We waited five years for Skyrim to release after Oblivion, then we waited five more years to see an updated version that would touch on what Skyrim could be. Unfortunately, we only got a remastered version instead of a whole new game (Elder Scrolls VI: whatever *cough cough*). I guess we will settle for what we can get our grimy, greasy, gross nerd fingers on.
Skyrim released the year I met my husband. We stood in line together to purchase it and then we each went home, put our headsets on, and started the game in unison. It was magical. It was brilliant. And it has been my go-to game since that day.
Skyrim wasn’t as beautiful or engaging as Oblivion was. The music didn’t captivate me like it did in Oblivion and the main quest was sub-par, but it was still magical.
My first playthrough consisted of me going to Whiterun and then I trudged to Solitude because that direction looked prettier.
I spent far too much time wandering and wondering what the heck I was supposed to be doing and where I could find someone to purchase all my horded stash loot.
I didn’t role-play my character (meaning I did everything) in that first playthrough so I got distracted a lot. I was saddened by the lack of awesomeness with the Thieves Guild missions and the lack of absolute I-am-a-horrible-person feeling in the Dark Brotherhood, and yet I still loved it.
That’s why, when they announced the Special Edition, I was all too eager to get my hands on it. Luckily, for me, my husband had purchased Skyrim on our laptop (homework during the day, gaming at night) which meant that we would get the version for free.
Just before its arrival my husband showed me a newly released trailer for Skyrim: Special Edition. It showed how the original version looked on the PS3 and Xbox 360 compared to what it would like on the PS4, Xbox One and PC. I noticed that it was focusing on the scenery differences rather than graphic changes in the NPCs or animals. At that point I was a little worried that the Special Edition wasn’t going to be that big of a difference. Regardless, I was eager to play.
October 28 took far too long but finally it arrived.
I came home that Friday from a ridiculously difficult work week to play my new game. I didn’t know what to expect but for some reason I thought that it was going to be noticeably different. Because I had my mind up that it was going to be a significant change, I was let down more.
Alas, let the official review begin.
Little Details – More plants, ants on logs, more details in the fauna and flora.
Rain Occlusion- First of all there is actual rain in the SE instead of the sort of misty stuff we had in the OG. With this addition the rain falls around the player unless they are standing underneath something that obstructs the rain, thus making it more realistic.
Improved Stability- improved drastically with Unofficial Patch mod, higher framerate, 64-bit engine, higher access to RAM. The clip below shows how stable the game has become in the SE version. This stability allows the player to experience a more fluid type of gameplay and it allows for more to happen on screen without the framerate falling.
Water is more realistic- the water has been improved by making it look more realistic and believable. The rivers and lakes flow in a certain direction and if there is something obstructing the flow, the water will go around it.
Lighting- makes the game look better with “natural” lighting. The lighting has been improved to look more natural, creating softer light tones. It is most noticeable during dawn and dusk. There is also the addition of God-rays, light that streams between trees causing rays of light.
Clouds over the mountains- instead of being able to see an entire mountain from any direction, the SE edition as added clouds that flow around the mountains, obscuring the view. This is more natural and realistic.
Shelby (the husband) here!
First, I’d like to begin by talking about mods. Modding, which was previously impossible on consoles, without breaking warranties and ToS, has made it into Skyrim. To further make the sale, modding on PC has become even easier since Bethesda rolled mods into the game as a menu option. The only other game I’ve played that has mods as easy to install and manage is BeamNG.Drive (which is an awesome game by the way).
Modding is simple and easy to carry out. Sure, achievements are disabled, but who cares in a five year old game?
The only downside here is that mods are nowhere near as developed as modding through Nexus, as mods have essentially been completely reset. In time that may change, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty there. Also, PS4 mods are limited to mods that only use in game assets, so expect far less variety.
Put simply, if modding is a major concern for you when deciding what platform to pick, the formula is: PC > Xbox One > PS4
Other than mods, there are a couple other little touches that made it in. Skyrim benefits from minor improvements including better spell effects, like prettier effects from having spells prepared in your hands and spells lighting up their trajectories over terrain.
More vibrant colors- if compared next to each other you can see the difference in colors between the two game versions. They brought out a lot more reds and oranges in the SE making the game look less gloomy than the first version. This also makes the game look more like a painting than a video game that released in 2011.
The reason I was disappointed upon launch is that I couldn’t see a significant difference between the original game (henceforth referred to as OG) and the SE (it means Special Edition). I recently started a new character in the OG, so it hadn’t been too long ago since I saw the beginning sequence. I thought that the people would have smoother textures and their mouths would move more fluidly with what they were saying. Honestly, I was expecting something like Halo: The Master Chief Collection (though without multiplayer and the ridiculous bugs).
I was expecting a difference similar to this:
Textures- added to game, not totally noticeable until two screenshots are next to each other. I jumped into the game expecting a huge difference but didn’t notice much. Until I saw a video comparing the OG and SE side by side, the game looked no different to me. I saw the ants on the log, the lighting differences, and a few added textures but nothing that made me say, “WHOA!”
People- not a lot of change with people, creatures, or way people/creatures behave. This is probably the biggest one for me. I was hoping to see a vast difference in the way people and creatures behave and look. They look choppy and not smooth in the OG and the SE. There are few details that they changed like making the people look a little smoother or adding color but I think that is mostly the lighting difference. I know it can be difficult to make huge changes to characters in a game this big but they could’ve done more.
Something that should be stated is that if you’re going to be playing Skyrim Special Edition, you should download the Unofficial Patch mod ASAP. Skyrim still has many known bugs that have still not been officially fixed for some reason. Miscellaneous quests that can bug out, followers disappearing, etc. Granted, these can be fixed, but in a game that has been out for five years and now been remastered, you’d figure that quality assurance might’ve been somewhere on the list of priorities.
But it’s Bethesda, so yeah… Free pass.
Why should you play it?
First, because it is Skyrim and now you can play it on the PS4 and Xbox One. Second, because the light changes and water differences actually make the game more beautiful, somehow. Third, because, although there aren’t gigantic differences, it is still a spectacularly beautifully sculpted game. It will stand as one of the best RPGs until they release Elder Scrolls VI: Best Game Ever…
There are some disappoints that fall in line with purchasing the SE but I got it for free. BONUS. I am unsure if I would spend sixty dollars to buy it for the console considering the minimal changes to the game. What I was looking for in a remaster did not happen, however what they did do is amazing, it just isn’t enough for me to purchase the game for my Xbox One. Some people may feel differently considering you currently cannot play the game on a console unless you resort to the 360 or PS3 (which is a joke). If you’re going to spend the money to get the SE then I would encourage you to buy it on PC so that you can have the maximum mods available to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it..
*The additions in block quotes were written by my husband. Check out his blog at Falcon Reviews.*