The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

In 2015, modder gg77 created a Skyrim mod which let players shapeshift into creatures other than werewolves, like werebears and werebats and also Godzilla. Ordinary things like that. But what if you want to, say, ride Godzilla instead of become him? To tower over your foes in the afternoon but still be able to fit through a doorway in the evening? More importantly, what if you want to ride Mecha Godzilla, who is a mech and therefore better than regular Godzilla? Well, now there's a mod for that too, also courtesy of gg77: it's called Godzilla and Company, and it adds not one, but three kaiju mounts to Skyrim. 

As you may have guessed, the headlining act is Mecha Godzilla, in all his shiny metal glory. You can also ride vanilla Godzilla if you're wrong, as well as the pterodactyl-like Rodan. Temper your fantasies of burninating the countryside, though: the mod's massive mounts are meant purely for riding and won't help you in combat. That being said, using the mod's monster eggs, you can at least spawn an army of giant monsters in Whiterun. I think we net zero on that. 

You can find download and installation instructions on Nexus Mods. You'll need to fiddle with some game files to get the camera to work properly, and the end result is still a little janky, but that's a small price to pay for a view like this: 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

With so many to choose from, our list of the best Skyrim mods spans a whopping ten pages. Filipe's 'Strength of the Gods' is my newest favourite because, well, have a gander at the footage below and tell me it's not hilarious.

With the simplest of descriptions—"strike your enemies down with the power of a god and watch them fly away!"—Filipe's project grants the Dragonborn superhuman strength. As the footage above shows, punching enemies around the map yields some pretty funny results—and doing so in vaults and keeps and the likes sends baddies pinballing off walls, floors and ceilings.  

Activating it is straightforward, too: head to the Shrine of Talos in Whiterun, pick up and read the tome, and, voila, your latest conjuration spell is good to go. You can't miss it, really, but here's what you're looking for:

I'd suggest Strength of the Gods is a mod best explained in practice. To achieve the same results as the footage above, know that Filipe also has variations of Floating Damage and Floating Healthbar installed. 

Strength of the Gods is available to download for both regular Skyrim and Skyrim Special Edition.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls 6 is happening! We don't know when, and in fact it might be quite a long time before the game is far along enough to give us a proper trailer. Still there are a few details out there that have allowed us to speculate about the RPG's setting, and the mountains in the announcement sure are pretty.

Until we know more, we'll simply have to speculate about the improvements Bethesda might be planning. Will it be a bigger world? Probably. Will it have swords and sorcery in it? Almost certainly. We'd like more than that, though, as ever. Here's what we want from The Elder Scrolls 6.

Better faces and conversations

Bethesda Studios makes remarkable, atmospheric open worlds, but the NPCs who inhabit them look like they have come from a different era. They tend to suffer from stiff posture, stilted animations and faces that can’t emote very much. That’s fine for cool robo-companion Nick Valentine in Fallout 4. For humans we’d like to see huge improvements. 

Character faces and performances have generally improved a lot in the last five years and when a game falls behind, like Mass Effect Andromeda, it’s painfully obvious. Likewise conversations could be much more engaging than they have been in previous Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. Fallout 4 introduced a Bioware-style cam that improved interactions, so that’s a sign the Bethesda RPGs are moving in the right direction.

Some memorable NPCs

It might be easier to forgive stiff NPC performances if most of the people you met in The Elder Scrolls games weren’t quite so boring. You meet powerful Jarls and master wizards but they tend to grumble mildly about this and that and then ask you to go fetch them something. There are a few memorable characters, often skulking about in the Dark Brotherhood, but for the most part I’m struggling to remember many NPCs of note. Oddball Fallout characters wouldn’t fit the grandiose fantasy tone of The Elder Scrolls, but some humour, romance, and the odd argument would do a lot to make the world more lived-in.

More varied, hand-crafted dungeons

Some of Skyrim’s dungeons were great. The transition from Dwemer city to glowing mushroom underworld in Blackreach is sublime. Typically, though, the typical Falmer dungeons became samey fast. There might be a trap or two, a couple of caves full of enemies, and a few chests along the way. If you happened to wander into a cave of plot significance you were more likely to see more unusual puzzles and some interesting architecture. More consistently interesting dungeons would be sweet.

Bigger towns

Skyrim’s towns each had a separate sense of identity. Riften was grubby and a little sordid, Markath looked like a sweet piece of concept art made real. However compared to The Witcher 3’s Novigrad, or even the Imperial City in Oblivion, the cities felt like limited settlements—a shop or two, a few residential buildings and a central hall. It would be fascinating to see what Bethesda Studios can do with a proper town with distinct districts and a sense of daily working life.

Oblivion-style spellcrafting

Oblivion and Skyrim both had spellcasting, but Oblivion let players become real magic users through spell-crafting, a feature that didn't make it into Skyrim. By using an altar and combining various spell effects they'd learned, players could design their own custom spells, including range, duration, and effects. With crafting becoming such a big part of so many games, including Bethesda's RPGs, I'd love to see a return of spell-crafting. It would be optional, of course, since there will be plenty of pre-existing spells to learn, but for those who really want to dabble in magic there's nothing better than a little DIY.

