Nowadays, I’m a Skyrim watcher and not a Skyrim doer. I used to be a doer, but that involved more than just installing the game. I'd start modding, and I wouldn't stop. Couldn't stop. I’d spend more time looking for lore appropriate coin distribution than shouting at dragons. Eventually, something would break, and I'd uninstall it, promising that I wouldn't fall into that hole again.
It's been a long struggle, but when I stumbled upon YouTube compilations of heavily-modded Elder Scrolls, I finally broke the curse. Some brave souls do the hard work for me, turning the nine-year-old RPG (or four-year-old remaster, or two-year-old VR remake) into PC melting 4K thirst traps. I don't have time for that. Nor the PC.
My dalliances with modding have given me a basic appreciation of the mental state required to get Skyrim running with mods. There is no art darker than working out the mod load order and ini file tweaks needed to get 180 mods to pull in the same direction. I'm not exaggerating. That's what "Toxic Gaming" does to get it to look like a shiny walking simulator.
The stars of that video are the houses and inns. There's no single mod that does all that. They've modded the glow of ovens, enhanced torch shadows, and swapped out so many models that it technically might not be Skyrim anymore. It’s Trigger’s broom all over again.
There are more specific changes highlighted in some videos, like a parallax texture pack that contains over 1300 files. This right here is the good shit.
"Digital Dreams" has a more vivid take on the world. When the rain and storms kick in on this collection, there's a subdued, almost Stalkery, vibe. But some areas look like the something out of Alice in Wonderland. There are over 200 mods, including one that’s made of photogrammetry tree stumps and mushrooms.
200 mods not enough for you? Fine, here's 300. It's not perfect. There are things in all these videos that I couldn't abide if they were in my game, like the overuse of bloom, but this isn't my game so I don't need to worry.
I'm glad I'm out of this game. I spent a weekend last year trying to follow a guide to remaster Skyrim VR. All I had to show for it was a lot of Google tabs open as I hunted down a pile of errors. I spent two days loading and fiddling with mods and only got an hour out of the game before it broke. I'm now content to sit down, dim the lights, and relax as someone else does the hard work, just like watching Bob Ross.