PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Lydia

Poor Lydia. Her eternally pledged sword for the Dragonborn makes her nothing more than a guinea-pig for an egotistical nomad with volume problems. This time, she's blasting off into the sky once more after taking a small hot air balloon's worth of Fus Roh Dahs—aka The Only Shout That Matters—straight into her face. The resulting hilarious physics grenade comes courtesy of LilCosco08 and a usage of the "TCL" console command which toggles collision detection.

If you also feel like going back to Skyrim, our list of console commands should make your second visit memorable.
PC Gamer
Skyrim Mods thumb

Want to know what Skyrim looks like when you install 200 mods at random? Find out in our eye-opening, eye-bleaching diary: Skyrim: Week of Madness.)

Skyrim mods are amazing. In the two months since release, thousands of mods have been released, some of them quite spectacular. It’s not like Skyrim was an ugly game to begin with, but with new high resolution textures and post processing it becomes truly stunning. Then there are the new items, expanded crafting and full UI overhauls.

With so many mods available, choosing them can be a little daunting, which is why we’ve rounded up the 25 best here for you to enjoy.

We've picked the best mods we can find from both the Steam Workshop and Skyrim Nexus, but the best results come from combining the two. To do that we recommend downloading the Nexus Mod Manager, which helps to keep your non-steam mod up to date, and BOSS, which re-arranges your mods to load in the most stable order.

If you’re the tweaking type, you’ll also want to check our personalised picks of the Steam Workshop. Or maybe you’d like to create your own mod. Thanks to the Skyrim Creation Kit it’s a lot easier than you think. Our Skyrim Creation Kit Video Tutorial is all you need to get started.

Oh, and don’t worry if you’d rather sit back and read about someone else’s Skyrim adventures. Christopher Livingston’s Elder Strolls diary will see you right.


ENB Website

The ENBSeries mods are famous for adding improved post processing and lighting effects to make games like GTA4 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution look amazing. The Skyrim version is one of the best. Not only has ENB creator Boris Vorontsov done his usual fantastic work, but various other modders have tweaked and adjusted the program to come up with their own presets. There are many different kinds of ENB available, from Boris' own colourful version to more muted and realistic tones. Personally I use Cinematic Lighting ENB, which comes recommended by famous screenshotmancer Duncan 'Dead End Thrills' Harris.

Realistic Lighting

Realistic Lighting is sits alongside ENB as one of the best graphical upgrades you can make to Skyrim, and you can combine the two for even better effect. Realistic Lighting makes Skyrim's shadows starker and more pronounced, and re-arranges in game lights for a darker, more realistic look, including some pitch black nights. Although this mod is on both Nexus and Steam Workshop, I recommend using the Nexus version, which is more frequently updated and has more customisation options.

Automatic Variants

There are a lot of excellent retexture mods available for Skyrim, but the sad thing is that you can only ever use one at a time. Automatic Variants exists to correct that problem. It allows Skyrim to randomly choose different skins from a pool of variants, so each animal looks unique. Right now it only works on creatures, but there are plans to expand it to items later on. Because of the nature of this mod, it's a little complicated to install. First download Automatic Variants, then download any texture packs you want to use (I recommend Bellyache's animals). Drop the texture pack into the folder, then run the AutomaticVariants.jar file to build the mod, which goes last in your load order. If you're adding new skins, make sure you build the mod again.

Get Snowy

Get Snowy is simple, but beautiful. It allows snow to land on creatures and NPCs, covering them with a light dusting of icing sugar. That's all it does, but it has an amazing effect on your game, making the winter wonderland of Skyrim's colder regions seem even frostier and more unforgiving. Take a trip to the Winterhold to see it at its best.

Sky UI

Ask any PC gamer what Skyrim’s biggest flaw is and you’ll get one answer: the inventory. The default UI is inelegant, slow and features far too much scrolling. Which is why Sky UI is so essential. It doesn’t merely fix the problems with Bethesda’s interface, it improves it on every level. Icons are now used to easily distinguish items while using less space. Additional information, such as if an item is stolen or poisoned, is clearly displayed. The inventory can even be sorted by value and weight, while a text search lets you find the correct item in a hurry. There is simply no reason not to install Sky UI, even those few who don’t mind the original interface will find their Skyrim experience improved immeasurably as a result.

Xenius Character Enhancement

Xenius has rapidly carved himself a niche as Skyrim’s premier character enhancement modder, producing a whole series of texture improving mods at a tremendous rate before packaging them together as Xenius Character Enhancement. While so many other modders have spent their time making characters that look more like fashion models than medieval peasants, Xenius stays true to the original art style of Skyrim, and for that we salute him.

