A little over a month ago I wrote up a piece on mods that I was using to spice up my recent Fallout 4 playthrough on PS4. I talked about how much I love the incredible worlds that Bethesda has put together in both their Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, but after a few playthroughs and tens or hundreds of hours, it’s easy to fall into your same old builds, or to just flat out get a little burnt out on playing the vanilla game.
The mods I used from that article really improved my experience in Fallout 4 and contributed to a really fun and fresh fourth playthrough of the game – so I figured, why not do the same thing for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? With the number of Skyrim remasters/ports/etc, most notably the recent Nintendo Switch version and the remastered Special Edition released in late 2016, more people are able to enjoy Skyrim than ever. And, like with Fallout 4, I have several playthroughs of Skyrim under my belt – so for my most recent jaunt in Tamriel, I decided to take advantage of the mods available to me on the PlayStation 4, and the experience this time around has been fresher and more enjoyable than it has been in years. Like last time, I did my best to focus on mods that improved gameplay or atmosphere, instead of cheats, fast leveling, etc. So without further ado, let me walk you through the five mods I chose to improve my journey in Tamriel!
(Disclaimer: Mods are typically not recommended for a first playthrough, and they disable your ability to acquire trophies on whatever save file you have modded. So if you’re on a first playthrough, or still have trophies to chase, then save mods for another time!)
Phenderix Magic Evolved: What typically happens with me when I play an Elder Scrolls game, or RPGs like Elder Scrolls, has more or less become a meme throughout much of the gaming community: Doesn’t really matter what build I set out to make, I almost always make a stealthy archer. I know, I know… Sort of lame, but it’s just what I fall into. A big part of the reason for this is many of melee weapon options feel clunky to me sometimes, and the magic trees can leave something to be desired. Which is where the incredible Phenderix Magic Evolved mod comes into play. This mod is huge, and according to the Bethesda mod page, it boasts the largest and most comprehensive spell mod in the game – and it sure as hell feels like it. There are hundreds of new spells, including brand new elemental types, new summons, and even new spells to better boost melee capabilities for those Spellswords out there. And that is just scratching the surface of all that’s available to you in the PME mod. If you are a spellcaster of any kind when it comes to games like Skyrim, and you’re on the lookout for a mod to change things up, look no further!
Obsidian Weathers: One of the things I love most about the Bethesda games is their ability to create some really impressive atmosphere – gloomy caves, spooky castles, sprawling underground facilities, perilous strongholds, etc, etc. However, one area that I always seem to feel a little bland towards is the majority of the outside world, overworld, whatever you want to call it. For me it tends to feel a little flat most of the time, compared to the detail you find in most of the interior locations. The Obsidian Weathers addon changes that all up, and then some. This mod includes dozens of new weather options and really adds a whole new atmospheric feel through rolling fogs, remastered audio and effects for storms, better illumination and lighting effects, and overall just creating a more vivid, dynamic, and interesting world to explore. And if all that wasn’t enough, my favorite part of this mod is essentially creating biomes – regions across the map have more diverse climates that include unique flora and weather effects tailored to each specific zone. Definitely an eye-candy mod that anyone who enjoys a little more immersion when traversing the wilds of Skyrim!
Dovahkin Keep: Like I mentioned in my Fallout 4 piece last month, I love the idea of building up my own village, community, and/or house, but at the end of the day I’m pretty terrible at it and end up getting frustrated with the time that you have to invest to put together a place to rest your pixelated head and hang your pixelated armor – this is why mods like the Dovahkin Keep are such useful additions to a gaming experience for me. When you load up this mod you have to head out to discover your new abode (on PC the map marker is already set for you), but once you track it down you have access to an immense castle, fit for a Dragonborn! It’s filled with hundreds of mannequins, weapon racks, bookshelves, and so much more. It’s easy to move things around and customize it to your liking, and all in all it’s the best way to have a massive in-game house without having to put the time or gold behind putting it together. I don’t spend much leisure time when I play games like this, but when you’ve got a home like the Dovahkin Keep, you find time to relax!
Rich Merchants of Skyrim: This is one of the most important quality of life mods that you will find for Skyrim, and it’s such a simple concept: Give the merchants more gold. Why is this important? Well for me, I love to go from cave to cave, castle to castle and gather up goodies to take back to the local towns to sell. However, what ends up happening is I load up with goodies, find a merchant to peddle my wares, and he’s got 423 gold – just enough to buy one enchanted axe and maybe an armor piece or two. This forces you to do one of three things: buy things from this random merchant that offset the price of things you’re trying to offload, wait for 24-48 hours (standing in place for a minute or so while you use the “wait” function), or you have to go find another merchant to sell to. What the Rich Merchants of Skyrim mod does is give every merchant insane amounts of gold so you can sell pretty much anything you want to anyone. Sure, this is game-breaking or immersion-breaking for some, but for someone like me it really provided a positive boost to my gathering habits whilst on my various journies in Tamriel.
Lampposts of Skyrim: Another mod that some may consider a quality of life improvement is the Lampposts of Skyrim mod, which actually syncs up really well with the previously mentioned Obsidian Weathers mod. When it comes to Skyrim, I try to fast travel as little as possible – sure, this can add quite a lot of time to a playthrough, but there is just so much to explore out in the world that you will miss if you fast travel all over the place. However, sometimes I would find myself getting a little turned around or just sort of walking blindly through the dark when night would set in. This mod adds hundrds of lamp posts throughout the map that allow for a world that feels a little more alive, and combine this mod with the weather and lighting effects from the Obsidian Weathers mod, and you’ve got yourself a far more immersive outdoor experience than what you’ll find from the vanilla game.
Honorable Mention, Skill Up Cheat Items: Now, there are some folks out there (myself included, sometimes…) that like to get a head start on things, or build out the perfect perk setup right from the start. I remember a time where I’d cheese my weapon skill levels by attacking Hadvar over and over and over again, which doesn’t kill him, doesn’t make him an enemy, and is a pretty efficient way to level things up early on, at least with any combat skills you’re using. So with that logic in mind, I decided to give the Skill Up Cheat Items mod a shot, and what it does is allow you to either read skills books that provide a set amount of skill levels to skill trees, or you can equip one of several rings that greatly increase leveling speed for skills you use. This mod is a nice way to cheat the leveling system without completely breaking the game (unless you want to just make all your skills 100+, which you can do too). I don’t whip out the cheat books often, but if I want to craft the perfect build early on, this is the kind of mod I’d use.