Up For Debate - Is the Best Looking Game in the World a Heavily Modded Skyrim?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 4:00 PM
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GD contributor Phat_Chopps recently arrived late on the scene to The Witcher 3 party. A fervent Skyrim fan and avid mod-lover, he’d heard incredible tales of the immaculately detailed world CD Projekt RED had constructed. Only when he booted up The Witcher 3 it wasn’t beautiful vistas and sun-drenched villages that greeted him, but the tangible sense of disappointment. Here was the universally acclaimed 2015 game of the year. One of the finest open-world games ever. Except it didn’t look anywhere near as nice as his six-year-old modded copy of Skyrim.

When I say modded, I mean heavily modded. Phatt_Chopps has layered dozens, if not hundreds of mods into Skyrim, tweaking everything from texture quality to water reflections, character animations, and just how many different types of grass blade are accurately rendered. Together with the help of Bethesda and an army of modders, he took a rather plain looking game and made it beautiful. Better looking in fact than a game that launched four years later, had a multi-million dollar budget and potentially hundreds of people working on it.

This raises a couple of interesting points. Firstly, do you think a heavily modded Skyrim is in fact better looking than playing The Witcher 3 on Ultra? And secondly, how on earth have a bunch of part time modders put together visual mods which look as good as, if not better than, a AAA game with big publisher backing? It’s always been bizarre to me how Bethesda can spend five years working on a game and within a week someone has made a mod to make a specific part of it look better. Someone, in their own free time, has made something which looks better than what the actual art team created.

This is all part of why we love mods and modding on PC of course. Put a game and its mod tools into the hands of millions and you inevitably end up with a bucketload of creativity, things which the original developers themselves never have thought of. Just look at Counter-Strike being borne from Half-Life, or DOTA from WarCraft 3. These are mods which have since become the two most popular titles on the entirety of Steam with millions of players each and every day.

Let me pull things back however before I get too far off tangent. With all the bid budget games doing the rounds today, is the real graphics champion an unassuming 2011 RPG with a creaking engine and bugs galore? And which Skyrim graphics mods do you think are absolutely essential? Let us know!

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03:41 Mar-30-2017

They both look pretty good. In some ways Skyrim does look better for example modded lighting. But honestly they're both pretty nice and I enjoy both.

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08:47 Mar-15-2017

Character animation makes world design makes tw3 winner modded Skyrim only looks good but combat and other quest areas is quite sloppy

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19:36 Mar-13-2017

Well, its kinda the preferences from players... In spite of TW3 being DX11, an modded TESV can be very pleasing to see :)

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12:15 Mar-13-2017

The animations of the Witcher 3 make a big difference in the environments.

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05:46 Mar-13-2017

I play both. Skyrim (not SE) with ENB or SKGE and 1000+ Mods and Witcher 3 with 40+ Mods. Can't compare the both. Witcher 3 being a a title benefiting from DX11 and other modern graphical enhancements brings a gun to a sword fight. Witcher 3 is gorgeous as is so I don't even bother to add Reshade or lighting mods. I love my Skyrim setups to death as well. I spend more time modding Skyrim than actually playing. I prefer Skyrim more because of the first person perspective. This helps me immerse in the game and enjoy the scenery better. That's why I find modded Skyrim magical place to explore. The benefit of first person view, freedom and ease of modding, the massive selection of visual, textural and landscape mods help me build an amazing world I'd love to explore according to my preferences. So, Skyrim takes the cup :)

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04:06 Mar-13-2017

How about The Witcher 3 with mods? Nothing can come close to this, yet ;)

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22:00 Mar-12-2017

Skyrim and TW3 are my favorite games all time. That being sad, i can't believe someone can compare them graphicly and call them even!
HM Skyrim looks great - TW3 looks best. Not to mention modded witcher 3...

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14:44 Mar-12-2017

You all do realize something...don't you? ART is subjective. If you've got hundreds of mods running with Skyrim then obviously those mods are tailored to an individual's visual taste. The Witcher 3 cannot win over visual taste easily.

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09:52 Mar-12-2017

Honestly I think the best overall looking game has to be either Ghost Recon Wildlands or The Witcher 3. Wildlands looks incredibly beautiful with all of its different, highly detailed terrains and weather effects, whereas Witcher 3 does the same except it focuses on one kind of terrain in particular. Skyrim? No way.

