Remasters are commonplace at this stage, but when a game as beloved as Skyrim is revamped, people take notice. The 2011 hit thrived on PC thanks to powerful hardware and a flood of user-created mods. Skyrim was popular on consoles as well, but the Xbox 360 and PS3 ports were far and away inferior, with muddy visuals, diminished frame rates, and extended load times.
With the new Special Edition release, console players are almost on equal footing now—the one exception being Bethesda is controlling which mods are available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Platform parity aside, Skyrim Special Edition is a significantly improved console version of the now-classic game.
If you've always wanted to give Skyrim a try, there's no time like the present, but beware: it's easy to lose yourself in the game. In his 2011 review, Kevin VanOrd wrote: "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim doesn't rely on sheer scope to earn its stripes. It isn't just that there's a lot to do: it's that most of it is so good. Whether you're slashing a dragon's wings, raising the dead back to life, or experimenting at the alchemy table, Skyrim performs the most spectacular of enchantments: the one that causes huge chunks of time to vanish before you know it." (GameSpot's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review)
For players who've already sunk 100 hours into Skyrim, are the remastered elements in the Special Edition reason enough to jump back in? Here's what GameSpot Editor, Scott Butterworth, has to say after six hours on PlayStation 4:
If you're booting up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition expecting to be overwhelmed by transcendent visual splendor, you're much more likely to be disappointed than blown away. Skyrim's visual upgrade is noticeable but by no means incredible, and many of its uglier elements--like its off-putting character models--persist. But here's the thing: That's totally OK.
The PS4 and Xbox One versions' visuals are now on par with the game PC players have been enjoying for years. The brighter colors and crisper textures make the experience more immersive than ever for console owners. Where previously, for example, enemies in dark caverns might momentary blend into their blurry, muddy backgrounds, lighting and textures are now improved to a point where visual sloppiness no longer impacts the gameplay.
And that's the key: Skyrim is, without question or caveat, one of the greatest RPGs ever made. The fact that console gamers can now enjoy the experience even more as a direct result of the remaster's visual updates is a positive turn of events. Yes, it's somewhat disappointing that even this updated version of Skyrim can't match modern graphics (or even certain recent remasters like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare HD). But the game looks objectively better--as if a blurry, gray filter has suddenly been lifted--and the new visuals allow for an even deeper appreciation of Skyrim's rich leveling, multifaceted combat, vast open world, and deep well of side content.
If you somehow missed Skyrim when it originally launched five years ago, you owe it to yourself to play the game, and Special Edition is unquestionably your new best option to do that.
That appreciation is further deepened by another crucial improvement: shorter loading times. Previously, ducking into a shop or entering a dungeon would trigger an oppressively long loading screen. Now, however, those same instances pass in maybe a quarter of the time. Given how frequently you'll encounter loading screens in Skyrim, that's actually a more meaningful improvement than the upgraded graphics.
Skyrim's infamous glitches seem to have subsided as well, at least to some degree. I did notice some characters clipping through objects and my companion randomly spawned at the bottom of a cliff when I walked out of a particular dungeon. But I didn't encounter any floating mammoths or broken objectives, and my companion--when he wasn't busy spawning in weird locations--did a decent job of staying out of the way during combat.
Admittedly, my time with the game thus far has been brief. I've played roughly six hours on PS4, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 150 hours I spent in the original Skyrim. There's still a chance I'll encounter more bugs as I progress further into the game. On the flip side, however, I also still need to explore Skyrim's three major DLC packs--all of which are into Special Edition--as well as the healthy collection of mods already approved and available for console players.
If you somehow missed Skyrim when it originally launched five years ago, you owe it to yourself to play the game, and Special Edition is unquestionably your new best option to do that. And if you did play Skyrim, you now have an valid excuse to return to Tamriel’s snowy northern region and complete all those guild missions you missed. The core game feels just as engrossing and exhilarating now as it did back in 2011. Frankly, the only players who don't stand to gain anything from Special Edition are PC players who've been consistently modding and playing the game for the past five years. If that's not you, Skyrim Special Edition is an easy recommendation.
Just getting started?
If you’re playing Skyrim for the first time, we’ve got a handful of guides to help arm you with the knowledge you need to get off on the right foot.
- Storyline Walkthrough: How to complete the main quest, and the powers you'll gain.
- Guild Walkthrough: A walkthrough for the Companions, Dark Brotherhood, and other guilds.
- Daedric Walkthrough: Complete objectives for Daedric Princes for special gear.
- Crafting: Learn about potions, forging, and magical enchantments.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Character Creation Guide