When I See the Blitz Coming, I Audible to a Dragon ShoutReview copies of Madden NFL 13 arrived today. EA Sports usually sends out funny premiums with its review guides, like it did with a yardage book for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13. This year, they included a quarterback wristband—the kind you see Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers flipping up and staring at during a two-minute drill—to highlight the new audible commands for the Kinect-enabled version of the game.

It's rather clever, as I'm having a tough time grasping the full vocabulary available for making pre-snap adjustments (there are more than 120 commands you can give). This may not be as handy as my Cooking Mama oven mitt but it's still a useful piece of swag.

Especially when I apply it to one of my favorite games.

When I See the Blitz Coming, I Audible to a Dragon Shout

PC Gamer

Tyler, Evan, and T.J. form a crack team of talk to discuss DayZ's stand-alone future, Skyrim's Dawnguard vamp-spansion, Steam's upcoming inclusion of non-game software, our upcoming PAX panel, and the future of storytelling in games. All of that, plus more news, Truthiness or Falsity, and a puzzling conclusion in...

PC Gamer US Podcast 325: Quest for Story

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext 724 or email the mp3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com.

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@elahti (Evan Lahti)
@logandecker (Logan Decker)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@AsaTJ (T.J. Hafer, the charming one)
@belsaas (Erik Belsaas, podcast producer)
PC Gamer
In Skyrim, a mage is an unstoppable storm of destruction. In real life, a mage is just an illusionist: they can't do much except trick you. If one of them turned out to be the world's only hope of salvation, hijinks and sudden death would inevitably ensue. Since these are my two favourite things, I've decided to try playing this way.

Skyrim does have a school of magic comprised entirely of illusions, so I'm sticking strictly to this. I can't wear any armour, hold any weapons, cast any non-Illusion spells, or ever attack anyone directly - not even with a punch. Yes. This is an excellent idea.

Straight outta Helgen

I create a High Elf, since they're good with magicks, and give her a good magician's name: Sarah The Implausible.

Skyrim starts with your execution, which is conveniently interrupted by a Plot Dragon, who deals exactly no damage and only destroys parts of the castle that are in your way.
"Could the legends be true?" a guard says.
"Legends don't destroy houses." another replies. OK, but the things they're about can, right?

When I have to choose who to flee with, a rebel or a guard, I pick the guard, Hadvar. He looks better equipped, and when you're partnering up with someone who can't attack, equipment helps. He suggests I find some weapons and armour of my own. I take them out of the chest to make him happy, then drop them all clattering to the floor when he turns around.

Stormcloaks! I hide in a corner while Hadvar deals with them. Spiders! I hide in a cave while Hadvar deals with them. A bear! I run past while Hadvar deals with him. We're out.

"Thanks for your help," says Hadvar, while I study him for any hint of sarcasm. "I wouldn't have got out of there without you."

You would and you did. He suggests we both head to Riverwood, then for some reason adds, "It's probably best if we split up."

That's an excellent idea for you, but a terrible idea for me. I can only use Illusion spells and I don't have any Illusion spells - that doesn't give me a lot of options where I stay alive.

Hadvar sets off, and I traipse nervously behind him. He stops, looks at me, then silently turns back and carries on. After a few minute's walk, he says "You should go to Solitude."

Wow, dude. There are nicer ways to say it.

"The Imperial Legion could really use someone like you." Oh. They could use someone who never takes any action, even when her life is in danger? How?

I am musing this, and examining some stones, when I realise I've lost him. Shit, run! No, sneak! No, there he is!

Just as I reach him, a wolf collides with the side of my face. Ow! Save me Hadvar!

Hadvar hacks the wolf down easily, then turns to me. "I'm glad you decided to join me." I narrow my eyes.

Reaching Riverwood

Soon, though, we've made it to Riverwood, and Hadvar's uncle welcomes us, coos at our story, and says we're welcome to everything he has. After an evening meal of everything he has, I cross the street to the Riverwood Trader to see if I can actually acquire any Illusion spells.

I'm in luck! The trader has Fury, which makes enemies attack whoever's nearest, including their friends. I have to sell most of what Hadvar's uncle had to afford it, but it'll be worth it. For me.

Spells come as books, though, and I can't seem to read this one. I left-click it, I right-click it, I drop it, I fling it into my face, but the arcane knowledge isn't transferring. I check my spellbook. I already know Fury. High Elves start with it. I could have pissed off everything in Helgen with this!