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09:20 Mar-12-2017

Well I would say possibly yes. But that doesn't really count... every game can look much better if modded and every developer can make the best looking game, but they don't mainly due to wanting their game to run and thus sell on mid-range and even sub-mid-range hardware and consoles as that's where most of the market is, the high-end PC market is really small to the point that it becomes negligible compared to the mid-range and lower PC hardware market and consoles. Other reason for some developers to NOT have good graphics of course is budget.

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03:55 Mar-12-2017

I would take witcher 3 over modded skyrim. i dont know i just love the witcher 3 game.

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23:49 Mar-11-2017

Graphically I would say a heavily modded Skyrim is better than Witcher 3. However the Witcher's story and characters are far better crafted than Skyrim's, at least in my opinion.

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01:19 Mar-12-2017

Depends on what you mean with Story, the Storyline overall, most definitely, but with all the depth the TES universe has, and all the stuff you can discover and extrapolate yourself I prefer Skyrims Story, despite the weak and boring mainquest.

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23:05 Mar-11-2017

the problem i have with a lot of people who show off modded skyrims is that a lot of the time they tweak the enb or whatever every time they capture a new scene to make it look perfect every time even though it is not an accurate representation of what it looks like in gameplay since its changed for every scene.

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03:22 Mar-12-2017

Some ENBs are made specifically for screenarchery. The only differences between what is captured and gameplay most of the time is usually Depth of Field (depending on the type) for most ENBs. A lot of the time what is captured is what their gameplay looks like minus the DOF all up in your face. I've not known anyone to tweak an ENB for every scene as that would be a tedious headache, they are more likely just using a different ENB preset, as some have multiple, and just skipping ahead or changing to the perfect weather and time that they want when they find a location.

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21:42 Mar-11-2017

What about heavily modded Witcher 3?
There are mods for the game that improve the visuals.

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20:08 Mar-11-2017

Modded Skyrim does look good but it doesn't have the same character/feel you get in Witcher 3. There's nothing like the familiarity of winds howling in the trees of Velen after playing on Skellige for a few hours. #dejavu

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19:53 Mar-11-2017

story>graphics so ill still take witcher 3 over "heavily modded" skyrim any day.

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19:03 Mar-11-2017

Most people who mod Skyrim have heavy shading mods in the form of ENBs, those things can make 20 year old games look good.


Maybe Phat_Chopps should play vanilla Skyrim, and then see what the difference between those games is.

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19:06 Mar-11-2017

The Witcher 3 has unparalleled open world story telling, even any side mission is probably better than Skyrims campaign storyline.


This is coming from someone who has put 300+ hours in Skyrim, and had 200+ mods installed

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03:42 Mar-12-2017

TW3 gamplay was weak, hold witchet senses button to follow obvious trail to big bad monster roll and counterattack you way to victory = every quest in TW3. Story is all it had.

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18:56 Mar-11-2017

IMHO Skyrim is one of the most boring games i have ever played ( got 30hrs max of it ) , but back to the topic every game can look ultra realistic with the right mods also there has to be a combination of graphics and the actual people that can run it , for instance if you put ultra realistic graphics that only people wiht dual GTX 1080 Tis can handle then there is no point in having the "Best Looking game in the world"

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00:44 Mar-12-2017

30h? More like 30h per session

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13:26 Mar-12-2017

Your statment is sh*t and here's why:
"If you make a car that only millionaires can afford, then there is no point in having the "Best Looking car in the world"."


See how stupid that looks? How about make a game that does look decent at low quality, but also great at Ultra quality and make use of the sliders in the graphic settings tab? Just because you can't run it, does not mean it's not useful for other.

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18:52 Mar-11-2017

Also, one of the reasons it's easy for modders to make a game look better than what the developers made it out to look is that developers try to hit a certain audience range so that they can sell more units. Modders on the other hand can tweak the game to their hearts content based on their personal hardware.

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21:46 Mar-11-2017

u mean developers are like we got to make this game for +13 people and moders be like f#ck that +21 all the way!

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18:49 Mar-11-2017

That's kind of an unfair comparison to be honest. Any game with a dedicated group of modders (on the visual side of things) can look better than even some of the latest visual oriented games. If Witcher 3 was as heavily modded in the same department, it would probably look better than Skyrim.

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