The Steam Winter Sale is over, the holidays have come and gone. All our wallets are a little lighter. There’s a good chance some of you bought Skyrim for the first time, some of you on PC. While the game didn’t release with mod support, the Creation Kit is old news, and new mods role out with each passing minute.
From the Skyrim Nexus to the Skyrim Steam Workshop, your options are endless. But not all mods are worth your time. Of all those I’ve sampled, three stand out in my mind as must haves. They are 1) SkyUI, 2) Deus Mons, 3) Project Reality: Climates of Skyrim
SkyUI: The best PC interface
Experienced PC Skyrim players probably already know all about SkyUI. There’s a good reason it’s the top endorsed mod on the Nexus, and that reason is simple. Usability. Skyrim came with the same interface for all platforms, but that interface was optimized for consoles and the time consuming task of selecting things with control sticks. Before SkyUI, you needed to use that same clunky interface with your keyboard and mouse, and it was a pain. We dealt with it, albeit reluctantly.
SkyUI doesn’t radically change anything about the interface. SkyUI streamlines it. It decreases item name size, enlarges the inventory window, adds drop-down menus, allows for easy, quick organization and much more. The mod integrates seamlessly with the mechanics already present within Skyrim. Adding a favorite item, changing a setting, selling and buying goods, organizing your inventory; all of this is easier with SkyUI installed.
A number of small additions complete the package. To save space, SkyUI uses easy to comprehend symbols to designate each inventory window. Armor is a helmet, weapons a pair of swords, etcetera. Next to each item is a unique symbol denoting what the item is. These changes extend to every aspect of the interface, and the improvements in your performance will be measured in how quickly you can differentiate between a Dwemer Sword and an Orcish Hunting Bow of Major Enchanting.
Deus Mons: A king’s abode
Overshadowed and outdone by its own creator and many others, I still think Deus Mons set the standard for the grand player home. The first reason? You have to gut a dragon to get inside. And not just any dragon. This guy’s a bruiser, taking more than a newly minted Dragonborn to slay. Once inside, there’s everything from a hotspring — dredged from the planet’s core by Dwemer technology — to teleportation systems — using Daedric magic, I assume — to a grand magical annex where every archmage’s dreams can be made real.
There’s room for every artifact, unique set of clothing, ad all the riches a legendary hero can attain. You have your own cook, bard, librarian-wizard-type-person, and a cat-man, who I can only imagine is your spymaster. Access to the roof offers a grand view of the mountains and valleys surrounding the castle, as well as a magical blaze lighting the night for miles around.
All the standard amenities are present. Maniquens aplenty, a Dwemer forge fueled by magma, stands and display cases, safes, a kitchen, a hot water washroom/pool, and the gearworks that make the whole castle function. All of this is yours if you can conquer a dragon and download a mod.
Though not necessarily in that order.
Project Reality: Bring the world to life
The effects of Project reality are not as overt as a grand castle to call your own, or a usable interface that puts all others to shame. Instead, this mod takes the otherwise drab weather conditions of Skyrim and brings them to life. It brings thunderstorms with arc lightning, rain that comes in sheets, fog that blinds and blows through deep canyons. It’s strange to think that such things might add much to the already complex Skyrim experience, but you’d be surprised how much difference a new sunrise every morning can make after a hundred hours watching the same one over and over.
And while weather is certainly an important part of life, Project Reality’s greatest gift is in how it modifies the lighting of Skyrim. Unlit caves are actually dark, torches cast realistic shadows, towns feel sleepier at nighttime, and you feel for the guards having to patrol in the darkness. A starless sky means you’ll be quickly lost in the blackness, and the odd wolf howl has more impact. If you’ve invested a ton of time in the wilds, start again with Project Reality running.
You will be insignificant, even as the hero set to save the land, before the might of the elements. Where Deus Mons makes you feel powerful, and SkyUI gives you power, Project Reality is the power of the world around you.