Skyrim Anniversary Edition Review – Aged like fine wine

And if the article’s title didn’t make you feel old enough, let me put it more bluntly: it’s been 10 years since Bethesda released this masterpiece. And like any anniversary, celebrations are in order. Bethesda is celebrating a whole decade without a new Elder Scrolls game with the Skyrim Anniversary Edition. As the well-known joke goes: a new generation of consoles, another re-release of Skyrim. As much as I can’t fathom that ten years have gone by since I put the disc with the iron dragon in the tray of my Xbox 360 and put on my Dragonborn helmet for the first time, I must admit that the Elder Scrolls V has matured like fine wine. Of course, the first time I played Skyrim was several years after its release, but let’s ignore this minute detail for dramatic effect.

All jokes aside, because I’m sure some will misunderstand the Anniversary Edition re-release, looking for a reason to criticize Bethesda and my favourite game of all time. So, let’s make it clear that you do not need to repurchase Skyrim in order for it to work on your next-gen console. The Anniversary Edition is just a festive-themed upgrade to the Skyrim Special Edition, which comes with some nice-to-haves. The Special Edition continues to run smoothly both on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Details

The Anniversary Edition is the most comprehensive version of Skyrim to date, according to Bethesda. Specifically, it comes with updated textures in higher resolutions for the new-gen systems, as well as content from the Creation Club.

TL;DR – 8/10

You’ll love it if:Probably not for you if:
– You’ve never experienced Skyrim before– You’re not into medieval RPGs
– You want to play through Skyrim again but you’re bored of vanilla Skyrim– You’re a firm supporter that you shouldn’t have to pay for a game more than once
– You’re looking for some extra content, certified by the devs– You don’t want to replay Skyrim (pls don’t be ridiculous)
– You finally managed to get a next-gen console and you want Skyrim to take advantage of all that extra horsepower.– You think that €20 is too much for an anniversary upgrade.

Please note that Skyrim Anniversary Edition is available both as a stand-alone game, containing Skyrim Special Edition, but also as an upgrade to the Special Edition, adding all new content. This particular review is based on my own experience with the PlayStation 5 version.

What’s new on Skyrim Anniversary Edition?

This is the most important part of this review. Since Skyrim is not particularly new, what’s most interesting is the additional content in the Anniversary Edition. Of course, the three vanilla expansions, Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn are included as part of the Special Edition. At the same time, the Anniversary Edition includes all the available Club Creations, plus 26 which will be added in the future. A total of 74 dev-approved add-ons are here to enhance your Skyrim experience.

Festive gifts

Four of those are given free of charge to all owners of the Special Edition, as part of the celebrations. A new quest line called Saints & Seducers, which comes with its own item set, Rare Curios, which you will find available for purchase in the Khajiit caravans. Survival Mode is here to make your playthrough infinitely more demanding, adding all kinds of difficulty spikes, from hunger to limited cold resistance. But between us, the most interesting addition is, drumroll please… fishing.

Only on Skyrim Anniversary Edition

Aside from the free Creations, if you choose to upgrade, you get an additional 70 Skyrim add-ons. Among them, there’s alternative Armour Sets, new houses such as Bloodchill Manor and Hendraheim, and the Goblin tribe. Of course, new quest lines could not be missing. Two I personally singled out are The Cause, which is based on Daedric mythology, and Ghosts of the Tribunal, which is a tribute to Morrowind. I also found that Bittercup is worth mentioning.

At the same time, dozens of new themed weapons, armour, enemies, new gameplay mechanics such as farming and camping, but also quality-of-life improvements such as pets and wild horses.

Visuals

As we said before, things don’t look so different here. The visualization is exactly the same as the Special Edition, it’s only the textures that got a slight resolution bump. Now the game, instead of running in Upscaled 4K, runs in Native 4K. From there on out, you’ll right feel at home in Vanilla Skyrim. And as it did 10 years ago, Tamriel’s northern part still feels magical, like nothing’s changed.

I could be writing here for days trying to explain what makes Skyrim stand out and earn its place on the throne of the gaming pantheon, but I think this is something that everyone perceives differently. World building, as in every chapter of Elders Scrolls, is exemplary. The land is cold and inhospitable, full of strange occurrences that even after so many playthroughs, do not cease to amaze me with how well-designed they are, while the people who live there are warm and welcome, despite the difficulties they face.