A polished third-person view

It’s nice to hop out of your skull and see your character’s cool armour or wizard robes, but actually moving and fighting in third-person feels off compared to first-person in Elder Scrolls games. Part of it is down to your janky animations as you hop and slide around the terrain, part of it is that attacks that look cool in first-person look a bit silly when viewed from behind your character. Having said that, on balance I’d probably prefer to have a janky third-person view than none at all—how else are we to take celebratory selfies once we’ve climbed to the highest part of the world?

Settlements

Fallout 4's settlement system had its ups and downs, the up being it was an enjoyable activity to partake in between quests, and the down being that the interface was clunky and the buildings generally looked like shit. Freed from a post-apocalyptic setting where building materials could be made from healthy trees instead of bombed out buildings, I can imagine founding your own town in the Elder Scrolls universe to be an immensely enjoyable pastime. You'll be meeting NPCs from all over the land, so why not invite some to live and work in your town? You could raise livestock and grow crops, build your own house, staff your own city watch, attract vendors, build a pub, stables, maybe even form your own guild, and become mayor of a growing community. We always want to establish a home (or several) in Elder Scrolls games, so establishing an entire town feels like a logical extension.

UI designed for PC, please

Both Oblivion and Skyrim's UI were serviceable but ultimately felt like they'd been designed for someone playing on console, not on PC. The UI was overlarge and clearly made for navigation by cycling through options rather than just clicking with a mouse. Modders, bless them, offered much better and more sensible UI for PC, with the Darnified mod for Oblivion and SkyUI for Skyrim. I'm sure modders will once again retool whatever UI Bethesda creates, but it sure would be nice this time around if more thought was put into the UI for PC by the developers.

Mod support

This one almost goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning that the mod scenes for The Elder Scrolls and fallout games are astonishing. The mod scene is the reason we got a proper PC UI for Skyrim in the first place. We’ve seen modders transpose old Elder Scrolls games into more current engines. We’ve seen dramatic visual overhauls, new monsters, quests, and much more. Mod support will be essential to the longevity of a new Elder Scrolls game. Hopefully we’ll see that in The Elder Scrolls 6.

What would you like to see from the new Elder Scrolls?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda joined with Keegan Michael Key to reveal a big surprise today during its E3 press conference: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is coming to multiple new platforms in a Very Special Edition release that will enable you to play the game in ways you never imagined. 

The Skyrim Very Special Edition will be available on Amazon Alexa, the Etch-a-sketch, Motorola pagers (specific models to be determined), and Samsung smart refrigerators, which will bring a whole new level of depth to those trips to the Nordic north. 

The trailer is a joke, of course, a bit of self-referential fun about Skryim's presence on all sorts of different platforms. But it's a good one too ("That's no horker, that's my wife!") and even better, it's a brilliant idea—you can be damn sure I'd be all over it if it actually worked. And... could it work? I mean, I don't think it would, and I don't have an Alexa so I can't test it myself. But I'm going to try talking someone into firing one up as soon as I can, just in case. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Update: It's real. "That’s right, the version of Skyrim you never saw coming has finally arrived on the platform you never asked for," an Amazon listing that appeared shortly after the end of the Bethesda presser states. It's free to activate, but of course you'll need an Alexa in order to play. 

And in case that's not enough to convince you, James actually took it for a spin. I think it went well.

Portal 2

Whether it’s an Easter egg, a joke character, or just a little nudge at a competitor, developers love slipping the odd reference to other games into their own. Sometimes though, they go beyond just slapping a Dopefish on a wall or quipping about a ‘doomed space marine’, and we get to see our heroes stride into entirely new, often completely inappropriate new worlds.

Here are a few of our favourites, along the ones that caused the most ‘wait, what?’ blinking on discovery. 

Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Jedi

Yes, he can hold his breath underwater for ten minutes and quip his way through any sword-fight… but only The Force Unleashed II let him try his luck with a lightsaber. Turns out that you don’t need a sharp wit if you’re waving around two of the universe’s deadliest glowsticks and aren’t afraid to use them. Guybrush Threepkiller is so famous in-universe, he even has his own statues. We’re almost positive that’ll be brought up at some point in the next movie. After all, Rey does need a new teacher. Just as long as Elaine never finds out about it. 

Final Fantasy makes history in Assasin's Creed

Obviously, everything in the Assassin’s Creed series is meticulously researched and true to life, especially the alien gods and the time Ezio punched the Pope. Write it all down in your history homework! Which means that, while aliens might not have built the pyramids, they definitely got up to a bit of chocobo racing on the side. That’s according to this crossover, where Assassins ended up in Final Fantasy XV, while its villain ended up pounding sand for a bit before being dragged back to his own game by a hastily summoned Bahamut. There’s even a stuffed Moogle lying around in case you feel lonely after they’ve gone, and some fancy weapons to keep and confuse archaeologists for a few thousand years. Along with that Stargate, obviously. 

