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One day in Skyrim Requiem

requiem book cover transparency

On a whim I decided to play around with Requiem, a Skyrim “roleplaying overhaul” mod. It’s one of those big mods which is pretty much guaranteed to be incompatible with anything else, so I thought it would be easiest to install on top of my clean Skyrim install on my new computer.

A word about my mod philosophy, and how it led me to Requiem: the three factors I value the most in game mods are immersion, roleplaying, and surprise. To this end, in earlier Skyrim games I’ve used a lot of immersion mods (Frostfall, IMCN, etc). Roleplaying-wise, I generally have a story and guiding direction for every character I play.

Surprise is the hardest one to get, because installing mods that actually work tends to involve knowing what you are getting into. Ever since reading this famous article, I’ve been dying to capture the feeling embodied by this quote:

Where would the adventure and discovery be in simply picking something off a menu? I didn’t want to install, say, “Really Pretty Flying Boat House Mod” only to walk over, see it, go “Oooh,” and be done. I wanted to turn corners and actually be surprised by what I found.

So, Requiem bills itself as a roleplaying mod. I am down with that. It claims to reward tactical gameplay, which I feel syncs well with immersion. I’ve heard its difficulty compared to “if Dark Souls and Dwarf Fortress had a baby.” I knew it de-leveled the world, so you got the danger of Morrowind, where if you wandered where you weren’t supposed, you’d likely get killed by cliff racers — but you also could get quite badass gear randomly. Also, it’s one big mod, so I can install it relatively blindly, not knowing quite what I’m getting.

So I jumped in head-first. Didn’t even read the Player’s Handbook, as I wanted to be surprised. (That might have been a mistake).

Executive summary, after playing for 3-4 hours (and barely surviving Helgen): impressive, but not sure if it’s for me?

The setup is extensive — you need a mod manager, SKSE (Skyrim script extender), SkyUI, and the unofficial patches. After you do all that, you have to run Requiem’s own SkyProc patcher, the Reqtificator, to generate a compatibility patch with other mods (even though I had none installed other than the ones it recommended, I did this anyway). It probably took me about an hour to get it set up, but I was a) shooting the shit with my ESO guildies on TeamSpeak all the while, b) dealing with Windows UAC issues because Skyrim was installed in my C:\Program Files directory.

That was the easy part.

I started up a new game, went through the usual cart ride to Helgen. At first, not much is different. Strangely, my first reaction, after a year away from Skyrim, was “my god, hair is uglier than I remember.” I might have to look into some mods to fix that.

Requiem didn’t run its startup scripts until you get to the tower and Hadvar unties you (or, one assumes, Ralof, if you go the other way). It immediately gives you three perk points to spend. “Huh, that’s interesting,” I thought.

Little did I know I wouldn’t be getting out of there without them.

This character was based on the protagonist of my novel-in-progress, a spy, diplomat, and poisoner (herself loosely based off Milady de Winter from The Three Musketeers). I made her an Imperial with blue eyes and blond hair and cheekbones that could cut diamonds. I named her Hibernia Leonis, because of course I did.

Skillwise, I wanted her to specialize in Alchemy, Illusion, Lockpicking, and Speechcraft. I put two of my three points to Alchemy and Illusion; as my third skill, I ended up picking One-Handed, as I figured I’d probably need some sort of weapon to get out of there. (And I figured Speechcraft was already buffed due to being an Imperial).

Illusion was the most interesting of these; with one point in it, I got to choose two spells. I chose Charming Touch and Frightening Orb, figuring I could use these to repel or calm enemies.

I picked up everything useful in the first room, followed Hadvar around the corner…

And promptly got one-shot by a Stormcloak.

So. Um. Clearly I had not chosen optimal skills. Let’s try again.

(repeat x 20)

I did finally leave Helgen and reach Riverwood. In order to actually get out, though, I had to assign those first three skill points to Heavy Armor/Block/One-Handed.

Here’s what I learned about Requiem along the way:
– Health doesn’t regenerate on its own. Stamina and magicka do, but very slowly (especially while doing anything else). I had about one spell in me before my magicka was completely drained. I’m okay with this; Morowind was this way.

– My spells often didn’t work. I don’t mean they failed in the way spells could fail in Morrowind — I cast the spell fine, it hit the enemy, but the enemies didn’t stop attacking me, or run away in fear. From what I am reading now, this is typical of the Illusion spells I choose, as my starting Illusion skill of 5 or whatever is pitted against a calculated “mental resistance” score for the target. That’s cool, buuuuut… it made Illusion useless as a way to get out of Helgen.

– Alchemy is also useless for getting out of Helgen, as the first perk just makes you able to use Alchemy tables, of which there are none.

– One-Handed weapon seems minimally useful without a shield to block with. And that’s useless without the Block skill.

– Walk speed is slow, and encumbrance makes it slower. And my max encumbrance seems really low. It took a long time to walk to Riverwood. I had time to contemplate why Hadvar walks so strangely, and why I’d never noticed before.

– Food regens stamina and magicka (and sometimes health), but only out of combat. Which honestly I have no problem with; I always thought the “scarf down as many apples as you can while fighting a dragon” was kind of ridiculous.

– Raw meat drops your stamina and magicka unless you’re a race with poison resistance, i.e. Bosmer or Argonian.

– Merchants are likely to rip you off. Hey, it’s wartime. This wouldn’t have been so bad with my racial power (modified from vanilla to help with haggling instead), except I couldn’t remember how to use shouts/powers, thanks to it being so long since I last played.

– Pretty sure this is a bug (or just due to my choice of font) but a lot of the tooltips are missing the glyphs for their keybindings, so you’ll see “Press __ to Ready a Weapon.”

Apparently you can turn these tooltips off in the .ini files, which was part of the recommended setup I missed.

– You pretty much can’t do anything if you don’t have a skill in it. I tried to lockpick those cells in the torturer’s room, and Requiem gave me a “seriously, don’t even try” message. It doesn’t help that I’d completely forgotten how the lockpicking mechanic in vanilla Skyrim worked (it’s very different than ESO’s). I tried it anyway on one of my many go-throughs, and found the novice locks even harder than master locks in the vanilla game.

– I experimented with taking a different selection of character-appropriate skills, like Evasion (what Light Armor has become), Sneak, Marksmanship, etc. And… they were equally rubbish for helping me escape. Pretty much Heavy Armor/Block/One-Handed was the only combo that worked, and even that took a reasonable amount of effort/care.

I ended my session in Riverwood, and I suspect I may have to spend some time here, doing the Skyrim equivalent of killing level 1 goblins. Even Bleak Falls Barrow, the game documentation tells me, is no starter dungeon.

Overall? I’m not sure how to feel about Requiem. This is a very exciting world to explore, and I appreciate the element of danger and the importance of tactics. It might even be more “realistic” that a fighter character can bull their way through Stormcloaks.

But that was not the sort of character I wanted to play, and there doesn’t seem to be a way through Helgen as the diplomat/spy I intended.

I’ll probably give it a little longer, as the whole point of a de-leveled world is that it gets much easier as you go along. I’m not playing the character I originally intended, but it’s possible that character was too hard-mode for a new player — like trying to ascend a tourist in Nethack on your first playthrough.

Have you played around with this mod at all? Any impressions?