“The Dragonborn Returns”: The Elder Scrolls V: Special Edition Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 04, 2016

It’s hard to believe that it been five years since the release of the original version of Skyrim. I can still remember the first time that I got my hands on the Skyrim in 2011; I was blown away at how much there was to do in the game. Nearly every day I’d come home from work and play Skyrim for a couple of hours.

I wasn’t alone.  Skyrim was critically acclaimed and went on to sell millions of copies across its three platforms. In addition to these impressive sales numbers, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim also went on to win many awards, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Bethesda chose to bring the game back for a second go around on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

I feel that Skyrim, as a game, is the closest things you’ll find to a true “sandbox” experience. Once you finished the with the game’s introduction, you’ll be dropped into Skyrim, and while you’re given an objective to advance the plot, you’re free at this point to play the game however you’d like. This sense of freedom is one of the greatest things about Skyrim as you can enjoy the game however you wish.

Do you want to explore ancient ruins in search of treasure? Go for it! Want to spend your time creating unique weapon and armor with their own enchantments? Then do it. Skyrim‘s world is your oyster, and you are allowed to experience it in your own way, even if you want to do something crazy like advance the game’s main plot.

While the freedom to play Skyrim the way you want is easily it’s most enticing element, it also helps that the game was never half bad to look at either. This, of course, begs the question of just how much the presentation has been improved in the move to new hardware. The answer here really depends on just how deeply you look at the game because honestly, at first glance the improvements aren’t all that impressive.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the improvement in the game’s lighting effects, which have seen a significant improvement from the last generation version of the title. Water has also seen a drastic improvement as not only does it look better, but the folks at Bethesda were able to get the water to flow more realistically, and while most people probably wouldn’t ever notice this enhancement, it’s very nice to look at.

That aside, I haven’t noticed anything that really stands out. Textures, while smoother, don’t offer the kind of leap forward that I anticipated with the new hardware, this is especially noticeable with trees, which still appear very flat when you’re close to them. Character models also haven’t seen much in the way of improvement and seemed to look and behave similarly to their last gen counterparts.

While the visuals have seen improvement, much of it isn’t going to be noticeable to the average player and I don’t think that’s what most people are going to expect going in. Sure the higher framerate makes the game look great, but if you own a high-end PC, or are willing to get one, the fan community has released far better mods for the game to improve textures and the like than we’ll ever see on the console. This makes Bethesda’s Special Edition feel like a minuscule upgrade and less like a true move to more powerful hardware.

When it gets down to it, whether or not you get the Special Edition of Skyrim on the Xbox One or PS4 depends entirely on your situation. Mod support is, of course, the big attraction here, but sadly PlayStation 4 owners are shorted in this area. While Bethesda was able to add mod support to the PlayStation version, the fact that external assets can’t be used limits what can be done with mods on that platform. Xbox owners can experience many of the mods that are available to PC owners, allowing for a more robust experience.

At the end of the day, the decision to upgrade is your own. If you’re okay with playing the game on older hardware, the game can be had for a third of the cost with all of the DLC. If a little sheen on the graphics and mod support is worth $60 to you, then by all means. The inability to transfer your saves is a downer, but the game does look nice, though I see little to warrant an upgrade outside of the convenience of having the game on my Xbox One and the ability to play mods without upgrading my PC.

Final Say: Skip It

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He is a senior editor at Kulture Shocked. A seasoned gamer, Zach has been playing video games since the early 90s and have owned everything from the NES to the Xbox One. Aside from video games, Zach is a nerd of all trades and dabbles in everything from collectible card games to Gunpla.
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