Content of the article: "(EEMC) Hyac’s Mod List: Entry 3, Combat & Enemy NPCs"
(EEMC) Hyac's Mod List: Entry 3, Combat & Enemy NPCs
Reviewer's Specs: i5-4460 @ 3.2GHz | Radeon R9 280 w/ 3GB VRAM | 8GB of DDR3 RAM | Logitech G602 & MK320
Let's Get Ready to Rumble!
Skyrim's vanilla combat system is lacking, to say the least, especially when compared to more modern games. This isn't normally a fair criticism of a game nearly a decade old, but the depth of the Skyrim modding community puts us in the unique position of being able to tweak it to nearly any extent we might want.
I chose very carefully when writing the above word to describe Skyrim's combat system: "lacking". Because it's not broken, it's not inherently flawed… it's just not perfect. My list is not meant to be a complete overhaul or replacement of that system, but a set of tweaks intended to make it faster and deadlier as well as expand on the challenge and variety of available enemies.
There are a lot of combat mods to choose from as a starting point, and there's no "wrong" one. Most of them are just as compatible with the rest of this list as any other. I've used most of the big ones over the years, and have determined that my favourite is Smilodon. It's lightweight and unobtrusive, designed to make combat less of a time-consuming slog — it's now faster, more dynamic, and much more deadly. I also use Smilodon's optional realistic damage plugin, so that even so much as a single misstep can make the difference between victory and defeat. Also be sure to grab the MCM Patch, which lets you scrap the Smilodon configuration power in favour of an MCM entry.
I Like to Move It Move It
Writing a combat mod list in 2020 and not mentioning a mod as groundbreaking as Combat Gameplay Overhaul just won't do. Despite its name, CGO is much more of an animation mod than anything else. The mod description contains GIFs that say a thousand and one words, but the quick version is that it makes moving during combat a lot more fluid. Specifically, you can now change movement direction in the middle of a swing or swing your sword while jumping or falling, which is much more important a change than it might sound like on the surface. Combined with Better Jumping, which allows you to jump while sprinting, you can now sprint across a battlement, leap into the air, and strike at your enemy below before you touch the ground.
CGO doesn't end there, though. It also adds the ability to switch weapon grips, block while dual wielding (though not very well, in my experience; more on that in just a moment), and dodge attacks without the extra script load found in other dodging mods. A warrior can wield a two-handed weapon in one hand at the cost of reduced swing speed, or a mage can go full Gandalf with a sword in one hand and a staff in the other. If you've got the right perk overhaul, this unobtrusively opens up the range of workable playstyles fairly substantially. More on perk overhauls in a future list!
I said I'd come back to the issue of dual wield blocking. I've found that CGO's implementation of the function doesn't allow me to bash while dual wield blocking, which is vital for my current preferred playstyle (paladin spellsword, for those interested). I've been told I'm doing something wrong and that CGO lets you bash just fine, but even in an otherwise vanilla game it just… doesn't work for me. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
So I use Dual Wield Parrying Reimplementation for this function instead, and disable (or rather, simply never set up) CGO's version in its MCM.
Highway to the Danger Zone
Skyrim decides when and who the player ends up fighting based on "encounter zones". The description page for Arena – An Encounter Zone Overhaul gives a drastically better explanation of what an encounter zone is and how they function than I ever could, and is well worth the read even just for the sake of general knowledge. It's also a beautiful base to build on when you're looking to make combat encounters in Skyrim more diverse and challenging.
Missing Encounter Zones Fixed assigns encounter zones to areas in the game that didn't have them in vanilla. Encounter Zone Unlocked complements it beautifully — no more clearing a dungeon at level 3, then returning at level 50 to find it's been repopulated by scrawny level 3 enemies.
Armor Rating Redux increases the importance of armor rating, also removing the "armor cap" that exists in vanilla that makes many of the game's top tier armours effectively meaningless. Resistances Rescaled does something similar but for fire, frost, poison, etc. resistance. I use the Exponential option in the MCM menu from each of these mods for a healthy balance between the vanilla game's system and the mod's goal of a Morrowind-like rebalance. Both of these mods affect the value of armor rating in very similar ways. The difference is not in how, but who these changes are applied to: Armor Rating Redux affects the armour rating of both the player and NPCs, while Resistances Rescaled only affects the player. So I disable the latter's settings for armor in favour of the former's for an overall more balanced experience.
