Skyrim has an ongoing list of super mods available, users are able to modify so many aspects of the game it’s almost crazy. We’re not going that far into the exploration just yet, instead we’re focusing on the visual engine and how many tweaks are just waiting to get used out there. Before jumping into that I’ll go over the hardware used in the testing and the software we used.
- AMD Phenom 9750 (Stock)
- Jetway 790GX ComboL
- 4GB Crucial DDR2 PC6400
- ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU (950 core / 1100 memory)
- Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtrememusic
- Windows 7 x64
- 2K Texture pack for Skyrim Version 1.4
- ENB Series mod (ENBPM 2.03 Beta)
- Fraps (monitoring FPS and screen caps)
- ATI Catalyst 12.2
- Resolution: 1920×1200
- FXAA: On | SSAO: On (slow) | AA: Off
Skyrim is no doubt amazing to look at from a distance, the textures at their worst come off with clarity and drive home the sense of fantasy. Up close though… that’s really a different story, the textures look blocky and blurry upon closer examination (walking over them). One of the first moves from the community to restore the immersion was the 2K texture mod, a project completely revising the look of the game textures. Recently Bethesda tried their own hand at releasing a full HD kit of their own to update the PC version. The question now is, what gets it done the best and that’s what we’re looking at now.
Biggest thing to take out of the outdoor shots? 2K demolishes both without hesitation, in fact it’s a huge difference walking through the world and over land masses. Sure if you fast travel everywhere it doesn’t matter as much but that’s not exactly for everyone and after a while you need to explore to find those extra hidden areas in the map. ENB manages to help polish up all 3 options as well, you can be on normal and get an entirely new sense of depth to Skyrim thanks to the ENB mods being made.
Where does the HD DLC really kick in then? It’s actually indoors that I noticed the biggest kick, with the 2K kit establishing a large lead I left the next comparisons down to the normal and DLC textures instead.
Here we see the HD pack shine, it adds definition to the sheets for threads and revises the chest completely, floor textures like the rugs and coverings all get a revamp for higher clarity. While the outdoor scenes may not show it, tighter spaces make heavy use of the revised HD textures. The primary difference to the 2K pack is the illusion of bump mapping and depth to the textures in the 2K pack for more realistic walls and added depth to tables. This all comes at a cost as we’ll see in the performance section. Before going there, we’ll take a close up with character models and the HD pack update to clothing and overall design.
Huge shift in the shirt is the first thing I picked up, clothing gets a massive overhaul to give actual definition to the characters. Faces, hair and other items also take up a boost but that shirt… it’s like it’s from a different game. Odd enough if you’re running ENB you’re able to potentially mask some of the horror in the blurry textures thanks to the post processing effects masking it with heavier shadows and blur.
It’s amazing what can be done with just a revamp, but these do come with their own damage. Lets take a look at the Memory and FPS hit running these mods.
Memory in GB (1.46GB before starting Skyrim):
Memory wise it’s almost confusing why Skyrim HD DLC takes up nearly as much memory as the 2K pack given how it performs outdoors, it seems likely the bulk of it focuses on armor, models and structural spaces more than anything. The 2K pack is the clear winner for overhaul sake but it also does require a large amount of memory and it has the biggest performance hit out of the list. When using heavier ENB mods like ENBPM you’ll drop FPS in half if not worse which is a gamble unless you have the hardware to back it up. Either way they both work to leave the stock pack of textures in the dust and it should be a clear recommendation to at least get the HD pack if you have the memory to spare. For those more adventurous there are users also combining the two for an ultra texture mod of traditional art and the 2K pack.
For those wondering if ENB always takes that much power away, no. It’s strictly on a case by case basis and many of the mods don’t induce that hard of a performance hit but finding the perfect one for your setup may require investing some time in tweaking the configuration yourself.
Thanks for tuning in with us and if you have questions feel free to ask in the comments.