This article was originally published in PC Gamer UK 236.
Skyrim's alchemy system asks players to combine ingredients based on their statistic-altering properties. Once you've found out what ingredients do, you can make them into potions. The best way to find these properties is by jamming them into your gob, masticating for a while, and scribbling the results down in your poisoning journal.
My Skyrim character - a beardy Breton - was stood on an ice floe to the north of Winterhold when I decided to taste a few of the more exotic ingredients I'd picked on my travels. Imagine 90s semi-celebrity wine-taster Jilly Goolden, except six and a half foot tall, covered in hair and blood, and backed up by a monstrous ice-beast.
I chewed on some garlic to start. Not bad, but a bit pungent. I moved onto honeycomb. This was better, I was getting sweet notes of summer, sugar, and FORTIFY BLOCK. A handful of snowberries were slightly tart, but bursting with both flavour and a general feeling of FIRE RESIST. Histcarp gave a lovely fresh fish taste and the ability to breathe underwater, sashimi-ed with a side of aim-enhancing juniper. I munched on River Betties and Cyrodiilic Spadetails, wheat and whitecap mushrooms, each one delicious and stat-nourishing. I started to get careless, cramming anything and everything alchemical into my gullet.
Daedra heart. Bit chewy, but it's got to be full of iron. Iron's good for you, right? The statistics bore me out: daedra hearts 'RESTORE HEALTH'. Sure, they also cause 'FEAR', but what's a few minutes of panic compared to OH GOD WAS THAT A BEAR?
I kept clicking. Hawk beak. Always goes down smooth. Sabre cat tooth. Swallowed with only minor blood loss. A handful of pearls. Just call me Johnny Oysters. Spider egg. Wait, I don't want them hatching inside me. Vampire dust. I should stop now. A set of fully grown elk antlers. I'm going to need a running start.
I clicked once, and immediately froze. My character did the same, staring silently out to the frozen sea. Somewhere in my imagination, a gob of man-muscle was worming its way down my character's oesophagus. Bits of person were caught between his teeth. I had stood in front of him, guiding foodstuffs into his mouth like a demented parent. Open wide for the bee thorax! Here comes the ectoplasm aeroplane! Eat this human flesh! My careless clicking had made my man a cannibal.
I continued to stand stock still, expecting to be overcome by a wave of revulsion. Instead, I got minuscule decreases in my red health bar, increases in my blue magicka bar, and a heightened desire to creep around in peoples' houses. I checked the forbidden meat's effects. Damage health, restore magicka, fortify sneak, and - wait a second - paralysis. Paralysis is one of Skyrim's most useful abilities. Once applied, you can smash away at enemies as they roll around on the floor like toppled statues. Few of the game's alchemical items bestow this property, and this meat was only the second guaranteed source I'd found.
I'd had my first taste of human flesh. Up at the top of the world, I resolved to get more. I needed it, after all, for my experiments.
Yesterday, Bethesda PR guru Pete Hines teased an imminent Skyrim DLC reveal. That could come as early as next week but, as CVG point out, fans have already been doing some investigating. Players on the Skyrim forums have pulled out a series of strings hidden within a recent Skyrim patch that makes allusions to a crossbow, a snow elf prince and new vampire feeding animations.
These files were apparently part of a subfolder labelled "DLC01," which does rather suggest that these will be part of the first Skyrim update, though Bethesda have yet to announce their plans. I do quite like the idea of a crossbow, what do you reckon?
A quick heads up from Bethesda PR and marketing vice president Pete Hines suggests that we might be getting our first sniff of the official DLC pack for Skyrim soon. He's currently "working on getting a little more info out" for next week, but it's not a sure thing. "We'll see," he says.
Last year game director Todd Howard said that Skyrim DLC would be "more substantial" with an "expansion pack feel." Oblivion's Shivering Isle expansion offered players a weird, wild new world to get stuck into. That was released a year after the core game, though, so the first Skyrim pack isn't likely quite that meaty. What would you like to see from the first chunk of Skyrim DLC?
2) I am working on getting a little more info out on Skyrim/DLC. Maybe next week? We'll see. Also trying to confirm Kinect release date.— Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) April 26, 2012
If you can't wait, the Steam Workshop is still overflowing with Skyrim mods, which should tide us over nicely until details of the first DLC pack emerge. Check out our Skyrim mod collections for our favourites.
Something's up at Bethesda. A terse tweet from the Bethblog account appeared yesterday with one word, "tomorrow," and a link to the above picture of a man in much need of a bath, and a shave. But what does beardy man signify? It's a high fidelity shot, which looks like it could be a frame from a CG trailer.
