‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition’: review: a warm return to a familiar land

Nostalgically comfortable

Ever wonder how much time you spend replaying a game because there’s a ‘new’ version of it out? Between The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s many incarnations and Grand Theft Auto 5, I have a sneaky feeling I’m stuck in a time loop. Still, here I am again with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition and I’m loving it. In predictable form, if you loved it in the past, you’ll love it again. New to it? it’s going to be be easy to lose yourself.

If you haven’t played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before, it’s a vast and engrossing fantasy RPG. Starting out, you’re moments from being executed before a dragon gets in the way and you soon discover that you’re the Dragonborn – a person able to absorb the souls of slain dragons. Those souls can then be used to learn ‘shouts’ which lead to some mighty powers. While the main questline is focused on defeating dragons and gaining powers, there’s so much more to it than that.

Not least that there are seemingly countless other things to do. You can complete various quests as simple as pickpocketing an item to curry favour within the Thieves Guild or as complicated as taking down an evil entity. Plus, you can always get married, choose to randomly kill a few people to see what happens next, or simply roam the world of Skyrim.

It sounds vast because it is. While your freedom isn’t quite as, well, free as this sounds, there’s still a ton to do. One of the most refreshing elements is that you can cultivate your character so they’re built however works for you. Each action helps boost your skills. Cast plenty of destruction spells and your destruction powers go up, hit someone a lot with a one-handed sword and your one-handed skills go up. You get the idea. Combat itself is a bit simplistic, especially now we’ve all seen the likes of Dark Souls (and the much underrated Dragon’s Dogma which arrived not long after Skyrim), but it’s compelling because you see results fast.

Skyrim Anniversary Edition mods
Skyrim Anniversary Edition. Credit: Bethesda.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition builds upon this by offering even more content. as is befitting of something to celebrate 10 years of the game. That means you get all three DLC expansion pack add-ons (also included with the Special Edition of the game), upgraded graphics, a plethora of content from Bethesda‘s Creation Club, and a few other new features too. It’s quite a lot for a relatively small price.

The DLC alone is worth it if you’ve somehow missed it over the years. Dawnguard has you choosing to side with vampires or vampire hunters and yes, you can become a vampire. It’s a fairly meaty expansion pack and one that’s a lot of fun. There’s also Dragonborn which adds the island of Solstheim. It’s a bit of a dull island but it adds a handful of new quests and a lot more places to explore. Best of all, it adds the ability to ride on the back of a dragon. Something you’ll probably do less often than you’d think but hey, it looks cool. The third expansion pack is Hearthfire. That adds the option to build a home or adopt children. It’s a bit like Skyrim trying to go Minecraft-ish but far more basic. It’s fine. Just fine. Dawnguard is where the fun’s at with these three.

This isn’t where the DLC stops though. There’s also complete access to the Creation Club. An official mod shop, this would have once cost you a small fortune in purchases but now you get 74 ‘creations’ including new quests, locations, weapons, homes, and armour. It’s pretty good stuff too. Modding has had a limited past on consoles so being able to take advantage of them so readily and conveniently is a big plus here. It works just as easily as any other content within the game.

Elsewhere, there are other new additions too. Survival Mode is a big one. Basically, you need to survive the game in a much more realistic fashion than Skyrim normally offers. That means keeping warm in the cold, keeping well-fed, and avoiding exhaustion. Honestly? It’s not that much fun. There’s a lot of attrition and chipping away at surviving here. Fast travel is disabled and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is truly huge so it’s going to take you a long time to get anywhere, especially as you have to worry about eating and resting too. It’s there for masochists, basically.

Much more fun is fishing. Who can resist fishing? The activity that inexplicably draws almost all of us in whenever a game gives you the option, it works well in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition. There are fishing-related quests, plenty of fish to catch and it’s all just lovely and satisfying. Weirdly calming too.

Skyrim Anniversary Edition
Skyrim Anniversary Edition. Credit: Bethesda

Similarly calming is farming which unlocks after completing a ghostly quest line just outside of Rorikstead. Many games now include farming and go in more depth than Skyrim, but it’s a neat add-on, like so many of the additions here. New crafting options are pretty expansive too with alchemy and smithing bolstered by some new choices.

Whatever you choose to do, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition looks lovely. 60 frames per second plus improved visuals means it looks far better than I remember it did in the past. Loading times are practically non-existent too which is always nice to see. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is still a little buggy at times in that classic Bethesda way but these are amusing more than anything else.

The big question then is – is it worth the extra expense? The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is a pretty cheap upgrade for existing players, however some of the content like fishing and survival mode are free already if you own the Special Edition. It’s a no-brainer of a decision if you’ve never played Skyrim before but for everyone else, it really depends on how much of a completionist you are. All the new stuff is nice but also inessential. It’s icing on the cake rather than a delicious new baked item. Still, if you’re like me – someone who owns the game on far too many platforms – you’ll be a sucker for all the new content regardless. Familiarity is lovely sometimes, after all.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is now available on PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed the title on Xbox Series X.

The Verdict

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition is a fun add-on for Skyrim fans. Including plenty of Creation Club content and some new quests will be enough for most players to be happy. Depending on how if you’ve played the game before, new official DLC is a big reason to upgrade too. Survival Mode is a bit of a misfire but other than that, this is an appealing package even if it doesn’t quite set the world on fire with essential content.

Pros

  • There’s a lot to do again
  • Looks great on the latest systems
  • Non-existent loading times

Cons

  • Nothing here is particularly mind-blowing
  • It’s been 10 years. Some may not want to revisit
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