Plenty of gameplay-tweaking mods for Skyrim sparkle like Ayleid gems in our roundup (opens in new tab) , but LogRaam's Duel Combat Realism (opens in new tab) overhaul somehow evaded our stealth detection. It's one of the oldest mods around for Bethesda's RPG, restructuring enemy and weapon behavior for a more realistic level of challenge above the game's stock hack-and-slash design.
Duel Combat's plethora of slight changes to stamina, block, and damage values add up to a rebalanced combat system. With the mod enabled, avoiding hits and waiting for a timely opportunity to strike becomes far more important than charging in screaming your lungs out. (Unless, of course, that's your angle—Skyrim is a wacky role-player's paradise, after all.) Shields reign supreme in saving your hide, but successfully blocking an attack drains stamina—in fact, nearly everything you do sucks up your green bar, so you'll quickly run out of breath if you're unaware.
Enemies won't statically stand still during combat, either, preferring to circle around and hammer down with power attacks and bash combos. Don't expect to shrug off an unblocked blow as easily, either, as your health will plummet dramatically if something sharp or blunt connects with you.
For the sneaky types, dropping a foe from long range or from behind still causes everyone nearby to start searching for you, but they'll keep it up for a far longer period of time. Lightly armored enemies such as archers and mages will try and hide themselves behind objects or structures for an ambush if you get too near, and enhanced lines of sight means you'll get spotted if you aren't patient. That just means clearing an entire camp without a single detection becomes all the more sweet.
Duel Combat Realism sits on Skyrim Nexus (opens in new tab) for any Dovahkiin up to the challenge, and you can watch a short comparison video below of Skyrim's combat using an earlier version of the mod. Be sure to bring your Rusty Spoon (opens in new tab) , the mightiest weapon of all.