Skyrim Special Edition

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About this mod

Fixing Skyrim's melee combat one tweak at a time

Permissions and credits
Combat fixes that makes sense
SSE version
LE version
Enderal version

Version 4.1 has been released! This update brings spellsword blocking and dodging. Please see video and post for more details.

While there are alot of combat mods that added alot of interesting mechanics, I felt that none really attempt to fix the problems with the base game mechanics, such as stamina, and un-interesting power attacks. Thus the focus of this mod is to fix as much as possible while being as compatible as possible.
My philosophy:
  1. Everything that exists in game must exist for a reason, focus on fixing useless actions more than creating new ones. For exmaple, fixing and rebalancing walking vs running, making the different type of power attacks actually worthwhile.
  2. Be compatible and customizable, everything is implemented using the most compatible and most performant method I can dig up. Most features can be turned off or are simple to disable.
  3. I want a "thoughtful" combat experience, I want the player to care whether the opponent is using a long weapon vs a short weapon, heavy armor or light armor.

The history:
A little over a year ago, I set out to create a mod list that can offer the best combat experience possible. I added to the list, remove from the list, tinker with each one to make them balance and play nicely with each other. It wasn't long before that urge kicked in, the urge to make just that one little modification to make it all perfect, but of-course no one little mod is ever going to be enough, and before I realize it, I was learning papyrus scripting, learning how to create animation, learning to read and modify the havok behavior file, and the list goes on and the changes piled on.

Now, a little over a year later, I finally arrive at a package that I think is complete enough to present to the rest of the community. The final result no longer resembles much of the modlist I started with, but I still wish to thank the original authors of these mods for the inspiration and showing me the ropes. The modlist that I started with are Mortal Enemies, Attack Commitment, Weapon range fixes, Action Combat, Ultimate Combat.

Rather then list down each changes and tweaks, I'll list down what problems I see with Skyrim's melee combat and details how I think this mod could help fixing them.

"Skyrim's combat is a slapping contest"
Not my quote, but struck a cord with me the first time I heard it. The combat tempo of death by a thousand cuts has got to go. Thankfully, this is rather easy to fix. Just raise the damage, pretty much every overhaul mod or combat mod out there does this already. However, achieving a good overall balance between magic, archery, poison, and melee is lot harder task. Thus this mod will offer you the ability to fine tune the damage level by using a zEdit patcher. You can balance other source of damage through other mods and then ramp up or down the creature and weapon damage as you see fit. The changes are made at base record level by applying a multiplier to weapon/unarmed damage, so they will be compatible with any other mod.

"I just took off 1/2 of that bandit's health with a war hammer and he didn't even bat an eyelash"
With the damage ramped up, some form of impact must occur or the combat just wouldn't make sense. Thus, a stagger on hit effect is added. This is not just visual and works on player, NPCs, and creatures. While this effect isn't new (Ultimate combat has poise system, Wild Cat causes stagger when breaking through health thresholds), this mod is the only one that I know of that just uses a simple formula of comparing the type of the weapon vs the type of the target armor or size of the creature. I feel this simple approach fits Skyrim's simplified combat mechanics better, and is a lot closer to vanilla than other mods. To summarize, any hits (instead of just power attacks) can now cause stagger, a heavy enough weapon will always stagger, no chance or any other mechanics involved. For details, see the stagger article.

"Stamina? what stamina?"
We all seen it, some guy playing Skyrim on Youtube, spent all of his stamina in the first 5 second of the fight on power attacks that hit nothing but air, but still kills all the bandits with ease anyway. Stamina in vanila Skyrim is just not very useful.
Not anymore! Now you can't attack nor block when out of stamina, swinging any weapon will also now drains alot of stamina, but will recover quickly too. This is very much like how Souls-Game handle stamina. However, unlike how other mods that implement soul-like stamina mechanic, this mod doesn't touch stamina regen rate. This allows all the stamina regeneration related enchants, potions, and buffs to still keep their relevancy by allowing you to sprint/dodge more (those stamina will not be recovered by this mod). See this article for details.

"More than just running"
During my very first Skyrim playthrough, I remapped the Walk/Run key away because there was simply no reason to walk, ever. The amount of time spent in the 3 different movement mode is: 99% running, 1% sprinting, 0% walking. Wasted potential if you ask me.
The movement mode are tweaked as follows:
  • Sprinting - no change from vanila speed, but lot more stamina drain per second based on the worn armor weight.
  • Running - slower than vanila, no stamina drain, but no stamina regen either.
  • Walking - faster than vanila, and also regens stamina.
Maybe it's time to remapped that Walk/Run key back...

