The Must-Have Mods of Skyrim

Article Index

Gameplay & Balance

Unlike the rest of the mods we've covered in this article, the projects discussed here will change game balance. We've emphasized mods that improve the game's scaling at higher levels without distorting it or ruining the overall experience by making things too easy.

Enhanced High-Level Gameplay - By Eric

What it is: A mod that significantly improves high-level monster scaling
What it does: Most Skyrim monsters don't scale past 30. This mod fixes that problem.
Does it change game balance?: Yes.
Performance Impact: None
Download Location: Steam / Skyrim Nexus

Skyrim monsters are designed to scale alongside the player as you gain levels, but only to a certain point. Past lvl 30, the majority of monsters stop scaling, which makes the game much easier as time passes. Increasing the game's difficulty can help address this, but only to a point; 'Expert' difficulty makes monsters do 1.5x damage while you do 0.75x, 'Master' difficulty means mobs do 2x damage while you're stuck at 0.5x.

This works for a little while, but eventually you'll outscale it as well. The 'Enhanced' mod adds mobs that scale to lvl 45-60, with new names to differentiate them from the standard types. Regular bandits become "Bandit Elites," it's now possible to encounter bandit wizards (as one example), and loot tables were slightly tweaked to reflect higher levels.

Deadly Dragons: - By 3Jlou

What it is: A mod that makes dragon fights much more challenging
What it does: Modifies dragon behavior/stats; adds new craftables (optional)
Does it change game balance?: Yes (Varies)
Performance Impact: Minimal
Download Location: Not Available on Steam / Skyrim Nexus

Vanilla Skyrim's dragons are a bit of a push-over past level 25-30. Deadly Dragons addresses this by implementing resistances (Fire dragons are now highly resistant to fire, frost dragons to frost), they are much more difficult to stagger, and deal substantially more damage. At Master difficulty and with Deadly Dragons set to 'Hard' (presets are Normal, Hard, and Hardcore), a blast of dragon fire will kill you in 1-2 seconds if you've got no resist gear or other buffs.

The mod's settings can be tweaked from within the game; players have the option of adjusting dragon difficulty, setting Followers to Essential (undying) to prevent them from being sniped by dragon fire, and changing how frequently a random dragon encounter occurs.

Note: This mod also includes a number of new items to craft (the mats drop from the dragons themselves.) We have not evaluated this section of Deadly Dragons; the new craftables can be de-activated from within an in-game menu.

Balanced Magic: - By Mysty

What it is: A magic scaling / performance mod to improve magic in the end-game.
What it does: Changes magic perks, damage, and mana cost.
Does it change game balance?: Yes
Performance Impact: None
Download Location: Not Available on Steam / Skyrim Nexus

We hate to sound like broken records, but magic scaling is another area where Skyrim's vanilla design leaves much to be desired. Unlike melee players, who have a full range of item upgrades and useful stat-boosting magical enchantments, useful caster enchants are few and far between.

In the vanilla game, virtually the only useful caster enchant is "Reduces Mana Cost of Spell School (Destruction, Restoration, etc) by X%." There are no weapons that boost spell damage and +Mana/Mana Regeneration abilities are of limited use -- one of Skyrim Vanilla's rules is that your mana regenerates at 33% base rate when in combat.

There are no magic sneak attacks or power attacks. Unlike melee players, mages are also dependent on mana for both offensive and defensive capabilities, which makes stacking mana cost reduction enchants the only viable strategy at higher levels.

In the author's own words:  This mod attempts to address these issues without making Mages overpowered... the best spells should not necessarily do as much damage as well smithed, enchanted, and poisoned weapons would. If you want to be incredibly overpowered, this may not be the mod for you!"

Spells and perks have been redesigned to accommodate a wider variety of play styles

This turns virtually every fight into the same ritual of spanning spells and chugging pots. Balanced Magic also introduces some penalties along with its changes -- mages who wear armor now incur a % increase to mana cost for each item (Heavy armors are more expensive than Light).

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