Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When it was first released in late 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim became an instant classic with gamers and critics alike. Although the previous installments in the long-running Elder Scrolls franchise achieved moderate success, Skyrim was the first in the series to achieve a widespread mainstream audience. Five years after its initial release on previous generation hardware, Skyrim is still considered to be the gold standard for open-world fantasy RPGs and continues to stay one of the most-played games on Valve’s Steam platform. Therefore, it is a no-brainer that Bethesda has decided to issue a remaster of this epic adventure, especially after the lukewarm reception The Elder Scrolls: Online and Fallout 4. However, should you invest your time and money in this “special edition” or stick with the previous version of this heralded game?
Immediately after booting up the game, the overall sharper presentation is apparent. Although this remaster doesn’t deliver the “mind-blowing” treatment games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker or Halo 2 received, the slightly upgraded visuals are welcome. This new version of Skyrim boasts a fresh coat of paint with volumetric god rays, more dynamic lighting effects in indoor areas, dynamic depth of field, new shaders for snow and water, and improved physics (i.e. more realistic water flow in rivers.) Most importantly, however, is the technical performance of the game on consoles. When it first released on last generation hardware in 2011, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Skyrim were shoddy ports at best. Console players were forced to experience an inferior version of the game with embarrassingly low-frame rates, constant stuttering and muddy texture work. Thankfully, this new revamp on PS4 and Xbox One run at a fairly stable 30fps/1080p with visuals that come very close to the vanilla version of the game on PC. Unfortunately, the “puppet-like” character models, muddy environmental textures, and infamous glitches are still present in this version, but don’t hamper the overall experience. This noticeable revamp in visuals and performance make the special edition the definitive version to play Skyrim if you never had the chance to play this massive RPG back in 2011.
In terms of gameplay, nothing has changed in the special edition. Surprisingly, all of the exploration aspects of this game have aged very well. The world of Tamriel is still massive and dense with quests to follow, caves to explore and dragons to fight. Skyrim is still one of the most immersive fantasy games for one to get lost in. Unfortunately, the combat is as weightless and simple as ever. However, battles still remain fun due to the interesting locales and enemies that players will get to face during their journey. All of the DLC is included in this package as well. Although the DLC is less engaging than the base game, the content is still worthwhile with some interesting quest-lines. Lastly, downloadable mods are included in the console versions, which also can extend playtime. The Xbox One version allows modders to import whatever they please into the game whereas the PS4 version only gives users access to internal assets. Regardless, this is a neat little feature that will hopefully start a trend where mods become commonplace on console.
In conclusion, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is the definitive way to play the 2011 RPG. If you have never experienced this modern-day classic, this revamp is highly recommended. However, if you are a returning player, it is up to you if you want to pay full-price for this remaster. If you are wanting an Elder Scrolls fix while you wait for the inevitable The Elder Scrolls: VI, revisiting Skyrim may just be what you need.