Gameplay tweaks

Magic Duel

Melee fighters in Skyrim can block, parry, shield bash and counter, but mages are limited to just spraying each other with destruction spells until one of them falls over. Magic Duel aims to fix that. When you and another mage fire spells at each other, there is a chance you'll be locked into a duel. The world around you moves into slow motion and you must alternately click the right and left mouse buttons force the energy towards them. It reminds me a lot of the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... which I totally haven't read.

Convenient Horses
Steam: Dawnguard and Vanilla

There are a lot of mods to improve the behaviour of Skyrim's mounts, but Convenient Horses is my favourite. It combines the features of many other horse mods, adjustable speed, horses for followers and saddle bags for storage, plus several features of its own, like mounted conversations and looting, plus a fast dismount when in combat. Plus it features the return of that most beloved of Elder Scrolls features: Horse Armour.

Ultimate Follower Overhaul

Ultimate Follower Overhaul combines dozens of little tweaks and adjustment to the way Skyrim's companions work. It lets you control their equipment properly, force them to level up with you (they don't in the vanilla game) or teach them new spells. You can even recruit multiple followers, all the way up to fifteen, although more than one or two can rapidly unbalance the game. It also comes with its own follower horse riding system, although I prefer Convenient Horses' approach myself, thankfully the two are fully compatible.

Specialised Followers

Skyrim's followers are a characterful bunch, encompassing everything including a cheerful Khajit mercenary to an arrogant magic school dropout to a death obsessed Dunmer. The only problem is that their diversity of character is rarely reflected in their fighting style. Enter Specialised Followers, which tweaks and adjusts the stats, spells and perks of every follower, and gives them all a powerful special ability. Kharjo can now detect enemies by smell, and sneak even in heavy armour, while Ahtar's huge axe strikes leave enemies temporarilly slowed. Its a huge improvement on the vanilla followers, although sadly it is no longer being added to.

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 gets out of prison after you frame him to join the Thieves Guild, so you aren't robbed of his services forever.


Build your own home

Who needs Hearthfire when you have mods? Supernastypants' Build Your Own Home mod actually came before Bethesda's official add on, and offers many of the same features. There's only one plot of land, just outside the Abandoned Prison, but a wide variety of homes you can build on it. It's all modular, so you can create anything from a simple shack to a towering fortress, with a four different themes for the interior that can be mixed and matched throughout. Add the Adopt Children mod and you've basically recreated Hearthfire, only for free.

The Asteria

For the Dragonborn that has everything, we have the most ostentatious Skyrim home possible. The Asteria is an enormous floating Dwemer airship that hovers near Riverwood. As you can see, it looks magnificent from the outside, but the interior is also meticulously designed and stocked everything a budding Dragonborn could need. There are smithing facilities and archery targets on deck and an on board hydroponics facility for all your alchemical needs. There's even a book on the bedside table detailing the history of the vessel.

Dragon Falls Manor

If you find The Asteria a tad over the top, modder Mattcm919 has also produced a more lore friendly alternative in Dragon Falls Manor. This luxorious mansion house is perched on the edge of a waterfall, and is ever bit as detailed and comprehensive as its airborne counterpart. There's a smithy, mannequins, weapon plaques, gardens, alchemy tables and fully stocked bookshelves. It really feels like the fully functioning home of an accomplished adventurer.

Gleaming Falls

For those who want a more convenient and humble abode, I heartily recommend Gleaming Falls. This snug liver riverside shelter is completely open to to the elements, with only a roof to keep the rain off. The result is that you can drop in, store your items and head off again without ever having to go through a loading door. It's not just about convenience though, Gleaming Falls is every bit as pretty and well designed as the larger homes in this list, it's just for those that prefer a low key fishing shack to a grandiose mansion.

Deus Mons

Deus Mons is one of the most biggest and most spectacular Skyrim home available. It's a huge Dwemer castle built into a mountain peak just south of the Throat of the World. It's epic, you have to defeat a Dragon just to get the front door key. Conquer the beast and you'll have a castle fit for a Dovaking. Of course having such an enormous building to yourself can be lonely, which is why Deus Mons' creators have included the option to populate it with cooks, blacksmiths, bards and other NPC servants, as befits a player of your station.

New Items

Immersive Armours

Hothtrooper makes some of the best custom Skyrim armours around. His creations are interesting, artistic and supremely detailed. Immersive Armours packages together all of Hothtrooper's mods along with a few other selected armour sets, and spreads them throughout the land. New armours have been carefully dished out to appropriate NPCs and added to random loot lists, where their lore friendly designs mean they blend right in.

