Skyrim graphics mods
Skyrim is a gorgeous game, but it’s by no means at the top of its game. Take a quick look at Dead End Thrills and you’ll see that, with a bit of tweaking, the land of the Nords can look nothing short of ‘next-gen’. It’s not difficult to achieve either; even the most novice PC gamer can enhance their Skyrim experience by clicking the ‘Subscribe’ button in the Steam Workshop on these mods, and hey-presto, we’re playing a Skyrim HD remake three years early.
A Quality World Map
One of the most popular mods, Quality World Map boosts the visuals on Skyrim’s world map, adding plenty of details like clearly defined roads and much more texture in the mountains and plains of grass. It also includes the Solstheim map for anyone with the Dragonborn DLC.
Water effects are notoriously challenging to pull off, and whilst Skyrim’s rivers look tantalising at a distance, up close they’re murky, stiff, jelly-like gunge pools. Turn them into refreshing, cool, clean dreams with Pure Waters. This mod thins down the appearance of water to acceptably fluid levels, adds some wonderful wave and flow effects, and gets those reflections just right.
Combining wonderfully with Pure Waters is Pure Weather, which impacts rivers with better shores, but also brings some phenomenal rain, snow, and fog effects into Skyrim’s skies. Mountains look especially beautiful when shrouded in Pure Weather’s astonishing fog clouds.
If water is considered difficult to replicate, fire must be written off as impossible. Whilst Skyrim’s fire effects continue to be that awkward GIF-style flicker, Better Embers introduces some lovely warm-looking fire residue to the world’s hearths. These pinpricks of glowing heat replace the default chunky slabs of light to create some truly mesmerising fire pits.
In certain areas of Skyrim snow is dynamic and builds up over time. But whilst technically impressive, these gradually growing snow piles are rendered in an ugly pure-white texture that makes it look like a bucket of paint was tipped over the landscape. Turn these regions into blankets of crisp-looking fluffy snow with this great texture replacement.
When trekking through Skyrim’s wilderness, its natural carpet can feel a little like weeds pushing through concrete rather than dense undergrowth. Logical Grass improves grassy regions, populating them with multiple times more blades and wild foliage elements for a believably natural look.
Has someone been bleeding around here, or did they just drop a jar of jam? That’s frequently the question posed by Skyrim’s forensic investigators when visiting crime scenes because the default blood textures appear more like globs of strawberry puree than human juice. Enhanced blood does away with splats and replaces them with high-resolution spatter patterns with just the right viscosity.
Wet and Cold
Skyrim is a bloody chilly place. There’s so many opportunities to get wet-through or frosted by snow, yet the effect is never seen. Enter Wet and Cold, a mod that adds numerous weather effects to characters. Snow gets caught in hair and sticks to clothes, water drips from armour, breath steams on cold air, and NPCs run home during storms.
Eyes of Beauty
There’s no bigger culprit than the dreaded ‘dead eyes’ when it comes to breaking immersion. Eyes of Beauty adds a stunning collection of realistic eyes to Skyrim’s characters, making NPCs’ soul windows something you’ll want to gaze into like a besotted schoolgirl.
The northern regions of Skyrim are filled with vast ice formations. Real Glaciers makes them an unmissable attraction, recolouring them from a frosted window effect to a much more realistic ice finish, complete with crack lines and a glassy reflective surface.
Lanterns of Skyrim
Lanterns of Skyrim adds a variety of new lamps to the world in a selection of logical places. The new light sources certainly help navigation in the dark, but it’s the feeling of life that they add that’s the true value. Skyrim feels lived in, populated, and functioning, all thanks to a few extra candles.
Towns and Villages Enhanced
A pack of enhancements for every town and outlying village in Skyrim, the Enhanced collection adds numerous extra details to the world’s populated areas. The most notable is trees; there are trees in every garden, roadside, and grass patch. For some people this will be a little too much, but it does radically transform the feel of each town, and that extra bit of leafyness banishes the harshness of bare stone.
Enhanced also throws in a boatload of chickens into towns, just in case things weren’t Fable-like enough for you.
