The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is many things to many people. For me, it was pure escapism into a gorgeously wintery fantasy world, with a little hint of steampunk hiding beneath. I loved my time there so much that the many bugs in the game were instantly forgivable, and rather small in comparison to the 100+ hours of RPG excellence we got in return.
I loved it so much that I previously played it through to completion three times over a variety of different consoles, not to compare these versions, but simply for an excuse to return to this magical world. I’ll let you decide if the few extra features provided in each edition make them a worthwhile investment.
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Skyrim: Anniversary Edition is a tricky one to describe as it’s essentially the same as Skyrim: Special Edition and even comes on a PS4 disc, yet it features a handful of upgrades and a PS5 trophy list. The disc works by acting as an unlock-key of sorts for the PS4 and PS5 digital editions of the game. Perhaps this questionable release is the best Bethesda could do, given that Microsoft is now calling the shots. As much as I hate to admit it, Bethesda isn’t PlayStation’s friend anymore.
For many there won’t be enough here to justify the purchase, and that’s fine, but for me it was another chance to get a perfect save-file after I was unlucky enough to encounter a very rare game-breaking bug during my previous playthrough of the Special Edition which glitched my progress in the Thieves Guild so I had to start this quest-line again on a new save-file just to get the relevant trophies.
To say Skyrim has one main story would be missing its intentions entirely. Skyrim is more a collection of intertwined quests which entangle at times, before branching off to their own increasingly dramatic conclusions. It begins with an escape from the headsman’s chopping block, for an undisclosed and likely non-existent crime.
Interrupted by the return of fire-breathing dragons of legend, the player is released into the massive world of Skyrim with only the rags they’re wearing, and a handful of weapons scavenged from the bodies of your former captors. Stopping the growing number of dragons is a priority, but Skyrim is also plagued by a violent civil war.
Oblivion’s once-noble Empire controls the land but is now under the thumb of the elven Aldmeri Dominion, resulting in the native Nords forming a rebellion in the name of their leader, Ulfric Stormcloak. The player also becomes aware that they are the last of a bloodline known as the Dragonborn, capable of learning and wielding the powers of both dragons and their own player-chosen race.
Sooner or later, you’ll need to pick a side in the civil war, and to win wars, you’ll need allies. To win allies, you’ll want to join factions. Complete missions without misbehaving while routing out traitors and you’ll be able to work your way up through the ranks of the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood assassin clan, the Companions mercenary group, and the College of Winterhold magic school.
Once you’re done with the main storyline (or even long before) you’ve also got some exceptionally good free DLC bundled in there to work through. Starting with my favourite, Dawnguard, which sees you team up with beautiful rebellious vampire princess, Serana.
You’ll join either the Volkihar vampire clan or Dawnguard vampire hunters in a journey which will not only see the two factions go to war but also take you to a hidden snowy glade of Skyrim and a ghostly plain of Oblivion. It’s a great story which also ties up some loose ends regarding the last known whereabouts of the Snow Elves and the Dwarves.
The last of the main DLC is arguably the biggest, Dragonborn, which sees you travelling to the eerie island of Solsteim which is a fusion of Skyrim and Morrowind customs. There, you’ll wage a personal battle against the original Dragonborn; treacherous Dragon Priest, Miraak.
Skyrim is one of the most gargantuan undertakings that gamers will experience in their lifetimes. The sheer size of the journey, both in terms of its environment and in the number of activities available to the player, is truly mind-blowing.
Players can while away hours upon hours, creating weapons at a forge, mixing potions at an alchemy table, enchanting weapons, chopping wood, hunting game, investigating subterranean caverns, or simply pointing their character at the horizon and heading over the nearest hill. You can buy a house, trade goods with merchants, marry an NPC or read every book contained in the library at the College of Winterhold. In every elusive cavern there’s a monster to fight. At every new town you wander into, there’s a new character to talk to. Around every corner there’s some new discovery to be made.
The number of things to do in Skyrim makes the player feel like they’re a living, breathing part of this world. In short, you need time to immerse yourself in Skyrim, because once you enter its world, it becomes your world. Even so, soon enough you’ll realise that you will slowly influence the very heart of Skyrim, and in turn, it will influence you.
It’s a simple yet intuitive control system. The right and left triggers wield whatever weapon, shield, or magic spell the player assigns to them. The inventory soon starts filling up with useful items that the player can assign to the D-pad for a quick weapon change in the middle of combat.
