Top 5 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mods to enhance your playthrough

Skyrim

First released back in 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has become one of gaming’s cult RPGs. This is largely due to its incredible modding scene that has greatly enhanced the game’s replayability. Thanks to these mods, every playthrough can offer something brand new.

However, with so many available it can be easy to install second-rate or even game-breaking mods. Many are poorly balanced, unoptimized, or even don’t function as a basic level. I’m here to tell which 5 mods I think are the best for a regular, lore accurate playthrough. That means no gun mods, nothing ridiculously overpowered, and no Thomas the Tank Engine.

Agility (WIP)

Agility (WIP) SkyrimAnyone familiar with Morrowind and Oblivion should know just how fun the Acrobatics skill used to be. Essentially, your movement was greatly limited in older Elder Scrolls games until you levelled up Acrobatics. Unfortunately, in Skyrim, this system was replaced by stamina and a sprint function.

The Agility mod switches out the Sneak skill with Agility, a skill tree focused on providing mobility options. By investing skill points into this tree, you can gain various benefits. Increased movement speed, reduced fall damage, faster stamina regeneration, and increased jumping height to name a few.

I like this mod as it allows you to explore Skyrim quickly without having to overly rely on transport. Instead of taking a carriage across half the map, you can do it the old-fashioned way without wasting too much time. It lets you see more of the world early on. The only caveat is that some dungeons are not designed with this skill in mind. The increased jump height especially can be a little unbalanced in this regard.

A Quality World Map and Solstheim Map – With Roads

A Quality World Map and Solstheim Map – With RoadsSkyrim’s default map is not good. It’s an ugly mess of undetailed textures and, frankly, doesn’t do a great job of telling you where you can and can’t go. The biggest problem by far is its lack of visible roads by default. How are you supposed to plan navigation when the map does not even tell you where the roads are?

Fortunately, there’s a fantastic quality of life mod that fixes this. The not so creatively named A Quality World Map does exactly what it says. It swaps out Skyrim’s bland default map for a higher quality one, with roads! This isn’t a flashy mod but will quickly become one you can’t live without once you’ve used it once. Even if you were planning to play vanilla Skyrim, I highly recommend this as it purely improves your experience with no significant drawbacks.

SkyUI

SkyUI SkyrimWhilst we’re on the topic of quality of life mods, few do a better job than SkyUI. SkyUI is a Skyrim mod that completely overhauls all user interface elements in The Elder Scrolls V. You might not have noticed if playing casually, but Skyrim’s menus are not overly well designed.

The inventory in particular just screams “I was designed for a controller, not a keyboard and mouse,” and even then I’d hardly call it easy to navigate with a gamepad. On top of improving general usability, SkyUI stretches out the user interface to use all your screen.

Perhaps the most slept on improvement this mod makes is how it simplifies every item menu. Whilst the default Skyrim UI can only show a handful of items at once, SkyUI can show off most of your inventory on one screen. This is because all of the unnecessary flashy visuals have been replaced by easy to follow design choices. Just like A Quality Map, this is a must-have for even a regular Skyrim playthrough.

The Forgotten City

The Forgotten CityBut what if you’re looking for more than just mere improvements? Of course, it’s nice to have existing content improved, but the biggest mods do more than that. They go the extra mile and add brand new missions and areas to complete and explore.

Of these mods, I think The Forgotten City is the most polished and interesting mod available. The Forgotten City is a story of betrayal and tyranny as a small community is forced to obey the commandments. Failure to do so will result in a rumored apocalypse for everyone.

This in-depth story is far too complicated for me to do it justice here. Let’s put it this way. Not only did it win a national Writers’ Guild award, but the mod creator claims it can last between 6-8 hours. From my personal experienced, without a guide, this claim holds up.

What’s especially impressive with The Forgotten City is how it manages to execute such foreign ideas for the Elder Scrolls whilst remaining lore relevant. If anything, it actually explains more about the Dwemer than Bethesda ever did. If there’s a content mod you need to try out, it’s this gem.