Better Spell Cost Stacking rebalances spell cost reduction effects to be multiplicative rather than additive. The mod description explains what this means quite succinctly, but to summarise the mod page's example:
- You have a spell that costs 100 magicka, and 3 enchantments that each reduce spell cost by 25%, 30%, and 40% respectively.
- In the vanilla game, these reductions are added together and then applied: 25 + 30 + 45 = 95; so your spell cost is reduced by 95%, so your spell costs 5 magicka. Your magicka pool is now effectively meaningless.
- With this mod, the spell cost is reduced by each enchantment sequentially. So with a 25% reduction, your 100 magicka spell costs 75 magicka. Then your 30% reduction is applied; 30% off 75 magicka is 52.5 magicka. Then 40% off 52.5 is 31.5, so your spell now costs 31.5 magicka.
- Mathematically, it doesn't matter of course in which order this calculation is done. Those three enchantments will reduce your casting cost by the same total amount of 68.5%.
Never should have come here!
One of my favourite enemy mods is Skyrim Immersive Creatures. It's one of those mods that I have a hard time playing without and hasn't left my load order in several years.
It isn't without its issues however, and it hasn't been updated to address those issues since 2017. It's known to cause crashes when left in its default state and requires some tweaking to remain stable. Don't let this scare you off! It's very simple; this post from Nexus user mangekyoumadara1987 covers the process very well. In summary, you'll need to run the original mod's assets through Cathedral Assets Optimizer, install the mod's official patch, and disable the animal and creature boxes in the Additional Spawns section of the MCM menu. These steps will correct the problematic mesh and textures that weren't properly optimized for SSE, prevent compatibility issues with other common mods, and turn off the specific spawn types known to cause crashes even after these fixes.
I would also strongly recommend the Clannfear Durzog and Guar add-on, which uses SIC's system to bring these creatures from previous games to lore-friendly and immersive places across Skyrim. They'll use the versions of these creatures created by the very talented creature modeller 4thUnknown. If you're not interested in the Clannfear or Guar spawns but want to replace SIC's Durzogs with the new meshes, then you can use the quick and dirty replacer that some idiot threw together instead.
High Level Enemies is a must-have mod for anyone looking to expand the variety and challenge of the game's pool of enemies. Instead of 6 levelled tiers of bandit, there are now 10; and almost every type of creature in the game has been given a similar treatment. It's a fantastic mod, but much like Immersive Creatures has its issues in 2020. Which is why the High Level Enemies Redux is such a valuable replacement — it combines the multiple plugins used by the original mod, carries forward edits from USSEP, expands the idea in a few areas the original mod didn't touch, has a plugin that's specifically designed to be used with Immersive Creatures, and is completely standalone (meaning there's no need to install the original mod).
The description page for Enhanced Atronachs is a big wall of text, much of which is moderately technical. In short, it makes atronachs drastically more powerful. Almost too powerful, frankly, when combined with the rest of this combat suite. In my experience, even the lowliest of flame atronachs could kill me with a look from as far as thirty paces. That said, I do still appreciate the plugin in the optional files section of the mod page that provides glowing atronachs.
HC SVNT DRACONES
Dragons are quite literally what Skyrim is about, and they're cool as shit. I toyed with the idea of doing an article just about dragons and shouts, but decided against it. Dragons will be covered in this list here, and shouts will be covered in a future list about magic.
Back in the glory days of 2013, Dragon Combat Overhaul seemed to be the dragon mod to end all dragon mods. Much like the same author's Civil War Overhaul, however, its long absence in the SSE scene left room for the development of a whole host of mods that, in my humble opinion, not only surpass but improve on the old greats.
In my opinion, KS Dragon Overhaul 2 is a much more streamlined and stable experience. It's comparable in features to DCO, but with nowhere near as many strange behaviours or the script load.