Commander Keen hangs about in Doom II

There’s a few odd appearances in Doom 2, including the severed head of John Romero as the end-boss, and a trip back to Wolfenstein 3D in the secret levels. By far the strangest thing though is what lies behind those: former id star Commander Keen… murdered and hanging from meathooks. The story goes that Adrian Carmack was the childkiller in question, having chafed at making cutesy games instead of enjoying himself with blood and guts. However, that was not enough to get rid of the boy-genius forever, for both John Romero and Tom Hall have confirmed that Commander Keen, real name Billy Blaze, is in fact Wolfenstein hero BJ Blazkowicz’s grandson… and father to the Doomguy. What a strange family tree. 

Earthworm Jim digs into Battle Arena Toshinden

He’s the world’s mightiest worm! He fights aliens! He travels galaxies! He gets flattened by a lot of cows! And he’s one of the few 90s mascots to actually be awesome, starring in two excellent platformers, one surprisingly good cartoon series, and… well, let’s not mention the sequels. Like Bubsy, 3D was not kind to Earthworm Jim, though unlike Bubsy, people actually cared. His most successful jump into the third dimension turned out to be this Easter Egg in the PC version of Toshinden, where with the help of his super-suit and a really big club, he was finally able to make the future of gaming eat dirt. Pound them into the ground. Bury himself in glory. Be cut in half and yet… no, wait. Not that one. But it was still as good as fans were going to get.

Everyone plays Poker Night at the Inventory 

Easily the most ambitious gaming crossover in recent memory… and it’s all about hanging out between games. Telltale’s Poker Night series combined, amongst a few others (deep breath) The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, Max from Sam and Max, Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade Adventures and also some webcomic whose name we forget off-hand, GLaDOS from Portal, Brock Samson from the Venture Bros (not a game, but never mind), Claptrap from Borderlands, Sam from Sam and Max replacing Max from Sam and Max, and Ash from The Evil Dead. Phew.

They weren’t great poker games, but that wasn’t really the point. It was about the banter between the different competitors as they sat back and shot the shit without the customary heavy artillery. We could also have had members of the cast from The Walking Dead and Back to the Future, but they were deemed unsuitable for the atmosphere. They didn’t want anyone crying, or any kids seeing Doc and Marty in a sweary environment. A pity. When the game revved up, they could have seen some serious shit.

Portal 2’s Space Core invades Skyrim 

When Bethesda showed off DLC for Oblivion, it was horse armour. And everybody laughed. Come Skyrim, the laugh was far more positive. One of the earliest additions saw the exiled Space Core (spoilers for a decade old game there) crash-land in Tamriel, still just as eager to explore SPAAAAAAAACE. Going bizarrely unnoticed by the locals, all probably fretting about that whole dragon invasion thing, it came crashing down in a plume of smoke. Pick it up and it still kept blinking and talking in your inventory, delivering… well, not very varied dialogue. In summary:  “Space. Space. Space!” And yet, still it was less annoying than all those guards and their epic tales of glory curtailed by the sudden impact of a ballistic stick to the lower-leg.

XCOM defends Civ V: Brave New World

What does XCOM do when there are no aliens to fight? Apparently, they learn to ****ing shoot straight. The XCOM Squad in Civ V is an elite tactical unit that gets the job done, air-dropping into friendly territory and laying down the law. Specifically, Thou Shalt Not Screw With XCOM. In the absence of aliens, they have their eyes set on "Giant Death Robots," and are happy to act as shock troopers or defensive units while they watch the skies and await their destiny. But since there are apparently no aliens interested in Earth during the Civ games, they’re probably going to be waiting a while. Should have taken the flight to Alpha Centauri.

Princess Rosella favours Leisure Suit Larry 3

Sierra On-Line loved its in-jokes. Not one but two sequels (this one and Space Quest III) ended with the characters somehow finding their way to the developers’ own offices for a chat with studio leads Ken and Roberta Williams, with Larry also taking trips to a Westworld style factory where adventure heroes are rebuilt after every stupid death, complete with King’s Quest’s King Graham being readied for duty, and finally showing up in the Old West for a cameo in Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist. By far the strangest cameos came at the end of Leisure Suit Larry 3, where the trip to Sierraland involved trekking through scenes from games like Police Quest and Space Quest 2, before meeting Roberta Williams directing a particularly annoying scene from King’s Quest IV, in which Princess Rosella is trapped in the slobbery mouth of a giant whale. Strange.

Frank West covers Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

He’s covered wars, you know. But oddly, Dead Rising’s original and best hero doesn’t seem to know how to cover himself in this odd outing. Despite Lost Planet being set on a frozen world, everyone’s favourite photographer show up not only without his camera, but also without his trousers. Somehow avoiding hypothermia, he runs around in nothing but underpants, while still managing to rain destruction on the armies of insects happy to not have to peel their food for once. What a trooper. 

