Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
I think we can all agree on one thing – Skyrim is one of the most accomplished and downright excellent RPGs ever created. It rules the open world genre with a dragon bone fist, and has one of the most amazingly detailed and believable worlds, as well as some of the deepest lore around. Stepping foot into the world is like visiting a real place, it’s that replete with content and attention to detail. Aside from the mighty Witcher 3, no game has managed to challenge it.
Already a masterpiece, Bethesda has decided to give the fans what they want, and have delivered a current gen remaster of its biggest hit in the Elder Scrolls series. It comes with a visual overhaul and all of the previously available DLC. It’s potentially the ultimate Skyrim experience. It is, though?
From a technical standpoint there’s little to criticise in terms of the remaster itself. What we have here is a console RPG that’s been given a luxurious lick of paint that brings it up to the level of a decent spec PC. In fact, the texture resolution here is actually higher than the previous official texture pack provided to PC users by Bethesda (although not quite as impressive as the unofficial mods). It delivers a brilliant-looking familiar, yet new world that’s drenched with superior lighting and other environmental effects, including much more realistic water and weather. It’s all aesthetic, but in a game that relies so heavily on immersing you into a virtual world, it’s also very important.
As good as the new improvements look, I was more impressed with the boost in performance, and during my time with the game prior to my review, I observed a game that runs far smoother than the original version, with almost no major slowdown and improved loading times. It’s not 60fps, but it’s a much more consistent rate. Mod makers have found the new version even handles tons of characters on screen at once with no major performance hiccups or faults in AI. This is good, and it further helps to keep you anchored in the world of Skyrim. The game also seems to be much more stable, and I’ve yet to encounter any freezing or crashing. This is a rarity with Bethesda games that are notorious for such issues.
Of course, there are blemishes, but these aren’t anything new. The same bugs, glitches and crazy graphical and AI issues that were present in the original remain, and Bethesda’s usual open world quirks are to be expected. It’s a shame combat animations and other issues weren’t improved, and I’d actually say combat in general needed some attention, as it’s the weakest aspect of the game by far. But that just can’t detract from what is still an RPG that’s better than most other new titles released today, five years after it originally arrived. That’s some achievement, and it deserves to be applauded.
The addition of the DLC helps to make the remaster more attractive to those who may have skipped it in the past, and these add-ons offer some of the best content in the game, so the price may well be worth it for that alone. Other minor tweaks are welcome too, such as the new save system which features a new quicksave option, and a character filter that shows saves per character, not lumping them into one long list.
As remasters go, Skyrim’s is technically solid, and it improves on the visuals and behind the scenes performance. It’s a shame there’s absolutely no new content, of course, but that’s an element that could be taken care of by mods. Now supported on both Xbox One and PS4, users can create their own modifications to the game for others to download. As has proven on PC, this is a lifeline for any game, and helps to prolong the life of a title, sometimes for years to come.
Sadly for Playstation players, this system is far inferior to the Xbox One implementation, as Sony refuses to let users upload new assets. Instead, PS4 mods can only use assets that already exist within the game, so we’ll get no total conversions or new graphical content, just more basic offerings. At the time of writing, the Xbox One had around two thirds more modifications available than the PS4. This is shame, but it still brings a lot to the table, and it still makes a re-buy worth it if you’ve not already done so on PC for just this reason.