I started a another playthrough of Skyrim a few weeks ago. I decided to take a swing at using SkyRe combined with Frostfall and Realistic Needs and Diseases to see if it made for a more immersive game. I’m happy to report that the answer is both yes and no, depending on what you’re looking for in “immersive”.
SkyRe (Skyrim Redone) is an overhaul by T3nd0 that redoes the perk trees, eliminates several exploits from the game and generally turns the character development system on its head. On the whole, I’d say that he succeeded. The modded game is much more unforgiving (arguably “brutal”) than vanilla. The perk trees have been completely redone and (at least from my perspective) feel much more natural than the vanilla perk trees. The new ones allow for infinitely more specialization, especially when combined with mods like JaySuS Swords or Immersive Armors. There is also an Immersive Weapons mod, but JaySuS has been in my load order for so long that swapping seems a bit like giving up those comfortable shoes that took you a year to break in. On the other hand, JaySuS hasn’t been updated in almost a year, so perhaps it’s as broken-in as it’s going to get.
There is a fairly steep learning curve that goes along with SkyRe, so players used to (“entrenched in”?) the vanilla perk trees can look forward to a massively different gameplay experience. Depending upon your personal tastes, this could be very good or very bad. I’m currently leaning toward the “good” side of that.
Frostfall is a hypothermia mod. In simple terms, you’re not only having to battle the “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go ‘bump’ in the night”, but the environment as well. It integrates very well with SkyRe (the Wayfarer perk tree includes perks tailored to Frostfall, for example). Adventuring is no longer a matter of making sure that your armor and weapons are up to the task. You must also consider your ability to cope with cold, wet and exposure. Frostfall also combines very well with Wet and Cold, which is mainly just graphical effects, but has a few other nice touches as well. Isoku (the Wet and Cold author) has a second mod to go with Dragonborn, but I have not done anything with it.
Realistic Needs and Diseases is kind of the icing on the cake. It forces you to eat, drink and sleep in order to maintain your fighting edge and you must worry about diseases on top of it. This is one where the jury is still out. It accomplishes its goals, but forces you to carry food and water. In and of itself, this is no big deal. But it’s a bit of an immersion breaker to be headed into some cave or other and see an “I need a nap” message as you enter or to hear your stomach growl as you’re trying to sneak down some corridor. I’m also not a big fan of the prevalence of disease in the larger world. Yes, by our modern standards, the medieval world was far from sanitary. But people were not keeling over from disease with the frequency of the mod’s defaults. Fortunately, all of this can be toned down through mod settings in MCM.
Each of these are outstanding mods in their own right. It’s in combination that problems start to raise their ugly heads.
My main complaint is that the pacing of the game slows tremendously. I’m using a self-imposed fast-travel limitation on my current game. Barring a game-over situation, I’m choosing not to use it (as opposed to allowing Frostfall to completely shut it down), although I will avail myself of carriages when it seems appropriate or convenient. To complicate matters a bit more, I am running at a timescale of 10 (in the console, “set timescale to 10”) rather than the vanilla 20.
So if I hop in a carriage from Whiterun at around 7 or so, I get to Markarth or Solitude around noon-ish, can conduct my business and be back in Whiterun by dinner time or shortly thereafter. Barring extended dungeon-delving, which might take a day or two, everything now seems to be a day-trip length and I’m constantly having to wrap activities around meal times and sack time.
With the pacing slowed down so much, I admit to feeling much more engaged with the surrounding world, but I think it comes at the cost of that feeling of epic adventure that characterized the vanilla game. Fortunately, most of these things are configurable in MCM, so my complaints really boil down to stuff that I did to myself when setting up the mods. In my own defense, all I can say is that I have given honest effort to experiencing the mods as their authors intended them to be experienced.
You really should plan on starting a new game if you install these. While they can be dropped in on an existing character, there will problems. Most will be in the “annoyance” category, but there are a couple of features that will not work well. For example, SkyRe adds a huge number of new perks into the game and should really be used in conjunction with Elys’ Skyrim Community Uncapper. However, dropping the Uncapper onto an existing character can have some interesting side effects. My existing character was gaining Light Armor skill every time he got smacked with anything (fists, arrows, weapons, whatever). Without changing any of the config settings, my current character is gaining Light Armor skill at a much more reasonable rate.
In short, these mods in combination create a gameplay experience that is radically different from vanilla. Some gamers will enjoy this (perhaps with a few settings tweaks) while others will not. I think they’re definitely worth checking out.