The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition Review

November 14, 2016

This review was contributed by freelancer Katie Millard.

Like many gamers, I have eagerly awaited a remaster, or at least backwards-compatibility, of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim was the first game that I wanted to try enough that I learned to play with dual analogue sticks; previous to this I had been stubbornly insisting I was simply too uncoordinated. And so I played. Obsessively. Days became weeks, weeks became months, and then, five years in, I had literally hundreds of hours under my belt, and every time my husband tried to pack away the Xbox 360, I objected. Suffice to say, when my husband called me from E3 to tell me that Skyrim Remastered would be released this year, I was incredibly excited. In some ways, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition evokes those same feelings I felt five years ago, but it isn’t quite the upgrade I expected.

With any remaster there is a large focus on how it’s been upgraded for the current generation, be it better graphics, more content or a smoother framerate. This remastering mostly focused on graphics, with very little being changed in other facets of the game. The graphics are overall a little lacking, especially the character models, which have not been updated at all. At the same time, the environment textures have been upgraded, the plant models have been improved, volumetric lighting (adding depth to the screen) has been added, and the world surrounding you is often breathtaking. Every now and then I would find myself just stopping for a while to allow the idle view (like a screensaver) to kick in and watch the world revolve around me. The lack of updates and upgrades to the character models are all the more confronting when they are in stark contrast to the beautiful world around them.


Although no new content has been added to the game, all previously released DLC now comes pre-loaded in the base package, resulting in many extra hours of gameplay than the original Skyrim release. Additionally, for the first time, mods are now available for console editions of the game. Unfortunately, with the PS4 version, the mods are limited to those using existing models and art assets: no Thomas the Tank Dragons for you PlayStation fans. The real issue with this is that it means the PS4 release loses out, with amazing mods like Enderal (which adds a new landmass, quests and heaps of other content) likely skipping the console. Hopefully this is something that changes in the future.

Bethesda games are well-known for their jank. Especially well-known are the monumental issues faced by the PS3 version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The biggest of these being an issue where the longer you played, the worse the game performed, loads took huge amounts of time and frame rates degraded the longer you played. This is an issue that was never fully corrected. Although I don’t have the ludicrous number of hours on the PS4 version that I do on the original Xbox 360 release, major issues like that have not presented in the remastered version of the game. Minor glitches have occurred in game physics, like giants hovering across the plains, but nothing major so far. The only glitch that concerned me was the temporary disappearance of my save files: after my cat stood on my controller, accidentally killing a guard, I needed to load my game from the last autosave. Upon opening the load tab, no save files were present. It took manually saving my game before the load files became available and I could return to my pre-cat game.


Comparisons aside, Skyrim is an exceptional stand-alone story within a pre-existing universe. It opens with the player having been convicted of horse theft and going to the headsman when he or she is saved by the re-emergence of the first dragon. The story follows you and the choices you make on your journey to become the Dragonborn, a twisting road that follows you through a bloody civil war, as you encounter mages, werewolves, giants, trolls, and the undead. It’s an incredibly large and involving story, but it allows you the freedom to experience as little or as much of it as you want.

The three DLCs for the original release of Skyrim provide you with new challenges that previous players may not have experienced before. The first, Dawnguard, heralds the return of a horde of vampires, and the player must choose between joining their ranks or those of the legendary Dawnguard, vampire hunters. The second, Hearthfire, allows you to purchase land upon which to create your own home, as well as adopt up to two children, hire a steward, your own personal bard, and even a carriage driver. Building materials must be collected or purchased, and each part of your home must be constructed individually. Yet more customisation is available here, as you can decide which parts of the manor are more important to you. Dragonborn, the third, takes place in Soltheim, a new area of the map, and comes with a story mission, some side quests, and the ability to tame and ride dragons. There’s nothing quite like taking wing and flying in the skies of Skyrim.


As for gameplay itself: the controls feel natural and well-rounded, with little time needed to adapt to them. The controls are completely customisable, allowing you to change the controls to match your preferred play-style. The dialogue, while occasionally stilted, is interesting and there are a wide variety of voice actors for the huge number of characters you interact with. The expansive number of quests, with many different requirements, left me pleased and the “choose-your-own-adventure” feeling is particularly strong in a game where any person can be killed and every action has consequences. Although there isn’t a good-vs-bad rating, your choices lead you to face bounties and jail time when you misbehave, and you can support whichever side of a civil war you feel is in the right, leaving many people angry at you no matter which side you choose. The multi-faceted levelling system is incredibly dynamic and allows you to customise your character to a terrifying degree: one could almost argue that no two characters will ever be identical. Along with the race perks, there are 18 different skill sets to level and choose perks for, and an almost infinite combination of weapons, armour, jewellery and spells.

Overall, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is just as enjoyable an experience as it was five years ago, however, it hasn’t received a full touch up for current generation consoles. The environments look wonderful, especially the brand new lighting, but character models are untouched and stick out like a sore thumb. While the DLC is included and creates a larger base game, there is also no new content to experience and mods are hamstrung on the PS4 due to Sony’s enforced limitations. If you’ve never played Skyrim or are still as engrossed as ever and are looking to begin a new Skyrim adventure, then I wholly recommend buying The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition.



- Updated world looks beautiful
- Story remains incredibly engaging
- Fully customisable controls
- Controls are approachable


- Character models have not been updated
- No new content
- Lack of mods compared to other platforms

Overall Score: