Welcome to one of the most modded series of games ever : The Elder Scrolls! The most recent one, Skyrim, released in 2011, benefits of a huge creative community which issued hundreds of modifications and improvements to the game these last few years. You’ll find in this post the most effective ones to make your game look awesome: high def textures, shaders and such.
The NMM is a free and open source piece of software that allows you to download, install, update and manage your files through an easy to use interface. It integrates with the Nexus sites to provide you with a fast, efficient and much less hassled modding experience. [src]
FYI, all the manipulations mentioned in this post have been made with the classic Steam version of Skyrim, with no DLC installed. A first mod is required before beginning to play with NMM: Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE), that can be found directly in Steam.
ENB! We’ll first add ENB support to improve the visual experience. What is ENB would you ask again? ENB is a graphic mod that enhances post processing effects to make games look better graphically [src].
- Download the ENB modification engine on its author’s Webpage. Get the last version available (for instance v0.279 today) and unzip it on your desktop.
- You will only need 2 files inside the archive, in the Wrapper folder: d3d9.dll and enbhost.exe.
- Copy these two files into your main Skyrim installation folder: C:\Steam\steamapps\common\Skyrim. You can’t miss it, its the one with the SkyrimLauncher.exe
Once the ENB engine installed, you’ll need to find a preset to your tastes. Go to the “ENB Preset” page of NMM and look for a convenient one. After some experimentation I decided to go for Season of Skyrim, a beautiful and balanced ENB with warm colors and realistic lightning.
It also comes with a handy installation guide. Follow the steps carefully:
- Manually download the archive from the NMM Website “files” page: look for the “Seasons of Skyrim ENB v0.262 – Revision 1a” link.
- Unzip the archive on your desktop and proceed as follows:
- Copy the \Data folder inside your Skyrim installation folder (let’s call it SIF, always at the root, where the SkyrimLauncher.exe is located). Overwrite the content when asked.
- Open the \HD6 Tribute\main files folder and copy all the files and folders to your SIF. Overwrite the content when asked.
- Open the \HD6 Tribute\optional effects folder and copy the files you want: I recommend the Film Grain Only preset, in medium intensity. Copy the effect.txt file inside your SIF.
- Open the \HD6 Tribute\performance options folder and chose your performance option. I recommend the \Option B (No DOF) since it is performance friendly and we’ll use another extension to handle the depth of field (Dynavision). Copy the *.ini file inside your SIF.
- Open your SkyrimPrefs.ini file located in your \Documents\My Games\Skyrim folder and make sure these lines are set:
bFloatPointRenderTarget=1 bDrawLandShadows=1 bTreesReceiveShadows=1 iBlurDeferredShadowMask=5
- Inside your SIF open enblocal.ini and set the VideoMemorySizeMb parameter (e.g. VRAM + RAM – 2048)
- Disable AA/AF in the SkyrimLauncher options
- Load your game and turn the in-game Brightness all the way down
- I personally use the Technicolor palette preset with my ENB, for its classy desaturated tone.
That was the hardest part. Your game should now looks a lot nicer! But it’s not over yet.
Season of Skyrim’s author recommends a few mods I encourage you to install. They will important visual modification to the game: lights, textures treatment, better 3D decorations:
- Lanterns of Skyrim – All In One: This will add more lanterns to the main roads, bridges, and villages.
- Project Parallax: This will add parallax mapping to textures.
- Static Mesh Improvement Mod: This will improve the detail of 3D objects.
- W.A.T.E.R. – Water and Terrain Enhancement Redux: This will enhance the oceans, lakes, rivers, marshes, and creeks.
I also added a few mods to improve the UI, general textures and landscapes:
- SKyUI that completely revamps the interface to make it PC-friendly (mandatory!)
- Dynavision: a dynamic depth-of-field and auto-focus effect mod (looks cool)
- Skyrim HD – 2K Textures: high definition textures (the game looks a lot more polished)
- Skyrim Flora Overhaul: a project dedicated to overhauling the Skyrim landscape with more varied and better looking flora
- Enhanced Blood Textures: for a bloodier combat experience with higher resolution and detailed textures (looks cool, again)
- A Quality World Map: a World Maps with better textures and introduces detailed roads (but the map is still tedious to use)
- Immersive Armors: a mod that enhances your Skyrim with a greater selection of armor sets without breaking from the natural feel of the game (yeah, why not)
To conclude, here comes a small gallery of screenshots of the game, once everything is in place. On a medium AsusRog laptop, it runs smoothly at ~40/45 fps. You may gain some more fps by dimishing the textures size or the flora diversity, but hey, it’s a TES game, it’s more than enough.