Could it be an announcement of the first chunk of official Skyrim DLC? Maybe we'll get to see more of Dishonored. The man's dishevelled appearance and dim surroundings suggest that he may be a prisoner of some sort. Corvo, the master assassin you play as in Dishonored, starts off imprisoned, charged with the murder of the Empress he was supposed to protect. What do you reckon?
The Xbox version of Skyrim will be getting a free update that'll add Kinect voice support in the coming weeks. It'll let console players scream dragon shouts at the screen, bellow commands at followers and open up levelling screens with a quick word. It all looks quite neat, as long as you live alone, but why wait for the opportunity to yell dragontongue phrases into an expensive console camera when you can do the same thing for free right now with a standard microphone? The ThuuMic mod will let you do just that.
The mod's still a work in progress, but it'll already let you activate dragon shouts using your voice alone. You'll also be able to control followers and, eventually, call over your horses by name. Personally, I'd request support for a "CARRY MY BURDEN" command when dumping spare weaponry on Lydia, or perhaps a "SILENCE" command that shuts up NPCs mid-sentence.
The mod hasn't made it over to the Steam Workshop yet, and it'll take a bit of extra time to get it up and running. You'll need to install Script Dragon before downloading the mod itself. There's lots of info on how to get the mod working correctly on ThuuMic's Skyrim Nexus page. For more Skyrim mods, check out our collections of the best Skyrim mods.
Bethesda owners, Zenimax, has filed several trademarks for the famous dragon shout, according to Fusible, giving their lawyers the leeway to deliver a stern Fus NO Dah to any profiteers hoping to use it to brand their new range of miscellaneous merch.
Three of the trademark applications are for games-related uses of Fus Ro Dah, which is expected. The other trademarks, though, list "bags, namely, backpacks, duffel bags, knapsacks, book bags, athletic bags, and cosmetic bags, sold empty." Does that mean we're okay to sell a Fus Ro Dah bag if we stick a bowling ball in it first?
Another trademark protects Fus Ro Dah "toys and action figures; playing cards, dice, and board games; bobble-head dolls; sporting equipment." Ah, so we're good to sell the Fus Ro Dah bag as long as we don't fill it with a Fus Ro Dah bowling ball. That's clear now. This scuppers my plans for a range of Fus Ro Dah hockey sticks, however.
"Clothing, namely, T-shirts, shirts, sweatshirts, fleece pullovers; headwear, namely, hats" will also fall under the trademark if the application is successful. That's quite a precise list of products. It's likely a move to block would-be competitors sneakily trading on the Skyrim brand, but it also prepares the land for some Bethesda sanctioned products in future. A range of Fus Ro Dah T-shirts would probably do quite well, don't you think?
Bethesda haven't commented on the trademark, or the possibility of future Fus Ro Dah products. Bethesda tell Game Informer that they're "just protecting our brand."
We love mods at PC Gamer. Earlier on today, Tom posted about the two Steam Workshop collections we've assembled for anyone who wants to quickly and easily enhance their Skyrim experience. All good stuff, but now it's time to model some armour, and showcase some of the best, most detailed sets currently available for download.
Skyrim’s initial wardrobe of armors is fine - splendid, even - but after a dozen hours looting the same sets began to get monotonous. Praise Talos then, because modders are on hand to deck you out in a wider range of garments. There’s an emphasis on “lore-friendly” sets; gear that's fitting with the icy setting of Skyrim and not, say, the world of an JRPG (though there’s plenty of those outfits, too). We've hand-picked eight of them. No Space Marines here.
Don’t be worried about any of these unbalancing your game. Most require the very best smithing perks to make, which you can only access after a solid weekend’s playthrough. Their stats have also been matched to the Bethesda-crafted armors too, so they have the same credibility as Nightingale or the Blades’ sets.
