Remastered games have taken the current generation of consoles by storm by allowing players to revisit those fond memories of yesteryear. Personally, I love it when publishers bring back a blast from the past while adding a fresh coat of paint, but sometimes they were better off as memories. Bethesda has re-released Skyrim, which is coming up on its 5th birthday and hardly qualifies this as a classic to an Old Head like me. The internet had a fit about why they chose Skyrim over other great Elder Scrolls games of yore, but like Mick Jagger said “You can’t always get what you want.” Plus, many Skyrim fans ditched the game after transitioning to Xbox One or PS4 and if you owned a last gen console and missed the game entirely (SHAME ON YOU!) there isn’t a better RPG released in the last 4 years.
Once all the updates are completed you take your journey to Northern Tamriel through the games opening sequence. I was taken aback by what I saw, how could a game that claimed to be remastered still have shoddy character models, drab scenery, and an overall appearance of a coffee stained term paper? How could my memories vary so drastically from just a few years ago to what was before my eyes? The initial disappointment had me rethinking my eagerness to jump at the chance to do this review, but after sticking with Skyrim for an hour I was drawn back into the greatness of the game and the true open world, anything goes feeling that allows you to create your own tale.
Slaying my first dragon and the journey to meet the Greybeards in High Hrothgar changed my initial perception of the work Bethesda put into the visuals of Skyrim. Whether you are spelunking through vampire infested caves, trekking through the wooded mountain side, or simply watching the sunrise from one of the thousands of scenic view points while standing atop the broken bodies of those who have opposed you, the lighting is astounding. Foliage is increased so the ground doesn’t look as barren and muddy, trees and terrain show off better textures, and buildings tote a higher resolution. Couple that with quicker load times, less screen tears and a better frame rate your time in Skyrim will have you taking the long way around just to see what you may stumble upon. My only question is what happened to all this love and detail when remastering the character models?
The first release of Skyrim was plagued with bugs and glitches and the remastered version fixed quite a few of those issues. However, as with any Bethesda game, you’ll find the occasional hiccup like bodies flailing or flopping, getting stuck in the scenery or terrain, and characters clipping in and out of objects. They are nothing more than a minor annoyance most of the time, but after getting stuck while climbing a mountain I had to reload my last save which happened before I had wiped out a giant camp and dragon. Frustrating to say the least, but not broken like things had been in the past.
Core gameplay remains intact, but feels oddly dated especially with the hand to hand combat that presents itself more like a button mashing add-on. There are stutters when unsheathing your weapon or casting your first spell that allows the enemies in front of you to get a strike or two in before you can come to bear on them. Despite all this, combat leaves you feeling triumphant after slaying one of the massive beasts of Tamriel or clearing out a dungeon of crazed mages. Skyrim’s leveling system is wonderfully designed and really gives your character a skill set unique to how you play. Everything is controlled through a friendly user interface that allows you to keep all your favorite spells, potions and weapons ready to use in the blink of an eye. This streamlined process cuts down on pausing from combat to drink a health potion or swap out a more effective spell.
The shear amount of content in the special edition Skyrim is dumbfounding when you attempt to tackle the main story line, side quests, and all the DLC. Players with OCD about completing quests will have many a restless night ahead of them and when you couple in all the extra things to do in the game like getting married, adopting children, and setting off on your own Lewis and Clark exploring trip, it stretches out the game even further. While all the content is exciting, what players will most love to get their hands on are the fan made mods. Xbox currently boasts a more robust selection than Playstation, but the fact that Skyrim is one of the first games to offer mod support opens an infinite amount of possibilities.
There are too many to list, so a few on my must download list would be:
-The Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch – fixes a ton of bugs & glitches
-The Forgotten City – Fan created add on that adds 8+ hours of puzzles, situations, and a great story line
-The Power Greatswords – Hunt for 4 lethal 2 handed weapons with special abilities
-Falskaar – Explore a new land packed full of quests and gameplay
-Cheat Mod – Allows you to carry more than an entire team of pack mules
Skyrim’s soundtrack still astounds the senses while drawing the player with awe and splendor. Composer Jeremy Soule creates a feeling within the score that emulates the outstanding vistas and sweeping countryside. Sure, it isn’t as iconic as Halo, Zelda or Metal Gear, but when music contributes to the overall atmosphere of a game there is an extraordinary symbiotic occurrence that happens far less than it should.
For those players who have already spent countless hours in Skyrim, the remastered version may not be intriguing enough to lure you back to Tamerial’s frozen tundra even with the edition of mods. However, for those still drawn to the Elder Scrolls realm or haven’t yet stepped foot in the game there is so much content included and bound to be updated mods to keep you busy until next summer. A fresh coat of paint makes everything except character models look shiny and new, but as far as remastered games go there isn’t much different from the original release 5 years ago. So, is this a must have? Depends on your current gaming schedule and more than likely the price will drop within a couple months of release, but either way you can’t go wrong with the Skyrim Special Edition.
Score – 8/10
Review code supplied by Microsoft Xbox.