It's still early evening, so I have time to go for a stroll and enrage the wildlife for a few hours before turning in for the night.

A long, winding path takes me past some beautiful views in the twilight. When it ends, a bandit draws her weapon. Two bandits draw their weapons. Fury!

The woman flares red and hacks at the man. He's aiming his bow at me, but now he turns to her. As they whack at each other, I'm unsure what to do - what happens when it wears off? I Fury the man too, just to make sure that if the woman stops attacking him, he won't do something stupid like 'forgive her' or 'understand that magic exists'.

The woman kills him, then comes for me. I realise this plan had no phase two.

I sprint down the mountain screaming, jumping rocks and steep drops, buckling my legs as I go.

When I finally stop, there's no sign of her behind me, and I'm almost back at Riverwood. I could have led her back to Riverwood. I walk back up the moutain path until I spot her, then lead her back to Riverwood.

This still involves a lot of running an screaming, but this time I stop running and screaming occasionally to make sure she's keeping up, then run and scream again.

By the time we reach Riverwood, it's dark. I can still see, but no-one's around to help - they're all in bed. There aren't even any guards. The only one out and about is the village dog. The bandit kills the village dog.

Jumping a fence, dashing past a panicked cow, I finally find Hadvar's uncle. I hide behind him, and the bandit steps around awkwardly to try to get to me. Eventually he tires of this and punches the bandit a few times for being weird. She turns her attention to him, and - weirdly - he walks calmly to his house and leans against the wall. The bandit keeps stabbing him, and I'm suddenly worried he might actually die. Should I Fury him?

I ready the spell, but before I cast, Hadvar's uncle slowly reaches for his mace, turns to the bandit, and bats her into a vegetable cart. She's dead.

"Take what you need my friend," he reiterates. "Within reason, of course."

I mentally nod, walk into his house, and lie down in the family bed.

Next week: Seeking Solitude.

If you're in the UK, the next two entries in this diary are all in the issue of PC Gamer currently on sale. They'll be going up one a week until the next issue comes out.
PC Gamer
PCG Podcast

This week Owen, Chris and Tom Senior discuss the Source 2 rumours, SW:TOR free-to-play, the decline in WoW subscriptions and their very real and surprisingly detailed fear of vomiting uncontrollably while using the Oculus Rift. Also featuring the Steam charts, Skyrim, The Walking Dead adventure games, and your questions from Twitter.

Download the MP3, subscribe, or find our older podcasts here.
Show notes

Source 2 rumour round-up.
Oculus Rift's Kickstarter success.
The Old Republic goes free-to-play, World of Warcraft loses 1.1 million subscribers.
Evan's reviews of The Walking Dead: Episode 1, Episode 2.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

No, you can't take his skirt off

After a couple of months spent kneeling at the altar of Microsoft exclusivity, Skyrim’s first expansion Dawnguard has made its expensive way to the admirably-supported PC version. It brings vampires and it brings vampire hunters – but will it bring the game-changing of Bloodmoon or the deflation of Shivering Isles? Gaze into my proud undead eyes, human cattle, and allow me to seduce you into reading on.> (more…)

PC Gamer
Skyrim Mods thumb

We've recently updated the PC Gamer Skyrim Mods collection. 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. We already brought you the best of our steam collection once, but now we're bringing you a round up of all the new mods we've added since then.

Previously we told you we'd split our mods into two collections, Improvements and New Content. Now we've added a third, Graphics, which collects the best visual enhancements for your Skyrim experience.

We'll be adding to all three collections continually, so if you have any suggestions please mention them in the comments below.

Xenius character enhancement

Xenius' character tweaks and enhancements were some of the first Skyrim mods to arrive, and they're still among the best. This mod actually consists of a dozen other, smaller mods. Each one subtly smooths out the bumps and jagged edges of Skyrim's player and NPC models, but without making them overly glamorous or deviating too far from Bethesda's intended look.

This mod appears in the graphics collection.

Lush Grass and Lush Trees

Skyrim may be memorable for its stony mountains and icy glaciers, but Bethesda's foliage deserves some recognition as well. The trees and forests of Skyrim are just as impressive as its more barren landscapes. These two mods, Lush Trees and Lush Grass, make Skyrim's plant life just a little bit prettier, ensuring your vistas are greener than ever. To see this mod at its best, I recommend a tour of Falkreath Forest.