Some of these mods come from the Steam Workshop, while the rest are downloaded via the Skyrim Nexus. For the Steam Workshop tools, all you have to do is log in and click the "Subscribe" button. Next time you boot up Skyrim, there'll be a short wait while the launcher downloads the relevant files. Skyrim Nexus' equivalent service is the Nexus Mod Manager: a free download that links up to the website. Find the mods you want on the Nexus, download them, then install them via the client. Simple. Warchief Armor
Our pick of the bunch is the Warchief option, a fur and metal combo with a saber cat helm. Touted by its creator as a “fusion of Orcish brutality and Nordic resilience”, this set is packed with small touches, and flexes its considerable muscle at high resolution. It’s available in both light and heavy variants, with no difference in appearance between the two. Skulls, pouches and hanging teeth all feature, and the sets can only be crafted if you are in possession of some elusive materials. Hedge Knight
If the Warchief set smells like Warcraft, then there’s a very precise scent to the Hedge Knight one too: Game of Thrones. While it doesn’t bear any explicit reference to George RR Martin’s conniving, scheming saga (there are shields that do, though), it definitely looks like you could use “Winter Is Coming” as a Shout while you play. Your character will appreciate being kept nice and snug under a long cloak, but they might abhor wearing the rather unfashionable helmet. Perfect for stamping through cities on your way to a fiery meeting the Jarl. Vagabond Armor
The Vagabond set is slightly more presentable than the armor Skyrim’s kamikaze bandits don, but it still cuts a coldly threatening figure. Its gloves look more like bear claws, while coned spikes protrude out of the shin-pads. Unfortunately, this armor is currently no good for female Dragonborn, and the helmet isn’t wholly compatible with Argonians and Khajiit. A shame, because it looks great. Redguard Knight Armor
With the Redguard Armor, you can finally look as cool as the Alik'r, the Redguard soldiers who wander around Skyrim searching for traitors and Thalmor sympathisers. This is a heavier variant to the one found in the vanilla game, with a chainmail jacket and a tough helmet underneath its cloth coating. Again, detail drives this mod: hoth has outfitted the set with a belt-pouch, runed cufflinks, and a natty cloak. There’s even a craftable scimitar! Ponty’s Chainmail Armor
Here’s a relatively light but still trustworthy option: chainmail. There wasn’t much of it at all in the unmodded release of Skyrim, but for those who prefer their armor to be made out of small metal rings rather than slabs and chunks of iron and steel, then Ponty's Chainmail Armor might be for you. It’s still early days for the mod, and Ponty the creator is intending to add in female versions, as well as coifs and mittens for both genders. As with all other Workshop mods, these will be downloaded to your game automatically, so sit tight. Viking Spawn Shield
Technically, this weighty wooden shield could never be found in Tamriel, as it actually belongs to the world of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. We include it in this list, though, because without knowing that you’d be none the wiser: it’s a barrier any Stormcloak would be proud to hide behind (KIDS! This is not an example of civil war bias!). Rounded, and jagged at the edges, this shield makes cracking open heads extra satisfying. It’s all a touch ironic, really, since McFarlane worked on Skyrim’s EA-published rival, Kingdoms of Amalur. Scout Armor
Bringing a bit of refinement to Skyrim’s world of furs and bear heads is DoODABoOM, who has used the official Blades armor as a base for a dark brown outfit that’ll make your avatar look very dapper even as s/he massacres the living contents of their 212nd cave. DoOB has even embedded a pattern on the chestpiece, adding an extra layer of prestige to your appearance, even if you have no idea what the significance is. Horse Armors
Have you ever read from the Scroll of Frenzy in Skyrim? It sends your target into a blind teeth-gnashing rage. In their apoplectic state, the afflicted views friends as enemies, and wishes only to throttle the necks of every last soul around them. I think that spell might be based on what happens when you mention ‘Horse Armor’ to an Elder Scrolls aficionado. Ha ha.
Anyway, Skyrim's Horse Armors mod (user-made and free!) enables you to strap protection to your horse of choice. The unique steeds - Shadowmere and Frost - are even bestowed with their own armored liveries, which look suitably heavenly or hellish.
No doubt you'll want to show off your Dovahkiin now that they're kitted up in such trend-setting threads. If you're clueless on how to take the best screenshots, give our console tweaks guide a quick read.
If you haven't already seen, we're pulling together all our favourite Skyrim mods from the Steam Workshop into two collections. Collections are just lists of mods, but they make it super easy to install them all at once: we check they're good and that they all work together, and you just click a 'Subscribe to all' button. They'll all be downloaded and added to your game the next time you start it up, and they'll even be updated as the creators improve them.
To give you more choice, we've split our favourites into two collections. The Improvements collection is full of mods that just tweak the game, round out rough edges and add useful features. The New Content collection is about mods that add something substantial to the game, new areas, or more significant features like camping.
We'll be adding to both collections continually, so you know any mods you think we should add, let us know in the comments and we'll check it out. Here's what we've put in both collections so far, and what it does.