Scorpion goes mental in Psi-Ops

Fighting game characters are probably the most cameo-friendly of all, whether it’s a full game like Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, or bonus combatants-without-a-k-because-that’s-how-it’s-spelled in the likes of Injustice. But they show up in other games with curious regularity too. Lightning god Raiden for instance showed up in Unreal Championship, while invisible fighter Reptile could have popped into basically any game. Ever seen a flicker on your screen playing, say, Fortnite? As far as you know, it might be him.

But still, this was an odd one. Even though Midway was the publisher of both MK and Psi-Ops, it’s a bit of a leap from fighting game to third-person action game. Sadly, just wearing his palette-swapped ninja outfit didn’t actually make you the world’s clingiest fighter. He still had to swap out his “get over here!” attack for regular guns. On the plus side, having to beat every character in the game two out of three times would have gotten pretty darn tiring.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

My least favorite sensation in all of gaming is when I'm playing an RPG, and I pick up a weapon, or a breastplate, or an incandescent bauble of no obvious importance, and suddenly my feet cement to the floor. My character is over-encumbered! I have to spend the next few minutes on the pause screen, deciding which knick-knacks in my inventory to leave abandoned on the side of the road. Once spry and light again, I continue my adventures deep into the murky chasms of whatever fantasy world I'm exploring, until inevitably I find another item I want and the exact same thing happens again. 

Why do big games, particularly open world games with thousands of objects that can be picked up and examined, so often turn to a mechanic where fun goes to die?

I am not alone in hating encumbrance. It's a source of constant annoyance for gamers everywhere, to the point of achieving meme status in certain communities. And yet, it's still common. Bethesda makes two of the most popular single-player franchises around with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and yet we've all crossed our weight limit and hampered ourselves in the middle of a fight with a rowdy sect of Super Mutants. CD Projekt Red is one of this industry's few near-universally beloved studios, and yet Geralt always seems to be one looted corpse away from completely losing control of his body. There are cases where it makes sense, obviously—of course Dark Souls has an opaque encumbrance system, given all its other intentionally draconian quirks—but it certainly seems weird that such a despised mechanic is implemented, and re-implemented, over and over again.

Why do big games, particularly open world games with thousands of objects that can be picked up and examined, so often turn to a mechanic where fun goes to die? I figure there must be a reason. I'm constantly in awe of just how much work it takes to create videogames, and generally, when I find something to be stupid and unintuitive, I'm willing to hear the experts out. There must be some method to the madness, right?

The Witcher 3 is great. The Witcher 3 with a "no weight limit" mod is even better.

Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, game director of The Witcher 3, outlined a few arguments for encumbrance when I emailed him. The first is probably the most obvious: Immersion. "Having a limit to how much equipment Geralt can carry plays a part in making the character and the world around him more believable," he says. "Yes, you’re playing as a professional monster slayer. He’s very strong, stronger than normal humans, due to experiments and mutations witchers have to endure throughout their rigorous training. But even then, Geralt has limits. It’s a small touch that packs a lot of punch for the role-playing aspect of an RPG."

Having a limit to how much equipment Geralt can carry plays a part in making the character and the world around him more believable.

Konrad Tomaszkiewicz

Tomaszkiewicz tells me that he believes the fundamental purpose of an RPG is to embody the central character fully. That's why, he says, some players choose to unequip all of their armor before taking Geralt for a dip in a river or a lake. "They want to live the fantasy the game is enabling them to live, while keeping the experience as close to authentic as possible," he explains. It's the belief of CD Projekt Red that functions like encumbrance, while occasionally annoying, add up to a world that feels more consistent.

Oscar López Lacalle, lead designer of the survival game Conan Exiles, offers a similar justification. Exiles is different from The Witcher, in the sense that it packs a crafting system that heavily relies on resource harvesting and management, which makes it a pretty natural fit for a weight limit. But Lacalle tells me that the team decided to opt for an encumbrance mechanic, rather than a traditional inventory page, because it opened up the flexibility—and yes, the authenticity—of how you fleshed out your character.

"For example, we can set items like explosives to be artificially heavy because that makes players think on the logistics of sieging rather than just bringing unlimited explosive jars or trebuchets to breach any wall while still being able to fight at peak capacity," he says. "We can also say that all our core resources are much lighter than specialty items to enhance the feeling of rarity and the relative worth of items when compared with each other. This becomes an important factor in situations like coming back to your base loaded with riches, or relocating your base to a new location in the map. In general, it's a powerful tool to enhance and promote certain aspects of the game without adding other, more aggressive limitations."

Conan Exiles' inventory system encourages you to trade in raw resources for lighter crafting materials.

That's just the front end of things though. Tomaszkiewicz highlights a number of  behind-the-scenes issues that make encumbrance systems necessary for a healthy experience. He mentions how too many items can clutter the UI, and that adding a limit helps "manage the chaos." Also, you can't ignore the fact that every piece of inventory takes up a sliver of memory, and for a game like The Witcher 3 that already asks a ton of your hardware, developers need to be frugal. "You've got to keep in mind what might happen performance-wise when players hoard insane amounts of items."

