Review: Skyrim Special Edition

Ever since buying my PS4 and relegating my PS3 to the calmer but equally important duty of media streaming I’ve regularly cast an eye longingly towards the Skyrim box on the shelf, determined to fire up the game that I spent so many hours with and, at the time, Lee reviewed and gave a full blown 10 out of 10. That review was five years ago. Since then games have moved on, titles such as Fallout 4 and the Witcher 3 have shown how good current open world games can look, and expectations have risen considerably. But Skyrim is Skyrim, a game I loved playing and have probably thought about more than any other that I no longer play, so surely this is going to be the best thing I’ve ever experienced?

Well, sort of.

See, this is still the Skyrim I know and love. Locations feel familiar, but look fantastic. I’m sure PC gamers will have been enjoying graphical effects like this for years now, but for someone who rightly or wrongly sticks to consoles for most games I was staggered by how good parts of Skyrim now look. Light reflects off water realistically, moonlight filters through dense trees lighting up the early morning mist in incredibly an atmospheric way and the draw distances have been ramped up considerably. Seriously, you can see for miles. The music is back, that gorgeous, haunting background music which accompanies you through a lonely trek across the frozen wilderness on your way to an objective that you’ve never seen before, and while there’s no difference in quality it hooks up with the improved visuals to create a whole new level of atmosphere.

In addition to the presentation tweaks, the three DLC packs from Skyrim are bundled in from the start, giving you a chance to build your own house later on or travel to some pretty trippy and batshit crazy locations across the various extra missions. But there’s also mods as well, something which console owners just aren’t used to having. The PS4 version is a little limited after Sony said Bethesda couldn’t use any resources that aren’t already bundled into the game, but it’s still nice to have that choice of adding a few extra features. Most are to make the game slightly more playable such as adding more streetlights and roadsigns, or giving you a ring which enables you to carry more than your average freight train,but others will make the game far harder, or add huge amounts of new spells to fire off whenever you fancy. It doesn’t massively overhaul the game as such, but it’s really nice to have some flexibility with how the game plays.

One area though that is a little flat is the characters themselves. It’s quite apparent that updating the animation wasn’t all that high up on Bethesda’s list of things to do, and as such there are the odd occasions when things just don’t feel natural. You could still say that this is fair enough with the huge scope of the game (which, even on new hardware, is pretty hefty) but it’s a shame that after such a wait it couldn’t have been a complete overhaul. Who knows, maybe this is all part of the buildup towards The Elder Scrolls VI and these little issues of slightly wonky NPCs will be flattened for good in an upcoming game.

Another little issue is the bugs that still remain, but very few of them are game breaking. My trusty horse wandered into a doorway a few times stopping me from leaving the room I was in, and I shot a deer towards the start of my game which magically teleported it across the river and out of sight. That’s a little annoying, but also typically Skyrim. We did spot a weird looping death which needed a revert back to a previous save, when the player got killed them respawned back to where they were with too little health to get out of the way before getting killed again. That’s an unfortunate byproduct of the way Skyrim was put together, and you can defend it a little by pointing out that the bugs-per-hour rate is still exceedingly low, but again it would’ve been good to have some of these squashed in the new version.

But make no mistake, the Skyrim Special Edition is a fantastic and very worthwhile addition to the collection, and while it’d be tricky to recommend if you got bored of it first time round there are two groups of people who should definitely pick this up: those who have never played it before (where have you been?) and those who, like me, had that inescapable yearning to return.

If that’s you, then you need to get this. You won’t regret it.

Reviewed on PS4

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