Ten years later, we’re the ones who grew up

At the same time, the big changes in landscape go hand in hand with the story, they never let you get bored. Each corner of the map has a different vibe, and this is not limited to the visuals. Riften feels nothing like Solitude, just as Whiterun vastly differs from Markarth. The places you have to explore are so many, you really lose track after a while. The in-game map is not really representative of the sheer scope of this game, because you will often find yourself in places that are not in it. Dungeons, crypts, fortresses, hidden cities, parallel universes – you name it, it’s all in there.

The dungeon beneath Falkreath Burrow

A decade later, and as strange as it may seem, this remains perhaps the most complete open-world experience that modern gaming has to offer. The fifth chapter of Elder Scrolls feels like a fairy tale. No, not like BioShock Infinite, a typical fairy tale. There are castles, brave warriors, dragons, wars, thieves, elves, magicians, zombies. If you’re ever looking for a world to get lost in, escape from reality, none fits the bill better than Skyrim.

Modern problems require modern solutions

Of course, maybe the years were not so kind to all parts of our old friend. As imposing as the world is from afar, if you get a little closer, you begin to notice all the little cracks. And this is a trademark of Bethesda. The Special Edition re-release in 2016, did fix the somewhat outdated graphics, but now we are used to experiencing games with open-worlds with the fidelity of Ghost of Tsushima. Skyrim no longer feels so impressive. To be fair, the lighting remains excellent, as do the weather effects. These are the details that give life to the world.

Indoors lighting on Skyrim Anniversary Edition

Thank Todd for the hardcore modding community that has been supporting Skyrim all these years. Whatever problems you find, they have the solution ready-to-go. You want the bugfixes Bethesda never released? They have them. Do you want to completely change the vibe of the game, modernizing the graphics? Just choose which mod suits your style. Do you want very realistic lighting and weather with high-fidelity effects? Choose from dozens of lighting mods.

Sure, mods aren’t something new, especially for this game. But since they can now take advantage of all the horsepower that the new generation of consoles has to offer, you can use as many add-ons as you want, without making your room sound like an airport. Here’s to hoping that the 60fps unlock is one of the first mods you install.

Plot

We’ll avoid spoilers, although I don’t know if this is necessary for a decade-old game. I don’t know if there are people out there who haven’t played Skyrim yet, but if you’re one of them, shame on you.

If you thought Guardians of the Galaxy was a rollercoaster, I’ll have to ask you to fasten your seatbelt before we get into Skyrim’s story. If you’re a fan of the high fantasy genre, this will blow your mind. All the necessities for a legendary fantasy story are here. You have a huge world to explore, many storylines to untangle and infinite lore to learn. Elder Scrolls V is not one of those games you finish overnight. It will devour your social life for weeks to come.

You’re finally awake

You suddenly wake up on the road to the execution block, surrounded by two rebels and a thief. You have no idea how you got there, and from what you overhear, you haven’t done anything wrong, so as much to be sentenced to death. However, it is too late to stop the soldiers. While the executioner is about to behead you, a dragon appears out of nowhere and turns the village to ashes. You manage to escape following the other prisoners, and some of the soldiers who are trying to save the villagers. Soon the time will come when you have to decide which path to follow. You can either follow the rebels and seek a free life, or take the side of the soldiers and join the army.

Whichever path you follow, what follows is not much different. You will need to help the people of Skyrim defend themselves against the threat of the dragons, who, while having disappeared for hundreds of years, out of nowhere, started coming back to life and are now terrorizing the citizens of Skyrim. Initially, you will help as a mere mercenary, until you discover that within you is hidden a power that will act as a catalyst in the battle of the Nords against the dragons. Yes, you are the chosen one, the Dragonborn, the one who will bring destruction to the species of the dragons. So, enter your training arc, you take to the mountains to train with the monks who are the guardians of the occult secrets behind your power.

The dragons are just the tip of the iceberg

Do not fret, however, things are not as simple as I make them out to be. I just don’t want to spoil the game for you guys. As you keep fighting dragons, life in Skyrim continues, and there are so many issues in which you will also play a leading role. There’s a civil war going on between the people of Skyrim, the Nords, who are claiming the autonomy of the region from the empire of Tamriel, while the Imperials, the military, have been sent there as forces of repression to help integrate Skyrim into the broader empire. You are called to choose a side, who is right in essence, and take part in the war. By completing missions for one of the two opposing factions, you help them win. But be careful, the outcome of the civil war also affects the main story.