Lacalle swears up and down that encumbrance systems are not designed to make players uncomfortable. Instead, he hopes to simply coerce us into interesting choices. Exiles was specifically designed around the remaining weight a character will have access to after equipping a basic set of armor. What you do with that remaining space hollows out your place in the world, and your role in guilds. When he frames it like that, it sure sounds a lot more dynamic than simply choosing a class.

Lacalle swears up and down that he hopes encumbrance systems coerce us into interesting choices.

"We made heavy armor and certain weapons heavier—because we wanted to steer them towards the fighter archetypes—and certain materials heavier or lighter depending on how many are needed for typical activities and how rare they are supposed to be," he says. "For building pieces, we made them lighter than their material parts because we wanted players to commit to converting materials instead of amassing tons of raw resources, with a few hand-picked exceptions like Altars and Wheels of Pain. Finally and most importantly, sprinkle in some design voodoo (lots of testing and iterating) until it feels good!"

It's true that sometimes you don't know what you really want, and as much as it might sound fun to jog through The Northern Kingdoms with Geralt sucking up loot like a vacuum, I'm willing to admit that I might be misguided. However, it's clear that the world at large is not convinced.

Websites like Eurogamer and Motherboard have dedicated blog posts instructing on how to turn off encumbrance, ostensibly because there are so many people on the internet googling for answers. A mod that gives you infinite carry capacity in The Witcher 3 has been downloaded over 30,000 times (it's the third-most popular Witcher 3 mod on the Nexus). The "100x your carry weight" mod for Skyrim has been downloaded 380,000 times. The developers I spoke to are all reasonable people who make good points, but it's hard to shake that fundamental feeling that encumbrance only slows down our fun.

Image via Nexusmods

All that being said, maybe there's a way to make encumbrance better without completely purging it from the code. David J. Cobb has spent the bulk of his modding career tinkering with the nuts and bolts of Skyrim to create a more realistic, more demanding weight system, and he makes a strong point about how encumbrance is often poorly implemented. There's never any warning when you're about to become over-encumbered in Bethesda games. Your momentum comes to a screeching halt after you add one extraneous item to your inventory. "Like carrying hundreds of pounds of gear effortlessly, only to stop completely in your tracks because you decided to pick a flower on the side of the road," he says. He argues that instead of creating immersion, that breaks immersion.

Cobb came up with a set of checks and balances called Cobb Encumbrance that add progressive penalties to your speed and stamina as you add more weight to your character. Essentially, it's an uber-hardcore interpretation of the core Skyrim fantasy. Personally, that doesn't sound like my kind of thing, but it also feels a tad more honest than how most other games deal with encumbrance. Maybe it's not the answer, but it's certainly an answer. 

"The encumbrance mechanic has to be viewed as part of the broader experience," says Cobb. "It influences and is influenced by everything around it."

Thumbnail GIF via the delightful Skyrim animation above by Ferhod.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

I know few virtual places as intimately as Seyda Neen, the port in the southwest of Vvardenfell where your Morrowind character begins their adventures. I’ve fleshed out dozens of characters in its Census and Excise office, and I’ve bought many a starting weapon at Arrille’s Tradehouse. I’ve passed the necromancer’s tower countless times, and I’ve… 

Hang on, that isn’t right. There’s no necromancer’s tower on the outskirts of Seyda Neen. Actually, I don’t recall there being this many shacks clustered on the coastline. And was that shady-looking tavern with the red lantern outside always there? What in Vivec’s name is going on? 

Such is the sensation of exploring Vvardenfell with the Morrowind Rebirth mod installed. This enormous mod remodels huge chunks of terrain, expanding towns and adding new dungeons and adventures alongside swathes of other content. It also achieves this with such a delicate hand that, if you haven’t played Morrowind for a while, you might struggle to identify where the old Morrowind ends and Rebirth begins.

Landscaping

Morrowind Rebirth was first released in 2011, starting out as a collection of town-overhaul mods created by trancemaster_1988. Since then the mod has received 44 major updates that basically give the topography of the entire island a makeover, adding a truly staggering amount of new and modified places to explore. 

Unsurprisingly, a large amount of the mod’s focus is on expanding towns and settlements. Almost every scrap of civilisation has been altered in some way. Caldera, the Imperial mining town northeast of Balmora, has seen new buildings and shops introduced within its walls, while the perimeter has been remodelled to include farmsteads with working windmills. Meanwhile, the massive city of Vivec has seen its entrance area overhauled, with a range of shops, houses and warehouses added near the Silt Strider port. Even tiny villages, such as the northern outpost Dagon Fel, have been expanded. 

