Recently, I talked about whether or not you could consider modding to be cheating.
98% of the time, I don’t think it is. Sure, there are some game-breaking mods, or just plain odd and silly ones out there, but I feel that a majority of mods available are ones that try to make Skyrim run more smoothly, look more beautiful, and add those small tid-bits present in other Elder Scrolls titles that are missing in Skyrim. Others add entirely new questlines and campaigns to the game, either as part of the existing landscape or in entirely new areas.
I take advantage of a lot of these types of beautifying beauties, and a few other “Oh my God, why isn’t this in the game” mods, so here are the ones I absolutely, positively, 100% cannot live without:
For some reason, the Dragonborn can only equip one ring at a time. 10 fingers, 1 ring? Let’s at least up that to two. Left-Handed Rings, as the name suggests, makes rings wearable on the left hand, increasing the total number of equipable rings at one time to two. The left-handed rings are distinguished by the text (Left) after the ring name. Now, it’s very possible that Bethesda didn’t want people running around with 10 massively enchanted rings on their hands, but it is nice to be able to wear two different rings with two different enchantments, and the mod actually increases immersion rather than breaking it.
NPCs and Followers can also equip a left-handed ring, and they can also be crafted the same way as standard jewelry at any forge. Win!
Because knowing whether or not you read that book already? Priceless. I’ve had this mod for ages and cannot imagine playing without it. Any unread book in your game will be covered in a glowing skin. Once read, the glow will fade not only on the copy of the book you just read, but on all copies of that book worldwide. No more searching through endless bookshelves to find that one quest or skill book you’re missing.
You can adjust the strength of the glow in case the “it breaks immersion” argument comes up. The strength of the glow ranges from high (in the below screenshot), medium, to low, which gives all unread books a spidery, vein-like shimmer to them, which just looks fantastic.
Sweet, sweet silence because YES, SOMEONE STOLE MY SWEETROLL, SHUTUP!
Reduced Distance adjusts the distance at which an NPC will trigger their comments to you. You’ll practically have to bump into a person in order to get their fluff text. This does not effect conversations between NPCs that do not involve you, or merchant greetings upon entering a store.
This will, however, stop guards from hailing you as a Companion, telling you that a dragon attacked Kynesgrove, and asking you to brew them an ale. Finally.
Skyrim is overrun with dragons! Make it actually happen!
Most Dragons is actually part of a set in which the player can configure the rate at which dragons appear to harass you. Skyrim has a timer which, when it reaches zero, a dragon will swoop in for battle. Since Alduin is supposed to be resurrecting dragons, and those dragons are supposed to be rampaging across the land, Most Dragons reduces the length of the timer significantly, so that nearly every time you fast travel or take a stroll across the landscape, you’ll most likely have to deal with one of these beasts! It really gives you the feeling that these flying lizards really are invading (and, honestly, who doesn’t like fighting dragons?).
This mod also has the nice perk that it does not interfere with other dragon mods, so having other mods that increase dragon difficulty or supply more loot per kill will not cause a crash. Win win!
Yep. Better blood – and more of it.
Vanilla Skyrim blood tends to look odd – it’s more like thick red water with a lot of environmental shine on it. Enhanced Blood Textures focuses on two things: mimicking the look of real blood while also creating more realistic blood splatter, patterns, and pools during and after battle. In particular, the splatter patters are a really in-depth, thought out addition, and it takes into consideration how different types of weapons and injuries produce different types of splatter.
It may seem a little morbid to go into such detail over such a gory subject, but in reality it gives Skyrim that little extra boost of realism. It may not be something you analyze in-depth while playing, but it will make a positive impact on your overall immersion.
DustinFlan is well known for their addition of a couple hundred beautiful eye colors and designs for Oblivion, and has since ported those design into Skyrim. These gorgeous textures are all additional content (meaning they do not replace any pre-existing eye textures), and add over a total of 260 eye textures. Each race, and each gender for each race can enjoy over 40 amazing designs for their Dragonborn.
It may seem like a small detail, but particularly with the beast races, it’s hard to make a pretty character – let alone a beautiful one; Flan’s Eyes definitely helps you get there.