These mods appear in the graphics collection.

Realistic Lighting

Realistic Lighting is probably one of the biggest graphical improvements you can make to your game without resorting to post processing. This mod tweaks balance of light and shadow all over Skyrim. The result is clear, every part of the game looks a little more defined, a little more real, a little more rounded. It also makes nights and dungeons much darker, putting more emphasis on torches and light spells.

This mod appears in the graphics collection.


W.A.T.E.R, or Water And Terrain Enhancement Redux, grew out of the classic Realistic Water Textures mod we've featured on PC Gamer before. Sadly the creator of Realistic Water stopped updating the mod, so the W.A.T.E.R. team stepped in to build a new version from scratch. W.A.T.E.R. redesigns every river, lake and ocean in Skyrim to be ebb and flow in a more realistic and far prettier fashion.

This mod appears in the graphics collection.

Enhanced Distant Terrain

This self proclaimed 'small but mighty' texture mod is focused on the long view. By upgrading all of Skyrim's long distance textures it gives the impression of a much better draw distance without overly taxing your PC. Skyrim is all about distant landscapes, and this mod makes them all look just a little bit crisper and nicer.

This mod appears in the graphics collection.

Better Dynamic Snow

I don't know if you've noticed, but Skyrim is a pretty snowy place. Half the country is a freezing wasteland, so it's a shame that the snow can often look a little flat and boring. The problem is 'Dynamic Snow' the snow that falls from the sky and sticks to other objects, it's a fairly simple white texture. This mod replaces that texture with the far prettier snowy ground texture, resulting in much more appealing winter landscapes.

This mod appears in the graphics collection.

Unofficial Skyrim Patch

This mod does exactly what you'd expect it to do. Modders realised they could patch the game faster than Bethesda, so they banded together to fix whatever bugs they could. The mod is being constantly updated, fixing new bugs as they emerge and updating the patch whenever Bethesda themselves release an official fix. There's also a variety of subtle tweaks, like making sure Brand Shei (above) eventually get out of prison after you frame him, so you aren't robbed of his services forever.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Chopping Wood/Wood Fires fix

Bethesda's official texture pack is terrific, and I certainly recommend you try it, but if you do I also recommend you download this mod, which fixes some problems it causes. Specifically it fixes the textures for chopping blocks and wood fires, which looked a little off in the original release (see above). So unless you want your fires to have a disturbing unearthly glow, you want this.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Specialised Followers

Skyrim's followers are pretty cool guys, there's dozens of them across the land, and they have lots of different personalities. The problem is that their abilities are kind of similar, and some of them don't make much sense. Why does Jzargo have heavy armour training? How come every Housecarl is the same? This terrific mod tweaks every single follower, giving them all new stats, new perks and new special abilities, making them all useful in different ways. Kharjo now sneaks even in heavy armour, making him the perfect companion for thieves, Jenassa disappears from combat to backstab enemies and Derkeethus can fire exploding arrows.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Better Horses

This mod replaces both Whistle and Faster Horses in our mod collection, doing everything they do and more. Better Horses lets you adjust the speed of your horse and call them from a distance, but it also makes him run from combat, gives different breeds different abilities and makes sure they won't detect you when stealthed. It's also fully compatible with Horses for Followers, which is why we've included both in this pack.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Horses For Followers

One of the things that always bothered my in Skyrim was the fact that whenever I rode off on my horse, my follower would get left behind, desperately sprinting after me. This mod, actually two mods, Horses for Followers and Better Follower Improvements, combine to fix this problem in the best possible way. Install them and you can buy a horse specifically for your companion to ride. They'll automatically mount up as you ride off, and their horse will always follow yours. It's a simple improvement, but one of my favourites.

These mods appear in the improvements collection.

Upgrade Levelled Items

Unique items are some of the coolest and most powerful equipment in Skyrim. The only problem is that many of them are scaled to your level. If you find Dragonbane at level 7, you'll have a much worse version than if you found it at level 14. This is annoying, as it means the best way to get great items is to ignore them till the endgame. Thankfully this mod lets you upgrade levelled items at any forge, bringing them up to your own level, so you don't need to throw away Chillrend just because you got it too early on.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Realistic Map and Roads

Skyrim's 3D world map is very pretty, but it isn't always helpful for getting you where you need to know. This mod improves the map by adding meticulously hand drawn roads, making it much easier to navigate. Hats off to modder '3 weeks here don't delete me' for having the enormous patience to get this done.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.