One of the towns that has received the most attention is Balmora. Rebirth’s interpretation has not one but two entirely overhauled districts – one near the town’s south gate and the other on its northern hillside. These include multiple new merchant vendors such as a Scroll specialist and a seller of magical clothes. Alongside trancemaster’s own work, Morrowind Rebirth incorporates third-party mods, such as Balmora Underworld, which adds a vast subterranean market. Beneath that lurks a labyrinthine Dwemer ruin for players to plunder.

What’s particularly impressive about these additions is how seamlessly they fi t into Morrowind’s landscape. These new buildings aren’t simply plonked down wherever there’s space, trancemaster has painstakingly moulded the game’s terrain to accommodate for them. Beyond the game’s urban centres, trancemaster has added various new adventures and perils. These include bandit camps to raid, and multiple new dungeons, including a new Daedric realm to explore, and unique sights such as, err, mass graves. 

It’s worth noting that Morrowind Rebirth doesn’t add many quests. At least, not ones that will be recorded in your journal. Instead, Rebirth’s adventures are less offi cial, taking the form of notes pinned to walls that hint at the location of an item or a stash of gold, or bounty hunters that will track you down if the price for your head reaches a certain threshold. Rebirth also doesn’t make signifi cant changes to the game’s visual prowess, although it does make landscapes more varied, while adding visual variety to recurring NPCs like Imperial guards and skeletons.

Returning home

Alongside its many additions, Morrowind Rebirth also makes a massive number of balance changes. Hundreds of mechanical values have been tweaked, from the damage of different weapons to the weight of items and the price of travelling via Silt Strider. It’s impossible to go into these in any great detail, but the general effect makes levelling slightly slower and the diffi culty more challenging. Personally, I always felt Morrowind was slow and challenging enough, but this does spread your progress out more evenly across the mod’s increase in scope. Plus, if you get stuck, that’s what the diffi culty slider is there for. 

What I like most about Morrowind Rebirth is how natural all the additions appear. It makes Vvardenfell feel as if it has grown and evolved during your absence, like returning to your hometown after years away, only without the disappointment at discovering your favourite coffee shop has been replaced by yet another Starbucks. It doesn’t feel like the game has been modded. It’s more like time has simply moved on. If you want to know just how much has changed while playing, however, keep an eye out for hanging lanterns. These are trancemaster’s calling card, and you will be seeing them absolutely everywhere you go.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Despite the mountain of incredible 2017 games I still need to play, I am once again back on my Skyrim nonsense. I reinstalled it over the weekend and I’m still in the process of adding all 10,000 mods that I simply cannot live without, including many featured in our best Skyrim mods list. I might need to add another, however, at least when the gargantuan Lordbound mod launches later this year. 

The Lordbound team is aiming to make an expansion-sized mod with around 30 hours of new adventures, including fancy dungeons, three non-linear faction storylines and an entirely new region of Skyrim, Druadach Valley, located near High Rock, which is also where Daggerfall took place. 

When it launches this year, the mod will throw players into a conflict between Orcs and the Imperial Legion as they fight over who gets to stick their flag in the area. The latest trailer showcases some of the mod’s environments, including some striking magical ruins and weird Dwemer caverns. 

I used to avoid the massive mods that added whole new areas to the game because it can be a bit of a hassle trying to figure out what mods they’re going to conflict with, but after playing Beyond Skyrim’s surprisingly polished Bruma mod, which introduces the northern Cyrodiil town to the game, I’ve been won over. Thank goodness for kind souls making compatibility patches. 

Cheers, Kotaku

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind® Game of the Year Edition

Update: Patreon has removed the fraudulent campaign page for violating its TOS, specifically with regards to "impersonation:" With allowances for satire and comedy, " You cannot pretend or impersonate another creator, such as using someone else's name, brand, or content in order to raise funds."

Original story:

Morrowind, the best of Bethesda's long-running Elder Scrolls series (and I'll hear no more about it), is set on Vvardenfell, an island within the Dunmer home province of Morrowind. The mainland is never properly seen: The Tribunal expansion technically takes place there, but it's contained entirely within the walled city of Mournhold and so doesn't really count. It's a shortcoming that the ambitious Tamriel Rebuilt mod, which we took a closer look at earlier this year, aims to overcome by recreating and adding all of that missing landmass to the game. 

The project is entirely volunteer, which is one of the reasons there's no end in sight after more than 15 years of work. It's also why you probably wouldn't be surprised to see a Patreon campaign supporting its creation. Don't back it, though, even if you're a big Elder Scrolls fan, because it's a fraud. 

"There is currently a link going around to a Patreon page masquerading as our official account, asking for donations to keep Tamriel Rebuilt running," a message on the official Tamriel Rebuilt website warns. "This account is not affiliated with us in any way, shape or form. We do not have, nor do we plan to have, a Patreon account at all." 

The mod makers say they've made Patreon aware of the situation, but the campaign remains up for now. Fortunately, nobody has donated to it so far. (And to help keep it that way, I'm not linking to the campaign page.)

