Journalism Student most of the time, one of HackerNoon's Junior Editors for the rest of it.
Skyrim modpacks have been around for almost as long as the game itself but there’s nothing quite like Wabbajack. If Wabbajack is like a collection of sturdy pre-made tables, many of its older counterparts like G.E.M.S. and S.T.E.P. are like IKEA furniture. They have links to all the mods and instructions to get them to work but, for better or worse, it was up to the user to put it all together. Wabbajack, on the other hand, consists of mod lists that require far less setup than their counterparts.
Modding Skyrim is like a game unto itself. Instead of actually spending time in the snowy north, modders are probably trying to figure out why their game isn’t working. Any number of things could stop the game from booting. The order in which the mods are loaded, the mods being incompatible, hardware issues or just plain bad luck can pose problems. Maintaining 100 mods is simple enough. 200 gets hard to manage. Skyrimified, the Skyrim modpack I chose to install from Wabbajack has over 1000. It translates into a whopping 300 gig download that takes minutes to start up.
All it takes is downloading Wabbajack (download here) onto your desktop and picking the modpack you want and following the instructions from there. The catch is, the Skyrim Nexus doesn’t allow non-premium users to download mods without looking at ads. Which means you might just be clicking on download buttons several hundred times over hours. After that, it's just a (relatively!) quick setup before the game is ready to start.
Skyrimified describes its purpose as a modpack that “[expands on Skyrim] while cranking up the visuals to eleven and containing popular community requested mods fitting my vision of Skyrim” which is something of an understatement. The modpack changes so many things, it's easier to see it as a version of Skyrim that has received a decade of content patches. 2011’s open world RPG has long burst its seams with new mechanics, items, quests and visuals.
Skyrimified was created by Trawzified, a modder who started in 2014. They based it off an older modpack, Lexy’s Legacy of the Dragonborn and built on it from there as a passion project that first took shape in February 2020. Feeling that the modpack lacked some features their modlist gave, Trawzified began changing it over the next few months. First, with graphics mods before moving on to the gameplay. The modpack’s 1.0 release came in December 2020.
Photo credit: @Dexter136 on Discord
Pretty much every part of the game has been altered into something that feels different from Skyrim’s 2011 form. The core combat, magic and stealth systems play differently from the way they did ten years ago. New mechanics like keeping the player character’s biological needs met and maintaining a museum have been added to the game.
A core objective of the modpack was, in Trawzified’s words, to “prevent the player from reaching ‘demigod’ status.” To them, Skyrim is at its best when “it’s tough, but fair and requires you to think before you act.” These aims were easily achieved by the modpack.
Combat is far, far more difficult than it used to be. Melee relies on timed blocking and effective stamina management in a package closer in practice to a souls-like than the original product. The added ability to dodge really cements this change in mindset.
The game’s balance was also tweaked by Trawzified to get the expansive list of weapon and armour mods to work. Player durability has changed as well with anything more than a one-on-one fight being something to worry about.
Magic has been similarly expanded with new spells with brand-new effects that use some fancy new runes that give the effects a little more flavor and, well, magic. There are even spells that really bend what Skyrim could do, going beyond the three elements. One spell can create a wall of earth to trap enemies and another accelerates enemies rapidly in a direction.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Skyrim modding adventure without the inclusion of human needs for the Dragonborn. A number of highly configurable mods come together to create a new layer of difficulty for the player to work around. Player characters can now get hungry, tired and thirsty which makes exploration much more interesting and gives more depth to the game. Looking for food can lead players to new nooks and crannies in Skyrim and the optional costs for fast travelling forces players to see the world.
The modpack contains a bevy of graphics mods that easily make it one of the best looking games on the market. While pushing the system requirements very high, the modpack recommends 32GB of RAM, though it isn’t necessary (and it worked fine on 16GB). Just about everything about the game’s visuals has been overhauled. Lighting effects such as water reflections and fog have been pushed up to a quality that rivals modern releases.
Models and textures take advantage of Skyrim modding’s obsession with high-res textures. Everything from tree trunks to flowers and rocks have been replaced with mods that push them to stupidly high levels of detail.
Skyrim’s animations aren’t forgotten either. Some mods add small details for the player character in third person such as automatically raising their shield to shelter from the rain or acting injured based on health remaining. Third person attack animations are completely different as well, being changed to be flashier and less realistic which lead to quite a few shocking moments of enemies spinning across the ground in equal parts jank and awesome.
Quests have had the Skyrim modding treatment, too. There are new quests, expanded quests, and more hidden in the game. Some of the biggest new region mods such as Falskaar and Moonpath to Elsweyr bring hours of new content to the game.
Bet you don’t remember this from High Hrothgar!
All of this is really just a small slice of what the mod has to offer. Injecting 300 gigs of mods into any game would transform it into something that only barely resembles the original product. It happens that Skyrimified does an excellent job of it, injecting new life to Skyrim, now a decade old. The incredible ease of installation that Wabbajack offers really makes it something to try out, if your hardware allows it.
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