Episode Zero – Baby Steps, Episode 2 – Mod Managing, Beauty and Dragons, Episode 3 - More Beauty, Divorce and Small Details, Episode 4 – Even More Beauty, Fashion and a Better HUD, Episode 5 – Hair, Flora and Weapons from Morrowind, Episode 6 – Handsome Men, More Hair and Armor From The Witcher 2, Episode 7 – Swords, Ice, Spells, Fashion and Realistic Light, Episode 8 – Cats, Shouts, Hideouts and Swords from LOTR, Episode 10 – Rainbow Colors, Weapons, Armor and Witcher Gear, Episode 11 – Companions, Pretty Faces and More from The Witcher 2, Episode 12 – Houses, Lovely Hairstyles and Riding Like a Boss, Episode 13 – Lovely Hair, Armor from The Witcher 2 and Hundreds of Books.