Despite not being complete, Tamriel Rebuilt is playable as a work-in-progress. You'll need a copy of Morrowind and the Bloodmoon and Tribunal expansion to dive in—if you've got all that, you can download the most recent release of the mod here

Thanks, PCGamesN

Call of Duty®

I have never seen a more tragic comments section than the one from a few weeks back when we asked our readers to share their most tragic save file disasters. Over 200 of you shared stories of despair and woe as hard drives crashed, Uplay cloud saves glitched, or a simple misclick spelled doom for countless hours of gaming.

We've collected the saddest, most heartbreaking stories below so that you can wallow in their misery. And if you didn't get a chance to contribute your own story, do so in the comments.

The lost library 

This one hits hard because the emotional loss is so apparent. It's one thing to fall in love with your Morrowind character and your adventures together, but Bear's story of losing his entire library of collected books in Morrowind because of a virus really stings.

Commenter: Bear

My first Morrowind character. I had made an Argonian and enjoyed the wonders that the game had to offer, discovered mods a number of hours in, got myself a few decent ones, joined House Telvanni to appreciate the irony of being an Argonian and of Telvanni, and progressed very little on the main questline but became deeply infatuated with the world.

I kept telling myself, I'll do the main quest later, and something would come up. When the "something" was the Thieves Guild, I became captivated with in-game theft, and I claimed a home that was empty after I'd murdered the owner as my loot den.

I use the word loot loosely. I was only interested in one type of item to steal: books. I ventured back and forth across the continent stealing every book I could manage, piling stacks of books as high as I could manage in my den of ill-gotten goods, occasionally tossing other stolen things on the floor, but my pride were the hundreds of books stacked taller than my Argonian. The small room would take a good ten minutes to load because of the sheer amount of books. I'd take detours while exploring just to raid places looking for books. Even if I got one book, I was pleased to be able to add it to my collection.

This was the first time I'd pumped so many hours into any game, ever. It was probably 2003 or 2004, and I had a PC that was rough around the edges at best. It was passed to me by my father as a reject for his own uses, no doubt in hopes that I would get my 12 or 13-year-old behind off the family PC with minimal trouble, and it worked. Until my young self made an uneducated choice in my forays on the internet and I picked up a particularly nasty virus while trying to download some free graphics editing software. The PC wouldn't boot. My father refused to help me fix it (apparently he had regrets for giving me my own PC, because my internet usage increased rapidly) and I couldn't figure it out.

My father finally just reformatted the hard drive and when I went to restart Morrowind, my hundreds of hours and couple years of gameplay was lost. I'd just lost the one thing that helped let me escape the troubles of being a bullied, friendless kid so easily before.

Lost in space 

Not all of these stories have to do with losing a save file entirely. Some deal with the existential horror of being trapped in one location, never able to escape. Of course, that horror becomes a lot more tangible when there's a giant xenomorph rapping at your chamber door.

Commenter: Bob McCow

Alien: Isolation is a bit mean with the saving system. You have to find what looks like a retro telephone booth and dial a number, making sure that Mr. Alien is not about to skewer you with his tongue or show you his six freaky fingers. You can only go back two save points, so you have to be very careful.

After a month spent hiding in lockers and wetting myself, I'd progressed through the game painfully slowly. I was escaping from the nest and it looked like I was finally getting Amanda off Sevastapol for good. I only had to take a lift up to a safer level. Sadly, I dropped a gun while being chased by the Alien and it got wedged in the door in a very glitchy way. The glitch meant that although I could take the lift, the next level wouldn't load. I was stuck! I couldn't retrieve an early enough save file to avoid the glitching gun. I haven't had the courage to replay the entire game to get to that point, so I'll never know if Amanda made it.

She's left forever in that lift with the Alien banging on the door outside.

It's not you, it's Witcher 3 

Listen, people make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes can hurt us, but I'm not sure if I'd ever end a relationship over a lost game save. But I guess The Witcher 3 isn't your average game.

Commenter: Piantino

Some time ago, my ex girlfriend wanted to play The Witcher 3 and I shared it from my Steam library with her. One day she played it in my PC, and when I came to play I realized that the save files in The Witcher 3 are the same when you share from your Steam library, and she saved her game in the same slot as mine. I lost my lvl 55 Geralt, my witcher gear and swords—everything. My time in Ard Skellige looking for treasures didn't serve for anything. I broke up with her some time ago and I use this story to explain why she is now my ex hahahaha.

Happy birthday 

I'm sure parents are equally as responsible for deleted saves as failing hardware. But there's something especially tragic when it all happens because they were trying to do something nice for you.

Commenter: Robáird Mac An TSaoir

In the late nineties, my dad surprised me for my birthday with some PC upgrades: a new monitor, bigger hard drive, and new graphics card. Of course, he'd wiped my old hard drive. Ten years of save files, writing, gig upon gig of films and music, all gone.

Commenter Grom Hellscream sums up the tragedy perfectly:

"Happy birthday, son. I formatted your entire childhood."

Groundhog Day 

If you've ever saved immediately before your demise only to find that you're now stuck replaying your death over and over, you can sympathise with Berty Bennish's story.