Heavy Armoury
Steam: Dawnguard and Vanilla

Ever wanted to wield a halberd in Skyrim? Club? Spear? Shortsword? Quarterstaff? Heavy Armoury adds a whole variety of new weapon types in to the game. Each weapon is available in Iron, Steel, Dwarvern, Orcish, Elven, Glass, Ebony and Daedric, plus Falmer, Forsworn and Draugr versions. The Dawnguard version also adds Dragonbone weapons. Each of these is craftable, and can be randomly carried by NPCs, and each is carefully designed to be in keeping with Skyrim's established art style. The only downside is that spears use the default two handed animations, meaning swinging and hacking, rather than stabbing and poking. If you want a more authentic spear animation try Spears of Skyrim , although sadly that doesn't come with the other weapon types.

Wearable Lanterns

If you're using Realistic Lighting, you'll notice that nightime is Skyrim has gotten much darker. Spell and torches can help, but warriors who want to use their off hand are out of luck. Chesko's Wearable Lantern mod sorts out this problem, letting you clip a light source to your belt, front or rear. Companions can also carry the lanterns, and will automatically douse them when you enter sneak mode, acting as your own portable night light.

Plant Trees

Plant Trees was actually created by one of Bethesda's community managers, Nick Breckon, which explains why it's so professionally made. The mod adds a selection of seeds that slowly grow into full sized trees. It also adds the Staff of Efflorescence, which can be used to paint flowers onto items, terrain and even people. For some reason using it on enemies calms them, which makes sense, because nothing relaxes me like having flowers sprout from my skin.

Crossbows Basic Collection

Many of those who purchased Dawnguard were disappointed that there were only a handful of crossbow varieties available. This mod expands the collection to include crossbows of every material available. It also adds them to levelled lists, meaning you'll find them as loot, and see them being wielded by bandits. For obvious reasons, this mod is for those who own Dawnguard only.


Moonpath to Elsweyr

For those who are getting a little sick of snowy mountains, Moonpath to Elsweyr offers two brand new environments, lush jungle and barren desert. This quest mod takes you to the Khajit homeland of Esweyr, making a strong case for setting the next Elder Scrolls game there. There's also a jungle home thrown in, and if you install the add on mod a talking tiger for a follower. As with a lot of quest mods, the voice acting is of questionable quality, but if you can get past that then you'll enjoy a great adventure though some beautiful environments.

Legendary Creatures

This mod adds eight powerful boss monsters in locations dotted around Skyrim. Each is a souped up version of a traditional monster, and drops unique loot upon death.The quest to hunt them down can be found in a journal at the Bannered Mare in Whiterun. Legendary Creatures doesn't exactly have a deep narrative, but it offers new and challenging fights, and some great items as a reward.

Sea of Ghosts

The Sea of Ghosts adds several new quests, all centred around the ice covered seas to the north of Skyrim. Hiring the Winter's Warmth from Solitude docks will allow you to explore a series of islands, containing seven different quests for you to discover and complete. What makes it stand out is the exploration element, you're often heading off to a new island with no idea what it contains, capturing that feeling of striking out for the horizon that Skyrim's land based adventures create so well.

Descent into Madness

Descent into Madness was one of the highlights of Richard Cobbett's Week of Madness diary. Take a nap in your bed in Breezehome and you'll be transported into the realm of Sheogorath, where two realms called Madness and Dementia are engaged in an eternal clash of the crazies, and both want you to help. Each side offers a different, hour long questline full of puzzles and riddles, all set within a bizarre, dreamlike landscape.

Hunting in Skyrim

Not merely a new quest, but a whole new guild. This mod adds a new Huntsman's Guild to Skyrim. It's a work in progress at the moment, but for now you can jump start the questline by reading a journal in the Drunken Huntsman. This leads you on a series of hunting themed quests, letting you track and kill several unique and tough animals, from feral wolves to great white stags. In addition to the quests, the prices of pelts have increased, allowing players to earn a living hunting, and several new perks have been added.
PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim - dragon roaaaar!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has scooped the big gong at this year's Golden Joystick Awards, fighting off competition from the likes of Mass Effect 3, Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 to be anointed The Ultimate Game of the Year. Jarls everywhere raised a mead-filled skull in stern approval of its triumph.

Hit the jump for the full list of winners.

