Mod of the Week: Achieve That! for Skyrim

I've never been much of a reader in the Elder Scrolls games. When I come across a stack of books, I'll just drift my cursor along the spines, looking for any that are high value, either to collect and sell or to briefly crack open on the off-chance they provide me with a skill point. Today, however, I'm in the library of the College of Winterhold, opening and examining every single book I can find. This change in reading habits doesn't represent a sudden interest in lore or knowledge. I'm chasing an achievement.

This is due to a mod called Achieve That! which adds over 100 unique achievements to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim . More importantly, it adds tangible rewards for achieving them in the form of small bonuses to relevant attributes.

Achievements in games are kind of a mixed bag. Often they seem to result in pointless busywork that can distract players for hours as they chase milestones for the simple reason that the milestones exist. Sometimes the busywork can interesting enough: in Bioshock Infinite, peering into all of the game's telescopes and kinetoscopes for the "Sightseer" achievement will give you a broader view of the city and insight into its history. Other times, chasing achievements can even turn you into a better player: Team Fortress 2's "Hot Potato" achievement, earned for deflecting projectiles with the flamethrower's airblast, will help make you a better Pyro.

The achievements that shipped with Skyrim are neither interesting nor helpful, mainly focusing on the completion of quests or the act of leveling up. They're not even interestingly named. The achievement for getting married, for example, is called "Married." Wow. Achieve That! provides achievements that are relevant to different styles of play, names them well, and rewards the player with relevant bonuses for completing them.

For instance, an achievement called Treasure Hunter challenges you to loot 150 chests, something the average player will probably accomplish in the course of the game anyway, and provides you with a +10 to your carrying weight. The reward feels perfectly relevant to the task: walking around with trousers heavy with loot would probably cause you to eventually grow stronger. Another achievement is called Local, which kicks in after spending a full month in the frosty climate of Skyrim, and gives you a +5 toward your frost resistance. (Spend six months or a year in Skyrim, and gain +5 more for each.) Makes sense: if you spend enough time in the snow, being frozen will eventually lose some if its sting.

There are general Skyrim-style achievements as well, but they also have appropriate bonuses. Completing 50 quests for A Helping Hand or 100 quests for Famous Hero gives you a small bonuses towards finding better prices in stores, as you become more well known in Skyrim. Discovering 150 world locations nudges up your movement speed by 5%, unlocking 300 locations gives you an additional 5%.

As for you dastardly types, you have not been overlooked. Steal 10 horses and receive a small bonus to your sneak skill. Kill 30 innocent citizens, and get a bonus to your damage. Backstab 500 times and your one-handed damage will increase. Escaping prison 15 times will boost your sneak, lockpicking, and pickpocketing skills as you grow from a lowly jailbird into a career criminal.

There's also a category for professions, with achievements and bonuses for crafting, enchanting, and mixing potions and poisons, as well as some random achievements for plucking butterfly wings, hunting rabbits, and even the simple act of eating food. Here's a full list of the achievements and rewards . And hey, should you feel that the attribute bonuses are cheating or making the game too easy, but still want to track your progress and chase milestones, you can always disable the rewards themselves.

Achieve That! seems to be intended for new or lower-level characters, but I'm trying it out with my level 43 Orc, Braul (previous exploits here and here ). After installing and enabling the mod, and watching all the achievements I've already gotten scroll by on my screen, I decide to chase one of the book-reading achievements. As I said earlier, I'm not much of a reader, and Braul has only read a handful of books during his 206 days in Skyrim. I head to the library at Winterhold, run by an Orc named Urag gro-Shub, and start nosing around.

After reading some loose books piled around the library, I move on to the bookcases, though I'm dismayed to find that they're all locked, along with the display cases. I hunch over sneakily, hoping to pickpocket the librarian, only to discover that he doesn't have the key. Well, at least I have money, so I buy everything Urag gro-Shub has for sale, read them immediately, and sell them back to him.

I still haven't reached my milestone, so I start lifting and reading the books on the tables. Naturally, in my haphazard race to absorb as many books as I can, as fast as I can, I accidentally wind up stealing one instead of simply closing it. This doesn't go over well with gro-Shub. Though the act of stealing a book only comes with a 1 septim bounty, it apparently carries a death sentence from the librarian, who immediately begins throwing magic in my face.

You can probably guess how the rest of my quiet library excursion goes. My follower, a powerful wizard I picked up in Solstheim, isn't fond of nerds shooting ice magic into my nostrils and goes full-on meltdown, summoning a flame atronach and blasting the librarian with fireballs.

Of course, the librarian is one of those unkillable characters, and while he's quickly beaten into submission, he just catches his breath for a few moments, and then he and my follower start up with the magical bombardment again. Meanwhile, I'm just innocently trying to read whatever books are lying around as their song of ice and fire turns the room into a cloud of debris.

Eventually, gro-Shub flees up some stairs and my follower chases him, allowing me to quietly finish my achievement in peace. The library, meanwhile, has seen better days.

Installation : It's a snap. Just download and drop the two Achieve That! files into Skyrim's Data folder. HOWEVER! You will need both the latest version of SkyUI and the Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) to make it work. (If you're into Skyrim mods, you've probably got both already working.) For characters over level 20, you'll need to enable the mod from the Mod Configuration Manager (MCM) tab on the main menu. Below level 20, the mod will automatically be enabled when you start, but you can still adjust the settings from the MCM tab.

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