I've also been a big fan of the dragon variants added by Deadly Dragons, though I bounce back and forth between the standard version, which adds several new dragon types; and the so-called Loremonger edition, which simply expands on the vanilla game's fire and frost dragons. While a patch on the KS page allows you to use the two mods together, I don't personally see much point in combining KS Dragon Overhaul with Deadly Dragons' Loremonger edition, but the full version integrates very nicely.
But dragons are more than just enemies in Skyrim. They're NPCs! Though it's often hard to believe that they're fully intelligent, sapient creatures given the majority of your interactions with them. Talkative Dragons helps with this by giving unnamed dragons access to the combat dialogues normally reserved for Mirmulnir. They'll now taunt you in battle like any Man or Mer.
But the voices for that dialogue kinda suck. We can make them not suck with the Enigma Series, which makes even the named dragons sound a lot larger and more dangerous. The Enigma Series Compatibility Patches offer compatibility with the rest of this list as well as a handful of other popular mods.
I never knew how dissatisfied with my encounters with Durnehviir I really was until I found Durnehviir God of Death. I've summoned him more in the year or so since I found it than the previous 7 years combined, simply because he's a much more exciting ally with it installed. Durnehviir Resurrected, which contains a patch for God of Death, gradually undoes the damage done by the Ideal Masters to his corporeal form, steadily restoring him to his true glory each time you call him to Tamriel.
If you want something more exotic for the named dragons, Alduin and Paarthurnax both have fantastic retextures by DarkDukla, each of them with multiple options for the discerning dragon slayer. If his work doesn't do it for you, then Alduin's Imprefvicticious may give your World Eater the menacing appearance you're looking for.
Finally, I want to speak briefly about SOUL, by ramccoid. It's a small but beautiful mod, one I've always used and was one of the first mods I learned to convert to SSE for personal use. It wasn't until the release of the posted conversion that I learned of the original author's death earlier this year. By all accounts he was a fine man, and our community is that much darker for his passing.
- Skyrim Immersive Creatures has been reported to cause crashes, but the process outlined above should all but eliminate these problems. I've run for several hundred hours now with no crashes that can be attributed to SIC.
Combat Gameplay Overhaul is just as much an animation mod as it is a combat mod, if not more so. As a result, many animation mods are going to want to use the same files and will thus conflict with CGO. Historically this was fixed through the now-abandoned Fores New Idles in Skyrim. CGO comes with built-in compatibility for the "new FNIS", called Nemesis. I've had nothing but problems trying to run the Nemesis engine through Mod Organizer 2, myself. I'm not the only one, but my experience is also not common to every user of MO2. We don't know why yet. The good news is that I made a post several weeks back about my experiences with the program, and the lengths to which I had to go to get it functioning properly. In my most recent playthrough, I've simplified my load order and no longer use other animation mods whatsoever. It just isn't worth the effort anymore for me, but YMMV.
Combat Gameplay Overhaul also conflicts in minor ways with several popular mods such as the USSEP (which every load order should include) and Legacy of the Dragonborn. ForeverVirtual has a set of patches that correct these conflicts that I highly recommend.
For the record, I begin a playthrough on the default Adept difficulty, and eventually raise it to Expert by level 20, to Master around level 40, and then to Legendary by level 60 (the one time I've made it to that level in the last few years, anyway). Combat with this build is unforgiving, but usually not frustrating. If you rush headlong into a fight without taking stock of the situation, you're gonna have a bad time; but it should be rare that you can't handle a confrontation so long as you're smart about it.
Did I miss anything important? Do my mod choices offend your delicate modding sensibilities? Don't like the way I talk and want to teach me some manners? Stick around in the comments section and let me have it!
Skyrim belongs to the modders!
- Generic “Can My PC run Skyrim?” Question
- Can someone please take a look at my load order and tell me if it’s all right? Because i’m geting some invisible monsters from the Immersiver Creatures mod.
- Request: subject the Drain Vitality shout to magic resistance and absorption
© Post "(EEMC) Hyac’s Mod List: Entry 3, Combat & Enemy NPCs" for game The Elder Scrolls.
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