Welcome to Skyrim. Or, more likely, welcome back to Skyrim — the fantasy RPG world of The Elder Scrolls V, a game which sold some 20 million copies since it was released five years ago. And now, perhaps because there simply aren’t enough remastered versions of older games on the current consoles, Bethesda has updated it. If you sunk 500 hours into the original, but desperately need the water to flow more realistically before you go back to it, this is the game for you.
The game itself, and more specifically the game world, is a wonder — a vast and diverse land that begs to be explored. Nothing’s changed in that respect. Bethesda RPGs work best when you just set off to see what you can find, and Skyrim has rarely, if ever, been bettered. The sense of possibility when the opening mission/tutorial ends and you’re just left to fend for yourself in the untamed wilds remains undiminished.
But it works both ways. Prettier it may be, but this is basically the same game, so the complaints that were raised originally — bland main story, slightly clunky combat — are still valid. But just as the original Skyrim transcended those minor issues because of everything it did right, so does the Special Edition.
The real question here is what impact the upgraded graphics and physics have. Initially, it’s underwhelming. But memories can be tricky things, and it’s only when comparing the original and the new version side by side does it become apparent how much better it looks now. Draw depth is improved, there are fewer glitches and fancy new lighting effects have been added (presumably ported from Fallout 4). For the first time on consoles there’s also mod support.
It’s clearly an older game — a brand new Elder Scrolls game will (you’d hope) look far superior to this. But this is one of the finest games of the previous console generation (perhaps one of the best ever) and the Special Edition is absolutely the best way to experience it. If only to see just how realistic the water looks.