The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition Review

By Megan Walton, 2 years ago
Do you remember queueing outside of your local game shop on 11/11/11 while waiting for Skyrim to release? Or maybe you were sat by your letterbox waiting for a game shaped package to drop through your door? Either way, it's undeniable that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a big release and how much of a hit it was with Elder Scrolls veterans and newbies alike. Here we are five years later and it's happening all over again. This time around, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition has been remastered for Xbox One, but is it worth sinking your hard earned money (and hundreds of hours) into the remaster?

Time to revisit Skyrim, but has much changed in the last 5 years?Time to revisit Skyrim, but has much changed in the last 5 years?

Unsurprisingly, Skyrim has the same story that it did five years ago. There's a war going on between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks, while dragons are rising from the dead; you, as the Dragonborn, must deal with it all by shouting a lot (unfortunately not physically this time, as there's no kinect support anymore). Ok, so it may be a little more complicated than that but most of you will go into the game knowing what to expect. The story itself was already lengthy with plenty of quests to complete before you reached its final conclusion, so nothing really needed to be changed. The chances are that you'll still get distracted by side-quests, miscellaneous objectives, dragons and more along the way, just like you did first time around, and this is what makes Skyrim so addictive and so great.

Skyrim offers fun, exciting and unique questlines. Due to the sheer amount of side quests in the game, there will likely be a quest that you haven't come across yet even if you completed the game the last time around. Whether it's the "haunted house" that sees you become buddies with Molag Bal, being trapped in a mine after sticking your nose in someone else's business, playing investigator for various murders in various cities, or having a little too much to drink and trying to retrace your steps, there's quests full of debauchery for you to complete. The remaster offers you the chance to find new quests or to simply play your favourite quests all over again; the fact that these can have different outcomes means that you have the chance to see other endings from your last playthrough, giving you more of an incentive to play through them again.

Aside from the general side quests, there's also the various factions to find and join, should you want a whole load of extra quests to be added to your list. All of the usual suspects are back, including the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Companions and the Mages Guild. Each of the guilds has a set of quests that you must complete, as well as menial jobs that you can complete for extra gold and rewards. While you will likely have played through and completed all of the questlines before, murdering people and stealing things never stops being fun.

There's always time for tea, when you aren't murdering, stealing or fighting off dragonsThere's always time for tea, when you aren't murdering, stealing or fighting off dragons

Where the remaster obviously thrives is the graphical upgrade. Although the difference may not be obvious straight away, the clearer these improvements become the more that you play and explore. The characters and NPCs look a lot clearer and more detailed. When you close in to talk to someone, you'll notice that the background slightly blurs in order to focus on the other character. Although this may seem minor, it really adds to the experience of playing when each character looks even more detailed and unique.

On top of small things like character's faces, the whole world of Skyrim has been overturned and upgraded to look even more beautiful than it did the first time around. The trees and forests look larger and greener than they used to do and the stonework on the castles and palaces feels more intricate. The dragons look brighter, bolder and more terrifying. The hidden oasis and ruins that you'll explore and the various caves and towers are even more mesmirising with the bright colours that they throw at you. You'll no doubt find yourself stopping and admiring the scenery at certain points along the way. Impressive as they are, you do have to question whether or not it was worth remastering the game only five years since the original release simply for these graphical upgrades.

All of the DLC that was released for the Xbox 360 version is now included with the remaster, making the game good value by including this extra content rather than making you pay extra for it like you had to do first time around. The first of these is "Dawnguard", which sees you going toe to toe with a whole bunch of supernatural beings and offers the potential of seeing a legendary dragon for the first time. Then there is "Hearthfire", which lets you slow things down a bit by buying some land and building some houses. Finally there's "Dragonborn" where dragons are not only your enemy but are also your form of transport. All of these DLCs are triggered to start as you progress through the game and the related achievements can be earned at any time.

There's a whole world to explore, where will you start?There's a whole world to explore, where will you start?

Not only is the DLC included, players can also download and apply mods to the game. While these will disable achievements and you are warned that it might corrupt your game or save, these can be fun with which to play around and they may even help you out on occasions. The mods vary from practical things such as amateur patches, levelling potions and new interesting items, to others that are simply there to make you laugh or make the game more enjoyable for you. If you like female couriers, Ezio's Assassin's Creed armour or a pet rabbit dovahkin, the chances are that there's a mod out there for you. There are endless possiblities here and the opportunity to create you own mod (if you know how) and have it in your game. If mods aren't your thing then they are just as easily ignored and are not shoved in your face to get you to use or try them in any way.

Unfortunately, the game is not without its problems and it's a shame that a lot of them seem to have carried over from the previous version rather than being sorted out. If you have too many quests that are active at once, some of the markers won't show up on the map, or they might be in the wrong place. NPCs don't always interact as they should... sometimes, they aren't even where they are meant to be, which can make it hard to progress through quests. While the graphics are better, there was still some minor issues with textures loading too slowly on trees, and plenty of glitches with people and dragons falling through floors or getting stuck on objects. I did also encounter one big problem when I was in Blackreach where I was instantly killed upon exiting a door. With no other way out, I was simply forced to reload an earlier save from a short while before that, but the infrequent auto-saving means that this could have been a bigger problem than it was.

The achievement list for the game is the same as the last time around. With the DLC achievements already included in the list, it bumps the total up to 75. Obviously you'll be wanting to complete the main quest in full again, as well as doing all of the various guild quests that you can find. Completing a whole bunch of side quests and miscellaneous objectives is a must, as is killing dragons, learning shouts and exploring to find as many locations as you can (at least 100). With all of the achievements being the same, we know what is expected of us but we will still likely sink hundreds of hours into the game, more than is needed to complete it.

Summary

With a breathtaking world, extra DLC quests, mod support and the chance to play all of our favourite quests again, there's a good chance that Skyrim: Special Edition will grab us all just as it did the first time around. The graphical upgrade is impressive and you won't struggle to enjoy the view as you dive straight back into the game. A lot of the bugs and glitches that were experienced in the original are back, but with nothing game breaking here, can we forgive the expected problems from Bethesda? Possibly. Did Skyrim need a remaster? Probably not. Are we all going to buy it anyway? Probably.
4.5 / 5
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
Positives
  • Even more beautiful to look at on Xbox One
  • Can easily sink hours into to the game
  • All DLC and mod support is included
Negatives
  • Still has a lot of the same bugs and glitches
  • Graphical upgrade hard to justify the remaster
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 50 hours fighting dragons, stealing loot, murdering a lot of people and relishing their position as the Dragonborn. During her time, the reviewer unlocked 45 of the game's 75 achievements. An Xbox One download code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.