Mod of the Week: Tame the Beasts of Skyrim II

As an animal lover, it sometimes bothers me to have to slaughter so much wildlife in video games, particularly in Skyrim , where wolves, bears, deer, and mammoths often give you little choice. There's an alternative, however, that lets you put down your sword and pick up a leash. Charm creatures with magic, make them your companions, feed them treats, sell them for profit, and even breed them, with Tame The Beasts of Skyrim II .

The central feature of Tame the Beasts is the Pet Shop (or petshop as it's called in the mod). There you'll meet Roselia, the shop owner, who will teach you a new shout. Then, you just need to run around in the wild until you find the animal you'd like to adopt, or just settle for whatever random animal you find, because believe me, when you're out deliberately looking for a bear, you will never find a bear.

I found a mudcrab, as one often does, and shouted my new shout all over its cartilage. It glowed and then vanished: when you successfully tame an animal, it is magically spirited away, back to the pet shop, where you can collect it later. I went and picked up Pinchy, as I called him (after Homer Simpson's lobster), instructed him to follow me, and took him for a test drive. Sure enough, he scuttled after me wherever I went! Pretty adorable, really.

Your new pet can fill a couple of different roles when it comes to combat. You can assign them defensive duties or put them on point to aggro your enemies. As they fight, they will gain levels and increase their personal stats. You can also purchase pet treats at the shop, and keeping your pets fed will make them happier, meaning they'll gain more experience from their fights and level up more quickly.

As loyal as Pinchy was, and as eager as he was to do battle, when I ran into a couple of giants (they're untamable, sadly) poor Pinchy was completely obliterated in the brawl (though you can label your pets as essential, and therefore unkillable, if you prefer.) Though saddened by Pinchy's heroic demise, it did leave me with an opening in the pet department. I decided to fill it with something, well, big.

I tamed the mammoth and named him (Stampy, after Bart Simpson's elephant). It's a pretty fantastic joy to be followed everywhere by an enormous charging mammoth, especially because when I stop he stands directly behind me, his tusks protectively encircling me. Later we ran into a giant battling a couple bandits, and then a dragon showed up, and then a sabercat, and with me and Stampy also jumping in, it was a big old entertainingly messy fight that there are unfortunately no useable screenshots of, because I was rather busy.

Even while running around with one pet, you can collect others for later, which is why I returned to the pet shop to find a couple horkers, a few bears, a sabercat, a stag or two, and one chicken. I dropped off Stampy and took the chicken, who I named Miss Buh'gawk, out for a run. While she was certainly enjoyable company, she was not much good in a fight, preferring to run away rather than peck ineffectively at my foes. I forgive her. We're not all meant to be bruisers.

If you happen to collect a male and female of the same species, you can give them to Roselia for breeding. Breeding two well-trained and leveled animals will give you a sturdy and talented offspring. You can also talk to Malbros, a pet shop employee, who will use his expertise to ensure the very best attributes of the offspring's parents are passed on. Malbros also has a series of quests involving some specific rare animals (with nicely made custom skins) for you to find. He is also wonderfully nuts and his custom voice acting is especially enjoyable.

There's also a quest to teach you how to train dragons, though I didn't go all the way through it. To be honest, I've actually grown tired of Skyrim's dragons: just hearing their distant roar is enough to make me roll my eyes and sigh. Roselia can provide a spell for taming horses, however, if you'd like to keep a steed by your elbow at all times.

The other spells you acquire from the pet shop will allow you to examine the stats of your pet, their level, their sex, and other attributes. You'll also be able to name them, call them to you (sometimes they get a little lost while following you around), and assign them a home and send them there. You can command them to attack (or call them off). You can even merge your spirit with your pets, allowing you to inhabit their bodies for a short period of time.

The mod is a trifle buggy: I had a couple pets disappear between sessions, which has something to do with the way Skyrim generates random creatures, apparently. A few quest markers didn't show up, and Malbros himself vanished from my game, though he returned when I restarted. So, while enjoyable as hell, expect a few minor glitches. There's even a mod to make this mod compatible with Skyrim's Monster Mod , if you're looking to tame some additional beasts.

Installation: The instructions recommend a manual install of version 1.3 , but I installed with Nexus Mod Manager, and it seemed to work just fine apart from a couple bugs. It's also available through Steam Workshop . Requires the latest version of Skyrim Script Extender .

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.