Skyrim's crafting system is pretty comprehensive, but it misses one trick, you can't make arrows. This mod adds fletching to the game, letting budding archers make their own ammunition. Making an arrow requires feathers, which can be obtained by plucking chickens in town or shooting hawks out of the sky, whichever you prefer.

This mod appears in the improvements collection.

Plant Trees

Plant Trees is a special case amongst Skyrim mods, it's the product of Bethesda's own community manager Nick Breckon. The mod adds a plant vendor just outside of Whiterun, who sells a variety of seeds which will (eventually) grow into plants. He also sells a staff which makes flowers bloom on whatever it's pointed at, including people.

This mod appears in the new content collection.

Hedge Knight Armour

Hothtrooper44 is the man behind some of best armour mods in Skyrim. This is his Hedge Knight Armour, a wonderfully detailed set of heavy plate. The whole set has a great gritty medieval look, not a fancy knight in shining armour, more a grim and deadly Game of Thrones feel.

This mod appears in the new content collection.

Warchief Armour

Man those Sabre Cats can be annoying when you first start playing Skyrim. Always jumping you on the road, constantly threatening you as you go from place to place. Wouldn't it be nice if, when you got to a higher level, you could kill one and wear it as a hat? This mod lets you do just that. The Warchief Armour set a very different flavour from the rest of Skyrim, with a more tribal feel.

This mod appears in the new content collection.

Redguard Knight Armour

A third cool armour set for you. This one is an armoured version of the Redguard clothing already in the game. It has a decidedly Saracen theme, in perfect keeping with Skyrim's depiction of Redguards.

This mod appears in the new content collection.
PC Gamer

The magic of QuakeCon has cut a modest 25% off of Steam's Bethesda/id Software catalog for the weekend, with bigger deals rotating daily. At the time of writing, RAGE is 50% off. (Note: see below for possibly better deals.)

50% off RAGE - $9.99
25% off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - $44.99
25% off Hunted: The Demon’s Forge - $14.99
25% off Fallout: New Vegas - $14.99
25% off Fallout 3: GOTY Edition - $14.99
25% off The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion GOTY Edition - $14.99
25% off The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind GOTY Edition - $14.99
75% off Titan Quest - $3.74
More Steam deals

GameFly's QuakeCon sale is just like Steam's, except -- what's this? RAGE is cheaper on GameFly. And so is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Huh! Keep an eye on it.

Again with the QuakeCon deals, and again with a couple better prices than Steam. (What's going on? I'm scared.) GameStop currently has RAGE for $6.79 and Skyrim for $40.19 (same as last week for that one). I've listed a few unrelated deals below:

75% off Orcs Must Die! GOTY - $3.24
50% off Quantum Conundrum - $7.49
66% off Supreme Commander 2 - $4.99
50% off Borderlands - $9.99

A new challenger! Instead of riding along on the QuakeCon bandwagon, Get Games is offering discounts on Take 2 and Batman games.

30% off Civilization V: Gods & Kings - $20.99
70% off Civilization V - $8.99
75% off Civilization III Complete - $1.25
75% off Civilization IV Complete - $7.49
70% off Mafia II - $8.99
60% off Bioshock 2 - $7.99
65% off Batman Arkham City - $6.99
45% off Batman Arkham Asylum GOTY - $10.99
50% off LEGO Batman - $9.99
75% off Stronghold 3 Gold - $9.99

Though Amazon is usually a discount powerhouse, it's way down here this week because it's got a pretty stagnant rotation of deals lately. The only major new addition I could find this week is The Darkness II, and that's not very major.

Checking hardware, I did see that most GeForce GTX 670s and GTX 680s are at least a little discounted. Newegg's prices look to be about the same, though, so cross-reference.