Immersive Saturation Boost
As strong as Skyrim’s art is, there’s no denying that its colours are a bit washed out. In the chilly mountainous areas this is fine, but take a walk in a forest on a sunny day and things just don’t feel as lush as you’d wish they would. Immersive Saturation Boost injects the world with a pack of melted Crayola crayons, strengthening those autumn oranges and boosting the fresh greens. The effect may be a little bold for those who prefer the Winterfell look, but for those tired of the drab this mod is the miracle cure.
If the astonishing influx of trees in the Towns and Villages Enhanced mod drives you crackers, but vanila Skyrim feels too bare, then a subscription to Detailed Cities should keep you happy. A healthy middle-ground, Detailed Cities plants some trees and adds some decor without completely reinventing the look of Skyrim’s settlements.
Have you ever looked at where the light shines from in Skyrim? All too frequently it’s from an illogical source (Doors that shine – really, Bethesda?). Relighting Skyrim entirely reprograms the game’s light sources, ensuring light beams out from only fires and stars, and not from planks of wood.
Bring the varieties of flora up to uncountable levels with Vurt Flora. This mod makes forested areas absolutely stunning, peppering the undergrowth with a plethora of colourful blooms and grasses.
HD Plants & Herbs
Skyrim’s fauna suffers significantly at the hands of the resolution gods, their low pixel-count turning them into splodges rather than petaled beauties. HD Plants & Herbs sharpens them up and makes them bloom with sharp, defined leaves.
Static Mesh Improvement
A massive mod comprised of numerous Workshop files, Static Mesh Improvement works absolute wonders in removing all those horrible niggles from the objects of the world. Edges have their angles worked away so stones are finally smooth and bowls made round. Textures now run smoothly and those unsightly seams when two textures meet are eradicated. The extra polygons will impact performance slightly, but this really should be at the top of your priorities when it comes to making Skyrim beautiful.
Advanced Skyrim graphics mods
For the more savvy PC user, these visual enhancements require a little more tinkering. But for the price of some file adjustments and faffing around, you can transform Skyrim into an absolute awe-inspiring work of art.
The tool of choice for Dead End Thrills, FXAA Injector pumps a variety of anti-aliasing techniques into your Skyrim system to help create a much more sharp and vibrant image. Post-processing effects like bloom, technicolor, sharpen, and tonemap can be cranked up or down on a slider system to alter the visual quality to your own personal preference.
Real Vision ENB
Among the most famous graphical mods for Skyrim are the ENBseries. Real Vision produces some absolutely tremendous photorealistic effects, especially when combined with a number of other mods available from either the Steam Workshop or Skyrim Nexus. Take a look at the video above to see the mod in action. Just remember to draw breath every once in a while.
Real Vision ENB is designed to work in conjunction with Climates of Tamriel, so make sure you have that installed, too.
Climates of Tamriel
A weather and atmosphere modification, Climates of Tamriel entirely recalibrates the weather and lighting of Skyrim for a much more realistic and picturesque world. Clouds, sunsets, storms, rain, and mists are just some of the thousands of effects that it adds, with everything created from scratch. The entire lighting system is handcrafted for more realistic sun and starlight. The impact to the game’s atmosphere in indisputable. It will hammer your system, but if your PC has the muscle this is a must-have.
2K Textures actually provides textures up to 4K in resolution, a whopping eight times the resolution of vanilla Skyrim, and four times that of the official HD patch. The mod applies new textures to almost everything in Skyrim, from the floors to the skies, and everything inbetween. The effect is understandably astonishing, as is the requirement (4GB RAM and 1GB video memory). A ‘lite’ version can be used on less-powerful systems, or even a mix of full and lite elements for a good balance.
HD Fire Effects
We’ve already fixed the embers in fireplaces with Better Embers, but there’s nothing in the Workshop to fix those tissue-paper-like flames. HD Fire Effects does a fantastic job of animating some truly hypnotic, realistic flames. The effect is applied to not only smouldering hearths but fiery magic attacks, too.