Some of my must-have Skyrim Special Edition mods

Some of my must-have Skyrim mods!

Note: This post is updated for Skyrim Special Edition! If you are looking for the mods I use with vanilla Skyrim, you can find them at the very bottom of the post!

One of the first questions I get asked whenever people stop by my Skyrim streams is, “What Skyrim mods do you use?” As Skyrim is one of my favourite games (The Elder Scrolls fangirl for life!) and modding is one of my favourite parts of these games, I figured I’d share some of my must-have mods for Skyrim Special Edition now that it’s been released.

Most of these mods have been installed using the Nexus Mod Manager, and are pretty simple to get set-up! There are also some mods available through the Mods section of the game, and I will note these where I have installed them in that way. If you see [IN-GAME] this means I installed it through the in-game Mods menu. Sometimes these are also available on the Nexus, so if you’d prefer to install that way just look them up! But I can’t guarantee they’re there, or that they work with other mods when installed this way as I have only tested those ones through in-game installation.

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The Game That Means the Most to Me (Blaugust #13)

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As many of you know (mostly because I’ve told you before), I’ve been playing games pretty much as long as I can remember. It started with Duck HuntSuper Mario Bros and Top Gun on the NES, and has been a love affair ever since.

But there is one game that means a whole lot to me, and will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s a game that I can go back and play even now, when retro games don’t always have the same appeal as they’re often clunky or have even been remade.

That meaningful game is Neverwinter Nights. It started me on my intense love for roleplaying games, spurred on a desire to play D&D, and most importantly is how my fiancé and I became close friends and eventually formed a big part of our relationship. Unlike many gaming couples, we didn’t meet through the game, but we did play it together with a few friends back when we had just met, and it was what made us spend a lot of time together and eventually revealed to us that we actually felt a lot closer than “just friends”.

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Gaming To-Do List (Blaugust #11)

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Following in the footsteps of Jaeda at Dragons & Whimsy, Ysharros at Stylish Corpse and a few other video game bloggers, I thought it was about time I started my own gaming to-do list. I’m somewhat using the rules laid out by Izlain in his post The Gamer To-Do List. You can read his suggested guidelines over on his blog!

First of all, why would I do this? Like a few of my fellow gamers, I have a Stack of Shame (on Steam and elsewhere) the size of a skyscraper at this point and it’s ever growing, and I have a few too many unfinished games piling up on the backburner, not to mention games I own but have never even installed.

Instead of feeling excited that I have so many options, I feel, well…stressed. I know that’s absolutely ridiculous, but I get so overwhelmed with a long list of games that instead of just picking one and playing it, I stare at my list and end up doing something else instead. Or, in some cases, doing nothing.

So for me, organisation can sometimes help! When I’m on my time off, I often even write myself a list of games I want to play so that I don’t get distracted or waylaid. With that in mind, here are some things I want to achieve in my video games of choice so that I can feel accomplished and make some progress on my gaming to-do list!

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First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity, a new take on classic RPGs by Obsidian and Paradox.

I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of Pillars of Eternity until last week, but I bought it on the spot. Why? Because a colleague uttered the words that I’ve always wanted to hear: “Hey, did you like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate? Because it’s kinda like that.”

I did like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate. I also was obsessed with the original Neverwinter Nights and its expansion packs, and many an evening after school was spent playing it with friends. I love roleplaying games, and I enjoy a good yarn, and it seemed that this game would have all of that with a nostalgic feel that would throw me back to my long evenings wrapped up warm in front of my computer, playing through an epic tale and acting out my fantasies of being an adventurer.

My colleague, and most of the internet, was not wrong. Pillars of Eternity is so far very reminiscent of oldschool RPGs, in several ways. Firstly, its character creation is in-depth and detailed. Your choices here will greatly impact your gameplay. The aesthetic is perfectly suited to the gameplay, and the graphics are pretty for an isometric game, which I wasn’t expecting. The game feels dark, which is great for a dark fantasy RPG. Combat is difficult, especially if you’re playing on more difficult settings or not familiar with turn-based roleplaying games (or are out of practice, like me!)

The storytelling is surprisingly good. I often find myself skipping conversations in other games, but in Pillars of Eternity I’ve been reading everything and listening to the often fully-voiced scenes. There’s also one feature I absolutely love, and that’s the story scenes that act almost as cutscenes, where your screen changes to a page from a book. You see text on one side, which is read out by a narrator that acts almost like a DM (Dungeon Master, for those who never played D&D), and on the other side is a sketched out scene, which changes as you continue throughout the “cutscene” or story. I love it, it was incredibly engaging, which is kind of surprising when most games these days require high-action cutscenes to keep people’s attention. I found myself completely grabbed by these scenes, eager to find out what happened to my companion who had just stumbled out of the woods before me, or what that terrifying banshee-like face on the right of the page meant.

