The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition Review
On November 11, 2011, I picked up my copy of Skyrim, rushed home and passionately kissed my wife goodbye. She was to be a Skyrim Widow for the foreseeable future. I put well over 250 hours into that game which might not be much in some gamer’s standards but for a guy with a full-time job, kids and responsibilities it’s a huge chunk of time. In much the same way as that fateful night in 2011, I kissed my wife goodbye once again on Oct 27, 2016. Five long years had passed and she was to be a lonely Skyrim Widow once more. A game that I had been passionate about like no other was back again. It’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition and it’s stolen my heart once more.
It’s no question that Skyrim is one of the most revered western RPGs ever made. Sure it was glitchy at times even spawning its very own verb in ‘Skyrimming‘ which isn’t nearly as dirty as it sounds. Some of the graphics and textures seemed washed out here and there too but the package as a whole was one of the most complete and engrossing games to ever hit the market. I’ve never been an achievement hunter but will proudly say that I got every single one from both the base game and all its DLC. Obviously, the question at hand is whether or not Skyrim Special Edition makes the game worth purchasing a second time and to that end I’d have to say it most certainly does.
“Memories of late nights spent wiping Cheeto dust off my fingertips while swigging Mountain Dew Code Red came rushing back…”
Jumping back into Skyrim after a lengthy absence felt immediately comfortable. Memories of late nights spent wiping Cheeto dust off my fingertips while swigging Mountain Dew Code Red came rushing back and alongside that comfortable feeling rushed in my feelings of shame. I’ve come a long way since then, given up my junk food eating ways but as much as I’ve changed Skyrim really hasn’t. Well, at least in the gameplay department it hasn’t. It’s instantly familiar in every way so if you’re hoping for any major changes in that department you’ll be sorely disappointed. Skyrim is Skyrim, glitches and all, and there really isn’t anything that I can tell changes the core gameplay in any manner (not counting mods).
More noticeable, or at the very least one of the biggest reasons to repurchase the game is the graphics upgrades now seen with Skyrim Special Edition. Most everything is noticeably improved especially when exploring the vast open countryside. Foliage is much more detailed, the draw distance is far better than it was before, god rays visibly peek between the clouds, and visual effects on spells truly seem to pop. What isn’t necessarily improved are the washed out facial animations that still seem to look pretty muddy overall. Granted I didn’t bust out my original copy for serious comparison but when noting all the other improvements in the visuals department it really feels like character’s faces got left without any new makeup. All in all the game has aged incredibly well and with the boost in performance thanks to the current generation of consoles, Skyrim Special Edition feels right at home… mostly.
“If you’ve never had the chance to climb the snowy mountains of Skyrim, face off against its fierce Frost Trolls, or absorb the souls of dead dragons you’ve bested then jumping into Skyrim Special Edition is a no brainer.”
Probably the biggest addition to Skyrim Special Edition (for the console gamers, at least) is the addition of mods. Already there are tons available for all platforms although it is important to note that PS4 suffers in this department. If you’re really wanting to dive into mods I’d advise looking at the Xbox One or PC version as they have a significant number more mods available to them. The mods vary with everything from simple cosmetics to new homes/buildings, entirely new areas (sorry PS4, no Falskaar), beefed up weapons and tons of new spells and enchantments. Mods are a stellar addition changing the game in little ways to big ways but use even one of them and you can count out earning any trophies/achievements. It would be nice if the system could tell between mods that change the way the game is played versus ones that are simply cosmetic but at this time it’s not an option. If you’re worried about that charming trophy pop-up you won’t be taking advantage here.
Rounding out the package is the inclusion of all of the original Skyrim’s DLC which includes Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn. These aren’t like many of the pithy DLCs you see so often today but fully realized DLC that were actually worth the money you spent on them at the time. Just knowing that these are all included in Skyrim Special Edition makes the price of a new game a lot easier to swallow. The DLC adds tens of hours into the experience and it’s all enjoyable from start to finish.
If you’ve never had the chance to climb the snowy mountains of Skyrim, face off against its fierce Frost Trolls, or absorb the souls of dead dragons you’ve bested then jumping into Skyrim Special Edition is a no brainer. The addition of mod support will keep it fresh for those of you who may have played it before but even if you choose not to use them there is something to be said for slipping into the warm embrace of an old friend. Skyrim Special Edition has managed to stand the test of time (or at least 5 years) and is still as much a joy to play now as it was back then. If this is what it’s going to take to appease me until The Elder Scrolls VI rolls around then I’ll happily log in another 250+ hours into one of gaming’s best.
*** PS4 copy provided by the publisher ***
- Vastly improved visuals
- Gameplay still stands tall
- Mod support
- PS4 gets shafted on bigger mods
- Not a big improvement for PC gamers
- Still glitchy in spots