Skyrim is now 5 years old and to celebrate we return to the world of Tamriel in very familiar settings with the all new (not so new) Skyrim: Special Edition. For me, Skyrim has always been one of those games that, no matter what mood I’m in, I can pick up and play. Shutting myself away for several hours and immersing myself as the one true dragonborn. It’s fair to say that I’ve played my share of Skyrim. In fact in total I’ve probably played over 250 hours. I’ve done pretty much all there is to do in the game; whether it’s completing the main quest, becoming an assassin, a thief, a werewolf, a vampire, an arch-mage, a stormcloak, an imperial, a member of the blades, a member of the greybeards. You name it, I’ve done it. I love the freedom that the game gives you, where your decisions can make a change in the world and you will be treated differently depending on the path that you take. It is not only a masterpiece, it’s art and because of this I would honestly rank it in my top 5 games of all time.
However this isn’t a review of Skyrim. This is a review of Skyrim: Special Edition and right of the bat, I hate it. Not the game, but what it represents. It’s too much of the business side of the game industry and not enough of the game side. Just to be clear, it’s the same game… The same game. For £45 ($60) you can buy the same game that you already own. The only difference being slight graphical improvements and the ability to use mods on a console. Now if this was a game from the 90’s or early 2000’s then I’d be fine with it, but this is a game that only came out 5 years ago. The graphical enhancements are not great enough to warrant a full-title release priced game. What they don’t tell you is that even with the enhanced graphics on console they still don’t look as good as a heavily modded pc version of the original Skyrim does.
So maybe you’re thinking “The console version has mods now so that will make it look even better” and you’d be right but if you were to compare it to the number of mods the original pc version has you’d end up red faced. Allow me to put it into perspective, at the time of writing this sentence, the PS4 version of Skyrim: Special Edition has 25 mods (90 on Xbox one) and you are limited to having 1gb of mods active at any one time (5 gb on Xbox one). Meanwhile, at the time of writing this sentence the original Skyrim has 47,361 mods on pc and the only limit to the amount you can have activated is the amount of hard-drive space you have (I know people who have over 180 gb of mods).
Now let’s move back to cost because it’s a point that hasn’t been stressed enough yet. The budget for the original game stood at $85 million and it sold over 23 million copies. This generated (reportedly) over $1.3 BILLION in sales. Now I know not all of that goes to Bethesda but a huge chunk of it would have done. The official budget for this new version has not been announced but if I was a gambling man I’d bet a whole lot of money on it being a lot less than the original game. The main reason it will be lower is because it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long as the original to make. The bulk of the code is already created. The soundtrack was already composed. The story was already written. All of the sound effects and dialogue was already recorded. Even the majority of the assets would have been created. This is where a few of you may think that the assets are much more defined and higher res than the original. Well I hate to burst your bubble but chances are, these were the original assets that were created for the original game. Because of the graphical limitations of the previous generation of consoles, Bethesda would’ve taken their original designs and ‘simplified them’ so they didn’t require as much computing power to load them in. This happens with 99% of games that have ever been created and it’s necessary to do. If assets are too detailed only the highest end pc’s will be able to play the games or render distances will have to be set with a radius of 10 metres from the player to prevent gpu’s and processors from melting in a lawsuit filled fire.
To clarify that last point: I don’t have a problem with companies needing to make money, I understand it is a necessity in both life and business. I just don’t think it is morally acceptable to put make-up on a pig to sell more bacon. At the end of the day, the audience is playing the same game as it did 5 years ago. I don’t blame the creators for this, I don’t blame the developers who put hours upon hours into it (most of them realising that they’re only playing a part in a money making exercise). The people I blame are the shareholders/owners. The business men, who don’t understand the joy of video game industry. They need to understand that companies who operate with the sole purpose of creating enjoyment and allowing players to escape the day to day monotony of their lives don’t make record breaking profits every year. Original games take a long time to make and they are full of risk from a business perpective. The original Skyrim took nearly 4 years to make, if Bethesda hadn’t be successful in the past to allow them to concentrate on multiple games (sources of income) then there would be no money coming in for 4 years, then an astronomical spike in profits for the first 2 quarters after launch. This would then be followed by another 4 years with only small amounts of money coming in then a huge spike. This is just the nature of the industry, it economical lingo, it’s filled with peaks and troughs. Although a company the size of Bethesda is capable of working on multiple franchises at the same time (Elder scrolls, Dishonoured and Fallout mainly) to spread out the peaks and limit the troughs.
But the main reason I hate the Special Edition… is because I’m a fan of Bethesda. They have some of the top game makers in the world so why limit them to copy and paste. If this ‘new’ game was in development for 18 months, that’s 18 months of time wasted for these unbelievably talented individuals. They could have been letting their creativity explode over brand new original content; drawing, recording, writing and creating things that could have created a new yard stick in gaming. They should be encouraged to raise the bar, not change the bar for a shinier one because it looks pretty. Every member of the development team are artists in their own right. They take blank pages and fill them with the next craze, the new games that get everyone excited about video games as a whole. It makes me upset that the creative freedoms of these people would be shackled by the people who demand more and more money. It’s as though they can’t see that when you take a bunch of people with creativity to spare and you get the right people to lead them in the same direction you will generate more wealth than you can imagine. Video games have got to the point now where they’re massively surpassing movies in profit. It’s not uncommon for brand new games to generate over a billion in sales within the first month of release but I guess this is never enough. The problem is… They’ll destroy it. They’ll take all of the fun out of video games. They will find what sells and every games company will copy it. Look at the film industry you name a film made in the last 25 years and I could tell you how it goes with roughly a 85% degree of accuracy without ever even seeing it. It will either be a film where the main character(s) overcomes a traumatic past experience and manages to defeat their greatest foe. Or it will be a main character who likes a member of the opposite sex who is like so totally out of their league, they’ll have a best friend who makes all the sex jokes under the sun and in the end they will either end up with their dream partner or they’ll realise that their dream partner was their best friend all along (cue cheesy 80’s music and fist pump).
P.S. Read this review and replace the word Skyrim Special Edition with “The Last of Us: Remastered” or “Grand Theft Auto V” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered” or “Anything followed by Game Of The Year Edition”, that use our memories and nostalgia to influence our purchasing decisions, and the same applies.
To summarise, I will be doing something that I’ve only done once before and return the ‘new’ game that I bought.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PS3 SCORE – 9.5/10
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC w/a few mods SCORE – 10/10
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition – -4.3/10000
Buy a better version of Skyrim here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/72850/
Reviewed on Playstation 4 by Danny Pursglove