It’s hard to believe that 5 years have passed since Bethesda originally released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game heralded by many as one of the best of the previous console generation. The Elder Scrolls formula had slowly but surely been improved by Bethesda with each new iteration over the span of several years, resulting in Skyrim becoming the new standard for western RPGs. A sequel is still nowhere on the horizon, but seeing as we’re in the age of the game remaster, Bethesda has decided to bring that critically-acclaimed title back for another round.
So what has been done to the game to warrant it getting a second release? Well, Bethesda has done some touching up to the original game, with art and effects remasters being accompanied by increased depth of field and “volumetric god rays.” Putting it side-by-side to the game that released 5 years ago, it’s easy to point to this version as being the definitive one from a technical standpoint. Everything is more vibrant and eye-grabbing, and the improved lighting effects make exploration more atmospheric. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a 5 year old game (a 5 year old Bethesda game, at that), and the character models and textures are looking very dated. This results in things like character conversations often becoming unintentionally hilarious due to their stilted animations and poor lip syncing, which is even more glaring today.
Thankfully, the effort that Bethesda put into designing the game’s world is what allows it to continue to impress despite its shortcomings. While it’s true that getting right up close and personal to characters or objects is where things look iffy, wandering the game’s vast fields, mountains and towns still leaves a big impression. There’s a feeling of grandeur that you get when playing Skyrim that you simply don’t get from other RPGs, and age hasn’t taken that away from the game. It’s a testament to Bethesda’s knack for building worlds packed with meaningful content that the game still feels as expansive as it does 5 years later.
Speaking of which, it’s the wealth of content itself that will make this package the most appealing to those who are considering checking it out a second time. You’re getting the entire game, all of its DLC (which ranges from decent to great) and the addition of mod support on consoles, with mod support in particular being an easy sell for console players. Even with the game only releasing recently, there are already plenty of mods to check out that range from fixing the game’s numerous bugs to vastly expanding major features like character dialogue and crafting. This is the area of the Special Edition that is the most worthwhile (for console players, at least), because if you’ve already played everything the base game and DLC offered then the mods can still provide basically endless new experiences for you. This applies more so to the Xbox One version of the game, however, as it allows for more extensive modding with 5 GB of space compared to PS4’s measly 1 GB of space.
The addition of console mods is likely worth the price of admission alone.
As mentioned previously, bugs are still a big issue with Skyrim and it’s harder to look past them this time considering we’re dealing with a 5 year old game. There’s plenty of problems with clipping that you’ll witness on a regular basis, getting accidentally stuck in an object, dialogue cutting off early and so on. These bugs have become par for the course when it comes to Bethesda games at launch, but you’d think 5 years later it’d be in a better state with a remaster. One technical aspect that definitely needs to be praised, however, is the loading times. Rather than having time to read a book each time you enter or exit a new area or die, loading times typically last just a few seconds here and that’s a huge improvement.
This leaves us with the core game itself, and it’s still an engrossing experience despite the aforementioned dated aspects. Interacting with the game’s plethora of characters and embarking on countless quests that may or may not progress the main story at all is all part of what makes the game special, and honestly is more interesting than what the overall narrative has to offer. The combat is the best that it has been in the series thus far, with both physical and magic attacks being more fluid and giving a greater sense of impact against the game’s vast assortment of human and beast opponents. The game’s standout moments are still the encounters with the dragons, however, as these epic showdowns can happen at any time and at any location. Fighting these monstrosities out in the wild is one thing as you scramble for cover against their overhwhelming fire breath and fast movement speed, but taking them on in the midst of a thriving city where NPCs come to help (and the scales of these battles have been increased thanks to this remaster) still results in some of the most epic showdowns in gaming to this day.
Skyrim has been around long enough for people to form their own opinions on it, so your interest in what this Special Edition has to offer all comes down to how much you’re itching to play the game again. If you’ve never played the game before then this is undoubtedly the place to start, and if mod support is a feature you’ve been dying to have on consoles then that may make this new package worth the price of admission alone. It’s showing its age and still suffers from the trademark Bethesda bugs, but The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is a good enough excuse to warrant a return trip or serve as an entry point to this massive game.