Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (21.10 GB)
Release Date: October 28, 2016
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim came out five years ago and when it launched it was one of the biggest games to release on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game took the world by storm and its influence was felt for many years following its release. Today fans are clamoring for The Elders Scrolls VI, but for now they’ll have to settle for a remaster of Skyrim.

I spent a fair amount of time playing the game when it first launched on the PS3 and PC. The game suffered all sorts of issues in the visuals and bugs departments on PS3. This was not too surprising for Bethesda as their games tended to be buggy and when it came to the PlayStation 3 as those were the inferior ports.

But now we have new, more powerful hardware with the PlayStation 4 and Skyrim looks and runs remarkably well especially from the perspective of a PlayStation fan.

I will not dwell too much on the story as it has been around for five years and has become a staple of pop culture even till this day. So here is a quick rundown of the main quest.

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The story begins with your character as a prisoner being taken to execution when suddenly a dragon appears and wreaks havoc on the town. A dragon’s appearance is significant because it was believed that dragons had gone extinct, but now they are popping up all over Skyrim.

You become the key to the return of dragons as you are discovered to be Dragonborn. A Dragonborn is the world’s best defense against dragons and you must find out why they have returned and stop them.

… finding the same bugs five years later …
From there the main quest unfolds, but Elder Scrolls games are more than their main story because Bethesda builds living and breathing worlds. Bethesda is one of the elite developers when it comes to filling a world with so much content that’s meant to consume players for dozens and dozens of hours.

There are side quests galore filling your map, dungeons to loot, and land to explore. This is why I love these types of games. I tend to ignore the main quest most of the time and just have fun exploring and taking on whatever mission comes my way organically.

Gameplay is the same as it was before with no noticeable tweaks made to it for better or worse. I remember enjoying the game back in 2011 and I still had fun with it today, but I have played enough games between those gaps which have evolved for the better. It still plays great, but 2011 was long enough ago that its age pops up with some of the animations.

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All of the improvements are cosmetic. Because of this though a lot of the bugs and glitches that were present in 2011 are still present in this version. It’s hard to tell if that’s because big open world games will always have some jank and bugs, but I found myself and others calling out bugs that I remembered from 2011. It’s just a lot of small stuff as well as scripting errors and NPCs occasionally glitching out.

I get that Bethesda may not have wanted to mess with their “classic” too much and that’s fine. And for all I know they did tweak and fix a lot of things though finding the same bugs five years later is questionable. The game mostly being untouched is not all bad news because a lot of the exploits players have found still appear to be available, so that’s nice.

… visual effects, character, quest, and god mods …
The biggest addition though is the ability to add mods to the console version of the game. Mods have always been associated with PC gaming, with Skyrim being huge in the mod scene.

Mods on the PS4 are a little limited in comparison to the Xbox One and PC with no outside assets allowed on the PS4 and mod file size being limited to 1 GB. This means that some of the crazier and silly mods are not going to be available for the PS4 version which is a bummer.

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It’s not so bad though, as the amount of mods available on PS4 currently sits at over one thousand. There are a lot of great ones available despite the limitations. Running them will disable Trophies, but that’s the only caveat in adding them to your game. There are visual effects, character, quest, and god mods, most of which can be stacked without fear of breaking the game.

I spent most of my playtime with a bunch of mods running. I dabbled in the ones that tweaked the weather effects and added light sources to some of the darker parts of the world. I even found some dumb ones that made chickens bigger and of course I ran a couple that boosted my abilities and cash flow.

… better lighting and a more lush looking environment …
Installing mods is pretty simple and only requires a Bethesda.net account to access them. Once you have an account all you do is browse the library and download and enable mods at will.

It was fun returning to Skyrim and even though I finished the review I will probably find myself playing the game for a couple more weeks.

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Visuals:
The game looks better now and doesn’t deal with some of the technical issues that made it troublesome to play especially if you are coming from the PS3. For perspective, I loaded up my PS3 copy of the game and it was night and day as that version was really subpar and has aged poorly. It looked muddy and the framerate chugged constantly.

Now on the PS4 it looks and runs great, as it should since it is a five year old game running on a more powerful system. But Bethesda polished the visuals with better lighting and a more lush looking environment equating to a better experience overall. There appear to be some improvements with the weather and water and while nothing too drastic has changed there are enough tweaks to make it a better looking game overall.

Most importantly the framerate is far better than what we had last generation. It’s more consistent and was rarely an issue for me outside of a few instances where I was able to notice a slight drop.

… A consistent framerate and a great game go a long way …
Audio:
Bethesda games always have a fantastic soundtrack and Skyrim is by far the best in my opinion. The music is epic and empowering. I just love it, from the menu to the build up when reaching a quest’s conclusion. The score is flat out spectacular.

The voice acting is still spotty with important actors delivering the best performances and everyone else being average to bad. There are so many characters in these games and the voice cast is not large enough to fill all the roles with unique voices. This means you are very likely to notice the same voices over and over again. This is not a problem unique to this game, but it’s something I completely forgot about until I replayed it.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
For console owners this is a good version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I say that since the PC version was the best version five years ago and that’s likely still true today, but if you are a console-only gamer this is the best version of the game you can get.

Coming from the PS3, I’m delighted with the visual and technical improvements made on the PS4. A consistent framerate and a great game go a long way. The only real knock against the PS4 version is the nerfed mod support which is enough to give the Xbox One version the edge. With that said, there are a lot of great mods available on PS4 and the limitations probably ensure a smoother experience, but more options are always appreciated.

Skyrim is still an amazing game and the world is filled with life and distractions to occupy any gamer’s life for hours on end. I would recommend this Special Edition to anyone, whether you’re new to the game or looking to play it all over again.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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