Requiem

RequiemThere are few mods that boast the bold claim of changing your whole experience that end up telling the truth. However, the Requiem mod has the full right to claim as such. Contrary to popular opinion, Requiem is not a difficult related mod. Although it will coincidentally make your playthrough harder.

Instead, Requiem aims to overhaul Skyrim to make it more logical and immersive. Perhaps the biggest change is that Skyrim’s level scaling system has been completely removed. Instead, all creatures, and therefore quests, have a pre-set difficult based on the enemies’ strength. In other words, you’re not going to be bullying dragons at level three like the vanilla game.

If that’s not enough, the Requiem mod reworks the majority of non-combat skills to bring balance, immersion, and a genuine feel of growth. Even your mastery of the voice now feels like a task that needs time put into it rather than something you just happen to receive.

The biggest praise I can give this mod is that it changes Skyrim into feeling like a strategic RPG, rather than just another power flex. It doesn’t give the player anything for free. You need to work for it, think hard, and only then will you prosper.

If you enjoyed this article consider dropping a comment down below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these mods as well as any Skyrim mods you personally recommend.

Paid Mods Come To Steam

Steam

Valve has just announced that modders will be able to charge for their work on the Steam Workshop. They’re starting with Skyrim for now, with more games set to follow.

Steam has been keen on creating new ways for creators to earn revenue for their content, and while this may seem to be just another step along the way, it’s got a lot of people concerned. And while it’s fairly common for modders to ask for donations, having paid content will no doubt dramatically change the modding community.

Some are hopeful that the change will help grow the modding world, while others worry it will kill it off entirely. There’s a laundry list of problems Steam will need to work around. For one thing, there are already reports of mods, formerly available for free on Nexus Mods, now appearing on the Steam Workshop with a price tag. There are also reports of mods being uploaded to the Workshop by pirates looking to make money off other people’s work.

Valve has already responded to some of these problems. One of the rules for the paid mods will be that new additions to the store must first be available for free before they will be allowed to be sold. The purpose of this rule is to give the community the chance to find any content that’s been stolen and report it.

There is now a paid section on the Skyrim page of the Steam Workshop. On the Steam site, Valve wrote, “Bethesda Game Studios has a history of providing strong support for user modifications in their games. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has continued that tradition, adding a comprehensive editor and integration with the Steam Workshop back in 2012.”

Modders will be able to choose what price they will set for their mods, with a portion of their revenue going to the developer of the game. That portion will be different for each game as it will be set by the individual developers or publishers. But as far as Skyrim goes, there is already a mountain of free content on Nexus Mods. I recommend you go there now to get your hands on whatever you can find while it’s still free.

The Issue with DLC

DLC

I’m not too sure if DLC was a byproduct of consumer’s needs or simply to make money for the studios. I sincerely expect it was the latter, if not simply because that isn’t how consumers think. I guess it’s not too risque of me to say that people are generally unhappy with the idea of DLC. Perhaps not DLC itself, but the idea of forking out extra cash for a few more hours gameplay certainly can’t sit too well with the majority. In fact the entire malcontent with certain kinds of DLC already has a term, and that term is ‘horse armour’. For those who don’t know this originated in the game ‘Oblivion’, the predeccesor to Skyrim. It was the first major DLC of any kind and it did absolutely nothing for the gameplay, nor the story, nor the player. It just made your horse look a bit cooler. Now a hefty majority of DLC seen as useless is given such a nickname.

But people will pay out for extra content if it’s a game they really like, which is absolutely fine. I’m not going to rant about DLC in general, just certain kinds of DLC.

I think DLC falls into two categories. The first, which everybody dislikes, is money-grabbing, the second is decent DLC which compliments the story, but would not have fit into the tale of the original narrative.

Because it’s the first that gets me, let’s talk about the second. The second is the kind of DLC nobody minds because they get to spend that little extra time in their favourite world, or with their favourite characters. The Last of Us’s expansion ‘Left Behind’ is perfect for this. TLOU was a brilliant game, and with an endearing story that really hit the player hard, so it’s natural for people to want more of those characters, and to get to know more about that universe. Because it was such an important part of the story where we find out how Ellie gets bitten, and is mentioned so many times throughout the original game, it was a sensical step for the developers to make. Because it would never really have fit in to the main story of the game, which centered around Joel, and the game couldn’t have a better introduction if it tried, it wouldn’t have made sense to follow Ellie before she met Joel. But the developers gave us that insight anyway. So, that’s the first, and that’s the DLC we really enjoy.