Bethesda's open world dragon-bashing RPG also snagged two other awards at the ceremony, held this year in the extremely plush Westminster Park Plaza hotel in London. With comedian Ed Byrne doing the honours, Skyrim received commendation as the Best RPG and also won the Top Gaming Moment category for the Throat of the World sequence.

Other PC games won big as well, with Civilization 5: Gods & Kings winning Best Strategy, Portal 2 getting the Best DLC nod for the Perpetual Testing Initiative, Battlefield 3 snagging Best Shooter, the Best MMO award going to World of Tanks and indie horror hit Slender championed as the best Browser-Based game.

Here's the full list of winners:

BEST ACTION / ADVENTURE in association with Digital Spy: Batman Arkham City

BEST STRATEGY in association with PC Gamer: Civilzation 5: Gods & Kings

BEST MOBILE / TABLET in association with Edge: Angry Birds Space

BEST DOWNLOADABLE in association with Official Xbox Magazine: Minecraft (360)

BEST FIGHTING in association with Nuts: Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition

BEST SHOOTER in association with Gioteck: Battlefield 3

BEST MMO in association with hmv Gamerbase: World of Tanks

BEST HANDHELD in association with T3: Unchartered: Golden Abyss

TOP GAMING MOMENT in association with Daily / Sunday Mirror: The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim: Throat of the World

ONE TO WATCH in association with hmv: Grand Theft Auto 5

BEST DLC in association with Official Playstation Magazine: Portal 2: Perpetual Testing Initiative

BEST RPG in association with MSN: The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

BEST SPORTS in association with talkSPORT: FIFA 12

BROWSER-BASED / FLASH in association with CVG: Slender

BEST RACING in association with GamesRadar.com: Forza 4


ULTIMATE GAME OF THE YEAR in association with GamesMaster: The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
PC Gamer
Skyrim Diary 11 - Cover

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

I deliver the hard-won Jagged Crown to General Tullius back at Imperial Legion headquarters in Solitude, and receive my next assignment. It's to deliver a message to the Jarl (mayor/king) of Whiterun, telling him he's about to be attacked by the rebel Stormcloaks, and urging him to side with us Imperials.

I'm not letting myself use fast travel, but this is pretty much going back the way I came, so I wouldn't mind cutting down my journey time. I wonder how much horses cost.

A thousand gold? Forget it, annoyingly happy stablemaster. I wouldn't spend that even if I- oh wait, I do have it. OK, sold!

She's a stout, mottled little number the game insist on calling "Sarah the Implausible's horse". Since I can't see a way to change that, I decide to name her Sarah the Implausible Horse. I clamber on and ride out, Belrand jogging stoicly behind us.

Sarah the Implausible Horse isn't actually much faster than me, as evidenced by the fact that Belrand can pretty much keep up with us, but somehow the journey seems to race by. We only stop when I spot a spider chasing a fox, and dismount to cast Calm on him. Less of that, nature.

It's my first time in Whiterun - I was told to race here to warn them of the dragon attack right at the start of the game, but I decided to have a long and weird military career first. After a brief argument the guards let me in to see the Jarl.

"I have a message from General Tullius!"

"Whatever it is, it'll have to wait until I've finished dealing with this dragon situation."

Oh yeah, that reminds me: "A dragon destroyed Helgen and Whiterun is next!"

"A dragon?! You're sure?"

When he eventually accepts the existence of the dragon he told me about three seconds ago, he doesn't care what Tullius has to say. This is awkward, because I don't care about the dragon or Whiterun or the world.

He tells me to give the message to his bodyguard - his 'housecarl'. I refuse - my orders are to give it to the Jarl, not the carl. The Jarl says he'll only take it if he can immediately give it to the carl without reading it. Since this technically fulfills my mission without actually achieving anything worthwhile, I agree, and give it to the Jarl who gives it to the carl and my objective is complete. Bureaucracy in action!

Unfortunately, I also need his response. And he won't read the note until I help him save his stupid city from that flying whatever. Alright, Jarl, what have I got to do?

I have to go to Bleak Falls Barrow.

Next Thursday: that
PC Gamer
Skyrim Diary 10 - Cover

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

The others catch up and praise me as a genius for figuring out that the fox, moth and dragon symbols on the claw correlated to the fox, moth and dragon symbols above the claw-shaped hole. Please, friends, this is what I do.

Through the door, a side corridor lined with swinging blades leads to a temptingly large chest. I'll take those odds. It's actually an easy sprint, and the chest is full of magical armour I can't use but can sell. It's all going excellently until I turn around.