One of the cons I found is that I’m not a huge fan of the way abilities are used, as I feel like there’s a lot of clicking involved. This is mostly due to lack of shortcuts for abilities, which I’ve heard is possible to assign but I’ve yet to figure out how. Basically, right now you’ll have to click on the ability you want to use or spell you want to cast, then click on the target. When you’re using a lot of abilities or spells per fight, especially with multiple party members, that can get a bit tedious, but the combat is still fun and active all the same. You also get used to it very quickly!

The only real gripe I have, though, is that playing on a two monitor PC makes edge-scrolling difficult. There is an option in the settings to “Cage Cursor” which, in theory, prevents your cursor from moving onto the other monitor, however when you get into a cutscene it stops functioning properly until you turn it off and on again. However, all that said, I’ve learned to play with middle mouse for scroll and found that it’s actually much easier and smoother than playing with edge-scrolling even when it’s fully functional, so I suppose it’s not all bad!

I strongly recommend this game to anyone who has a love for oldschool RPGs and isn’t afraid of a little bit of difficulty, where your combat strategy is more important and valuable than just bashing things with a big sword. I can almost 100% guarantee you’ll fall in love with it immediately.

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity is an RPG that old-school players will love.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - A gothic roguelike RPG which is strangely punishing & still fun.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - How will your party members die?

When I heard about Darkest Dungeon, I was dubious. I’ve tried plenty of roguelikes and self-proclaimed “hard games” in the last year or so that have either not lived up to their claims, or have been decidedly un-fun. But people kept talking about this gothic, dark RPG and it got me all interested, so I read some reviews on Steam and couldn’t help but cackle at some of the funny ones. After reading about someone’s paladin becoming a kleptomaniac and stealing from the party, I was sold.

Darkest Dungeon is all about failure, death, and losing everything you’ve worked hard on. You recruit a squad of heroes whom you send out to fight for you, and inevitably they die. A lot. And you get to watch as that hero you actually kinda liked just keels over after somehow surviving on zero hitpoints for the last three battles. On top of that, there’s the “Stress” mechanic which fills up as bad things happen to your heroes and party. When it reaches full, your hero will gain an “Affliction”. These will have negative effects on that adventurer, such as causing them to retreat further back through the party, skip their turn, or even harm themselves.

For a start, the gameplay is fun! I was surprised that I didn’t find losing party members frustrating. I was a little sad when my Crusader died as he was really awesome and the real hard hitter of the group, but I’m hoping another one comes up in the village to be recruited in the future. Hopefully soon, too. The combat is quite slow but that works for the game style, and each adventurer you recruit will have the potential for different abilities, which can make your party feel like a different make-up every time.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - The dark art style suits the gameplay.

The art style is gorgeous, and fits perfectly with the dark, gothic theme. It’s not a particularly happy game, and that works immensely well with the rough 2d character and environment artwork. Atmospherically, it’s excellent.

Like I said, combat is slow, and the game is not at all forgiving. It is quite possible that you’ll fail quests and lose an entire party of adventurers you’ve been working with for a while, including rare items such as an accuracy boosting ring I’d put on my highwayman shortly before he got critted in the face one room over. If you make the mistake of getting attached to any one hero in your party, prepare yourself for the worst or be sorely disappointed (though we all know you’ll likely be disappointed even if you steel yourself against the pain of loss).

All in all, I would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawler. Darkest Dungeon is in Early Access on Steam which I generally dislike, but it’s in a great state for play, and considering how much fun it is I would absolutely encourage you to pick it up if it sounds like your kind of thing.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios.

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

One of the few games I’ve purchased in Early Access, Divinity: Original Sin has been fully released and I’ve jumped headlong into it co-op with my fiancé this past weekend. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it, as I played during Early Access and encountered a bunch of bugs, not to mention died within my first hour and had to restart because I hadn’t saved. However, after trying it out in full release and co-op, I’ve had a mostly positive experience that I wanted to share with you!

Graphically, the game is stunning for a top-down RPG, and character creation is diverse. Players can play either singleplayer, where they take control of both Source Hunters, or co-op with a friend in which each player controls one of the two characters. These characters can be customised down to the ground, including gender and appearance, voice, and starting skills. There is a class selection which doesn’t seem to be too binding as it only selects what equipment and skills you start with.

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

The environments are beautiful, and as I mentioned the game itself is aesthetically pleasing. This helps enhance the exploration aspect, since you will be spending a lot of your time looking in corners for interesting secrets, as well as searching for adventure in every corner of the map. Conversations can be found anywhere, and you often have to “argue” with your partner (or other character if you’re playing solo) or even NPCs, and this is done through a Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic which was a pleasant surprise!

