It's been well over a year since Skyrim released, and it's still dominating the monitors and televisions of gamers across the world. We're 3 DLC packages in and, with undoubtedly more to come, Bethesda's most commercially successful setting continues to grow and grow. On the PC, free mods are added to an already bursting database on a daily basis, so searching for the perfect combination is always a bit of a chore. If you're looking for something to make Skyrim even better, then the following 5 mods are guaranteed to make your own personal adventure all the more memorable.
(Note: to download all these mods use the Nexus Mod Manager – see THIS video for full, easy to digest, instructions).
The lack of detail in Skyrim’s default map forces most people to travel like mindless bulldozers. They set a waypoint for where they want to go, turn to face that waypoint, and make a beeline for it with no concern for what stands in their way, trampling bushes filled with glorious loot and innocent rabbits alike under foot.
Unfortunately, this means you miss a lot of what Skyrim has to offer. Certainly, there’s interesting discoveries to be made out in the wild, but when you’re simple concerned with getting A to B they’ll probably pass you by. Besides, it’s along the meandering roads that you’ll find the bulk of the game's content.
That is why this mod is an absolute must. It gives you a map that has far better textures than the vanilla offering, making it more pleasing on the eye and, more importantly, it details accurately and clearly the path of Skyrim’s many roads. It means that travelling the beaten track becomes the easiest, and most fruitful, option. Long journeys are easy to plan and always eventful. Yes, this is a very simple mod, but it will completely change the way you play, and you’ll see a whole lot more of Skyrim because of it.
You’ll often find that some of the most engrossing battles in Skyrim come not against hordes of vicious vampires, eager to suck your blood, or huge soaring dragons, whose breath can char you in seconds, but against the docile wildlife: deer and fox, desperately scrabbling away from your arrows, fighting for their life. You can lose hours chasing Skyrim’s animals, but when the chase is up, you’re left with nothing but an empty quiver and a few pelts to sell. Ultimately, the whole process becomes pointless.
This mod completely overhauls the business of hunting in Skyrim. First and foremost, it adds a Hunter’s Guild to the game, and the main thrust of the mod sees you, the player, completing quests for the guild, building its reputation and becoming the greatest hunter Tamriel has ever seen. These quests involve anything from collecting a specific number of pelts to slaying legendary animals, and will have you visit every corner of the landscape in search of Skyrim's mightiest beasts.
There’s also new perks for you to invest in to make hunting more satisfying, and prices have been tweaked to turn your kills into a viable source of income. The future goals of this mod are certainly grand: eventually, it's hoped that the Hunter’s Guild can become as big as the others in the game, complete with multiple outposts and a genuine storyline. Watch this space.
There are bucket loads of mods designed to make Skyrim more like real life: if you really like gaming to be an uphill struggle on the side of a soon to erupt volcano, you can keep tabs on everything from your calorie count to your caffeine intake. However, whenever I’ve tried any of these mods (especially Imp’s More Complex Needs) I find that they completely take over your virtual life. Your quest as a character becomes lost in a sea of statistics that require constant micromanagement.
Realistic Needs and Diseases gets the balance bang on. It forces you to manage, as you would in real life, your sleeping pattern as well as your food and fluid intake, without being at all irritating. It also means that diseases, which can be caught from eating raw meat or drinking from a dirty lake, have some real impact: if left unchecked your symptoms will slowly start to get the better of you, adding an extra level of depth to the Skyrim experience.
You need to eat a few good meals a day, drink regularly and get a good night’s sleep, as any adventurer would. The mod introduces a camp that can be easily set up, complete with cooking pot to make your favourite meal, as well as a refillable water skin that you can replenish at inns or in bodies of water. Look no further if you're looking to make survival a little more challenging without moving too far from Skyrim's already solid core.
Skyrim is a harsh place. Icy winds whip at the cloaks of its inhabitants whilst snow and rain drench their already sodden clothes. At least, that’s the way it should be. In reality, your scantily clad wood elf can swim through freezing cold lakes, dodging patches of ice as she goes, and get out at the other sides with no ill effects.
Frostfall – Hypothermia, Camping, Survival changes that completely. Like the previous mod, it aims to make the game realistic (in fact, the two synergise with no fuss). What makes it brilliant is that it is consistently intuitive. It punishes you for going out in the cold wearing nothing but a loin cloth, but don a fur cloak and hood and you’ll be protected from the bitter chill. It allows you to set up campfires to warm your cockles and dry off the rain, and gives you two different types of tent to place around them: hide tent to keep our the cold, or a leather tent to keep off the rain.
It doesn’t become the focus of your game, rather sitting in the background reminding you to not do anything stupid. Don’t face the slopes of the North without the appropriate clothing. If you’re soaking wet and it’s getting late, get to a fire and dry yourself off. If you can see your nipples through your steel chest plate, don’t set off into a blizzard. Things like that.
Skyrim enjoys treating you like a small child. Once you’ve committed to a quest, it’s pretty much impossible to lose your way: markers show up on your mini map as well as, if you really don’t care for immersion, above the heads of relevant NPCs.
The sad thing is that Bethesda’s shoddy quest objectives make this kind of hand-holding essential. Turning them off (by deactivating the quest in your journal) will leave you clueless, trying to decipher a line or two of vague direction that serves as your character’s instructions. It simply won’t do.
This mod makes quest objectives more descriptive, meaning that they alone can serve as your guide. Now, à la Morrowind, your journal is the only direction you need. It makes you feel like a part of Skyrim’s world: you’re guided by nothing but a book and your keen senses. Wave goodbye to floating triangles, and say hello to a more organic role playing game.