"Skyrim's full of them aimbot cheats!"
Mortal enemies has been a great fix to this. However, after using it for a few playthroughs, I aim to improve it a bit.
Instead of decreasing turning speed, I change it to decreasing turning acceleration. This gives it a illusion that NPC is taking a brief split second of time to react to the player, much like how a human would. The second big change is that instead of universally decreasing the angle of effective hit cone, I actually look at every attack animation of each race, and modify the angle accordingly. For example, a troll's right hand swinging attack will now actually hit a wide angle to his right side. A dwarven sphere's charge will hit within a narrow range just slightly to his right side. This makes it so that you'll need to judge whether or not to side step or back step instead of just blinding strafing your opponent. The last change is to move everything into zEdit patcher, thus eliminating incompatibility issues.

"No! no... I didn't want to do that power attack..."
Ever accidentally hold the attack button too long and do an unwanted power attack? Let go of attack button too early? Ever want to do a forward power attack but end up doing a standing one? or the reverse?
This annoy me enough that I implemented a new dedicated key/button to trigger power attacks, there is now a separate key that performs power attacks. The default setting is the middle mouse button, can be changed in MCM

"It's all about control"
Almost all modern action games with melee combat uses third person camera, and with good reasons. Skyrim, on the other hand, allows the player to play in either third or first person. This freedom, however, is not without cost, and forced some peculiar design choices. This mod attempts to make Skyrim's melee combat play more like other modern third person action game.
Free movement during normal attack is removed, a small amount is still retained to simulate momentum, but you should expect movement to be tied to the attack you are performing instead of being able to freely skate around while swinging your sword. Dual wield blocking is implemented, and is done with the same right mouse button as two hander or sword and shield style. Attacking while dual wielding will alternate between right and left hand weapons.

P.S. Recommend using Dual Wield Blocking Animations

"Lets fight... in style"
The two handers, sword and boards, and the dual wields style in vanila plays largely the same, wait for your opponent's predictable forward power attack, let it miss and punish. While perks can add some differentiation, I felt that the different style should be different even at fundamental level.

  • Two hander now mimicks a Samurai sort of fighting style, normal movement are slow, yet able to do explosive power attacks. All of their power attacks will trigger a brief slow time effect. They will also turn the player to face the direction of attack, such as turning 180 degree with backward power attacks to attack any enemy that creeps up behind you. As added bonus, any attack made with two hander while not running or sprinting will sweep through multiple enemies.
  • Sword and board is a more defensive style, designed to effectively fight a single boss type opponent. Power bash can now only be performed with a light  shield and will gurantee an interrupt while heavy shield can perform an enhanced form of blocking. Swordwise, side and back power attacks will have roughly 0.3~0.5 seconds of invinciblility time. Side power attack that actually hit an enemy's left or right side will apply additional debuffs/wounds onto the enemy. This is similar to Wildcat's injury system but simpler and no randomness involved. See the racial article for details.
  • Dual wield style is flashy and rely on capitalizing moments of opportunity. Dual normal attack now have brand new animation and hits up to 4 times. Dual power attacks (replaces forward power attack) have been extensively tweak and will break opponent's block.
  • Spellsword style has been changed to allows blocking and an enhanced dodging to facilitate casting spells in close proximity to enemies

"Why bash when you can smash"
Bashing in Skyrim, while served an adequate purpose, is not very balanced. Problems:
  • Normal Bash doesn't produce an effect worth the stamina cost. Adjusting cost often leads to either too much for low level, or too low for high level
  • Power Bash is just inferior in everyway, slower animation, greater stamina cost. Overhauls often have to give power bash over powering perks just to make it worthwhile, but then players end up only using it in hopes of triggering what ever effect is attached to the perks.

"Roll, dammit, roll"
No combat mod would be complete without some form of dodging, and this feature covers just that and also some tweaks to how jumping in Skyrim's combat works. Please see video for full explanation.
  1. Can't use jumping to get out of stagger now.
  2. Use dodge instead, dodge with dodge key + direction key
  3. Dodging works similar to how other existing dodge mod works, but with minor differences, you can take your pick, Engarde's dodge can be disabled in the patcher settings
  4. Dodge key defaults to 'x', please change it to something more accessible. Recommend switching with jump's spacebar.

"Close but not close enough"
Simply put, Skyrim's combat isn't designed with dodging in mind. Even though we've now have the ability to dodge, dodging still feels like a neat trick that don't really give much advantage. This feature aims to change that, by making incoming power attacks and arrow shot slow down just enough for the player to react.

"David and Goliath"
No action rpg is complete without some gigantic monsters to fight.  Unfortunately, Skyrim's two iconic gigantic monsters (Giants and Dragons) simply isn't particularly fun to fight against, especially compared to their counter parts in the more recent modern games. This update is aimed to improve the experience by rebalancing all of their attack as well as giving them some new tricks. The philosophy behind the changes are as follows: make their attack more dangerous thus gives the player a reason to be wary of their attack. Yet, also gives the players counter measures against all of their attacks.

