I got into The Elder Scrolls series pretty late in the day, with my friend introducing me to Skyrim some time in 2013. I fell in love and have since spent more time than I would ever like to know exploring this mammoth of a franchise. In all that time, do you know what I’ve learned?
I’ve learned that Elder Scrolls fans do Elder Scrolls better than the guys over at Bethesda ever could (and that’s ignoring the recent controversies, because Fallout has always sounded like a pretty unspectacular series anyway). The modding community has extended the lifespan of these games for me far beyond anything I would have imagined back when I first heard Ralof’s exposition. If the developers have any sense, when moulding The Elder Scrolls: VI they should turn to their own community for the best inspiration. Here are a couple of mods that, in an ideal world, would have bearing on future titles.
I like pirates, poker and vampires above all else in that order and everyone knows it. Thing is, vampirism is probably one of the most disappointing things you can do to yourself in any Elder Scrolls game (aside from Daggerfall, that one’s a masterpiece and I want everyone to know it). In many cases, vanilla vampirism inflicts you with more punishments than it does rewards, intense weakness to fire and the need to constantly hang around waiting for NPCs to go to sleep among them. What annoys me the most, however, is that it doesn’t always actually make sense: in what world would a vampire, or anything for that matter, benefit from starving themselves? Better Vampires adds the depth that degenerates like me crave, rewarding me for slaking my unholy thirst and bestowing upon me power impossible to attain through ordinary means. No, it’s not balanced - but with this mod installed, Skyrim becomes the vampire simulator I wanted Vampyr to be. If I choose immortal life, I want to be plagued with a need to feed and the moral implications of murder, and benefited with supernatural powers worthy of that price; don’t just make my eyes glow and my face shrivel up.
There are too many spell mods and for the purpose of the format I want a package that’s a little more concise, something Forgotten Magic delivers perfectly. Rather than introducing hundreds of variations on similar spells, this one adds several that fit into various categories, and which are relevant for any character that may consider utilising magic. Necromancers will covet warlock spells, while the hippies of Tamriel will spend their hard-earned gold on druidic tomes. The schools of magic that the franchise uses are okay, but they are also often ambiguous and lack that individual flare players could get excited over. The other thing this mod adds is individual experience and upgrades for specific spells that makes me feel like my character is actually getting better at casting outside of increased damage numbers. Currently, the only feel of progression I’ve seen from any game is when I buy the next most expensive spell up. Wouldn’t it be so much more immersive to unlock ‘wall of flames’ from a constant reliance on that basic ‘flames’ spell? Doing teaches us more than reading, after all.
Realistic Needs and Diseases
You don’t play Skyrim for as long as I have without eventually conceding and picking up one of the many mods that makes the game unplayable. Whether it’s Frostfall, Bathing in Skyrim or iNeed, there are a plethora of files out there whose only desire is to place so many restrictions on your gameplay that you actually forget to take care of your own needs. The reason these are in the list is because there’s something to be learned; tone down the consequences I get from not satisfying my character’s virtual fatigue and increase the benefits I get from satisfying them, and what we have is a system that can safely be ignored, but which is beneficial to take into account if you really care enough. The Elder Scrolls titles are role playing games, and their worlds made intensely realistic by the detail that’s pumped into them. A little attention to treating the player character as a human could go a long way to improving some players’ feeling of immersion. Come to think of it, something like what The Witcher 3 pulled off may just about nail it.
Cycle of the Silencers
Maybe don’t install this one, it basically doesn’t work. That said, Cycle of the Silencers was probably the first quest mod I ever installed, and I still have the odd dream about my experience with it to this day. The Elder Scrolls is a mad universe where dogs can talk and wizards fall out of the sky, meaning a huge amount of potential for in-depth stories that the modding community has capitalised on. I remember one mod that took me to space to have dealings with several dwemer very well, because that was the first time I had properly utilised the lich form I had spent several in game weeks researching and manifesting from another quest mod. Cycle of the Silencers stands out for its intriguing, if poorly presented, narrative about a cult of ghostbusters backdropped against quests that involved me travelling to other dimensions and the most upsetting water section I’ve ever struggled through. Other mods, like The Forgotten City, have the player roam far smaller environments that are sometimes just as fascinating - I mean, I was loving it right up until they made me swim down into this flooded cave. Actually, you know what; if you’re a mod author and you’re reading this, stop with the water sections. Just stop.
Customary rule of five means that Immersive Animals takes my last spot. This one was a permanent addition to my load order up until recently and expanded wildlife and dungeon dwellers to a point that actually felt exciting. Interacting with spider nests would occasionally cause baby frostbite-bastards to appear, and wandering the wilds held a new uncertainty as, based on the time of day and where I was, I could fall victim to any number of randomly generated foes. I remember at one point exploring the rift and falling into the middle of a goblin turf war. One criticism I have of most open world games is that every creature always looks the same, fights the same, and dies the same. In reality, sabrecats wouldn’t all be threatening predators, you would have cubs and the malnourished ones that aren’t as good at hunting. Essentially, I want variety: have creatures draw from a bank of potential ears and limbs, tint their skin varying shades of death and give me the potential to be excited by finding a mudcrab three sizes larger than its brethren by simple virtue of fortune.
When I heard about the settlement building mechanic in Fallout 4, I was deeply excited by the idea that Bethesda were actually paying attention to the modding community, their ideas, and absorbing them as main features. Although it’s most certainly a pipedream to have a game be as expansive as the Nexus database, some nods here and there would certainly be welcome to entice me back to vanilla.