The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (PC) Review

By Tomas Barry 03.01.2017

Review for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PC

Five years after its initial release, there's no denying that Skyrim is one of the most distinguished RPGs ever, redefining the genre with its open-world mechanics, sense of spontaneous adventure and enchantment. It's such a renowned classic that at this point, even with its bugs and general flaws, some of which have been fixed and others preserved, form part of its overall charm. Cubed3 recently looked at the online Cloud gaming service, Playkey, and now reviews The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition solely off the back of Playkey.

Thanks to Skyrim's huge mod community, there's been a plethora of innovations, visual improvements, and creative content available for the PC version. Skyrim Special Edition aims to upgrade and improve the original experience, translating it into the 64-bit engine that powered Fallout 4, treating it to a series of visual updates, as well improving it in practical terms, with augmented features such as quick saving and saves organised by character. Most intriguingly, it makes mod support available across the board, on consoles for the first time, albeit in a limited form.

The special edition is a fitting title for the online streaming service, Playkey, which is the platform of choice for the review. This service allows subscribed users to play high-demand games on any out-dated computer or Mac, provided they have a stable connection, since all the hard-work is done on remote servers. Playkey is quite a practical platform for games like Skyrim, ones where you can pour hundreds of hours into the adventure, since it doesn't restrict users to one device, making it easy to log play sessions in different places. As all saved data is stored on the Cloud, so there are no fears about losing progress, either.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PC

Whilst the streaming service's performance is very impressive on a stable connection, the visual fidelity does fall a little below the PC bar of high to ultra graphics settings. However, it still achieves a very detailed and consistent standard, which is more than enough to showcase Skyrim in its intended form. The special edition itself does introduce a range of graphical upgrades to try to keep it looking modern, such as sharper textures, volumetric lighting, dynamic depth of field, and improved draw distances. However, despite these nice improvements, there's no denying the game does show its age at times. Furthermore, it doesn't compare well with what the significant aesthetic overhauls that some high-end mods on PC achieve. On the other hand, Skyrim is such a well-crafted world, frequently astounding with its range and scope of environments and characters to interact with, that a second visit hardly seems a chore, no matter in what form.

A great part of the RPG's success is in the intuitive, unrestricted nature the world and mechanics. At the beginning, it asks for the player to select a race for the protagonist, but this only affects starting stats and doesn't limit or restrict the numerous abilities and powers available. Instead, gamers discover each specialty for themselves, essentially allowing a trial period before committing, and gradually navigating around the skills tree to discover new ways to manipulate gameplay. Such depth, especially for the time, meant Skyrim was also a significant 'journey' from within, giving people the chance to mould distinguished characters with unique traits and abilities.

The map itself is monumentally huge in scale, and still one of the biggest open-worlds ever crafted today. It can be strikingly beautiful at times, with everything from snow-capped mountains to the endless green fields and vast forests occasionally stopping those in control right in their tracks to gaze. The modern touch-up certainly asserts a refreshing air to The Elder Scrolls V, with things like crisper textures, new shaders for water and snow, as well as more detailed foliage not exactly equating to plastic surgery, but still noticeably enhancing the visual experience.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PC

The larger intriguing point in the success of this open-world is in the organic way it encourages interactions and discovery. Any errant wandering can quickly become a secondary thought, should you happen to stumble upon somebody in need of assistance, which conjures its own story and quest. Of course, it could just be ignored altogether, depending on personal prerogative. The multitude of ways in which different tasks manifest really helps each quest feel like believable plights that sit heavily on the NPC's consciousness while those in charge are off gallivanting elsewhere. Not only this, but Skyrim was one of the first titles to introduce multiple choice interactive dialogue, which actually affects how encounters play out, or how much the player may be able to learn. That said, games such as The Witcher 3 have vastly improved the standards of acting and dialogue in these types of RPGs, meaning interactions can often end up feeling a little rigid by comparison, but this kind of smaller issue, in the grand scheme, does little to detract from the impression of a living, breathing world.

The main quests are supplemented by a ridiculous number of side missions. The list of accepted quests quickly grows into an extensive one that never really shortens again, with plenty of errands and tasks to pour time into across the full breadth of the experience. Skyrim Special Edition also includes the full arsenal of post-release DLC - Dragonborn, Hearthfire, and Dawnguard - so there are literally hundreds of hours of content on offer. There's no doubt that this is a hefty package; the slight issue is that it only offers something new for console players, giving those who played Skyrim originally on PC hardly any incentive at all.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PC

The exciting prospect of mod support is, unfortunately, disappointing. There's not a huge range of things to try out, with only a handful actually worth much time. The options are limited and underwhelming, and don't compare to the high-demand mods seen on PC, likely to be exactly what console gamers first imagined when they heard about the feature. For them, it's certainly a novel inclusion, but it's really no more than a small and minor distraction.

Somehow, the same can be said of Skyrim Special Edition's many bugs, some of which still remain from the original. The most glaring are spontaneously floating animals, characters talking over important exchanges, bizarre death animations, and distorted and disappearing audio. That last one is particularly upsetting considering the quality of the music, which expertly reinforces the mystique of the world. Although gamers are within their rights to feel aggrieved that Bethesda couldn't fix a lot of the known bugs and issues, there's also no doubt a lot of these quirks are part of its make-up now.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Although this is a forgiving stance, there's just so much more that captivates: from the intense battles, and slaying of dragons, to the gradual sense of empowerment as the player's character grows and develops, distinguishing powers and abilities. There are so many hidden secrets in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, so many facets to unearth, and choices within those to fraternise over, it's hard not to be sucked in by its charm and intrigue. So long as it's appreciated for what it is, a revisiting of a classic that influenced practically all open-world RPGs that came after it, Skyrim Special Edition is a very stellar package that holds up very well indeed, despite its issues, against more recent competition. If you've never played it, now is the perfect time, and with the advent of the Playkey service, it opens up the game to a much wider audience.


Bethesda Game Studios


Bethesda Softworks


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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