If you can't play Starfield, this sci-fi Skyrim mod has 7 districts, 200 interiors, 400 NPCs and is perfect for space envy

(Image credit: Bethesda; Ripcat)

How do you cope with FOMO? It's a funny little phenomenon, the fear of missing out, and it can hit us big time when applied to the latest, most talked about video games. Just about everyone I know with an Xbox Series X or S, or access to a high-end PC, is playing Starfield – while everyone else is pretending that they're not really that bothered, actually. When in reality, they want nothing more than to dive helmet-first into Bethesda's planet-hopping, spare-faring RPG. 

If you've read our Starfield review, you'll know that our writer reckons it's the best thing Bethesda's done since Oblivion. And while PS5 players may never get the chance to experience that at some point down the line, if you're packing a potato-powered PC, I reckon your deep space days are numbered before they've even taken off. What you might be better-suited to is Fort Knox, a player-made Skyrim mod that boasts 200 interiors and 400 NPCs, turning Tamriel into a techno-futuristic sci-fi-scape in the process, with all the familiar trappings of Bethesda games new and old.

Space, man


(Image credit: Bethesda; Ripcat)
Shoot for the moon

First launched on Nexus Mods last year, Fort Knox isn't far off 17,000 downloads today, and is billed by its creator Ripcat as a hobbyist venture inspired by fellow modders Halo and Sin's respective Aether Suite and Mod Resources projects. Spread across seven different sci-fi-meets-cyberpunk-inspired major locations, the titular Fort Knox itself comprises five: Accord Plaza, Downtown, Industrial Zone, Yanabayashi Park, and Lake Athabasca. A short shuttle journey or taxi ride leads to Octo8 Island, which houses a residential village, and a so-called "hippie camp" named B-Salt Cove. 

Across the mod's 200 interiors, you can expect to visit bars, nightclubs, restaurants, general stores, libraries, police stations, hospitals, factories, banks and more; with a wide range of vendors in the shape of drinks, drugs, guns, clothes, accessories and mini-motos on offer too. Fort Knox itself is overseen by a trifecta of nefarious corporations – a communications outfit named Netwerx, an AI and robot manufacturer named Psijic Industries, and a Biotech company named Arclite Technology – with the city's streets filled  with 400 context-appropriate NPCs, in both human and robot form (with a handful of bespoke NPC events thrown in for good measure), the latter of which come in seven different varieties.  

All of which a lot to take in. More on the minutiae of what powers Ripcat's Fort Knox can again be found on the project's Nexus Mods page, but in practice the mod offers a cool world to explore and discover that totally transforms its source material beyond recognition. After moving from the rolling plains of Skyrim to the eponymous cyber city, I quickly found myself nosing around graffiti-adorned alleyways, luxury penthouse apartments, and dark and dingy bare knuckle boxing gyms. In the latter, I worked on my high kicks and cross-jab combos with the mod's reworked melee moveset, before then moving into a quiet bar and inadvertently getting advice on where to score drugs (described as "smoky things", which was hardly The Wire-levels of double-entendre street code).


(Image credit: Bethesda; Ripcat)

"The world's towering buildings and neon billboards lend each space an addictive oppressiveness, where it feels like you're being watched at every turn. Fort Knox's narrative groundings suggest that you are."

Later, I met a little robot dog named Dogbot who was cute but a wee bit abrupt, I pissed off a street dealer by asking too many questions about surveillance politics, I paid a jester man 200 quid to become a member of the Red Robin Lounge inside which it was I who entertained the crowd with some surprisingly elegant pole dancing, and then I got steaming drunk at the bar while listening to the bartender hail her beloved Fort Knox Sparks basketball team. All told, it was a pretty decent night out. 

Which is exactly where Ripcat's Fort Knox project shines. It's a nice place to discover, to converse with its locals and tiptoe around its darkest nooks and crannies. Everyone has a story to tell, and an opinion to share about what's right and what's wrong within the isolating bounds of their hometown. In typical cyberpunk style, the world's towering buildings and neon billboards lend each space an addictive oppressiveness, where it feels like you're being watched at every turn. Fort Knox's narrative groundings suggest that you are – something that's underscored by the city's unseen but omnipresent sense of dread and misery. 

And yet, just when you start to get weighed down by the town's despair, you remember that somewhere, somehow Fort Knox stands on the shoulders of Skyrim. That in itself is reason enough to visit – and if you're pining for something Bethesda-shaped in the sci-fi space, but for whatever reason can't visit Starfield, you could do a lot worse than Fort Knox. It's a beautiful, well-crafted, and well-thought out total conversion mod whose deep state themes are as thoughtful as they are thought-provoking. But maybe steer clear of political discourse with drug dealers, yeah?   

Joe Donnelly

Joe Donnelly is a sports editor from Glasgow and former features editor at GamesRadar+. A mental health advocate, Joe has written about video games and mental health for The Guardian, New Statesman, VICE, PC Gamer and many more, and believes the interactive nature of video games makes them uniquely placed to educate and inform. His book Checkpoint considers the complex intersections of video games and mental health, and was shortlisted for Scotland's National Book of the Year for non-fiction in 2021. As familiar with the streets of Los Santos as he is the west of Scotland, Joe can often be found living his best and worst lives in GTA Online and its PC role-playing scene.