Belrand, with his puppydog enthusiasm and John Malkovich face, has followed me into the corridor. Belrand is not adept at avoiding swinging blades. And swinging blades, importantly, are not adept at recognising when an enemy has surrendered.

In combat, Belrand can only be knocked down: enemies will leave an incapacitated foe alone to focus on upright people like me. So physical traps are one of the few ways he can completely and permanently die. This is about 0.3 seconds away from being very, very bad.

There's a lever next to the chest. I don't know what it does. I pull it. The blades stop.

Belrand trots cheerfully through and stares at me with his fixed, thin smile, as if to say "What?"

Recognising my talent for doing obvious things, Rikke sends me to find a way to open a gate. There's a switch. I pull the switch. I am the brains of the operation.

There are no Stormcloaks this deep into the ruin - the symbols-door stumped them completely, it seems. But in this room, there are Draugr. Nordic zombies. They climb out of their stone beds and come at our party from all sides, and like all undead, they're completely immune to my Illusions.

All I can do is Courage my friends, but just as I buff the last one, he drops down dead. Um, that wasn't me. Another is killed before the fight's over, but Belrand, as usual, is fine. On to the final chamber.

The Jagged Crown is in the middle of this room. The only trouble is, it's on someone's head. A Draugr Scourge sits slouched on the throne, and I have a feeling he's going to- yep, he gets up. So do about five lesser zombies.

The fight gets nasty. I can avoid being attacked directly, but the Scourge can hit almost all of us with a shout attack. By the time the lesser Draugr are dead, so is every Imperial soldier except Rikke, and I'm low on health. Rikke goes down, but not out - I Courage her back on her feet, and she goes at the Scourge with renewed vigor.

Her assault knocks him down to his hands and knees, and Belrand brings his huge axe down on him. It's over.

Rikke asks me to take the crown back to Solitude, so I dutifully loot it off the Scourge's wrinkled head, and Belrand and I head back up the surface, feeling guilty about all her brave, dead comrades.

Next Thursday: first horse to Whiterun
PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Skyrim fans have been data-mining patch 1.8 for hints at future updates and posted some very interesting tidbits on the Bethesda forums. The files contains quest markers for the island of Solstheim, the setting for the Bloodmoon Morrowind expansion pack. Bloodmoon locations like Castle Karstaag and Raven are listed alongside new animation entries that hint at mounted dragons.

Animations listed include entries like "DragonMountedDualStaff," which suggests we might find ourselves fighting warriors dual-wielding magical staffs from dragonback. There's also mention of new weapon crafting recipes for Bonemold, Chitin, Nordic and Stalhrim armour. The data is linked to the name DRAGONBORN in the file structure, which Bethesda trademarked earlier this year.

This hasn't been officially confirmed by Bethesda yet, but early details on the Skyrim Dawnguard DLC were obtained in the same way when fans discovered mention of crossbows and vampire lords tucked away inside an official patch. The Solstheim setting would be a sensible way to expand Skyrim given that it's snowy, mountainous, and populated by Nords. Thanks to OXM for the heads up.
PC Gamer
Skyrim Diary 9 - Cover

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

Back on the road, we're still a long walk from *clears throat* Korvanjund. But the coast is clear, and we arrive in one piece by nightfall. There's a group of Imperial soldiers gathered outside the ruin, so I run up to them. Legate Rikke is addressing the men, and Hadvar, the man who saved me from Helgen while I hid behind furniture, is among them.

"I'm glad you're here," he says. "I'll feel a lot better going into that place with your at my side." I've done absolutely nothing to earn his bizarre confidence in me, but actually he's right: he will feel better, because I now have Courage, a spell that brainwashes people into feeling good about risking their lives for me.

We're here for the Jagged Crown, but the Stormcloak rebels got here first. They're halfway through the ruin, so we've got to storm it to stop them before they get to it.

"Let's show them what real warriors look like!" Rikke yells. I straighten my dress and stroll forth.

The troops rush ahead and clash with the Stormcloaks on the steps leading down to the ruins. I can't do much to help except Courage them - I'm basically a cheerleader.

As soon as we get inside, a group of Stormcloaks come at us. Before we clash, I hit one with Calm spell. He stops, annoyed, and says "Hey!" - then wanders off while his friends are slaughtered.

I see Belrand smash one in the face with the hand of his axe, then choke him with it, then leap into the air bury it in another, killing him with one blow. If the Stormcloaks had thought to hire some dude from a bar, they'd be winning this war.

Belrand's still nice enough to leave Calmed Stormcloaks alone, but the Imperials have no such scruples - the one I pacified is slaughtered before the spell wears off.

