Re-visiting Skyrim: A Modders Guide Part 1 – The Continent of Skyrim
While pretty much everyone else is still playing The Witcher 3 for their RPG fix, for myself I’m still bumbling around in heady-medieval fantasy setting of Skyrim. It’s not because I dislike The Witcher 3, far from it. I do have a copy of The Witcher 3 and the brief time I’ve spent with it has impressed, but for all of it’s open world goodness it lacks a certain freedom that Skyrim on PC, (with whole lot of modifications), affords this ageing RPG fan.
There a literally hundreds upon hundreds of mods to choose from that you can incorporate into Skyrim and how you approach it may very well differ from mine in how you want your game to look and run. Below is a reasonably in-depth guide to some of the mods I’ve used for my version of Skyrim. Some mods are listed by the community as absolute must-haves to get the very best out of the game, others are personal ones I’ve used to capture a certain look and feel.
To get started, (and most important of all), you’ll need to download Nexus Mod Manager www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/modmanager/?
No faffing about with files and whatnot, just a simple download and NMM does all the hard work for you. Here you can change load orders, (although NMM generally keeps things ship-shape for you), and install/un-install mods at a push of a button.
Not essential, but it gives you a more in-depth way of sorting load orders and highlighting corrupt mods. Particularly useful if you stumble across mod conflicts.
From Steam Community: The Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) is a tool used by many Skyrim mods that expands scripting capabilities and adds additional functionality to the game.
Once installed, no additional steps are needed to launch Skyrim with SKSE’s added functionality. The Steam in-game overlay must be enabled for this integration to work. If you prefer running without the overlay, start Skyrim by launching skse_loader. If you use multiple Steam libraries, please make sure to install SKSE to the same library that you have chosen for Skyrim.
By default, this installation will automatically update to the latest version of SKSE when released. If you prefer to stay on an older version, they will be available via the “betas” tab, allowing you to pick an older build.
The current version of SKSE is 1.7.3.
Once you have a Nexus account use the search tab for the following visual overhauls. Again, all of these will have descriptions and instructions on their respective pages. IMPORTANT: WHEN INSTALLING MODS IT MAY ASK YOU TO OVERWRITE SOME FILES. FOR THE BEST PERFORMANCE IT’S OFTEN BEST SAY ‘YES’ A THIS WILL MERGE MODS AND REDUCE CONFLICTS, HAVING SAID THAT ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK.
What mods you choose to use and how you incorporate them is entirely up to you. There are some important ones that you can’t really do without, (listed below), but for the most part it’s all about where you want to take things. For example you may want to just give the vanilla version a lick of paint or like me remove it as far away from the original vision as possible. I grew up playing the D&D settings of Dragonlance and Greyhawk, both of which have a much more vibrant colour palette than the stark bleakness of Skyrim so this is where I took my game. The best way to achieve a certain theme or look is with an ENB pre-set.
ENB: – There are literally hundreds of these, all of which can be found on the Nexus with each having a different setting, (or several) depending on how you want the look of the game.
Currently the best ones are considered to be the following.
Seasons of Skyrim
Patches and other important mods:
Install the official patch then follow up with all the unofficial ones for Skyrim, Dragonborn, Hearthfire and Dawnguard.
Also look for ‘Safety Load’. This will stop any CDTs (Crash to Desk Top) when using fast travel.
SKYUI – Totally improves the hud and menus for a much smoother experience. Also allows you to change mod configs on the fly for mods that support SKYUI, (like Wet & Cold)
Find and install all three of the official hi-rez updates, (if you bought it Via Steam then they should already be installed but it’s worth double checking. Just check the data files on the games main boot up window), then follow up with some or all of the the following. Naturally it will come down to the strength of your PC. At current I have an i7 4770, GTX 760ti 4GB Vram and can maintain 55-60fps except when entering busier areas like towns where the frame rate will drop to around to 40-50fps. However, dropping frames is a trade-off I’m happy to have for those high quality visuals. Obviously the better the rig the better the overall performance, nevertheless some mods, or too many mods, can drag down even the most powerful of rigs. Make no mistake, you’ll be doing a lot tinkering and perhaps acquire a few headaches along the way. Trial and error is the key and applying a little patience can be the difference between a working Skyrim and one that keeps bugging out on you.
Once installed if you downloaded Loot then run it to get a more optimised load order.
*I’VE PUT IN BOLD ESSENTIAL MODS FOR A GREAT LOOKING SKYRIM. THE REST ARE OPTIONAL*
Static Mesh Improvement Mod – this overhauls the entire of Skyrim as a base template
AOF Detailed Mountains
Bethesda Hi-Rez DLC Optimised
Skyrim HD 2K Textures Landscape
Skyrim HD 2K Textures Dungeons
Skyrim HD LOD
Climates of Tamriel, (this is an essential one for many of the lighting, weather mods)
Enhanced Light & Effects
Skyrim Project Optimisation
Wet & Cold
HD Enhanced Terrain
Lush Tress & Grass
Pure Waters 1 or Realistic Water 2
True Bark Textures
Ultimate Lush Overhaul
Real Roads for Skyrim + DLC
Better Dynamic Snow
Skyrim Distance Overhaul
Hi-Rez Wood & Stonework
Revamped Exterior Fog
JK’s Skyrim All In One – now this an entire and highly detailed overhaul for all of the major towns & cities. You can choose to hunt down each one individually, but this mod installs them all. There is a down side however. The dock of Dawnstar has a glitch deep within the original code that sometimes sees the game CDT, (Bethesda never fixed it). JK’s overhaul hasn’t removed this glitch but he is working on it so if you’re travelling to Dawnstar make sure you save prior as the extra detail added to the town can ‘poke the bear’ so to speak and crash the game. Not often, but enough to be annoying.
You might want to try and play around with different mods to suit your personal preference – as I say, trial and error is the key to a beautiful looking and fully working, modded Skyrim.
That’s Part 1 done. Part 2 I’ll move on to character creation.
Any questions then feel free to ask in the comments section below.