Skyrim mod gives you a fully voiced ex-Thalmor companion

I normally have a "kill on sight" policy when it comes to Skyrim's Thalmor, because to hell with fantasy Nazis. But I suspended that policy for a new mod called The Thalmor's Shadow – Taliesin, which lets you recruit an NPC companion after encountering him surrounded by dead followers of Talos and wearing those distinctive Thalmor shoulderpad robes. 

Taliesin is an ex-member of the big elven bigot club, to be fair. As the mod's description says, "A former member of the Thalmor wants a clean start, and only you can save him from his past life." Taliesin is a fully voiced companion in the vein of Vilja or Inigo, one who has his own storyline and will comment on locations you visit and quests you're involved in to a degree that someone like Lydia usually won't. He's also a dab hand with an ice spike spell, and carries a named magical dagger. The way he cackles after killing a frost troll or faltmer is kind of unsettling.

While recently modders have been making great use of AI-derived voices to flesh out mods that let you take over an annoying shopkeeper's business, run in terror from Doctor Who's weeping angels, or be baffled that AI can't solve Skyrim's easiest puzzle, Taliesin is voiced the old-fashioned way. Actor Pat Mahoney gives him snobbish tones and a rich vein of snark and sass. He acts underwhelmed by the sights of Skyrim, which makes a nice contrast to some of the other followers. Take him to the Solitude and he'll sniff at the fact this is the capital of all Skyrim, while a follower like Serana expresses wonder at how big the windmill is.

Skyrim Special Edition is having a bit of a renaissance when it comes to follower mods. Other notable recent releases have added an orc healer named Yaksha, a Princess of Daggerfall called Secunda, and legendary hero Erik the Red. Those are a bit more work-in-progress than Taliesin, but worth keeping an eye on. It took Bethesda until Fallout 4's Nick Valentine to really nail a companion who felt like an essential part of the game, someone you wanted to take with you from the start to the end, so it's great to see modders continuing to fill this gap in Skyrim.

You can download The Thalmor's Shadow – Taliesin from Nexus Mods. To recruit Taliesin, you'll first need to find the shrine to Talos in Falkreath Hold, which is southwest of the Guardian Stones. Just follow the path and listen for the sound of distinguished wailing. And here's our list of some more of the best Skyrim Special Edition mods, which includes several more companions to round out your party.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.