Combat is turn-based, which is fun because there’s more tactics involved than your standard RPG which seems to have gone in the direction of hack-and-slash. In Divinity: Original Sin, you have to consider where is the best place to stand in combat, what spells to use and when, when to run and when to attack. I have had to reload to the beginning of fights before because of poor decisions on my part!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

I will say, however, that the combat can be frustrating due to packs of enemies having far too much crowd control, meaning everyone in your party may end up stunned, blinded or knocked down for long periods of time. This can make combat very difficult, but not in a way that feels is under your control. This is exacerbated by the fact that my fiancé took a talent called Lone Wolf, which means we can only have one companion rather than two. A full party of four (including two “companions” picked up throughout the story) might make this less of a problem, but frequently we find I’m stunned, he’s knocked down and on fire, and our mage is blinded, which makes the fight unnecessarily frustrating.

You do have to remember to quicksave often, and when I say often, I mean often! Just like most classic RPGs, you may make mistakes, or make decisions in conversations that impact your storyline that you might regret shortly after, so it’s useful to have a loading point. Luckily, quicksaving is as simple as pressing F5 at (pretty much) any time, so it’s not difficult to keep your progress safe!

We’ve already invested around 18 hours into the game, and that’s nothing compared to the 75 hours my friends and coworkers took to complete it, not including all sidequests. The game is vast, and I’ve found myself playing it for extended play sessions without even noticing. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights, particularly if you have a friend or significant other you’ve been wanting to play a new game with!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

Mod Review: A Realistic Hope (Skyrim)

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Do you want your Skyrim to look like this? I know that for the longest time, I’ve always admired beautiful, rich coloured Skyrim screenshots, and wondered why they had depth of field and I didn’t. As much as I absolutely adore the game, I did kind of miss the vibrant environments of previous Elder Scrolls games (I was a Shivering Isles fangirl…) and found that, while the bleak landscapes of Skyrim were beautiful, the fact that even forests and interior areas looked a little grey kind of bothered me.

Enter stage left: A Realistic Hope. ARH is a “photorealistic ENB” mod, which deepens colour, adds depth of field, and modifies some textures to be more photorealistic. The environments feel more alive, if a little bit oversaturated in colour, and allow you to get some seriously beautiful screenshots, let alone feel more immersed.

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Ultimately, it is very beautiful. I love that whatever I’m looking at takes the focus, and honestly I didn’t notice any performance drop when in-game, even though I chose to download the regular mod rather than the “performance” version. With some .ini file tweaks, the game focuses regardless of whether you’re in first or third person, and when you look at something close to you, you’ll notice the background fades out a little.

The only real downsides for me were very minor. The regular mod does increase load times significantly; I went from loading a zone in 10 seconds or less to 30+, but this isn’t a huge wait for such a visual improvement. The only other issue I encountered was that it seems the shader that gets used uses a stencil buffer type effect which updates slower than your rendered frames. I’m not sure if that’s what it is or how it works, but if you stand in front of a particularly strong light source (in my case, it was a large fire) it seems that the “stencil buffer” lags behind a bit, so you see a bit of a residual outline. But it’s barely noticeable!

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Despite the really vibrant colours, the environment doesn’t entirely lose its bleakness. Outside towns, things can still get pretty grey, so if you’re worried about losing the cold atmosphere of the game, don’t be too concerned. The vegetation is still bright, but the evenings feel pretty crisp and somewhat unwelcoming.

How to install

Make sure to download the mod manually (don’t use the mod manager, even if it gives you the option on the files page!) on the Realistic Hope ENB mod page on Skyrim Nexus. The installation steps are explained pretty well on the page, but in case you’re a little bit confused, there’s also similar directions below.

Before installing, you should also get WATER – Water and Terrain Enhancement Redux and install it. I recommend doing this using the Nexus Mod Manager. Once you’ve installed it, activate the mod in the mod manager and follow the instructions. It will ask you to choose your preferences such as water colour, whether you want additional features like boats and vegetation etc. Up to you!

001. Download the file and extract the .ZIP. You can use WinRAR or any other extraction software you have.

002. You can extract the file directly into your Skyrim folder, but if you’re concerned about overwriting files, compare the filenames in the downloaded directory with those in your Skyrim folder. If there are any that might be overwritten, rename them. I usually add, “.OLD” at the end of these files so I can recognise them if I need to restore them. You shouldn’t have to overwrite anything, however.

003. Navigate to My Documents > My Games > Skyrim and open up “SkyrimPrefs.ini” in Notepad.

004. Search for “bTreesReceiveShadows”, “bDrawLandShadows” and “bFloatPointRenderTarget”, and change the value from ‘0’ to ‘1’. If it’s already set to ‘1’, ignore this step.

