INSiGHT: Skyrim: The Ultimate Review

By Christian 'Reggie' Wait 09.04.2018 2

With over US$1,390,000,000 in total revenue as of September 2017, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still a massive success story for publisher and developer Bethesda, which has enabled the company to go from strength to strength. Skyrim has laid the bar down for quality open-world Western RPG games across the industry, much like its predecessors, but which version should you play first? Better yet, which version is the definitive Nord experience?

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From the first vanilla release on 11/11/11 to the most recent VR and Switch versions, I am going to cover the pros and cons of all Skyrim releases in a bid to help you, the reader make the right choice based on your play style and budget. First of all, though, for those new to the world of Tamriel, here is a brief synopsis of the story that is about to unfold.

The story starts with players in the role of a prisoner, as is Elder Scrolls' tradition, listening to the ramblings of fellow prisoners of The Septim Imperial army. The Imperials are currently trying to gain a foothold in Skyrim whilst taking a break from fighting the Thalmor forces in Tamriel (dark elves), which have been met with a swift Nordic rebellion.

You quickly discover that Alduin, the eater of worlds, or worm to his foes, has broken free from his entrapment in time and is resurrecting dragons (Dova) throughout Skyrim. Luckily enough, though, you are Dovahkiin, Dragonborn! With the soul of a dragon and the body of a mortal, you quickly learn how to master the way of the voice. This is more commonly known as a "Thu'um" or "Dragon Shout," which enables the user to channel the power of the Dova by shouting "Words of Power," such as the infamous "FUS ROH DAH."

As the story progresses, a rich blanket of lore covers you, smoothers you, and leaves you bedridden. However, a lot of players still haven't got around to doing the main quest! With the three hearty expansions: Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn, plus all of the side-quests in all their shapes and sizes, there is more than enough to stay distracted. Without further a due, then, let's take a look at all the releases chronologically:

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Original Release: 11/11/11; Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Steam)

Pros: With the first glance at the breathtaking tundra and mountains of Skyrim, a new bar was set for the open world Western RPG. The best part about being the oldest version is it being the cheapest. If having never played an Elder Scrolls title before and wanting to just give it a try, here's the chance, and with mod support on PC, the sky is the limit.

Cons: As this is the first interpretation of Skyrim, the vanilla version contains no DLC or mod support. Also, with no graphical improvements, some console users may find this version to be too basic an experience. PC users were treated to a free and official high quality texture pack, however.

Skyrim Legendary Edition: 07/06/13; Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, and PC (Steam)

Pros: This release saw Skyrim packaged with all updates and DLC in one tidy package. This is the definitive version for previous gen enthusiasts with a generally attractive price tag to boot.

Cons: With being a previous gen release, this version doesn't benefit from any mod support or graphical overhauls on console. Again, PC users will not be affected by such drawbacks.

Skyrim: Special Edition: 26/10/16; Platforms: Xbox One, PS4 and PC (Steam)

Pros: Now this release is for the fan boys. Skyrim in all its complete glory with major graphical enhancements and 4k resolution support on Xbox One X. Also, Skyrim: Special Edition marked one of the first examples of mods freely available on consoles (restricted to game assets on PS4), which is still groundbreaking today. Fun fact: on release, Steam owners of vanilla Skyrim were treated to a free upgrade of the Special Edition. If you have a current gen console, this is a no brainer.

Cons: Nothing, nothing at all!

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Skyrim VR: 17/11/17; Platforms: PS4

Pros: This is it, the chance to actually enter Skyrim truly for the first time. Having played countless hours on previous iterations of the title, prepare to be blown away by how smooth and immersive this experience is. Not to mention how well the game translates with its staple first-person viewpoints.

Cons: Although a technical achievement and probably one of the biggest in-game contents of current PSVR titles, movement mechanics and graphical fidelity took a massive hit. Visuals were reduced to pixelated blurs and movement was set to snap-like movements, with an update coming later for movement options. This, on top of complaints of nausea and headaches, makes this version tough to recommend. Perhaps the new Steam release of Skyrim VR will resolve matters; a game Cubed3 will be reviewing in the near future.

Skyrim: 17/11/17 Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Pros: A lot of people will agree that seeing the release of Skyrim with great looking visuals on a handheld/hybrid system changed the industry's perception of portable gaming. Skyrim on Nintendo Switch struck a happy medium in graphical ability between the initial console release and the ramped up Special Edition release. This resulted in a slightly sacrificed draw distance but great close-up and immediate texture quality. Also, this version includes The Legend of Zelda content, which can be found in-game, as well as amiibo support. Sporting all the Special Edition content, bar mods, this is an amazing way to experience Skyrim if you are a heavy commuter or busy parent.

Cons: With the technological limits of Nintendo Switch compared to its current gen competition, the visuals aren't as great as can be seen in the Special Edition. Also, the lack of mod support was a bit of a shame considering how close Bethesda worked with Nintendo. Plus, the motion controls leave a lot to be desired.

Image for INSiGHT: Skyrim: The Ultimate Review
With a lot of choice on offer how best to serve up a plate full of The Elder Scrolls, Skyrim really shines in its Special Edition and Switch versions, which offer some of the more accessible and polished experiences. Going back and playing the previous generations' versions is like deciding to get rid of the petrol lawnmower or a manual barrel-bladed one; although you have fond memories, there's just a better way of doing things.

However, whichever way you choose to play, just enjoy it! This is the culmination of year's worth of experimenting with map layouts, content, fighting systems, lore and A.I. from a games studio that doesn't just make open world RPGs, it defines them for the next generation.

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Our member of the week

Playing this on Switch for the first time, I'm not regretting it so far after about 150 hours poured in and still no end in sight. Though, granted, in a game of such a scale I should probably not try to open every urn or loot every cabbage basket I find since it slows the game down quite a bit. If I did I'd probably be getting somewhere a lot quicker,

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Hey, Reggie here!

I play exactly the same way, keep going! Everything you find has it's use bar posh clothes and kitchenware Haha. Glad you agree with the Switch versions bieng one of the best, suits me down to the ground.

All the best!

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