There are so many versions of TESV: Skyrim available right now. It’s on the Switch, it’s on PS4 and XBox, it’s everywhere. Not bad for a nearly 6 year old game. On PC however, there are two versions of Skyrim to choose from. Skyrim Legendary Edition and Skyrim Special Edition.
Well, technically there’s three. The base version of Skyrim alone, Skyrim Legendary Edition and Special Edition. There’s Skyrim plus the three DLCs, Dragonborn, Dawnguard and the shitty house-building DLC no one cares about. Legendary Edition is Skyrim and the three DLCs bundled together into one package, and is also what you have if you bought Skyrim and the DLCs separately. Special Edition is basically the 64bit version of Skyrim, boasting slightly improved visuals and more special effects and a better usage of your RAM.
Gameplay-wise, the two versions are identical. Almost all the game play bugs are still there. You’ll find all the same bugs and glitches, as well as all your favourite exploits. For both games, you will almost certainly need what’s called USLEEP (Legendary Edition, Special Edition), the unofficial, community-made mod full of patches and fixes.
But which version of Skyrim should you play? Well, it depends on how you want to play your game.
If you just want the basic vanilla Skyrim experience, then you want Special Edition. Right off the bat, it will more likely run better on your computer, since it’s 64bit and will make use of your resources better. Really, any version of Skyrim will do, but Special Edition for PC will run just that bit better, and hopefully you won’t end up with too much slowness should your save files start to get large.
If you are looking to do some modding, just to make Skyrim look nicer, then both versions work. There’s a ton of mods available for both versions. Special Edition is more stable, but the various tools for Legendary Edition (such as Mod Organizer and Skyrim Script Extender SKSE) are more rounded and complete.
For those who want to make Skyrim look amazing, it’s a hard choice. Special Edition does give you a lot more to work with, what with it having inbuilt special effects like god rays, but Legendary Edition has ENBs, which basically give your game a whole new look. While textures should work fine in both Special Edition and Legendary Edition, Legendary Edition generally has more options available, but Special Edition tends to have a much more refined selection to choose from, with the most popular mods being converted for the newer game.
Really, most of the time, if you’re starting from the beginning, you’ll want to use Special Edition. But if you’re the sort of person who has and wants tons of crazy mods, then really, Legendary Edition is superior, simply because you have so much choice. The biggest issue with Special Edition is either having to convert mods to work with the game, or waiting for mod authors to convert them for you. While converting basic mods isn’t too difficult (mostly downloading, installing and using the Special Edition Creation Kit, opening the mod there and re-saving it), there’s no one to fall back on if you have any problems. On the flip side, Special Edition’s selection of mods is generally better looked after, being uploaded and maintained by more dedicated modders. Plus, most popular mods get converted for Special Edition anyway. But flipping back to Legendary Edition, there is just so much more to choose from.
Especially if you want more… nuanced mods. Special Edition is great if you just want the most popular mods, but if you want anything rather specific, then Legendary Edition is much more likely to have mods you want, specially if you’re looking to use mods that require SKSE.
That being said, a fuckton of mods have been updated to Special Edition, so over time this becomes less true.
Another time you won’t want to use Special Edition is if you’ve already got a perfected Legendary Edition of Skyrim set up, modded and ready to go. If you’ve spent many an hour making Legendary Edition perfect, then you’ll have to do that all over again with Special Edition. Right down to the mod organizing tools you use. Sometimes it’s simply not worth the effort starting from scratch again.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can’t transfer saves between games. Not unless you’re playing vanilla, unmodded versions of both games. The problems you’ll encounter trying to transfer characters is not worth it.
So basically, if you’re new to Skyrim or modding or just want a somewhat simple modding experience, then Special Edition is your best bet. If you’ve already worked hard on Legendary Edition, then stick to that.
Oh, and try to use a mod organizer of some sort. Preferably Mod Organizer (for Legendary Edition) or Mod Organizer 2 (for Special Edition). They’re tricky to use at first, but they’re far superior to managing mods inside of Skyrim and the Skyrim launcher…