Skyrim: Special Edition (PS4) Review
It’s Skyrim. It’s on current-gen consoles. It’s much prettier (to an extent).
What more do you want?
You are the last of the Dragonborn, with dragon’s blood in your veins and the ability to shout enemies off of mountaintops with nothing but your Voice. Dragons have started returning to the icy realm of Skyrim, and it falls to you to figure out how, why and what you can do to stop them tearing the world apart. While you’re doing that, you might want to consider joining a Thieves Guild, becoming an assassin, allying with a bunch of werewolf mercenaries, studying powerful magics to uncover an ancient mystery, looting a few tombs, fighting some ice trolls, falling in love with a huntress, adopting some random kids, building a house, fighting against a vampire insurgency, and stopping for a rest if there’s time left in the day.
The control scheme is relatively unchanged from the original game’s mapping, at least compared between PS3 and PS4. Everything is still relatively smooth – running, jumping, sprinting, Shouting, swinging swords and stealing things – and handles well. Skyrim’s purest delight is still the ability to trek around the world and uncover caves, settlements and hidden clusters of enemies; even if you’re an expert at orienteering, and have every major quest location and Word of Power spot memorised, revisiting it all again has its own kind of exploratory joy amongst all of the current-gen upgrades the game’s received.
In sum, gameplay is largely unchanged – and, as you might see further in this review, that might not be an entirely good thing.
VISUALS/SOUND AND VOICE ACTING
I said it up top: Skyrim is much prettier now. That’s kind of like saying your chocolate mud cake is now also adorned with Ferreros. But that change comes with its own issues.
I lump the sound in here too, because it’s in a similar boat. The audio clarity is sharper, and it definitely still immerses you in the world (especially if you’ve got massive headphones), but it’s still largely the same soundtrack and voice acting that Skyrim had to begin with. Of particular note is the sheer dearth of voice actors, meaning many characters, both good and evil, have exactly the same voice (and, in some cases, almost exactly the same dialogue). I was hoping they’d at least throw a few new voices into the mix – I mean, it’s jarring to see a bandit running at me with a bloodied battleaxe gunning for my throat, while he’s speaking with the voice of my dear friend Jarl Balgruuf – but apparently that wasn’t on the cards. Skyrim’s sonic qualities are still relatively fine, but they have the same issue as the visuals; I don’t think they were changed enough to justify the re-release.
I want to be clear that I like Skyrim: Special Edition, quite a lot, especially since my Xbox 360 is packed away and I can now easily throw it on the PS4. But my central gripe – which you may potentially think should have no influence on my review, but it does anyway – is the price.
That price has really soured part of my time with the Special Edition. The graphics are nice, but they’re still built on a lot of the original visuals. The sounds are still great, but they’ve just been sharpened rather than redone. The game, the story, the sidequests, the characters, even a few of the bugs, are quite literally unchanged. Yet, in order to experience everything old that is new again, you’ll need to shell out the same coin as you would for Titanfall 2, or Final Fantasy XV, or Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (if you’re into that sort of thing, in the latter case).
Ultimately, I enjoyed Skyrim: Special Edition. I don’t think it was worth the price or the hype to get to here, and nothing in it is groundbreaking enough for me to urge you to go pick it up for anything other than nostalgia or convenience; even then, I’d suggest waiting for the Boxing Day sales. It was a ton of fun revisiting the best realm of Tamriel, battling dragons and Shouting dudes off cliffs. It just wasn’t fun that was worth the overinflated price of admission.
SKYRIM - ORIGINAL VERSION SCORE
SKYRIM: SPECIAL EDITION SCORE
Skyrim: Special Edition is available now on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.