The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim holds a place in the hearts of many as one of the greatest video games ever created. Arguable? Yes. But for those like me, the best video game is now at its most complete, as Skyrim: Special Edition promises to make the game as beautiful as it made us feel.
Keep in mind, this is based on what we’ve seen, not what we’ve played. Earlier this week, Bethesda announced media outlets would only get access to Skyrim: Special Edition one day before it was released to the public, even though the developer already gave early access to select YouTubers and streamers. So, we’ve had a chance to see it in action online, but not experience it for ourselves. Still, it doesn’t change the legacy of the first game, and we’re focusing here on what the new updated version could do to enhance that original experience.
Apart from including all of the DLCs, there’s virtually nothing new about the gameplay. But there’s no need to really add anything, because the gameplay is already pretty much excellent. Granted, you’ll hear the same voice actors playing multiple roles through the game, and that can get tedious, but the stories themselves are varied and unique. And you can always find something new to do or explore.
For example, during one recent playthrough, I found a random mercenary who was headed to a town to investigate “trouble.” I decided to follow him, live-tweeting the experience as I followed this random NPC. It turned into an amazing, infuriating adventure as I tried to figure out where this man was going and what he was trying to accomplish. It’s moments like that, that make Skyrim continually fascinating.
The changes in the upcoming release are mostly in the visuals, which have gotten a substantial upgrade. The art and graphics have been remastered, with more dynamic trees, foliage, and landscapes. One of the biggest changes, which has been a concern for some players, is the color hue. While the original Skyrim had more of a blue tinge, reflecting the cold, harsh bitterness of the Nords’ homeland, the new version makes everything way more golden.
Some have called it a glorified “Instagram filter” on top of the original game, saying it makes the game less reflective of its chilly environment. However, one of the downsides of the original color hue was it made some things really hard to see, especially at night. I can’t tell you how many times I got lost in Windhelm because every corner of that city looked exactly the same. I remember originally feeling like Fallout 4’s more natural colors took away from Fallout 3’s more toxic-looking tones, but I later grew to appreciate the new colors for making things easier to spot, including enemies.
Bethesda’s also added volumetric god rays, a 3D effect that’s used to make beams of light pass through trees, windows, and other surfaces. One of the coolest additions is dynamic depth-of-field, which mimics natural depth perception to focus better on things you’re examining up close, like sign posts, flowers on the side of the road and mushrooms.
Of course, for Skyrim PC players who are adept at mods, this will all seem like old hat. Depth of field, god rays, and detailed landscapes have been part of the modding community for years, along with several other storylines, features, and new experiences. Unfortunately, mods aren’t easy for the average player. They require the right hardware and know-how to successfully integrate them into the game — some PC players have never even tried them.
Bethesda has been pretty good at embracing the modding community, adding mods to Fallout 4 on Xbox One (they’ve been delayed on PS4). Now, they’re bringing mods to the new Skyrim for both Xbox One and PS4, even though Xbox users are definitely getting the better end of the deal. There are already six times more mods available for Xbox players than there are for PlayStation, and Xbox users get five times as much space for them.
The best part about mods is they actually give console players access to completely new stories and quests that were entirely created in the modding community. One of the most notable is “The Forgotten City,”, an award-winning expansion mod where you investigate a murder in an ancient underground city. There are also mods for new difficulty settings, like adding risk of hypothermia, as well as ways to increase immersion. You can even use a mod that changes how the game begins, letting you choose your own starting path rather than automatically playing as a prisoner of Helgen. And the best part? They’re all free.
Skyrim has remained a beloved part of my collection for years because it’s never the same. There are always new ways to fight, new people to interact with, and new choices to make. While it might seem weird to pay $60 for a game that you already own, the game itself is still just as valuable now as it was five years ago. You can pick up Skyrim and still feel just as amazed and challenged as you were when it first released. Out of all the games that could possibly get a special edition like, Skyrim is definitely top of the list for me.
Now, if only they’d get started on Elder Scrolls VI already.
Photos via Bethesda