I've levelled up enough on the journey here that my Calm spell works on everyone, so I feel safe to scout ahead a bit. I dash past several groups of Stormcloaks, Calming anyone who gets close but mostly slipping by without a fight.

I only stop when I hit a door with an ancient combination lock. The solution's engraved on a claw right in front of it, but before I can start rotating the dials, a Stormcloak catches up with me. I hit him with Calm, but now I've got to unlock this thing before it wears off.

In my haste, I accidentally jam the claw-key in before I've aligned the dials correctly. There's a rush of air, and poison darts shoot from both walls behind me in rapid volleys. None of them hit me. Several hundred of them hit the Calmed Stormcloak who was ambling cluelessly around behind me. He collapses. Problem solved!

Next Thursday: a close shave
PC Gamer
Windows 8 storefront

An analysis of the Windows 8 app certification requirements by programmer and tech blogger Casey Muratori suggests that games with a rating over PEGI 16 or ESRB Mature will not be allowed on the Windows 8 storefront.

This means we won't be seeing many of the current crop of games on the store, or, given the proliferation of rating-baiting neck-stabbing seen at E3, many of next year's either - not unless publisher's are willing to heavily sanitise their content.

The guidelines are pretty explicit about creating a walled-garden within Microsoft's hitherto anything-goes OS. As section 6.2 of the certificaiton requirements state: "Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed."

As Kotaku pointed out, this might not be such a problem in the US, where relatively few games receive a mature rating, but it will be very significant in Europe, where games such as Dishonored, Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty all fall foul of the restriction.

Of course, you'll still be able to buy and install these games on the OS - you just won't be able to get them from the official Windows storefront. So is this a problem? Perhaps - games that don't make the cut won't be able to make use of Windows 8's bespoke features, and by bifurcating the platform Microsoft risks fragmenting the PC gaming marketplace. If games are rated as mature in one location and not in another, will that create stark regional differences? And what's more, from a creative perspective, it may force developers to censor themselves in an attempt to reach that wider audience.

It's a curious direction to take for a platform which prides itself on being open, and the reaction among devs is sure to echo the fears already annunciated by the likes of Gabe Newell, Blizzard's Rob Pardo, Notch and others.

PC Gamer

The air fills with the screams of the dying and the streets run crimson with the blood of the dead. As arrows whistle past me, I brutally hack through the neck of a Stormcloak soldier, and his head tumbles away like a dropped melon. My wife and companion, her sword coated with gore, sprints off to plunge her blade into the belly of a distant archer. High above, my summoned dragon wheels about in the sky, lands beside me with a crash, and spits a tremendous gout of fire onto several more city guards, setting a wooden walkway ablaze in the process. Amid the carnage, as I decapitate my next victim, a single thought rises in my head:

It didn't have to be this way. I just wanted to build a house.

Meet Braul, my level 31 Orc, Dragonborn, leader of the Companions, savior of Skyrim, destroyer of The Dark Brotherhood, hero, and all-around swell guy. He's powerful, wealthy, and owns several houses, but today he and his wife, Mjoll, are looking for something new, something much more than a house. They're looking for a home.

With the new Hearthfire add-on installed, I fire up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and begin playing in the fashion of anyone who has installed a Bethesda add-on: by sort of standing around in the world and wondering exactly how this new DLC will present itself in the game. I know I now have the ability to purchase land and build a home, and I know that when you buy stuff, it's usually in a city or town, so I fast-travel to Whiterun to see if the DLC will pop in and greet me. Sure enough, a half-naked courier jogs up and hands me a note from Tekla, the Steward to the Jarl of Falkreath, inviting me to buy some land. I fast-travel to Falkreath, and while absentmindedly devouring the soul of the dragon I just I killed outside, I chat with her about the plot of land, and buy it for 5,000 gold.  She helpfully starts giving me directions, but I just run out of the room. Relax, lady, I just consumed a dragon's soul in front of you, do I look like the kind of Orc who needs a lot of hand-holding?

A few dead bandits and one dead cave bear later, Mjoll and I reach our small plot of land northeast of Falkreath. Nearby, there's a chest, a couple tables, an anvil, and a book called The Beginner's Guide to Homesteading, which I don't actually bother to read. Look, I'm the Dragonborn: I saved the world without ever reading a book or even letting anyone complete an entire sentence. I think I can handle building a small house without doing my homework. I use the drafting table to select the small house layout, scoop out the contents of the chest, which contains, somehow, enough stone to build the foundation, then hit my hammer a couple times on the carpenter's bench. Just like that, I've got the foundation built.

