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Skyrim mod ‘Extended Cut’: refreshing Tamriel’s coldest story

The developers of an upcoming Skyrim mod tell PCGamesN how they want to revamp the Bethesda RPG game's main questline with new content and improved writing

: the background is a slightly blurred image of the entrance to Skyrim's Whiterun, with a dragonborn armoured up i n the foreground, shouting and ready for battle

Some of the best Skyrim mods completely rewrite Bethesda’s RPG game and turn it into something entirely new, but what if the world of Tamriel was expanded within the original vision of the Fallout developer, enhancing its coldest region while keeping the core of what Bethesda was going for. This is exactly what the Skyrim Extended Cut team plans to do as, after releasing a Saints & Seducers overhaul that completely revamps that creation club content, it targets the whole of the open-world game next.

“Skyrim: Extended Cut is an overhaul for Skyrim’s main storyline, adding new quests, choices, challenges and characters,” the members of the ECSS developer group tell PCGamesN. “Our goal with EC is to implement a deeper, more character-focused interpretation of Skyrim’s main quest while preserving all the fun and memorable moments that make the game what it is.”

What exactly does “character-focused” mean in this context though? The Skyrim mod team says this comes down to inspirations from the last decade of story-driven games – think The Last Of Us and Red Dead Redemption 2 – that are helping them to create a “refreshed central narrative for Skyrim that feels like something written and released today” without stepping on Bethesda’s original vision too much.

The Skyrim Extended Cut aims to add new fully-voiced characters to the main quest, alongside some new locations and dungeons too. There won’t be entirely new worldspace like the one found in Saints & Seducers, but the Skyrim mod team says this is because the Extended Cut will focus more on “story rather than exploration.”

Don’t expect the mod to be drip-fed either, as the Extended Cut team wants to get it all out at once, to make sure the enhanced Skyrim narrative can be played at one time. “The release file for EC is just the dragon-focused main quest – it doesn’t overhaul the civil war, guilds, or anything along that line,” the team adds.

The Skyrim Extended Cut team still think Bethesda’s seminal RPG is a “great game,” but believe the writing, especially that of individual characters, could be improved and expanded upon. “Our philosophy is more about ‘going deeper’ and bringing out the game’s potential, rather than correcting perceived mistakes,” the team says. “Our hope is that our files improve on Skyrim’s vanilla model by offering more depth, detail, and creativity in concentrated packages, bringing back some of the sense of wonder we all got playing Skyrim for the first time all those years ago.”

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So, while this is an improvement to the base game of Skyrim and its main quest, it’s also about expanding what worked and bringing it forward after the last decade. This is why the team is aiming to follow Bethesda’s patterns and practices in Skyrim, “to model our own work after them to get that ‘natural’ feel.”

“For example, when designing dungeons, we look at how the game lays them out–how many enemies are in a typical encounter?” the team explains. “What’s the gameplay loop of the dungeon? How do we distribute loot, use lighting in different rooms, and clutter furniture and surfaces with items?

“All these answers are present in the base game, and they give us a ‘roadmap’ to follow in our own design. By using the base game as our starting reference in our design, we can make our mods feel like they’re a seamless extension to that game rather than something entirely different.”

As you’d expect, this is anything but an easy tightrope to tread on. The Skyrim mod team behind Extended Cut wants to revamp and remaster the game’s main quest, but to do that some concessions and changes will need to be made while still being in keeping with Bethesda’s design strategy. This is why Saints & Seducers was a lot simpler, but still offered valued experience for the full main quest, as the creation club content was missing some of the core Skyrim features like voice acting.

“What we’ve done with ECSS is take all that wonderful content and create a world and story around it to make it feel more like a proper expansion for the base game–almost like a mini-DLC. We hope it’s a more fleshed-out and fulfilling experience for the player while preserving the core of what made Saints and Seducers Creation so neat in the first place,” says the team.

So, while Saints & Seducers has more available scope due its nature as a smaller piece of creation club content, the idea of turning that into a more full DLC is how the team is approaching the Skyrim base game. Imagine a film’s Directors Cut if it was made by another filmmaker that was trying to stay true to the original’s vision – that’s Skyrim Extended Cut.

Unlike a project like that, though, this mod is the work of a community, and one that constantly helps each other to learn and grow. The Skyrim Extended Cut team knows this and thinks the staying power of Skyrim, which can lead to mammoth projects like this Skyrim mod, comes down to the work of the community as a whole.

“We believe modding should be a community effort, and we’re excited to keep building bridges and working with all the wonderful mod creators in the Skyrim community to make the best projects we can make.”

If you want to learn more about the Extended Cut team and play what they’ve already worked on, we’ve taken a look at their Skyrim mod overhauling the Saints & Seducers content, which is an incredibly impressive feat.