Every time the player uses a weapon, spell or skill in Skyrim, their proficiency with that gear or in that talent increases. Once your overall XP hits the next level, you’re able to assign a talent point to the skill of your choosing, as well as unlocking new skills and abilities using the ‘perk’ system borrowed from Fallout.
In this way, the game rewards the participant for playing in exactly the way they want to. If you want to cut your way through the land using just a sword and shield, the game will ensure you become more proficient in doing so. If magic or sneaking about in the dark are more your style, you’ll get better at both the more you play around with them.
On top of weapons and spells, the player has an edge over most opponents in the form of their Dragonborn ‘shouts’. These are additional magical powers that are acquired by reading runes carved into the walls of dungeons and caves the player will encounter, and which are unlocked with the souls of the dragons they’ve killed.
Shouts vary in power and recharge rate; one enables the player to breathe fire on opponents, another provides them with a quick-sprint burst, and another allows them to bring a dragon crashing down from the sky for some face-to-face pummelling.
Initially, the Hearthfire DLC was seen as something of a black sheep, which many people felt was little more than an update since it allows you to purchase additional properties by building on disused land. You can also adopt children too. Personally, I rather enjoyed these mechanics as the crafting and construction system is incredibly simple and addictive to use.
I’m loving the lightning-fast loading times now, and whilst character models are starting to show their age, the world itself has honestly never been prettier. The game’s production values work hard to immerse the player in Bethesda’s sword and sorcery world. For a game of this size, the quality of the graphics and the attention to detail is awe-inspiring.
As the player travels through Skyrim, they’ll encounter dense woodlands, snow-capped mountains, majestic cities, and crystal-clear rivers that run throughout the map. You’ll run into an assortment of interesting characters and battle intimidating monsters.
You’ll have to plough through intense blizzards, and, on clear nights, you can gaze up at the sky and see auroras bleeding through the heavens above. The visual ambient features of the game feel so incredibly real and are only enhanced even further by the new addition of beautiful volumetric light rays penetrating the darkness.
You don’t have to do absolutely everything per se if you want the platinum. The trophies in this latest version are the same as they’ve always been, so finishing the main story and working your way up the ranks of each faction (except the Bard’s College for some reason) takes care of most of them. You’ll also need to try out some farming and crafting facilities and take on some side-missions. A guide comes in handy for these.
As I’m sure you already know, it’s a massive game and a major time investment is required, yet at no point does it become repetitive, and each quest is an absolute joy to complete. It isn’t a game that you ever really ‘finish’ as such. You can take as many breaks as you want, but sooner or later, you’ll be back to work your way through its many intertwining stories.
For an extra challenge, the Dawnguard expansion is a varied journey with equally varied trophies which sadly didn’t really suit my play-style since you have to level up both your vampire and werewolf forms which didn’t really work for my spell-sword character. There’s also a lot of level grinding required too so I decided to keep the trophies to story-related content only, still there’s something there to come back to.
Not all rewards come with trophies attached. There simply aren’t enough trophies in the world to award completion of every possible mission, discovery, and side-quest. Sometimes you need to follow clues provided in other quests to point you in the direction of secrets which provide the game’s rarest rewards, such as one-of-a-kind enchanted weapons or those impressive Dragon Priest masks.
Skyrim may well be the perfect package, but it asks a heavy price in return, your time. Given the volume of content Bethesda’s magnum opus holds, preparations ahead of playing may be necessary, particularly if you don’t want to mess up your playthrough or trophy hunting.
So, with that in mind, I do hope your boss believes you when you phone in work, claiming you have the plague. May your significant other be tolerant and understanding, and may your friends know you well enough not to make enquiries with the police if they don’t hear from you in over a month. Skyrim awaits, adventurers. All it asks in return is your life.
For those who have walked this path before, again, it’s up to you if the new features, such as the hefty amount of free, fan-made, Creation Club content (which sadly don’t include any new trophies) make buying the game again worthwhile. This is a carefully selected package of optional content considered canon by Bethesda themselves.
With that, I’ve finally got a pretty perfect save-file and one hell of a platinum for my efforts which is something of a glowing highlight in my collection. Would I do it all over again if the opportunity arose? Absolutely. What a game, guys. What a game.
- A stunning, immersive world
- Pretty much endless
- Previous bugs and performance issues fixed
- Maybe too grand in scope for some?