So I'm ten hours into a new play through of Skyrim and would like to gather some thoughts from the community regarding the game, mods and suggestions on how to keep Skyrim fresh and exciting. I love exploring this huge, open world. I have the "Corners of Skyrim" mod and cannot recommend it enough. Does wonders for exploration when you find that small hideout/hut with a lone bed and a chest for your gear, but no cheats or overpowered items. Or that spooky abandoned jail, haunted with ghosts. Corners of Skyrim is a breath of fresh air in a stale world.
And Skyrim is stale. Make no mistake. I have done a number on the game through mods, but unlike Oblivion, it simply does not seem to be working this time around. So far I have:
-Tougher dragons. Real racial differences. Hard hitting, staggering combat. Deadly magic, without combat regen so you have to use it wisely, like your powers in the Witcher 2 or Dishonored. I have made merchant far more immersive, basing Smith's goods on the mines in their holds or their affiliation/location. Riften has tons of Ebony because the hold mines the stuff. Markarth has a near monopoly on Dwarven, with the mine there.
I have torn down magic, combat, loot, gold drops, stealth, Dragons and even enchanting and merchants...and yet. And yet I just cannot seem to find that formula that compels to me wander this world and explore. I find Dwemer ruins to be soulless, boring places. Falmer are...irritating. Blind or nearly so...but their aim sure is good for all that.
Maybe it is the small bestiary. Maybe its the truly antiquated look and feel of the animations. Maybe its the godawful writing. But none of those things kept me from Oblivion as they do from Skyrim. So I am wondering: What have others done to keep their Skyrim game fresh, exciting and new. What gets you out into that craggy wilderness to explore? Or have you given up and moved on to other, newer game engines?