What really annoys me about DLC is when it has obviously been held back from the initial release of the main game, simply to sell as an extra extension. Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC was one of these. A minor aspect of gameplay that would have added a nice touch to the overall game, but was withheld to sell at a later date. Skyrim’s next two DLC games, however, both of which held their own story line, worked as separate DLC. Another example is having to purchase more cars for racing games, which is an aspect that is really coming to a head. The major sore spot with DLC is having to fork out the full price for a game, and then having to pay more money (it doesn’t matter how little or much) for extra content. But when you buy a racing game, wherein you need cars to race, you expect there to be the full choice of cars with which to play. Or maybe you have to play to unlock the more superior cars, which is much more preferential. In fact that serves the entire purpose of the game, that mode of gameplay does nothing more than justify that initial price you paid to buy the actual game itself.

Another perfect example of serving the game is when a game touts that the only reason to play it is for the multiplayer, and then cut the entire player-base in two; those who have bought the extra maps, and those who haven’t. Indeed, multiplayer first person games are the worst for this, with periodical maps being released, all for that extra bit of cash, and each time a percentage of players don’t buy the latest maps they are essentially cut out of a minority of the maps, when there are more maps released, they’re cut from the majority of the maps, and thefore, the games. Season passes are a minor ease on the consumer’s wallet, but just bring in money sooner.

There’s also that annoying aspect where, rather than play to unlock features, like in the days of yore, you now simply purchase unlockables, requiring no effort on the behalf of the user, and simply a mildly bolstered bank account. But I won’t go into that now.

The worst case of DLC I have ever seen was in the Spyro game Skylanders. Now on principle I would never play this game – I wouldn’t buy a game where the prerequisite was to shell out another hundred pounds to buy the very game characters. But my then 6 year old brother loves it, and has played every sequel to come out since. Now I simply disliked the game because it was a game where the purchases weren’t simply recommended, or were to bolster the end or beginning of a story – they were above necessary. But, when I saw my brother playing it, I noticed that there were locked corridors, and when I asked him, he said he didn’t have the play piece to get through, and when he found a token (or something) the game broke off, and spent three minutes advertising one of the buyable characters. There was an in-game advertisement, during gameplay, that the player had to watch, in the game my brother(‘s mom) had already paid for. That is almost insufferable. So I learnt that not only would you have access to seemingly less than 50% of the game, unless you forked out the extra for the figurines, they were pretty much bombarding you with the characters you had to buy to get the most out of the game. And this isn’t aimed at adults, or people my age, that’s aimed at kids. That’s a whole market of money-grabbing, attempting to extort kids who perhaps don’t quite grasp the implications. Also I just didn’t like the gameplay. Since then I have refused to buy him any of the models, and will discourage him from the game. Thankfully he now just plays Minecraft and doesn’t do much else.

DLC can be decent, it can be a wonderful augmentation to a game you love. Or it can be a badly disguised money grabbing scam.

Playing Games as the Antagonists

Games

To (belatedly) celebrate the release of the film Maleficent, I thought it would be fun to have a look at a number of games and just consider what it would be like to play that game as the villain, rather than the hero. I mean, let’s face it, evil-doers are always so much more badass than heroes anyway, no wonder we’ve recently gotten so into anti-heroes.
So here are my top-five games I would love to play through as the villains, rather than the heroes.

GlaDOS (Portal)
GlaDOS is more of an omnipotent presence, than an in-game character. Just the voice of god that makes you giggle, and then die, as you proceed through her course. It might be boring for GlaDOS, having just Chel to look over and torture in the name of “science”. But let’s imagine when the entire facility was at its maximum potential, with dozens, if not hundreds of subjects to preside over. Create whacky levels for them to explore, or simply watch them fail hilariously. You could either design and test these levels, or simply run the facility from your lovely armchair. Making sure you get the most out of your subjects. Making sure they sit on them chairs without lead-lined underwear.

