If you already owned Skyrim and all its DLC on PC, there was a free upgrade waiting for you when Skyrim Special Edition released last Friday, but this remaster was never really meant to benefit a platform that had better graphics from day one and access to mod support for years.
Skyrim wasn’t exactly the ugliest game when it released on consoles back in 2011, but the enhanced visuals of the Special Edition put the original to shame. The game’s still no world beater when compared to some of today’s offerings, but improved lighting, a new depth of field effect and general upgrades mean the remaster looks very pretty on Xbox One, and there have been plenty of moments where I’ve put questing on hold just to take in some of the impressive landscapes.
There are still a few rough edges here and there - such as the draw distance on trees and buildings - but overall the upgraded graphics help make the experience more immersive.
Better visuals are nice, but mods were one of the biggest selling points for the Special Edition. The selection isn’t quite as comprehensive as on PC, but there’s still a sizeable collection available on Xbox One, including one of the most popular mods – Frostfall.
Frostfall adds new gameplay effects such as cold weather exposure, making the experience much more survival oriented and changes how you approach the game. On the hardest setting overexposure leads to death and fast travel is disabled, so I quickly learned to pick my routes carefully or run the risk of freezing to death – the fastest way is not always the safest.
Other mods I’ve sampled just help to improve the overall gameplay experience; Point the Way adds more sign posts on the roads of Skyrim (very helpful when fast travel is disabled), and Ring of Increased Carry Weight lets me hoard every weapon, armour or piece of loot I come across without any movement penalty.
The Alternate Start – Live Another Life mod is good for those who just want to dive straight into the action without the game’s lengthy introduction. This mod allowed me to start off camping in the woods nearby Helgen, but there’s also the option to become a vampire, bandit, warrior or warlock’s thrall right away, plus many more.
If you’ve played Skyrim to death then this remaster probably won’t appeal, but if you still had plenty to do in the original and always wanted to go back and finish it, then Skyrim Special Edition is the perfect excuse to jump back in.
There were only two of the mods that I tried which seemed to have a negative effect and were soon disabled. Open Cities takes away loading screens when entering major cities such as Riften or Markarth, and while it’s a cool feature, a couple of crashes in and around the gates of Windhelm wasn’t worth the seamless transition.
The second to be turned off was the Less Aggressive Animals mod, but not for technical issues. This mod actually works very well at keeping irritating encounters with over aggressive animals to a minimum, but it can be a bit annoying when you have a follower.
Accidently aggroed wolves would still try to run away from me, but Lydia would take even the slightest act of aggression as an excuse to go on a wild chase across the mountains until the unfortunate creature was dead, leaving me on my lonesome. It’s not so much of an issue when simply journeying from A to B, but when I was about to fight the troll guarding the entrance to High Hrothgar it became more of a problem.
Aside’s from the occasional technical issue to deal with, the addition of mods has largely improved my Skyrim experience on console, and with so many to pick from and a sizeable 5GB allowance on Xbox One there’s plenty of scope to play around and combine certain mods with each other - just be sure to check load orders and compatibility to avoid any unnecessary complications.
Despite the boon of improved visuals and mod support, the opening few hours of my return to Skyrim were dogged by the nagging feeling that I’ve seen and done it all before (which of course I have), but as the game opens up I’m finding a familiar enjoyment in diving into caves for loot and clearing forts of their bandit occupiers, and being called out by the other Dragonborn for the first time reminded me that there is plenty of new content still to discover.
If you’ve played Skyrim to death then this remaster probably won’t appeal, but if you still had plenty to do in the original and always wanted to go back and finish it, or just want to experience the game’s plethora of mods but don’t have a gaming PC, then Skyrim Special Edition is the perfect excuse to jump back in.