The Scrolls Have Foretold Of A Cash-Grab In The Cold…
HIGH Finally, we get to see this world at 30 FPS…
LOW …but it’s still ugly in spots.
WTF How did so many bugs survive the trip from last-gen consoles?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was an epic achievement when it first launched, and remains an RPG benchmark years later thanks to smart game design and sheer magnitude. Was it frequently ugly? Sure. Did it have more bugs than Florida swampland? Absolutely. But when looking back at the massive amount of content in the base game alongside DLC that most companies would release as standalone games all on their own, there were few titles that offered more to do.
Now, for those who may have missed this beast in 2011, Bethesda has released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Skyrim: SE) which not only cleans up some (and only some) rough edges, but also ups the framerate and includes a veritable boatload of DLC and extra features.
Because this is a remastered version of a game I’m sure most have already played, I won’t be going into minutiae, but to recap it for newcomers: Skyrim is a sword-and-sorcery RPG that may arguably be the first title to find success with a section of the gameplaying audience who don’t generally go in for RPGs. With few, if any restrictions to how players explore and a user-friendly real-time battle system, it was common to see fans of shooters and action-adventure games dip their toes into these role-playing waters.
As RPGs go, Skyrim remains one of the deepest, most thoroughly-detailed living worlds ever coded. Players are given near-ultimate freedom to do as they wish — the main quest will always be there waiting to be picked back up at any time, with no penalty for exploring or taking on sidequests. In fact, much like its predecessor Oblivion, an argument can be made to ignore the main storyline until the end, as the experience only seems to improve with each new sidequest.
Visually, the enhanced power of modern consoles allows Skyrim to run as as it has on PC for years. This remaster hangs out at a reasonable 30 FPS, with only mild stutter when things get a little hectic — it’s not just an aesthetic improvement, either. The famously awkward first-person melee is considerably more enjoyable with an improved framerate, decreasing frustration and instances of did that attack actually hit him?
However, despite the good brought about by a smoother framerate, newcomers likely won’t be impressed by the other visual enhancements. Edges are smoother and character faces are slightly more detailed, but by and large, this is the same stuff gamers have stared at for years. Given the massive size and scope of the world it’s forgivable, and even expected. Yet, when paying full price for a five-year old title, it’s also confusing. In 2011, fans accepted visual bugs and focused on immersing themselves in the story, but 2016 offers unprecedented open worlds. As such, it’s harder to forgive headless wolves attacking, or NPCs talking to walls when the player has moved to a different position.
One of the ways players can improve the experience is by exploring the growing collection of mods available from the main menu. While console versions don’t offer access to the thousands of unique (sometimes bizarre) mods already available on PC, there are still countless new ways to build on this massive title. However, It should be noted that using mods turns off the ability to earn achievements or trophies, so players should be 100% sure they want to experiment with these features before risking that priceless Gamerscore.
As stated earlier, Skyrim: SE contains all three massive DLC expansions — Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn. These add-ons bring another metric ton of content to an experience few gamers have seen all the way through. One odd observation — and it might just be coincidence — is that the DLC seems to benefit more from the increased horsepower. All have smoother animations, less framerate stutter, and a more polished look overall. They’re still buggy as hell, but not nearly to the extent as the core game is.
So, does Skyrim: SE deserve a place in a current console collection? Yes, if the following conditions apply:
- The player has never played Skyrim.
- The player never completed Skyrim and/or never played the DLC expansions.
- The player simply can’t get enough of this world and must experience it again.
However, is Skyrim: SE worth it for someone who doesn’t fit those three criteria? Probably not. Sure, it’s still awesome in scope and there’s a ton of content in the package, but it only offers minimal visual improvements, dated gameplay, and inexplicable legacy bugs. Unless someone defines their RPG experience by sun rays and water effects, this reissue just doesn’t represent a notable improvement over the original. Still, for those who aren’t yet Dragonborn, this is the best way to become so.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is currently available on Xbox One, PS4, Windows 10 and Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Xbox One. Approximately 30 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the main quest was completed. Another 15 hours were devoted to DLC expansion and side quests, and they were not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The ESRB rates this title as M for Mature, and is not recommended for younger gamers. needs actual ESRB warnings here Players use swords, bows and arrows, axes, and magic attacks (e.g., fireballs, ice shards) to kill various enemies. As players engage in melee-style combat, sequences are highlighted by slow-motion effects, particularly for decapitations. Large blood-splatter effects also occur during combat, and some environments are stained with blood or body parts. As the game progresses, the dialogue and on-screen text also contains references to sexual material.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully accessible for gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing. It features subtitles, tactical controller vibration and a clearly defined menu system. The music score intensifies when the player is about to enter a battle, but this is not represented visually. It’s not a huge issue, but something worth noting.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game’s controls are remappable.
Colorblind Modes: Yes, there are adjustable color settings, including settings for gamers who are colorblind. Additionally, several community-created mods enhance the game for the visually-impaired.
When not writing for Gamecritics, Brad spends his days managing several sports and entertainment websites, handling several freelance writing contracts, and occasionally playing the role of "Dad" when time permits.
Brad is also the only guy on this staff who prefers the Xbox One to other platforms. And he's not budging on that one bit.