Team Rocket (Pokemon)
Let’s just forget Jesse and James for a moment (easier said than done), and think about the actual corporation that is Team Rocket. Why not Team Flare, who star in the new games? Heres why – Team Flares goal’s are to make money, and make the world more beautiful. Team Rocket’s goal; steal all the pokemon and take over the world! Much, much more awesome.
Now imagine you aren’t collecting Pokemon in the orthodox sense, you’re stealing the little monsters. You’re not playing through trying to get all 8 gym badges, you’re playing through to take over the world! Screw daycare centre and grinding. Screw the three starting Pokemon. You start out as a criminal underling, and you can steal whichever first pokemon you want. And if one of those damn whiny kids come walking past in some stupid adventure to beat some league, just challenge them and take all their money. Who wouldn’t rather play a Pokemon game where the aim is to take over the entire world of Pokemon? Or would you rather just bike along to the next gym leader?

A real outlaw (Red Read Redemption)
No matter how you look at it Red Dead Redemption is an awesome game. It follows ex-outlaw John Marston as he holds up banks….Wait…Robs trains…Shoot…Sleeps with….Nope….Kills everyone…He doesn’t do that either. Ok so the game is 50% staring at a horse’s arse, and little else besides. I don’t think anyone would disagree if the game allowed us to get a little Grand-Theft-Auto in the west, and it doesn’t do any of that! John Marston is a pure straight-shooter, which is about as boring as it get’s in a setting that has it’s own satire on the millions ways people die in the west. Ok, we knew he wasn’t an outlaw anymore, and we knew he was married, and was making atonement for his bandit-y ways, but damn did this game concentrate on the wrong section of his life. No one wants to be constrained in the west, we all wanted to go out shooting people, robbing banks and holding up trains for money. But no…. we don’t ge to do any of that.

Any of the Colossi (Shadow of the Colossus)

I’m going to assume you haven’t been living on an uninhabited island for the past decade, and have had access to a games console, rather than just a ball to keep you company, and that you have also played Shadow of the Colosus. If you have (and finished it) then you will know that at the ending you get the briefest most pathetic glimpse at what playing as a Colosus would have been like. Not that Dormin was anywhere near as tall as some of the actual Colossi you take down throughout the game. I’ll admit, just trying to thwart a single-player as he climbs your body and stabs your face might be a bit rubbish, but if it was more than one person? What if you were as large and as powerful and menacing as one of those Collossi, against an army. Let’s say those guys at the end finally get what they deserve, and they step out into the mainland, giving you the chance to utterly destroy them. Even better, imagine fighting another Colossus. Now that would be a fight we would all be happy to participate in.

Alduin (Skyrim)
If you’ve played Skyrim – and if you haven’t then your excuse better be you’ve been in a straightjacket for your whole life – you might vaguely remember one scene where you were invited onto the back of a dragon. But did you get to ride it – well yeah, I guess – but did you get to control it, did you get any sort of decent view? Hell no!
Alduin get’s top marks because Skyrim is a great land to explore on foot, but from the sky, as a hell-bent fire-breathing evil man-kind destroying black dragon, the game probably feels a bit more kickass. And the map is still big enough to give you a good sense of scale even when you’re whizzing past (stopping to incinerate farms because dragon) that it won’t feel restrictive.
Let’s face it, Bethesda missed out slightly here by not allowing you to control a mythical dragon (even for that second of gameplay they put in), because I don’t think anything would make Skyrim better other than being able to play as Alduin himself. Fighting giants and bears would be pretty awesome, but fighting other dragons, aerial combat as a dragon, against other dragons surrounded by giants, perhaps, would be unbeatable. The only person who could give you any trouble would be the dragon-born. But Alduin would have kicked-ass in that final fight if the dragonborn wasn’t accompanied by three other dead heroes.

My close runner-ups were Ganon from the Legend of Zelda, and Vaas from Far Cry 3. What games would you rather play through as the villain.