There are nine main cities in Skyrim, seven large towns, a dozen smaller settlements, plus scads of farms, mills, shacks, camps, caves, lairs, and ruins. All together, the game sports over three hundred locations, so naturally we all have the same thought: that's just not enough, is it? The Legendary Cities mod adds ten beautiful and historical cities to Skyrim from The Elder Scrolls: Arena (the first Elder Scrolls game from 1994). This mod has been around for a while, but a recent update makes some major improvements to optimization and fixes an incompatibility with popular follower mods, meaning it's the perfect time to check it out with your favorite companion.
It's always good to have new cities to plunder.
Each of the locations added by Legendary Cities is rooted in the original The Elder Scrolls: Arena and placed in roughly the same spot they appeared in on the original map. A lot of effort has been made to ensure the new cities are both lore-friendly and fit in with Skyrim's aesthetic. I think the modder has done a wonderful job in that respect: the new locations are lovely, creatively designed, and bustling with NPC activity. Plus, they fit in wonderfully with the surrounding landscape, giving the impression they've always been there even if you've never seen them before.
A nice stopover when you're visiting a friend in college.
My first stop on the historical tour of Skyrim was Amol City, between Windhelm and Winterhold. Built right into the snowy cliffside, it sports a smattering of buildings and points of interest, including a treasury that even the most noble and heroic of Dragonborn will immediately want to burglarize. There are a number of new NPCs, from simple guards to townsfolk with personalized stories. There's no custom voice acting, which isn't really a problem -- sometimes custom voices can be a little distracting.
A giant wall safe? Yeah, no chance I'm not robbing that.
After gazing appreciatively at Amol, I snuck away (with my pockets clanking with their gold) and moved on to Blackmoor Fortress (Black Moor in the original game), west of Whiterun. With its back to the mountains and its looming walls, it's an impressive and imposing sight. According to the modder, the city was abandoned ages ago and then rebuilt just before the Oblivion Crisis. The sabre cat who attacked me while I was trying to take pictures of it didn't seem particularly impressed, though.
Be with you in a moment, kitty.
It's equally enjoyable strolling around inside as well. The heavy portcullis lifts open as you approach, the interior of the city has some great walkways and overviews, and you can easily imagine enduring a long siege within it's towering walls.
Massive walls send a clear message: go attack some other city.
From Blackmoor I visited Granite Hall, a former above-ground Dwemer settlement which is truly spectacular looking and provides a safe haven from the local Forsworn population, who attacked me while I was on my way there, and from bears, who attacked me roughly three milliseconds after I took this picture.
Those Dwemer dude were pretty cool.
Just look at this place, it's amazingly well-made.
Would take an arrow to the knee and retire here A+++
Other cities include Nimalten, North Keep, Helarchen Creek, Vernim Wood, Dunparwall, and Pargran Village. I'd almost advise you to not simply install the mod and hop from city to city, but just play your game and come across these locations in the course of your natural travels. Seeing them in the distance and then slowly approaching them is exciting, and I'd imagine the effect is even more pronounced if you're not deliberately headed there or if you've forgotten you've installed the mod altogether. The new cities feature plenty of appealing interiors as well, from homes to temples to shops, all carefully and thoughtfully designed.
A statue that's not of me? Hmph.
As far as the new NPCs go, they're a little hit-or-miss, as many of their lines have typos and capitalization errors, which I'm hoping will be fixed at some point. Still, it's nice to see so much custom flavor added instead of just populating the cities with standard NPC templates.
Dragonborn approves. You may all live.
I looked at this mod a while back, when it consisted of individual cities, but there's a handy all-in-one version now that makes installation much easier, and there has been a marked improvement in optimization from what I remember. There's a still a bit of an FPS hit (for me anyway) in a couple of the cities that have new textures, but for the most part exploring these locations was an impressively smooth experience, especially considering they're all built right into the world (as opposed to Skyrim's major cities, which are instanced locations).
Installation: Download is here. I installed using Nexus Mod Manager, as always, but you can also manually install by dropping the downloaded files into your Skyrim data directory. The download also has a modular installation option if you'd prefer to add certain cities but not others. Happy travels.