Also On: PS4
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Fus Ro Dah!!! Ok, now that we have that out of the way, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is out, and it's… Skyrim. It is every inch the game that I loved and devoted MONTHS of my life to after its original release on 11/11/11 (still the most well marketed release date ever). I found myself exploring areas in the middle of nowhere and remembering exactly where to go. I still remembered how to find the dragon priests and obtain their masks. I remembered shout locations, solutions to dungeons, routes through caves and other obscure bits of this game that I haven't played in four years. That is the kind of lasting impact Bethesda's sprawling fantasy masterpiece had on me after it initially released, and here it is to captivate me once more. The nostalgia doesn't ever truly wear off, at least not for me, but after about the first hour the shine that it gives the game starts to wear off and you can really start being critical.
Skyrim: SE has some solid graphical upgrades on the consoles, giving it that “fresh paint” look and again, at first is extremely impressive when compared to its original but not something that can compare to today's powerhouse RPG's (I'm looking at you Witcher). This is not a remake of Skyrim from the ground up, but rather a simple re-master that makes it a good deal prettier. The gameplay remains the same and the issues that people took with it in the first place remain, be it the poorly designed characters, the graphical glitches or the weak combat animations that plagues both first and third person gameplay. The argument I receive a lot is that Skyrim wasn't made to have stellar graphics; it was designed to be this huge sprawling world that you can explore and lose yourself in for months at a time. I agree with this, but again will direct you to the 400+ hours I spent exploring as Geralt of Rivia in one of the most beautifully designed game worlds ever created. I can say first hand that being able to completely immerse myself in a realistic world made that experience substantially better for me as opposed to running and clipping through a mountainside or finding a physics breaking glitch that launches me to the moon after stepping on a pebble. Enough of that though, this is a Skyrim review, not a Witcher 3 review. Onto the good!
And there is plenty of good! Everything that was great about Skyrim the first time around is still great about Skyrim: SE. There is more content here than you can wrap your brain around at first and there is no time limit in which you need to complete it. You are free to explore the world at your own pace and progress as you see fit. You aren't forced to play story missions for a few hours before the world opens up for you. Simply complete the prologue and get yourself out of the beginning and you are free to go WHEREVER. The world is literally your oyster and you can choose to crack it open however you want. I spent probably three hours just wandering the world basking in the nostalgia and the new lighting effects streaking down through the trees above me. I cannot stress enough how much I loved Skyrim when it released originally. I took a week of vacation from both wife and work to give myself the proper time to tear into this game in 2011. Unfortunately I no longer have that kind of time or freedom now, but I was still able to devote a solid few dozen hours to reliving some of my fondest memories in video gaming.
One of the biggest incentives to get this game for some will be the inclusion of all three major DLC packs for Skyrim; Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn. These are some seriously heavy hitting pieces of DLC and all included in this release which is a definite bonus if you have yet to experience them. If you have already played them, it is still enjoyable to get to revisit them with the upgraded graphics. Another big addition which may be overlooked by many is the inclusion of a quicksave system similar to Fallout 4. This may seem like a small improvement but the convenience of that, coupled with the newer and substantially faster load times make for a much more streamlined game. The immersion level is much higher now that I don't have time to sit and knock out a chapter of my favorite book while waiting for my character to “fast” travel. It was honestly sometimes just faster to walk to wherever I was going than it was to try and fast travel there.
Another big pro here for a lot of console players is the newly included access to mods. PC gamers have been enjoying this feature for years but now console gamers are just now starting to get to experience it. To some this is a huge deal, and more than enough reason enough to go out and buy this game. To others (like myself) this is not a big deal, because you don't care. Call me old school, but mods hold no interest for me. I enjoy playing the game the developers handed me and do not have the time or energy to worry about rebuilding it to be something else. If I did, I would develop my own games and not just review other people's creations. That being said, I do get why some love these features and can definitely chalk their inclusion up in the pro column for Skyrim: SE.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition doesn't do anything groundbreaking or new with the original, but does give it a nice facelift and the treatment it deserved. The $60 price tag for what is in essence a 5 year old game may make some stumble if they are just coming back to revisit this world. There is not enough here that is new to necessarily make it worth your while in a game season that is so full of new releases and things to occupy your time. If you are new to it however and missed Skyrim on the first go around this is an absolute must buy. Skyrim is one of those games that only comes around once in a generation, and something that gamers will remember long after it is no longer talked about regularly, and this is a chance to experience it if you missed it or re-experience it if you didn't.