It’s a bit past the 11-11 launch date, but I’ve been busily playing Skyrim for the past couple of weeks. The performance situation was resolved by upgrading to a 64-bit OS so that I could take advantage of more RAM. I’m currently pegging around 100FPS pretty consistently with a few spots in the game still dragging it down into the 60s. Yeah, yeah. First World Problems. But I’m not griping about it; just making an observation.
My current character is a Nord mage. That wasn’t my intention when we started, but it’s kind of how she developed all on her own. This not a Dead Is Dead playthrough, for which I give thanks every time some new critter chomps on me.
I’m still using a lot of the mods I talked about a few months ago, but have added a few new ones. Here are the highlights of my current mod list (mod titles link to the mod’s page at Nexus):
- 83Willow’s 101 Bugs HD – eye-candy for the most part with reasonable alchemy ingredients as gravy. Absolutely gorgeous bugs. I spend a large part of my overland time chasing them and haven’t managed to catch one of each specimen yet.
- Acquisitive Soul Gems – haven’t had much call to use it yet (Enchanting is still below 30), but its purpose is to make sure that you don’t accidentally waste Grand Soul Gems on Mudcrabs. Supposed to work better than Smart Soul Gems. We’ll see whether that proves to be true as the game progresses.
- Bandolier – Bags and Pouches – I’m thinking this is more of a minor cheat than anything else. It lets you craft bags and pouches that increase your weight allowance (about 325 pounds with the full set), but does not require that you enchant them. They’re craftable with the Steel Smithing perk (some require buckles and fasteners). I’m calling it a minor cheat, but it’s only necessary if you’re a dedicated packrat. My mage typically runs around with 30-50 pounds of gear and I haven’t pumped a point into her Stamina, so it’s just a mostly just a convenient place to stash crafting materials for me.
- Expanded Winterhold Destruction Ruins – it makes Winterhold exterior look fantastic. I can’t go much beyond that, though. I entered one place (there might be others – don’t know yet) and promptly got my ass handed to me by a bunch of Draugr wielding Ebony weapons; me at level 8 or 9 with no follower – I didn’t last more than a few seconds, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and have not returned.
- Follower Trap Safety – basically gives your followers the Light Step perk so that they don’t set off floor traps (pressure plates and the like). Much nicer than having to wait on Lydia or Jenassa to get done being smacked by the swinging gate. Skyrim really needs a “Don’t Step There!” follower command. You can still get smacked by the swinging gate, though. This mod just protects your followers.
- Imaginator – installed, but haven’t managed to get it working yet. The helper appears, says “hi” and then disappears. He did hand me a Steel Axe the first time I called him up though.
- Lockpick Graduation by Lilyu – more lore-friendly than KenMod’s Lockpick Pro. I used it a couple of times getting out of Helgen, but am relying more on Midas’s Open spells since I’m playing a mage character. It puts little tickmarks on the locks so that it’s a little easier to pick up where you left off when your lockpick breaks.
This is one area where the game really dropped the ball. While I don’t mind having to pick the locks (the picking minigame isn’t all that bad), the fact that there is no other option is completely wrong-headed. On my last playthough, I ended up with a maxed lockpicking skill, wasn’t playing a thief character and didn’t use a single perk on the Lockpicking tree. I burned through hundreds and hundreds of lockpicks, though. The presence of both of these mods (Graduation and Lockpick Pro) and close to 200,000 unique downloads between them ought to be telling Bethesda that they screwed the pooch on this one.
- Lost Art of the Blacksmith and Smithing Perks Overhaul – they work pretty well together. My initial plan had been to do a more melee-oriented character, which changed about 10 seconds after getting into Helgen Keep. I’ve done a bit of smithing (mainly to make money from all of the stinkin’ wolf pelts that keep cluttering my inventory), but couldn’t say how well it works for the more dedicated craftsman.
- Skyrim Monster Mod – not the most lore-friendly mod out there, but it adds some old critters (Scamps, Guar and the like), revamps/retextures some existing ones, and adds some new ones. Danger, Will Robinson! Some of these guys will hand you your ass on a silver platter if you’re not careful.
- UFO – Ultimate Follower Overhaul – I don’t have plans to be running around with more than one follower (which the mod lets you do), but it gives much more specific control over your followers’ behavior, like getting them to cough up their default gear so that you can force them into something more useful. They’ll still swap out for higher-level material over better numbers every time, though, so don’t be filling up Lydia’s inventory with Dwarven stuff unless you’ve taken the perk to improve that kind of gear. It also fixes a couple of problems with followers not leveling properly, so it’s pretty handy, even for a basically vanilla playthrough.
- Ultra Realistic World Lighting – eye-candy. Be warned that “realistic” is just part of the name. The colors are a bit too bright to have “realistic” be descriptive. But, if you can get Imaginator to work, you should be able to tone down the saturation a bit to suit your tastes. This was the mod that forced me into mage work when Helgen Keep turned out to be way too dark and I hated tying up one of my hands with a torch (I keep Lydia loaded with them, though), so Magelight and Candlelight are how hotkeyed. And speaking of magical lighting…
- Warmer Magic Lights – makes Magelight and Candlelight effects a bit warmer in color and expands their effective radii to compensate for the lighting mod. Make sure this loads after any lighting mods or it just defaults to plain white light (yuck).
- Winter is Coming – Cloaks – mainly added for eye-candy, but it turns out that a lot of the NPCs will have lootable cloaks that are worth more than their armor. I haven’t used any of them, but appreciate the extra loot and they do give more atmosphere to the game.