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!