I've always had a weakness for player home mods, and The Asteria is one of the best. Instead of the rather dull selection of houses available in the vanilla game, the Asteria gives you a gigantic flying ship to make your own. It's not just the dramatic location that makes The Asteria stand out though, it's one of the most complete and carefully constructed player homes I've ever seen.
There are herb gardens, weapon stands, mannequins, a forge, and alchemy station and even an archery range. All these amenities are laid out beautifully, with tastefully themed rooms that are not only convenient and gorgeous to look out, but give the player a sense of a functioning, real home. To find The Asteria, simply travel to the map marker you get from the start, and touch the statue to be teleported aboard. Check out the stand next to your bed for a lore book on the ship's history.
Elvenwood is one of the most beautiful and original player made cities Skyrim has seen. Built as a network of treehouses, it nestles in the forest between Helgen and Falkreath. The town sports an inn, a blacksmith, a general store and a full population of Bosmer inhabitants, including several mercenary followers. It's a lovely little construction that's like no other village in the game, and well worth your visit.
Moonpath to Elsweyr
This mod gives you a taste of Elsweyr, the home of the Khajit. It adds a quest that takes you through two types of terrain you've never seen in Skyrim: lush jungle caverns, and wind-swept deserts. Those who fancy a change from snowy mountaintops can find the entrance between Twilight Sepulchre and Crask Tusk Keep. The waypoint is already active, so you can fast travel there at any time.
Ever got jealous of all those bandits and their spiffy campsites? Well why not make your own? This mod lets you purchase camping equipment such as tents, tinderboxes and cooking pots from general stores across Skyrim. Drop a tent to put it up, drop your tinderbox to consume firewood and make a fire, instant campsite! There's a lot more you can add to it too, including the using a cooking pot on the fire for some nice outdoor cooking. Perfect for all those realism lovers who can't always find an inn in the middle of the night.
Enhanced High Level Gameplay
Most of Skyrim's monsters only go up to level 30, meaning high level players rarely find themselves facing a major threat. This mod addresses this problem by introducing levelled versions of current creatures and bandits that are carefully introduced as you level, sustaining the challenge all the way to the endgame.
Midas Magic was a fantastic magic overhaul mod for Oblivion, which added flashy, powerful new spells to make high level mages even better at setting people on fire with their minds. The Skyrim version is just as good, with spells that summon mini dragons and call down meteor strikes. You can also summon a player house, just because. It's not exactly balanced, but it is hilarious.
Unrelenting Force Spell
This hilarious mod turns Skyrim's famous Unrelenting Force shout into a spell that can be learnt from a tome in Jorrvaskr. It works as long as you hold down the button, making it totally overpowered but utterly brilliant to use.
Next page: The Improvements Collection explained
The Improvements collection comprises of all the little tweaks and adjustments that make Skyrim just a little bit better. There's no big mechanical changes, and no major new content, just seamless improvements. This collection is designed so you can just hit the 'subscribe all' button and enhance your game without changing the fundamental experience.
We should also mention an excellent enhancement not included here. SkyUI is a terrific interface overhaul that fixes all the problems with Skyrim's dodgy inventory. The only reason we didn't include it is because it requires you to install the Skyrim Script Extender, which isn't hard to use, but we didn't want to complicate the one-click install that makes these collections so easy to use.
Mark and Recall
Fast travel in Skyrim can be really useful, but it can also be very frustrating when it doesn't go where you want it to. This mod adds Mark and Recall, two spells from back in Morrowind, to give you full control over your fast travel experience. Mark sets a destination, and Recall teleports you to it. It's a great way of getting around, which makes it puzzling that Bethesda ever decided to remove it. The spells will randomly appear at stores once you've reached a high enough conjuration or alteration level, but Brand Shei in Riften will always stock a scroll version.
Follower Map Markers
You there, have you ever lost your Lydia? I know I have. If so, then I'm sure you'll be interested in this fabulous product. Simply speak to your follower and select 'get Map Marker', this will add a mini-quest to your journal which points at your companion. Toggling this quest on and off will result in them being highlighted on the map. The marker works whether they're currently following you or not. This is especially useful for Kharjo, the nomadic Khajit, who is easily lost as he guides his merchant caravans across Skyrim.
Sounds of Skyrim
Not one mod, but two, the Sounds of Skyrim sets out to improve your audio experience by adding a huge variety of lovely sounding new sound effects to the game. The Wilds focuses on the outdoors, concentrating heavily on animal noises. The mod adds different sounds depending on the weather, giving the player the sense that the Skyrim wilderness is teeming with birds, insects and other creatures, just out of sight. The Dungeons meanwhile adds atmosphere to Skyrim's caves and ruins, depending on the enemy type that inhabits the dungeon you might hear the moans of zombies or the screams of captured victims. Journey there with the lights off for maximum creepiness.