005. Add the following text at the bottom of the file to play or look at your character in third person (good for screenshots):

[Camera]
fOverShoulderAddY=0.0000
fOverShoulderPosZ=-10.0000
fOverShoulderPosX=0.0000
fOverShoulderCombatAddY=0.0000
fOverShoulderCombatPosZ=-10.0000
fOverShoulderCombatPosX=0.0000

006. Launch the game!

If you have an older system, you may want to try the performance version of the mod, which is listed in the downloads section. I haven’t tested this, but with my system (AMD Phenom II X4 955 at 3.2Ghz, nVidia Geforce GTX 560 1GB, and a measly 4GB RAM) I can run the regular version of the mod with a bunch of other mods, with no drop in FPS.

Happy Adventuring!

Autumn Steam Sale must haves

I’ve been a terrible blogger lately, and I must apologise! Work has been very busy, and I’ve been having so much fun in my downtime that I’ve been very bad at keeping up with my non-gaming hobbies. Thank you for sticking around!

Now, it is that time of year again! The Steam Autumn Sale has graced us with its presence, much to the dismay of our poor wallets and bank accounts. Every time a Steam sale rolls around I both simultaneously wince in anticipation, and squee as I add the new games to my library. This is the reason I have such a huge gaming backlog! So, what have I picked up so far?

Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Papers, Please Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Rogue Legacy
Steam Autumn Sale purchases: The Walking Dead Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Gone Home
1. Papers, Please | 2. Rogue Legacy | 3. The Walking Dead | 4. Gone Home

I’ve only started playing Papers, Please so far and have been having a ridiculously fun time, which is surprising considering most of the point of the game is to stamp passports! But it’s become much more fun after a coworker joked about his conspiracy theory that secretly, people playing the game are actually working for Heathrow. I hope not, as I’ve unwittingly let a few shady characters into the country if that’s the case!

And now for the absolute must-haves, in my humble opinion, for this sale.

Steam Autumn Sale must haves: Game Dev Tycoon Steam Autumn Sale must haves: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Steam Autumn Sale must haves: XCOM: Enemy Unknown Steam Autumn Sale must haves: Outlast
1. Game Dev Tycoon (€4.49) | 2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (€7.49) | 3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (€9.99 | 4. Outlast (€6.45)

I personally adore all of my suggestions above, but if you only pick one of them I will forever recommend The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On top of the original game only being €7.49 right now, the Legendary Edition, which contains the base game and all expansions, is only €13.59 right now. This game tops my list of favourites at the moment; those of you who know me, know I’m an Elder Scrolls fiend and have been since Morrowind. I did, indeed, shed a single tear of joy when I saw the teaser trailer for Skyrim!

I do also recommend Outlast pretty heavily for you horror game nuts out there. That might be because I’m cruel and want everyone to share in my pain, though…

What games have you picked up this sale?
Let me know in the comments!

Geeky fashion wishlist – T-Shirt Edition!

Geeky fashion wishlist - T-Shirt Edition! Featuring t-shirts from J!NX, Think Geek, and the BioWare store.
1. Diablo III Demon Hunter T-Shirt: J!NX | 2. Mass Effect N7 Burnout Tank: BioWare Store | 3. Mass Effect Garrus T-Shirt: BioWare Store | 4. Fringe White Tulip T-Shirt: Think Geek | 5. League of Legends Singed “Do Not Chase” T-Shirt: J!NX | 6. League of Legends Volibear Tea Party T-Shirt: J!NX

In my first Geeky Fashion Wishlist post, I shared some Mass Effect N7 goodies. Above I’ve listed some must-have t-shirts that I need to have in my life, all from various games and TV shows that I adore. Over the coming months I’ll be picking up as many of these as I can to add to my collection of geeky tees, particularly those from J!NX as they’ve always been a pleasure to order from in the past!

What’s on your geeky fashion wishlist?

Geeky fashion wishlist

Geeky fashion wishlist: Mass Effect N7 wet look leggings. Geeky fashion wishlist: Mass Effect N7 dress.

It’s no secret that I’m not the most fashion conscious girl in the world. While I like to look good, I don’t keep up with the latest fashion trends, and honestly a lot of the time I’d rather wear something comfortable than anything too extravagant. But someone out there thought it was a good idea to design some delightfully geeky goodies, and I immediately started building a wishlist!

The first part of my wishlist is shown above – a pair of wet look Mass Effect N7 leggings, and an N7 mini-dress. I loved the Mass Effect series, and pretty much all of the N7 clothing and accessories I’ve seen have been pretty delightful, but these two in particular stand out as something I’d love. They’re both from Black Milk Clothing, and I’ve asked my fiancé if he’d maybe consider buying them for me for Christmas or my birthday…