Skyrim Revisited – Patch 1.5, High-Res, Mods and More
By Matthew F. Hibben
11/11/11 came around for gamers (myself included) and the world stopped, and a digital one took hold. The world of the Dragonborn, Nords, factions at war, quickly captivated millions. Skyrim much like any game no matter how good, has had its run and soon faced dusty shelves. Skyrim however has had some great updates from Bethesda as well as an active Mod community, with both these factors sparking new life in the game. This Game Tech article will explore the Developer updates, Skyrim Mods, and show players what they can add to the world of Skyrim from an enrichment standpoint.
Skyrim was long anticipated, and having been a huge fan of Oblivion (Elder Scrolls IV) I quickly sought to immerse myself in it. I played through the game multiple times, took a few to the level cap, unlocked the achievements and even some that I and my friends set about (namely master playthroughs). As much I enjoyed Skyrim, there are only so many times you can play a single-player game before you move on to greener pastures.
I had known of the patches coming out for Skyrim as well as the active mod community for some time and figured enough time had passed that I should give Skyrim another go, armed with improved graphics, gameplay, and many other features. I wasn’t prepared for the dramatic difference.
Patch 1.5 and the Graphics DLC
Patch 1.5 and the Graphics DLC (downloadable content) are both accessed through the Steam Skyrim interface. These patches are free through Steam and provide both greatly enhanced graphics via the Graphics DLC and improved game functionality via patch 1.5. The patch notes for 1.5 can be found here http://www.elderscrolls.com/community/new-features-highlight-15-update/ .
The big highlights from patch 1.5 for myself were the changes to crafting, kill animations, and numerous bug fixes. The big change to crafting in Skyrim now is that item value (difficulty) now factors into craft skill rate. Now players are rewarded for creating advanced items with various advanced items created giving huge chunks of a specific crafts skill bar.
The new kill animations added to 1.5 give players that use archer and mage builds those flashy kill animations that previously were assigned to melee. This for myself is a double edged sword with these kill animations activating too often for my taste and seem to slow down the pace of combat at times when dispatching multiple targets.
About Skyrim Mods
Mods are various types of files that Modify (mod) the game experience. In a large way mods for Skyrim are like unofficial patches, with players themselves contributing to the experience by writing files that affect the game in many ways.
Mods for Skyrim are broken down into different types.
Graphical Mods: Mods that improve anything from textures, the rendering of objects in the distance, changing lighting, and so on. It’s important to note that many graphics mods are now unnecessary.
Balance Mods: Mods that change gameplay, making it easier, harder, or simply different.
Content Mods: Mods that add additional features to the game, from something as simple as a garment, to something as epic as a castle.
Audio Mods: Mods that add additional or different sound effects to the game.
User Interface Mods: Mods that change how the user interacts with various controls within the game, or adding controls for features that were previously un-editable.
There are two main sources for the mods I use in Skyrim, Steam and Skyrim Nexus. Steam has the benefit of being linked to the game launcher, so accessing the mods feels more secure. Skyrim Nexus http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/ is a third party site, that I read about while viewing a video about upcoming mods, and is great because mods are well organized by both type and subject matter.
Since stumbling upon Skyrim Nexus I use it almost exclusively now due to a great feature, the Nexus Mod Manager (NMM). The NMM as it name states allows the player to manage which mods to install, uninstall, and shows active mods. This program coupled with the website allows players to download and install directly via the tool.
The elegance of how well the site and the application work together, and how in turn they work updating Skyrim’s files, strengthens my support for Skyrim Nexus.
It’s important to note that some mods may or may not work well with others including the temperamental scripting of the quests.
I recommend that players try one mod at a time to insure the game is running optimally, and save the aggravation of trying to trouble shoot multiple mods at the same time.
DLC and Mods
With the release of the DLC package for Skyrim many of my mods were no longer needed, specifically the graphics ones. I tested out many of the graphic mods that created high resolution textures post update, and all they now seemed to do was slow Skyrim down, or create over textured assets. The primary mods I now use are lighting, sound and a few content mods.
Below details the mods and content I use with Skyrim, including the details of what the specific mod does, and where to get them.
Cloaks of Skyrim – Adds well rendered equip-able cloaks that can be made through crafting. This mod can be found at http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/ .
Deus Mons – This mod adds a castle that players can use. The mod stands out for both the quality of the castle development and the gameplay behind acquiring it and using its features. This mod is also available through Skyrim Nexus.
More Realistic Lighting – This mod brings very realistic lighting to Skyrim, with both stunning daytime transitions, improved indoor lighting, and wonderfully deep night times. Please note that night time becomes very dark when away from areas with light sources. This mod is available through Skyrim Nexus.
Sounds of Skyrim – This audio mod adds many new sounds to both outdoor and dungeon areas, greatly increasing the immersion of dungeon craws. This mod is available at Skyrim Nexus.
High Resolution Texture Pack – Bethesda gives players a high resolution version to all of Skyrim. This DLC is so comprehensive that I personally uninstalled most of my texture mods in favor of this and can be downloaded via the Steam launcher simply by selecting Skyrim and then selecting DLC.
Patch 1.5 is available through the Steam Launcher and should auto download with Skyrim selected. Refer to the patch notes link earlier in the article for details.
It All Adds Up
To create a vastly different experience in Skyrim I went with a total package approach. I spent a great deal of time browsing the various types of mods, as well as keeping track of the updates from Bethesda and then even more time researching user input on the functionality of each mod. I figured if I was going to enhance my Skyrim experience I would go all in. The complete experience of having vastly superior graphics, enhanced sounds, lighting, and content made Skyrim feel like a new game. I strongly urge players to revisit Skyrim, because the change can really be that dramatic.