Faster Vanilla Horses
Faster Vanilla Horses is a mod that makes Skyrim's horses faster. The horse's speed has been increased. The horses, that were previously slow, are now fast. That's all it does. There's not really any more ways I can phrase it. It just makes the horses faster. Sorry.
House Map Markers
A nice, simple mod that adds map markers to all possible player houses. This means you can fast travel direct to your house, instead of always running from the city gates, taking some time off your frequent journeys to and from your storage locker.
Hunter's Discipline 100%
Hunter's Discipline isn't good enough. Half way up the archery tree, and all it does is increase your chances of getting an arrow back from a corpse? Rubbish. This mod changes it so it lets you get back every arrow you fire (assuming you can find the body).
Next page: Less Condescending Guards, less sass from Lydia
More Dragon Loot
Dragons have hoards. Everyone knows this. Remember that scene in the Hobbit when Bilbo sees Smaug for the first time? It would have been a lot less impressive if he was snoozing on fifty gold coins, an elven bow and a half eaten Whiterun guard's uniform. More Dragon Loot makes sure that each Dragon you slay has a sizeable and interesting hoard to loot, with each one including at least one magic item.
Less Condescending Guards
Guards in Skyrim are some real smart alecs. Always ripping into you by praising your low level destruction magic. This mod nips their sarcasm in the bud by forcing them to only mention skills beyond a certain threshold.
Remove Lydia's Trade Dialogue
The second most popular meme about Skyrim is just how sassy Lydia gets every time you hand her something. This mod removes the offending line. Sadly it doesn't do anything for other characters, like the horribly whiny Marcurio.
This mod is terrific, it gives you a power that lets you whistle for the last horse you rode. If your horse is nearby, it'll run to your side. If the horse is far away it'll appear a short distance behind you and run up. The result is a simple and natural way of ensuring you always have your trusty steed ready when you need it.
Skyrim's version of the enchanting system has a lot of restrictions on it. Certain enchantments can only be added to certain items. This is silly, if it was intended to stop playing from being overpowered by stacking enchantments, it failed - high level Skyrim characters are absurdly powerful anyway. This mod takes away all those restrictions, letting you put whatever effect you want on an item. As an added benefit it also lets you disenchant extra items, meaning you can use awesome enchantments like 'backstab damage' and 'muffle' that were previously inaccessible.
The Werewolf ability in Skyrim is a lot of fun, but it often gets overshadowed by high level weapons and armour. This mod scales your lycanthropy up as you level, increasing your health regeneration and melee damage for extra moon howling goodness. Plus you can now eat animals! Fun!
That's our lot folks, hope you enjoyed them all. I'll be back next month to summarise the newest additions to the collections.
If you have a GeForce card you might want to grab the latest batch of beta drivers from the Nvidia site. Nvidia say they'll deliver a performance boost in Skyrim of up to 20%, which is nice, but the Nvidia FXAA functionality is perhaps a more interesting addition. That'll allow us to force a faster form of anti-aliasing across hundreds of games from the Nvidia control panel. The new shader-based antialiasing function should help to smooth out edges at speeds "60% faster than 4xMSAA."
The new drivers also add Adaptive Vsync. This monitors your framerates and switches vsync off when they start to dip, helping to maintain a consistent framerate with less stuttering. The update also makes performance improvements to a few specific titles, including Batman: Arkham City, Bulletstorm, Civilization V, Just Cause 2, StarCraft 2 and Shogun 2.
If you have a GeForce series 400 or 500, Nvidia promise some significant framerate boosts at high and ultra settings on top resolutions for Skyrim. Check out all the benchmarking graphs, and the full list of improvements made by the new drivers on the Nvidia site.
The Skyrim patch that went into beta last week is now live and free to download through Steam. The update adds new melee finishing moves and more slow mo kill cams to show them off. The patch also adds kill cams for ranged weapons and spells, so you can see the effects of your fireballs and frost bolts right up close.
Skyrim should get a bit prettier, too. The update allows shadows to fall on grass and improves the level of detail shift across snowy landscapes. There patch also squashes a few bugs and fixes a few quests. Check out the announcement post on the Bethesda blog for more. Steam's legions of Falmer are at the ready, and will update your copy of Steam automatically when you sign in.