Skyrim Special Edition – First Looks

Well, I’ve just spent ninety one minutes playing TESV Skyrim Special Edition. And now I’m going to tell you what it’s like. In that hour and a half, I did the whole cart ride, created my first new character, gone through the whole Helgen sequence and made my way to Whiterun. I stopped playing just inside Whiterun’s gates, having forgotten that I don’t have Open Cities installed.

Currently, this is all unmodded.

The first thing I notice is the new startup menu. There’s a distinct lack of addons on this menu.tesvsse

Otherwise it’s mostly the same. There’s several changes on the Options Menu, with the ability to turn on things like God Rays and Precipitation Occlusion and 64-point render targets. But Skyrim has suggested that I have to run the game on low quality, so I’m cranking things up. I don’t see an obvious way of adding mods – turns out these have been moved to INSIDE the game, after the startup/settings menu.

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And if you want mods, this is what is brought up. I don’t know if I can install mods manually or anything like that yet. I hope so.

Anyway, I have to start a new game. That means doing the carriage ride. The first thing I notice is this super annoying line down the side of my screen. It’s like everything else is covered with a sheet of tracing paper, or something. Messing around with the in-game graphics settings doesn’t seem to rectify this, although there is a new slider under Dislay, called Depth of Field.

What's with that line?
What’s with that line? And that flying thing in the distance?

This is all playing out as normal. It’s the same old same old, plus my random dark strip.

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Even Alduin is the same, although his textures generally look better. I actually stumble across my first little… thing not long after. After I jump from the tower into a burning building, you see Alduin roast some guy as his kid runs to safety. But Aldiun was… a little bit delayed. He sat there, looking at me, before finally killing the dude and running off.

A quick aside, I didn’t mention my new character. This time round, I’ve actually created a Khajiit Dragonborn. She’s called Vir’jil, a play on the name of my cat, who is called Captain Virgil Mogtastic. That’s not very Skyrim-y, but I’ve gone and made black markings on Vir’jil, to match her namesake.

Went with the Imperial route this time because I dunno, the Imperials seem to care a little more about the townsfolk than the Stormcloaks do.

She looks permanently shocked. Just like my cat.
She looks permanently shocked. Just like my cat.

Apart from Alduin’s Hiccup from earlier (sounds like a quest name), everything has been running smoothly. I’m still awesome at lockpicking. I still steal everything that isn’t nailed down. Those spiders that drop down from the ceiling are still pretty damn scary. It’s still better to sneak past the bear. Oddly though, my Imperial follower doesn’t want to, well, follow me. I end up facing the spiders alone, and I don’t see Hadvar again until I get outside the cave, where he’s somehow waiting for me. Everything is working as normal, even if it’s a little slow.

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Holy fuck though, they have improved the graphics. Even on low settings, the game looks astonishingly fresh. The water system is among one of the bigger things, it looks much more like water, and flows much better in-game.

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The huge increase in foliage also does a lot to make Skyrim look more dense and lush. While the cities and towns are as small as ever, wandering through the wilderness is a much more amazing experience, with beautiful views everywhere. As I walked from Helgen to Riverwood, I was amazed by how everything felt more natural and alive. I also stopped a lot to take screenshots.

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The new ‘clutter’ also does a huge amount to improve the small towns as well. It does have a way of making them seem desolate and overgrown, particularly Riverwood, but that is kinda how a small village between two larger cities would be: small and picturesque. Coupled with the river, the town looks gorgeous. It’s just Riverwood, but still.

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I also actually discovered a little thing as well. It turns out that Hadvar’s family will invite you inside and let you have dinner with them, as a thank you for protecting Hadvar. You can listen in on their conversation, and actually feel like part of the family for a brief while. This was something I missed the first time round.

That’s what’s so great about all of this. I get to experience all of Skyrim again, but in higher quality and hopefully with less bugs and crashes. Everything has been a bit more stable. It’s the same old Skyrim, but it’s a prettier Skyrim.

But here is where we find the issue. TESV: Skyrim Special Edition is pretty much the same as TESV: Skyrim and TESV: Skyrim Legendary Edition. All the tweaks fall into one of two categories – graphics changes and engine changes. While this is a simple, easy way to make everyone, from modders to people who hate modding games, happy, it all feels a bit… I don’t know. Effortless? Pointless?

That’s not saying that Skyrim Special Edition is bad. It’s not. It has all the pros and cons of original Skyrim, with some bug fixes and some incredibly pretty and useful changes. It’s just that Skyrim Special Edition is only here to satisfy the masses. After all, Skyrim is five years old now, people have explored every nook and cranny, now they want something new. Skyrim Special Edition will keep everyone happy until Bethesda finally announce Elder Scrolls VI, and that is a long, long way away.

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