September 9, 2023 Hana Trieu

The best plugins for Unreal Engine 5 in 2023

Unreal Engine 5 is an incredibly powerful game engine on its own, but plugins allow developers to significantly expand its capabilities. Over time, Epic Games incorporates successful plugins as functionality directly into new engine updates. While having all functionality integrated is ideal, plugins also help speed up Unreal’s ongoing development. This article will explore some of the most useful and popular plugins for Unreal Engine 5 in 2023 that can enhance workflows and take skills to the next level. 

1. Oceanology

Price: $159.99

Image Credit: Galidar

Oceanology is an Unreal Engine plugin that allows developers to create stunning oceans and water environments. It exceeds in delivering highly realistic results in real-time, making it quite impressive. Unlike some other tools, it not only supports ocean surfaces but also enables underwater scenes through features like god rays and caustics that are simple to implement yet beautifully realistic.

These underwater effects add substantial depth and immersion to a scene. The ocean surface itself is also extremely realistic and intuitive to set up. Additional parameters provide full control over waves and foam, letting artists fine-tune their ocean’s appearance from calm to stormy seas. 

Additional scanned assets like trees and rocks come with the plugin. They offer photorealism without hindering performance. Also, new users benefit greatly from the included demo scenes that demonstrate the plugin’s capabilities. These real-world examples facilitate understanding how it works by allowing exploration and experimentation with different parameter adjustments. Overall, Oceanology delivers stunning oceans that immerse users both above and below the water’s surface in a highly realistic yet easy-to-use package.

2. Substance 3D

Price (for Individuals): 

      • Substance 3D Texturing: $19.99/month, $219.88/year
      • Substance 3D Collection: $49.99/month, 549.88/year
Image Credit: Adobe

Adobe Substance plugin enables artists to leverage Substance materials directly within Unreal Engine. Artists can create materials in UE as expected, but take things further by accessing Adobe’s technology.

A core benefit of this plugin is the availability of over 10,000 high-quality, ready-made materials. This fits trends where content apps offer off-the-shelf models and textures, letting artists focus on scene creation over material technicalities. Substance materials are physically based and behave realistically. Moreover, materials are not limited to what Adobe provides – artists can also tap a large community asset database. 

Artists have full editing capability within Unreal Engine too, avoiding exits from the engine during development. This saves significant time over separated workflows. Substance integrates seamlessly into Unreal for a native texturing experience. Changes update in real-time for a streamlined artist-friendly process over clunky alternatives. Overall, the plugin empowers UE users with a massive asset library while maintaining editing flexibility.

3. MetaHumans

Price: Free

Image Credit: Unreal Engine

MetaHumans Plugin offers two useful tools for working with human characters in Unreal Engine projects. 

Mesh to MetaHuman enables converting existing facial meshes into fully rigged and animated MetaHuman assets. This integrated workflow allows further refinement using MetaHuman Creator.

MetaHuman Animator facilitates highly detailed animation of MetaHuman characters. It provides the capability to replicate precise facial expressions and motions.

Overall, the plugin streamlines the process of bringing realistic digital humans into Unreal Engine by leveraging Epic’s MetaHuman technologies. It integrates customization options that empower fine-tuning facial features, body parts and other attributes. For projects requiring human characters, this plugin serves as a valuable asset for efficiently creating and animating photorealistic digital talent.

4. Ultra Dynamic Sky

Price: $39.99

Image Credit: Everett Gunther

Ultra Dynamic Sky plugin is a powerful tool for generating realistic, ever-changing skies in Unreal Engine. Right out of the box, it includes predefined weather presets like sunny, cloudy, rainy and more that can be seamlessly transitioned between utilizing its dynamic timeline system. Artists have full control over weather intensity and change speeds. Additional options allow customizing lighting colours, cloud types and densities to fully tailor the sky’s appearance.

One of the most impressive aspects is its built-in day-night cycle complete with dawn, dusk and starry nights powered by a dynamic sky shader. Scenes come to life as the sun arcs across varied cloud layers in real time. Volumetric lighting enhances the transition’s believability. The plugin runs smoothly without impacting performance even on less powerful hardware.

An extensive material editor unlocks more advanced sky manipulations. Artists can blend weather states, and add fog layers, rainbows and other atmospheric phenomena. Configurable cloud noise gives natural variations between simulations. Preset seasons capture realistic sky progressions over long periods too.

Ultra Dynamic Sky is an indispensable tool for bringing an extra sense of realism, immersion and evolving atmosphere to Unreal landscapes and environments through its stunning, fully dynamic and customizable skies. It’s one of the must-have plugins for Unreal Engine 5 for realistic outdoor world-building and cinematic storytelling.

5. WorldScape

Price: $349.99

Image Credit: iolaCorp Studio

WorldScape plugin enables artists to procedurally create immense planets and landscapes and terrains within Unreal Engine. It utilizes 64-bit precision for unparalleled detail across vast areas.

While powerful terrain generation is impressive, the utility for lighting whole atmospheres simply by manipulating the sun position is particularly notable. With this plugin, rotating the sun in real-time dynamically transforms scenes from dawn to dusk.

Terrain tools are procedural, optimized and accessible. A wide range of editable parameters update instantly to iteratively sculpt worlds. The level of detail ensures efficiency by only rendering what’s visible.

Everything is included right inside Unreal Engine as well. As a result, artists do not have to rely on external tools to create their terrains and then import them. This streamlines the workflow for quickly building worlds without external hassles.

While capable of stunning results, the ability to sculpt surfaces more intricately could further boost finesse when manual adjustment is preferred over procedural generation. Although it’s not one of the cheapest plugins for Unreal Engine 5, the plugin delivers tremendous value for investment, especially on multiple projects.

6. Atoms Unreal

Price: Price: $90 per year (Indie); $1,870 per year (Studio)

Image Credit: Tool Chefs

Atoms Crowd is a framework providing a foundation for a series of different applications, including a plugin for Unreal Engine. It offers a skeleton-based plugin for Unreal Engine that delivers highly customizable and high-quality crowd simulation. Its skeleton approach enables lifelike character animation. Skeleton instancing maximizes system resource use.

The Tool Chefs developers continually improve the plugin, creating a usable and impressive solution despite its youth. It performs well even with thousands of complexly sequenced agents depending on hardware.

In conclusion, the plugin ecosystem available for Unreal Engine 5 continues to grow exponentially, unlocking ever-greater possibilities for artists and developers. This review covered some of the most popular and powerful plugins for Unreal Engine 5 for areas like materials, terrains, oceans, crowds, skies and characters. However, there are countless other options that extend UE5’s capabilities in specialized ways. Whether looking to streamline workflows, add realistic effects, or enable entirely new genres of content, a suitable plugin almost certainly exists. With continuous updates and a thriving community behind it, the future of UE5 plugin development looks incredibly promising. Artists and studios stand to benefit immensely by exploring how third-party addons can optimize their toolsets for specific needs. Unreal Engine’s integrative approach, combined with the endless creativity of its plugin community, ensures UE5 remains at the cutting edge of interactive content creation.

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Reference sources: Galidar, Adobe, Unreal Engine, Everett Gunther, iolaCorp Studio, Tool Chefs

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