Commenter: Berty Bennish

I was playing the first Call of Duty back when it first came out. I would regularly save my games but in this instance, my last save was a couple of levels before the incident. It was the daylight St. Mere-Eglise level. After destroying the tank that comes out of the wall I ran round the corner heading towards where you would get in the car. I killed a couple of guys and ran a bit further. Game decides to auto save right when a German soldier pops round the corner and blasts me in the head. Instant death.

Game loads.

Instant death.

Game loads.

Instant death.

and so on…

What's hilarious about this particular story is that another one of our commenters had nearly the exact same problem.

Commenter: ImpatientPedant

When I was playing Call of Duty, way back in the day, there was a tank section. I hadn't saved for the entirety of the (rather long) mission, and contrived to save at the exact moment a shell was fired in my direction, a shell which would wipe me out.

Every time I tried to reload, the shell would fire and I would die. Over and over. I was shattered.

If a psychologist interviews me years from now and asks me why my dreams often have intermittent flashes of light, this is 100 percent the reason. Poor old toddler me.

Sorry, Mom 

Parents have unwittingly destroyed thousands of hours of time invested into games, but Zach Fathaigh's story flips the script. I'm assuming his mother had a hard time looking at him for a few days after.

Commenter: Zach Fathaigh

1996's The Realm is a fun proto-MMO that my mom was obsessed with. You get four or five character slots, I can't remember which. My mom let me have one of those slots (thank you, Mom). My older brother asked me what the game was like and I wanted to show him how fun it was to start a new character. So I looked at the list and saw Mom's two really badass characters, my character, and a level 1 naked character. I deleted that one to make room for my brother's character.

The deleted character was a mule with hundreds of hours worth of loot. I forgot about this incident entirely until my mom reminded me of it over the weekend.

Sorry, Mom.

Double whammy

We've all had hardware fail. Picking up and starting a game from the ashes of an old save is awful. Having to do it twice? No thanks.

Commenter: Kyosho

Christmas of 1999, I get the one game I really wanted under the tree. That big, ugly (beautiful?) orange and purple box. Planescape: Torment. From Christmas day until just before New Years, I put about 25-ish hours into the game. I was really into it. Then my hard drive crashed. I was devastated. I had the computer fixed within a week, but it took me another month or two to work up the nerve to start the game over from scratch. I did it, though. Even made some slightly different choices. It was a bit tedious to read ALL that text again, but after a good 15 hours or so, I got back to where I'd been. Played another 20-ish hours and... BAM, another hard drive crash.

Here's a tip, kids: Don't skimp out on your power supply when building a PC. It killed two hard drives before I knew the cause. Anyway, to say it was soul crushing was an understatement. I haven't beaten Planescape: Torment to this day. I've tried going back to it, but I end up losing interest before I ever get back to where I was. Best RPG of all time? Maybe. It's too painful for me to be able to ever know.

Tower of Trials 

Speaking of hard drive failures, I can't stress enough how important it is to back up important projects. We had countless stories about people losing game saves, but entire games? Seriously, don't wind up like Matt.

Commenter: Matt Pruitt

I once made an entire game in RPG maker VX-ACE. It was called the Tower of Trials. It was short and utilized only the assets the game provided. It had some random elements, little story, and was intended for short-runs about 30-40 minutes long. I worked on it for two years, starting on my old laptop and eventually finishing it on my first PC. It was my own little project and only a few of my friends played it. Then I discovered why people told me not to buy cheap HDDs. My hard drive crapped out on me and two years of work was lost. My oldest version of the game was on my old laptop and only had three floors of the tower completed. Needless to say, my current rig is running on a Samsung SSD.

Harry Potter and the Computer Thief 

It's one thing to lose a save file, but to lose the ability to play a game altogether? Now that's tragic.

Commenter: dxdy

Back in elementary school, 2001 or so, I really liked Harry Potter. Neither me nor my parents could afford a PC or anything to play modern games (had an Atari 130 XE though), so I was very happy when someone left Philosopher's Stone installed at the school's computer lab.

I could only play video games for a limited time after classes, so I only made it to Herbology Class over the course of several months. The game felt amazing to me, probably because I was reading Harry Potter books around the same time.

Once I went to school as usual, but after arriving I noticed it was completely deserted. Normally, entire halls would be filled with sounds of children playing but there was not a single soul in sight. I went upstairs. After walking around for a minute, I was spotted by the principal's assistant who rushed me to the cafeteria.

When we arrived there, I saw that all students were crammed inside. I quickly learned from colleagues that the school was robbed overnight. Robbers broke the window and stole a boombox, whole bunch of chocolate bars from school's kiosk, and every single PC from the lab. I lost not only the save file I worked for what felt like eternity, I lost the ability to play my beloved game in the first place.

These were just a few of the great stories our commenters told us. For the rest, be sure to check out the comment thread from last week.

Some comments were edited for grammar and clarity.

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