One of the best Action RPG games of the last generation finally made its way on to this generation of consoles, bringing with it mods previously only found in the PC version.
Following the expansive but clunky Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Skyrim made a huge impact. Impeccably polished and glitch-free (for a Bethesda title – let’s not get carried away), Skyrim was an adventure in a world you could get lost in – and many of us did. An engaging campaign in the usual Elder Scrolls vein – rags to riches, weakness to power – Skyrim set a new benchmark for open world games. Interestingly, it was Skyrim’s breadth and scale that set pulses racing for a new Fallout game, and we would argue that Fallout 4 lacks much of the ambition and scale that made Skyrim so incredible.
When an already beautiful game gets the remaster treatment, we have high expectations – and for the most part we’re not disappointed with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. First impressions immediately wow us – Tamriel has never looked so beautiful, with lighting engine upgrades give the forests and water a realism that makes some images resemble photographs. The improved colour saturation adds high intensity to sunny days and gives a spooky look in the dark. In motion it’s equally beautiful, with new dynamic depth-of-field options, which add some subtle focus to conversations and which the Special Edition introduces with the opening dragon attack.
NPCs and creatures have been given a makeover too, although the results are slightly less impressive, with a crisp look on faces, furs and clothing. Nevertheless, visually the game is a real treat. The same can’t (at the moment) for the audio, which features noticeably downsampled effects – a real shame as Skyrim has one of the best sound tracks ever.
Of course, it’s still Skyrim. NPCs can be somewhat recalcitrant; when following an NPC to certain location they have a tendency to take a circuitous – or completely wrong – route, or they’ll get stuck and even with repeated attempts at making them move, they refuse to. It’s still really easy to accidentally steal something, too; we accidentally kept a book that we were supposed to read for a mission checkpoint after pressed the button a few too many times.
This is, then, the same Skyrim that Elder Scrolls fans played back in 2011, but the Special Edition does includes the three original DLC expansions: Dragonborn, Heathfire and Dawnguard.
While graphically the game has had an overhaul, it’s still locked to 30 frames per second (though seems to hold that steadily, even in the larger battles when everyone seems to be getting an arrow to the knee). While we appreciate the solidity, it might have been nice to experience this world in 60 fps. Loading times are, thankfully, reduced from those of the original, so you don’t have to sit as long waiting to get back into the action. Save file management is now clearer, too – doing away with the meta game of figuring out which save file was which. You can now quick save your game, and the files are saved as the character’s name and location.
There is an extensive list of mods for Skyrim on Xbox One. Some mods help your gaming experience get that little bit easier, with friendly dragons, new weapons, different areas and missions, mods that stop the annoying bugs within the game. The list goes on.
With the exception of the mods, there isn’t anything new to the game to make it feel like a new game – but when you’re working with material as good as this, that’s enough. Those starting the Special Edition without playing the original on the 360 have made a good choice. Those who played the original version over and over again are likely to do the same with this Special Edition over and over again.
It’s simply beautiful.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is available from the Store, priced £49.99.
One of the best games of the last generation gets the remaster it deserves.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is an opportunity for gamers who don’t own an Elder Scrolls game to lay claim to the best in the series. For others, this Special Edition offers the chance to relive some of the best open-world adventuring ever seen. Other than audio issues and some slightly odd-looking NPCs, this is a remaster tour de force.