75% off The Darkness II - $12.49
25% off Empire: Total War - $15.05
72% off Mount & Blade - $4.17
50% off Mount & Blade: Warband - $10.03
26% off Dragon Age 2 - $14.74
25% off Mass Effect 2 - $14.92
71% off Trine - $5.83
50% off Mount & Blade: Warband - $9.95
27% off Dungeon Siege 3 - $14.68
50% off Tropico 4 - $19.99
26% off Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - $14.84
More Amazon PC game downloads

This week's alliterative sale takes 50% off Tremendous TopWare Titles.

If you find any great deals I missed, please do share them in the comments. Additionally, I thought this might be a good space to start sharing what we'll be playing this weekend. I plan to leave Civilization V: Gods & Kings on the ground to conquer the stars in Endless Space. Probably some EVE Online too. Space: it's really, really great. What are you up to?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Bethesda are saying (at QuakeCon) that Dawnguard PC is out at last right now, but I can’t get it come up on Steam just yet. But oh well, I’m sure it’s either a caching thing or it’ll be there any moment – me, I’ve just got to postpostpost and then sleepsleepsleep. Here’s the official word though. I’m hearing it’s $20 for the long-awaited, Vampire-centric Skyrim add-on. Now I’m off to clean my teeth. Good luck, enjoy, and see you tomorrow.

Update: and here it is on Steam to buy now. $20/£14 to you, sir or madam. That is not> cheap as DLC goes, and the reviews were mixed, but I’ve not played it yet so don’t look to me for answers. Unless they’re about cats or Transformers, anyway.

Announcement - Valve
In celebration of the mega gaming event QUAKECON, save big on different games from id Software and Bethesda each day, now through August 6th at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 50% on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and 66% off the previous Elder Scrolls titles!

Or, pick up the massive QUAKECON Bundle, a collection of all released id and Bethesda titles for one low price!

Pre-purchasers of Dishonored, the upcoming title from the acclaimed Arkane Studios, will also receive an additional discount on the QUAKECON Bundle!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.


The Best Way To Play Skyrim Might Just Be to Make It Kid-Friendly Generations of gamers who have not only the arcade but also years of computer, Nintendo, and PlayStation games in their pasts are now, themselves, raising children. In a world of wall-to-wall screens and endless gaming options, it can be hard to find just the right game for game-loving parents and their inquisitive kids to enjoy together.

Over at Brainy Gamer, Michael Abbott describes the challenge of finding games that engage his four-year-old daughter, Zoe. Games designed for kids don't always do it. But Skyrim does.

"Kids quickly learn that parents save the best stuff for themselves," Abbott wisely observes. "Zoe is happy to while away twenty minutes with a Dora game, but she knows whatever I'm playing is likely to be a hundred times more interesting, and she wants a piece of that action." Enter Skyrim. While clearly some parts of the game are too violent or explicit to be kid-friendly, Abbott finds that with some planning and prep work on his part, Skyrim is perfect for his daughter to enjoy.

There are eight ways parents can help make Skyrim great family fun time, Abbott explains. Some are more obvious than others. For example, no matter what system the game is running on, a game pad will be easier for small, young, relatively uncoordinated hands to learn to use than the keyboard-and-mouse combination is. Likewise, establishing an ethical code of action in advance—such as "help people who ask for it"—can make the wide and murky waters of a game easier to navigate.

"Be a mage," Abbott also advises. "I prefer Zoe casting spells to wielding swords and axes. It feels less ‘realistic' to me and more suitable for a child." And of course, parents should review the game, or sections of the game, before sharing them with a child, to make sure the content in question stays appropriate.

But Abbott's best advice is all about letting kids explore and learn from games the same way their parents do. Creative problem solving can be the best part of Skyrim:

Let your child discover there can be more than one way to solve a problem. I spared Zoe the Fellglow Keep gore, but let her face The Caller boss at the end of the quest for a reason. We were given the choice of fighting her or negotiating with her, but we found a third option we liked better. We cast an Invisibility spell, grabbed the stolen books, picked her pocket for the exit key, and escaped the dungeon. "We were smarter than her, Daddy!" You bet we were.

Thanks to the time she's spent in Skyrim (and with her brainy gaming dad), four-year-old Zoe can now read maps and count currency. And she's young enough not to care about things that may not matter: " Just remember that a small child thinks less about leveling up or RPG mechanics," Abbott cautions, "and more about having fun, moment to moment, in an imaginary world."

Sounds good to me. Maybe we really should try seeing games through the eyes of a child more often.

Skyrim for Small Fry [The Brainy Gamer]