Retro Rewind: Skyrim Special Edition

Criticized by most purist RPG lovers, praised and especially enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of players. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was an unprecedented success for Bethesda. It sold more than 20 million copies, a level of success only available to popular brands such as Grand Theft Auto.

The Elder Scrolls is a saga of RPGs that began in 1994 with great ambition. But it wasn’t until the arrival to the previous gen that such a massive audience was reached. In exchange for further reach, Bethesda made certain concessions which displeased the most veteran players.

Xbox One players can have The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition in their hands. A kind of definitive version with all the DLC and a few graphic improvements. As it’s title indicates they haven’t dared to call it a remaster, as the visual improvements are more subtle than significant.

Before I go into talking about the graphic details, I have to admit that it hasn’t aged poorly. The combat and animations were somewhat old fashioned and crude when it released in 2011. The passage of time has not made this wound any greater, something that had room for improvement then. It’s a pleasure to get lost in the beautiful landscapes of Skyrim while finding all kinds of adventures. It’s a feeling of freedom, being in a huge world full of stories and places to discover.

I Used To Be An Adventurer Like You…

Selling more than 20 million copies, I imagine at this point there are not too many players left to try it. Is it advisable to play Skyrim today if you have never done it before? Of course! It’s still a very interesting and unique game nine years after it’s original release. It’s never too late to discover a saga as important as The Elder Scrolls, even in it’s most important version. Accessible, simplified, and therefore more successful.

If instead you already played it in 2011, I don’t see too many reasons to go through the box again. First came Hearthfire, a reduced price DLC that gave us new possibilities, such as buying land, building houses. It also came with the curious possibility of adopting children and starting families.

Then we had Dawnguard, in which we could become the lord of the vampires or a vampire hunter. New locations, missions, abilities, weapons, and everything we could expect from good DLC.

The most ambitious of the three DLC packages was Dragonborn, taking us to the island of Solstheim in Morrowind. In Solstheim we found new adventures, enemies, weapons, powers, and the possibility to tame dragons.

For The First Time With Mods On Console

If there is one thing that PC players have always taken for granted, it’s the ability to use mods. Modifications created by the community can change or improve a game in many ways. They can improve graphics, mechanics, and even fix bugs that Bethesda had not managed to fix.

A few console games have enjoyed the use of mods, with the Xbox One version of Fallout 4 serving as an example. Since day one, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition has supported mods on console. Right now there are more than 200 mods available on Xbox One. It’s not only a question of numbers, but also of quality. One of the most interesting mods ‘Frostfall,’ which adds survival mechanics, is only available on Xbox One and PC.

There are plenty of other interesting mods that change the game in many ways to enhance the player experience. For example, the unofficial ‘Skyrim Special Edition Patch’ fixes a lot of bugs that Bethesda itself hasn’t fixed years later. The acclaimed ‘The Forgotten City’ adds new adventures and locations. And ‘No Milkdrinkers’ introduces a new hardcore level of difficulty.

Of course, you should consider that with the mods activated, achievements are not supported and save files clearly indicate whether or not a game has mods. As you can see, mods are a new way to discover a game as large and complex as Skyrim. If you are a big fan, it may not be silly to get this version just to rediscover the game.

Visual improvements

The Xbox One version runs at 1080p resolution and a very stable 30fps, the least one could ask. The increase in resolution is very evident if you played it on the Xbox 360. Many small details and visual improvements make the game even more beautiful.

Volumetric lighting (much like Fallout 4), real-time reflections, new shading effects on snow and water, more compelling fog and rain effects, dynamic depth of field, and very tiny details all add up as nice enhancements. For example, now the movement of water in rivers is realistic and it doesn’t follow a single direction. The flow adapts to the riverbed and terrain, which generally make it more beautiful.

All these improvements don’t change the overall look too much. At the moment of truth, the result of these graphical improvements have seemed quite good to me.

The game looks pretty good and it’s still a pleasure to explore the beautiful landscapes of Skyrim. Obviously these improvements don’t work miracles and the textures are outdated. The animations (which were not wonderful to begin with) and the modeling of the characters, especially their faces, is still quite ugly. This is something that also happens in Fallout 4.

Could more be improved? Sure. It must be made clear that the game looks very good on Xbox One and is perfectly enjoyable today.
Another very appreciated improvement is the loading time, which is much faster than the original version.

The soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule is still as beautiful and spectacular as it was nine years ago. It’s unforgettable and worth remembering. A bitter detail, some gamers have found that the audio quality in this version is worse than the original due to compression.

A great game years later

Although visual improvements of this version are not ground-breaking, it manages to be a quite colorful game today. What has surprised me is that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still a very attractive and addictive role-playing adventure. I became hooked and immersed in it’s proposal, almost as if I were playing for the first time.

If you have already played Skyrim, the improvements and additions don’t compensate for going through the game again. Unless however you are a big fan and want to experience everything that mods bring to console. But if you have never played Skyrim, an adventure as unforgettable as this deserves a chance.

You can pick up The Elder Scrols V: Skyrim Special Edition from the Microsoft store for $39.99. Be sure to stay tuned to Generation Xbox for coverage from everything in the world of Xbox. And check out more from the Retro Rewind series here.

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