With the Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG several months away, gamers are filling the gaps between their beta session times by revisiting the last Elder Scrolls release, known as TES V: Skyrim.
Now with three official DLCs and over two years of user third party mods available, Skyrim has set a high benchmark for both ESO and the yet unconfirmed TES VI.
Today I am going to discuss various mods and tweaks that I use and have used for the majority of my Skyrim playing. Subjects to be covered are graphics, audio, game play, monster diversity, AI/Intelligence, convenience (e.g. horses that follow you while you’re on foot, and horses for companions) and much more. The guide will be broken down into several parts, with the first two covering a visual overhaul.
Before we get started, lets mention where you will find the majority of the data and files, which is at the Skyrim Nexus. Here will be available to you all manner of user made mods, of which you can search by various categories or directly by name. There is also a manager for your modifications, aptly titled Nexus Mod Manager which is available from the front page. Please note that downloads of over 2mb in size require a user to be logged in. The registration is free.
The first section of this guide will be concerning overall graphics enhancements that only require one set of files from the Nexus, known as Project Matso ENB .Taken from the host site of developer Boris Vorontsov, “ENBSeries is the project of graphic modifications for games.”
ENB modifications were already somewhat popular amongst the in-crowd of various titles, bringing their aged graphics forward into the present. Since ENB hit the TES community, individuals have been able to stretch the Gamebryo engine beyond it’s limits and create a world that’s rich with a lush and crisp landscape, and engulfs you in an even more immersing world.
Some of the highlights of ENB are :
- Ambient Occlusion
- Fuller shadows
- Eye adaption
- Depth of Field
- Customer lighting
- Enhanced shading
The second area will talk about an optional step, where you can increase texture resolution with 2K HD textures. If you’re wondering whether these work with Bethesdas official HD texture pack DLC, yes they do and more details are found down below in Part II.
PART I : Project Matso ENB
Attached here SkyrimProjectMatsoCustomENB are pre-configured settings/files from Project Matso ENB. For those already using mods such as Climates of Tamriel, there are compatibility versions available, see CoT with Kyo.
All the files go into your root Skyrim directory as per red highlights.
I’ve also included the FXAA tool executable, which will give you a GUI to adjust settings like those found in the popular Sweet FX injector . There will be a screenshot of these settings (if they are not already saved), in the Screenshots folder. Simply match them up(or adjust to your liking) and click save. The game will then launch with them enabled automatically. You can adjust these on the fly by alt-tabbing or windowed mode and then saving as you go. F12 enables or disables the FX effect and Shift+F12 enables or disables the Matso ENB.
Before you launch the game:
- Ensure that anti-aliasing is disabled in your Skyrim Launcher. We do this because standard anti-aliasing is not 100% compatible with ENB and injected AA such as from the FXAA tool.
- Go into the folder called ‘Skyrim’ inside of your Skyrim game folder, and edit SkyrimPrefs.ini using notepad. Search for the following lines and change them from 0 to 1.
- Repeat step two, for the SkyrimPrefs.ini found under your C:/Users/username/My Documents/My Games/Skyrim.
- Lastly, find the Skyrim.ini file under C:/Users/username/My Documents/My Games/Skyrim. Search for the following line and change it to a setting of 7. If it does not exist, copy and paste it under the [Grass] section.
Personal thoughts from myself:
This was the best solution I found for visuals and performance on a medium to strong computer.
While the ENB itself comes with many various options regarding color palettes and depth of field variants, my version is compromised of a basic adaptive depth of field – with Bokeh 4.0 and a pseudo Ambient Occlusion which provides thicker shadows and darker environments, without the same performance loss as full ambient occlusion.
The aim of these settings was to provide you the ability to go on a simple walk through dense forest at the crack of dawn or dusk fall, and feel that it was breath taking – so much so that simply travelling around was an enjoyment in itself.
I believe this has been achieved via a realistic depth of field and a natural colored palette.
As per the following gallery, all pictures are before and then after. Now time of day variance was set to alter the lighting. These shots are taken seconds apart with the ENB disabled and then enabled.
PART II : 2K HD Textures
From author Nebula :
Skyrim HD is a project for texture enhancement in Skyrim.
The achived texture resolution is 4-8x (2-4k resolution) bigger than the original ones and still 2x – 8x bigger than the Bethesda HD DLC.
This texture pack has two variants:
- FULL – All the textures are at the maximum resolution; up to 4K. average is around 4x the official HD DLC.
- LITE – All the textures are at 50% of the FULL Version; up to 2K. average is around 2x the official HD DLC.
The pack is further broken down into five sections covering different parts of the game:
- Skyrim HD – Riften: This also adds HD textures for Riften. It is an indipendant package – just install it seperately or over previous installations.
- Skyrim HD – Towns: This includes all the towns I have retextured; Whiterun, Windhelm, Markarth, Solitude and Farmhouses.
- Skyirm HD – Landscape: This includes all the Landscape textures, including the matching LOD textures.
- Skyrim HD – Dungeons: This includes the Basic Dungeon Ground retexture and all the textures for the Dwemer Ruins.
- Skyrim HD – Misc: This includes the rest; Reflections, Water, Sky, Clutter, Clothes and the fix for the textures in the HD DLC (also usable without HD DLC).See the following for important information from 2K HD’s front page:
I personally recommend you start with the landscape, dungeons and miscellaneous. If it goes well, add on the towns and Riften.
- System RAM - 4GB or more.
- Graphics Card Memory Usage :
-FULL: 1.25GB or more
-LITE: Almost the same as original Skyrim.
TIP: Try combining FULL and LITE.
- Download the latest 7zip.
- Download the Skyrim HD Packages you want (e.g.: Towns and Landscape)
- Exctract the downloaded archive with your newest version of 7zip.
- Copy the “Data” folder from the downloaded archive in the main directory of skyrim (e.g. “SteamApps/common/skyrim”).
OR just use the Nexus Mod Manager.
Q: Is there an all in one package?
A: No. My Mod is splitted into 4 major parts for better customization. Just download the four of them and you’re good to go.
Q: Does the installation order of the single parts make a difference?
Q: Does this mod conflicts with others?
A: Just keep in mind what my mod replaces (written above) and you can easily conclude if another mod would conflict.
Q: When will the next version be released?
A: When it’s done. Since I don’t do this full-time you should take into account that I have to work on this in my free time.
Continue here for Part III where we will discuss how to source, apply and manage the individual mods that help turn Skyrim into a fresh new game and make you happy that you still own a copy.