While admiring the shiny new base of my future home, I notice a nearby lumber pile, and beside it, a wood chopping block. Okay, I think I have this whole process figured out. You get iron, you whack it on the anvil. You get lumber, you whack it on the chopping block. Then you whack everything together on the carpenter's bench. It's a whack-based home building system. I start trying to whack my lumber.

Thing is, I realize I have I have no woodcutter's axe with which to whack the lumber on the chopping block. How is that even possible? Oh, right, because I'm a wealthy, accomplished adventurer, not some poverty-stricken townie who needs to split wood for pennies. Even if I picked up a woodcutter's axe at some point, it would have been sold by now, or dropped in some dungeon to make room in my inventory, or possibly thrown into the ever-growing piles of worthless junk that live on the floors of my many houses.

Well, how hard can it be to find a woodcutter's axe? There are chopping blocks and lumber mills and stores all over the place. I fast-travel back to Falkreath, pop into the local shop, and find they are fresh out of woodcutter's axes. Next, I try the nearest lumbermill, where I find a chopping block, but no axe. I visit Dawnstar next, where I talk to both the blacksmith and his wife, neither of whom carry the item.

Okay, this is taking a bit longer than I expected.

I zip over to Solitude, where I know the blacksmith stocks everything under the sun, but he doesn't have an axe for sale, either. I scour my memory, trying to recall every place any character of mine ever chopped wood. I teleport over to Windhelm, searching the stores and the streets, and still, no axe. Irritated now, I back travel to Whiterun, arriving in the middle of the night, and stand stock still in the middle of town, letting the hours slither by until the stores open. Ulfberth, in Warmaiden's, has one of every bladed weapon in the world but, again, no axe. Outside, Adrianne doesn't have one either. I sprint over to Belethor's General Goods. He has goods, general ones, but no axe to sell me.

I step outside, fairly angry now. It's been almost an hour of gaming and I can't find this most basic of items anywhere. Then, I hear a thunk, and my eyes narrow. Was that the sound of the door closing behind me? It almost sounded like... I hear it again. Thunk. Ah-ha! That's the sound of someone chopping wood! That is the very thing I myself would like to be thinging!

I sprint around the entire building, finally finding someone using a woodsman's axe on some logs. His name is Sigurd, and he's got the woodcutter's axe I need. I try to engage him in conversation, but he does not stop chopping wood to talk to me. I try interrupting him by poking the chopping block repeatedly, but, without my own axe, the stump does not deem me worthy of halting him. I'm ticked off. This simple non-Dragonborn citizen is chopping all the wood he wants, while I, the hero of the land, stand there helplessly, unable to disrupt him. My patience is at an end. My fast-travel gland is exhausted. I decide I'm not leaving Whiterun without Sigurd's axe.

I see two options. I can wait patiently for a few seconds for him to finish, and see if he leaves the axe behind when he walks away. Or, I can use the ancient skill of magic shouting to encase him in a block of ice, and see if he drops the axe. After carefully not thinking about it for even a millisecond, I bellow cold angry dragon words into Sigurd's face and he flops to the ground, trapped in a prison of my ice yelling. Now, I just need to search the ground to see if he dropped the axe when he froze.

No problem, except: problem. Mjoll, loyal wife that she is, interprets the sight of me screeching ancient dragon curses all over Sigurd as a sign that I felt Sigurd was some sort of threat, draws her sword, and starts trying to slash his inert, helpless body into ice cubes. This in turn convinces a bunch of nearby Stormcloak soldiers that Moll and I are some sort of psychopaths bent on freezing and chopping up the innocent civilians of Whiterun.

Sigurd breaks out of ice jail long enough to stand up and helpfully die, so I take a break to examine his fresh, cold corpse. No axe in his inventory. I start scanning the ground for it, which is a little hard to do carefully when one solder is stabbing you and another is shooting arrows into your face. Exasperated, I start swinging my axe. My two-handed, hand-crafted, flame-enchanted Ebony battleaxe. Yes, the irony is as thick as Sigurd's dead, frozen torso, as this entire search for an axe has been conducted with an enormous axe strapped to my back, an axe the game deems capable of cleaving dragons to death with a single blow yet somehow not appropriate for the splitting of logs.