Is that a blotch? Nope, that’s a mountain flower, silly! HD Plants + Herbs replaces 15 different harvestible alchemy ingredients with high definition, high quality textures. No more will those Mountain Flowers look like vague 2D splotches, but will actually resemble flowers! Tundra cotton will appear pillowy soft, not jagged blobs of a vague cotton suggestion.
It’s a small addition, to be sure, but I know for a fact I could never bring myself to disable it.
SMIM (Static Mesh Improvement Mod) completely overhauls much of Skyrim‘s clutter, re-texturing furniture, food, the landscape, and much more to look infinitely more real. Its creator came down a little rough on the Bethesda team for incorrectly applying their textures, but the improved results on static clutter just bring the entire world further into a nice, cohesive ball.
SMIM is a huge mod, broken into 6 different segments since the Steam Workshop limits uploads to 100mb. Even though the items SMIM adjusts aren’t thing that you generally take notice of (archery targets, quills, coin bags, farmhouse woven fences, dreamcatchers, casks, cave lamps, lockpick, ruins pots, etc.) when you do notice them, they take your breath away.
2. Sounds of Skyrim (Civilizations, Wilds, and Dungeons)
Sounds of Skyrim is expansive. Each of the three mods (Civilizations, Wilds, and Dungeons) focus on adding a vast array of background sound effects to the world, bringing the auditory senses in-line with the visual beauty of the realm. These additional sound effects range in the hundreds, and though sometimes subtle, the development of this mod makes you wonder why Bethesda didn’t include a lot of these items in their development.
For example, Wilds boasts 115 new effects, adding animal, bird, and insect effects which then play according to the weather, time of day, and region. Now that is immersion! Additionally, you can experience ran impact sounds on wood, the sound of the seashore, and the scuttling and rustling of the small creatures in the undergrowth. Absolutely incredible. Dungeons bring over 115 new effects, including being able to hear the exterior weather when close to the entrance/exit, and common enemy types will be heard moaning or screaming or wailing up from the depths, giving you a much more bone chilling dungeon crawl.
Civilizations is the largest chunk of additional content, bringing 223 new sound effects to cities, villages, farms, and even remote locations where a civilization of people is present. Everything from children laughing and running in the streets, to folks snoring softly (or not softly) in their homes, to laughter and the clicking of ale mugs in the tavern. It allows Skyrim to become a living, breathing entity, and I cannot believe how stark the realm felt before Sounds of Skyrim existed.
And the number one Skyrim mod that no one should live without? (drumroll, please)…
Skyrim has suffered its share of criticisms, from game-breakingly bugged quests to boasting one of the ugliest and least user-friendly inventory systems imaginable. Without a doubt, SkyUI is the best mod you will ever experience, hands down. You will never, ever have to play in that old, clunky menu again (and you will pity all non-PC players for not being able to enjoy the sweet, sweet UI).
SkyUI gives players a more traditional inventory screen rather than that awful nested list Bethesda shackled us with. Paired with my honorable mention of Item Sorting with Weightless Items, SkyUI delivers a crisp, tabular inventory, easily sorted by item name, weight, whether it’s equipped, or if it was stolen, along with additional information including type of item, material it’s made from, damage dealt, weight, value, and a lovely value by weight option (though, admittedly, weightless items makes that almost negligible).
Unlike most mods which require only a quick click of the Subscription button in the Steam Workshop, SkuUI requires the download and installation of the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE). SKSE is a program that allows additional scripts to be run by Skyrim. Instead of launching via Steam, Skyrim is launched via SKSE which allows SkyUI to run in place of that yucky vanilla menu. SKSE does not allow you to manage your existing mods, however, so in order to add, delete, or reorder your existing mods you will need to launch Skyrim via Steam, adjust your settings, quit, then load via SKSE.
The extra step is worth it, however, for the absolute beauty and simplicity that SkyUI brings to your experience. SkyUI is also slightly customizable from the in-game menu screen, and you can enjoy different fonts and graphic image styles to suit your tastes.
All in all, you cannot leave Breezehome without it.