The dragon attacks Helgen

The side-stories are in the dozens, and they all have very interesting stories to tell. If you want to become the next Gandalf, you can enrol in the College of Winterhold, train as a mage and restore the Order to its former glory. You can also become a bard. If you are looking to become a master of stealth, you can join the Thieves’ Guild in Riften. The assassins that move in the shadows, the Dark Brotherhood, is also one of the paths you can follow. At the same time, you can set your own goals to achieve. You can collect all the Daedric Artefacts and fight the demons of Oblivion. You can clear cults that sacrifice innocent people to the Daedric gods. When I said Skyrim is huge, I did not mean only in map size.

Gameplay

No matter how many re-releases we get, the core principles of Skyrim remain the same. This is a multidimensional game, which after so many years, still feels so familiar and at the same time, so fresh. You can approach each playthrough differently, starting with the race and your character traits at the beginning. You can become a ruthless Nord warrior or a peaceful Breton merchant. A clairvoyant elf or a cunning Khajiit. A huge Redguard or an even bigger Orc.

Your play style can be different depending on how you want to approach each situation. You can play around with melee weapons such as swords and axes, or give room to the Legolas inside you. You can become the new Harry Potter or something in between, with a sword in one hand and spells in the other. Furthermore, you do you, who are we to judge? At the same time, the decisions you make in specific quests have an impact on the world. Maybe not as much as in newer games like The Witcher 3 or Tales of Arise, but enough to affect the story to some degree.

Fighting an undead overlord

The fetch quest syndrome

You have plenty of space to explore, and Skyrim is filled to the brim with things to see. Of course, the open-world model that we have here has its issues. A huge world must be functional, in addition to being a hub for the stories you want to project. Large, open worlds should also have a fun traversal system to get from point A to point B so that travelling doesn’t get tedious. A typical example is the driving and the range of vehicles in the Grand Theft Auto series. Skyrim has nothing like that. You move mostly on foot, or on horseback, but horses are a problem in themselves, due to their buggy nature. After a while, moving around is just a chore.

And somehow, you end up depending to a huge degree on the fast travel mechanic. Not gonna lie, many side missions are nothing but over-glorified fetch quests. Therefore, you soon end up starting a quest, opening the map, finding the X object, and then just fast travelling back. This remains one of my biggest gripes with this game, and like me, I imagine it has bothered Bethesda a lot. They may not have fixed it in Fallout 4, but my hopes are still high for Starfield.

Sound

The sound is as enchanting as the landscape. Ambient sounds make you believe that you really are on location. Especially if you’re playing in first-person POV. Skyrim sells you on the fairy tale. The effects remain quite high quality, due to the upgrade they received with the release of the Special Edition a few years back.

Dialogue tree on Skyrim Anniversary Edition

All NPCs are voiced, and so there is no silent dialogue. The number of NPCs, however, is large, and the voice actors are obviously fewer. You will often notice many characters borrowing their voice from the same actor. This breaks the immersion a bit, but it’s an understandable problem due to the time and the sheer size of the game. The dialogues are not the most imaginative, I have to admit, but at least everyone speaks in the same style. The Elder Scrolls are nothing more than medieval tales, and the pompous dialogues help them retain their character.

Music

The music in Skyrim can be considered at least iconic. From the calm pieces that play while exploring the dungeons, to the explosive boss themes every time a dragon appears, everything composes a terrific audio personality. The first time you hear the Dragonborn theme will undoubtedly be etched in your memory. Nothing makes you feel more heroic than this soundtrack, to be honest. Literal chills.

Character creation on Skyrim Anniversary Edition

The local troubadours, or bards, are in every tavern, and as is tradition, they sing about the tales of the local heroes. And you’re one of said heroes. You can ask them to sing your favourite song, for a price. The further you go in the story, aka the more dragons you kill, the more songs they’re going to write for you. It’s the details, man, that’s what makes this game so great.

Verdict

Let’s be honest, Skyrim Anniversary Edition was the excuse we were looking for to play this masterpiece again. And ten years later, I was still as excited in character creation as I was the first time. The Anniversary Edition comes slightly enhanced and does not add much to improve the Skyrim experience, but between us, it doesn’t really need to. Taking advantage of the additional horsepower of the newer systems, Elder Scrolls V can finally make the most of all the mods created by its most active community for a decade. Happy birthday, Skyrim!

If you have not played Skyrim, this is its best version. If you have played it, this is the best excuse to play it again. But whether it’s worth buying again, that’s up to you.

George Makridis

Posts published: 107

Editor in Chief. Studying Communication & Media. Listening to Hip-Hop. Watching advanced humor sitcoms and dumb superhero flicks. Has way too many games in his library and not that much time to actually play them.