Happy to have an outlet for my annoyance, I wade in and start cutting soldiers into flaming chunks. Four or five dead Stormcloaks later, I've managed to carefully look around Dead Sigurd, but there's no sign of where he stashed his axe while he was dying horribly of ice magic and sword lacerations. Citizens are running around in alarm, and more soldiers are arriving. Filled with rage, I batter and hack at them. I! Just! Need! An! Axe! I screech, in time with every blow of my axe, which must briefly confuse the soldiers before they die from axe wounds. We make our way to the gates, step outside the city, and are greeted with arrows from archers in the battlements and walkways. I'm far too annoyed to run up and kill them all in person, or even to ready and aim my bow. Instead, I use magic to summon my pet dragon, and a few moments later he appears and begins cooking soldiers alive with his flame breath, setting wooden structures on fire in the process.

So, yeeeeeah. Things may have gotten a little out of hand. I'm now using magic to summon an ancient dragon to kill soldiers simply because I can't find a common lumber-related tool. It'd be easy just to restart everything from an older saved game, before all the death happened, but I'm in a black mood now. I will find an axe, Skyrim, if I have to turn this world, and its inhabitants, inside out. Once all the soldiers are dead, I consult my map again. Farmhouses. They're all over the landscape near Whiterun, and I begin stalking them, one-by-one, like some kind of horror movie boogeyman, letting myself in, rifling through the inhabitant's personal belongings, then killing the farmers and rooting around in their body cavities. I come across one poor dope foolishly chopping wood as if it's not a crime punishable by death, and get enraged all over again. Like Sigurd, he manages to use his last moments of existence to somehow hide his axe somewhere it cannot be found. Then, in another farmhouse, I find a woodpile with an axe laying across it!

Wrong kind of axe. The game is mocking me. Is this how you want it, video game? Fine. I can do this all day.

I do this all day. I become even more vicious: instead of searching their homes first, I immediately kill anyone I see, loot their bodies, then look through their foyers and bedrooms almost as an afterthought. I search my map feverishly, picking out farms and homesteads, visiting them, and hunting for axes among the blood-splattered remains of citizens whose only mistake was not devoting their lives to stockpiling standard woodcutting tools. How many have to die, Skyrim? How many have to die so I can build my house?

Finally, finally, I visit Solitude Sawmill and break into the owner's home. At last, on a shelf in the back of the house, I find my prize: a woodcutter's axe. Unfortunately, an enormous armor-plated Orc breaking in, rifling though cabinets and drawers, and stealing an axe while not making any attempt at stealth is somehow noticed by the home's keen-eyed inhabitants, and they start running around and freaking out and Mjoll has to calm them down to death.

Back at our homestead at last, the screams of my victims still echoing in my ears, I chop some logs before returning to the workbench and noticing the instructions don't actually say anything about chopped logs. The house needs only sawn logs. Which I already had a bunch of on my log pile.

I didn't need a woodcutter's axe after all.

Ah ha ha! Ah ha. Ah, hum. Um. Sorry? My bad? Guess I should have read that book or maybe briefy glanced at the on-screen instructions or something, instead of not doing that and spree-killing a couple dozen people with my wife and pet dragon. Turns out, the true irony wasn't that I was axe-murdering people for want of an axe, but that I didn't need an axe in the first place. Home ownership, right? The perils, the pitfalls, the trail of dismembered bodies.

I quickly and sheepishly build my house. Mjoll, to her credit, says nothing about the mass murders we just committed for no reason. The finished house is small, too small to hold my possessions, my spare weapons, or my deep shame over dozens of pointless murders, so I immediately start working on an expansion, though I find I need some more iron to complete it. Luckily, there's a vein of iron right next to the house. I walk over to mine it.

Pickaxe, huh? Well. How hard can it be to find one of those?
PC Gamer

I've lost count of the number of times I've looked down at my Skyrim Shetland pony and wondered, with a long sigh, "Why are you not on fire." The obvious answer is that my clothes would disintegrate and the horse would eventually die, but perhaps the sheer spectacle would be worth it. Skyrim mod Blaze of Eventide fulfills that dearest wish, replacing boring horse hair and fetlocks with a coat of everlasting flame.

Specifically, Blaze the horse features "true flame effects", "fiery footprints", immunity from fire damage, plus it can "explode for massive damage" on cue. Of course, something as awesome as Blaze doesn't just appear out of thin air - you have to yell the magic words first. Once memorised, from a book in a small cabin to the northwest of Whiterun, you'll learn two shouts: Blaze Summoning and Blaze Deployment, the latter causing Blaze to detonate all over enemies of your choosing.

To add this wonderful self-immolating horse to your game, all you need do is follow this link to the mod's Steam Workshop page. Once installed, you'll never feel cold in Skyrim's snowy climes again.


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