"A sword is not an axe and not a mace"
Last but not least, further differentiated the different type of weapons, they are just too similar in Vanilla, and while overhauls like Requiem did a good job to make them different, it could do with a bit more.
  • Dagger: +75% chance to crit on standing power attack, double crit damage. Weak to heavy armor.
  • Sword: +50% chance to crit on standing power attack, +15% longer reach, less stagger. Weak to heavy armor.
  • Axe: +10% speed, +10% damage, -20% reach.
  • Mace: -50% crit damage. Deals stamina damage, power attack knocks down low stamina opponents.
  • Two hand sword: +25% chance to crit on standing power attack, +15% reach, less stagger, Weak to heavy armor.
  • Two hand axe: +10% damage, -20% reach. Penetrates 50% armor. Deals stamina damage. Power attack knocks down low stamina opponents.
  • Two hand hammer:  -10% speed, -50% crit damage. Penetrates 50% armor. Deals stamina damage, power attack knocks down low stamina opponents.
  • Bow: no change.
  • Crossbow: more stagger (same level as two hand sword).
In summary, axes hurts but is short, blunts is heavy but slow, swords are long but don't stagger well.

Heavy/Light armor and shields suffers the same problem as being visually different but no functional difference. Therefore in version 3.5, new characteristics have been added to them with more to come in future:
  • Heavy armor: reduces damage from sharp weapons (daggers, swords, etc), higher stagger resistance, so no stagger from bows and one handed swords, fat rolls with high stamina cost
  • Light armor, step dodges with low stamina cost, encourages a dodgy type of game play 
  • Heavy shield, can power blocks, can't power bash at all, and normal bashes costs high amount of stamina
  • Light shield, can power bashes, normal bash cost small amount of stamina

"Controllers are our friends"
Controllers have the distinct problem of "Not enough buttons to go around", this is a common problem not just in Skyrim, but in a lot of games. Most modern games solves this problem by utilizing modifier keys (or combo keys). Engarde follows the same suite and have set up a similar way to trigger actions for controllers users:
  • Modifier + RT = Power attack
  • Modifier + LT = Spellsword casting
  • Modifier + LStick = Dodge 
For full detail on how to set this up, please refers to the updated controller set up article.

"Alright, I'm convinced, how do I install?"

Quick and dirty installation:
This method is for those who just want to try out the mod and not bother building your own patch. It is not recommended for a serious playthrough (unless you really play with just Vanila + DLC + USLEEP + costmetic mods)
  1. Install the main file
  2. Install the pre-generated patch
  3. With the enhanced power attack feature, your sheathe weapon key is now the power attack key. You must assign a new key to the sheathe control in the Control section of the system menu. To actually sheathe weapons, go into Engarde's MCM menu and set a new key to actually sheathe weapons.
  4. If you decided to upgrade to full installation, there is no need to uninstall mod, simply start from step 2 below: i.e. build the patch file
  5. Done!

Full installation in gist for experienced modders:
To ensure compatibility, this mod is more complicated to install than normal mods, so please at least read the following instructions.
  1. Install the main file
  2. Download, extract, and run Synthesis, detail instructions
  3. Add the Engarde patcher.
  4. Configure and run the patcher.
  5. Run FNIS or Nemesis
  6. Run Skyrim\Data\meshes\MCT_AttackMoveDataPatcher.vbs
  7. Activate Synthesis.esp at the bottom of your load order
  8. If using the enhanced power attack feature, your sheathe weapon key is now the power attack key. You must assign a new key to the sheathe control in the Control section of the system menu. To actually sheathe weapons, go into Engarde's MCM menu and set a new key to actually sheathe weapons.
  9. Done!

Update instruction for all versions:
Same as installation actually:
  1. Download and overwrite the main file
  2. Update and re-ran the patchers, Synthesis users please look for the blue update circle screenshot below
  4. Re-ran FNIS/Nemesis
  5. Re-ran MCT_AttackMoveDataPatcher.vbs
  6. Please note to NOT uninstall, improper uninstall plus a re-install will create duplicated entries in your save game and really wrecks havoc.

Full installation in detail (with pictures!):

Vortex users

MO2 users

"Sorry, can't uninstall, you must reformat your entire hard drive"
"Alright alright, if you must"
  1. In game, find the MCM menu->Others->Deactivate
  2. Save game, exit Skyrim
  3. Remove all main file preferably with a mod manager
  4. Remove MCTPatch.esp
  5. Re-run FNIS or Nemesis

Engarde has now become a big mod and as such, there is no way that it can be 100% compatible with 100% of the mods out there. To that end, major effort has been made so that any feature can be turned off, see this article to see which specific feature is incompatible with any mod.

Running out of space on this page, please see the sticky posts here.