It’s hard to believe that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in its original form 10 years ago. But as production on The Elder Scrolls VI labors on, to the annoyance of impatient gamers everywhere, Bethesda is celebrating a whole decade of Skyrim by releasing this Anniversary Edition.
It contains the base game, the 3 main DLC packs (Dragonborn, Dawnguard, and Hearthfire), a bunch of Bethesda approved mods, plus some added bells and whistles.
If you’re a PlayStation owner, this is the third iteration of the game to be released on Sony’s console series. It appeared first on the PS3 on its initial launch, an upgraded Special Edition on PS4, and now a PS5 supported Anniversary Edition. The game is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and other consoles.
What Is Skyrim?
For anybody who has been living under a rock for the last 10 years, Skyrim is a vast, sprawling open-world RPG with enough content to clock up playtimes in excess of 200 hours (my PS3 playthrough) and over 100 hours (my follow-up PS4 playthrough).
The main questline should take you roughly 15-20 hours, and centers around your character rising up to become the Dragonborn, Skyrim’s best hope of defeating Alduin – the world eater and first dragon; whose return has put the fate of the world in jeopardy.
However, the main quest is but a side note in the game and can be shelved for as long as you like while you explore the world. You’ll no doubt be side-tracked by the never-ending amount of dungeons to explore, the lore of the world, guilds you can join (each with their own dedicated questlines), armors to craft, potions to make, items to enchant, companions to recruit, homes you can upgrade, pets you can keep, and skills and secrets to unlock – the scope is almost endless.
So, whether you decide to play as a sneaky, stealthy archer, or…actually, let’s face it, you’re going to play it as a sneaky, stealthy archer, aren’t you?! Regardless, if you’ve never played the game before, this title (and particularly this Anniversary Edition) is an absolute must-have.
The big question here is: does the additional content on offer in this edition justify veterans of the game parting with more of their hard-earned cash for the sake of those bells and whistles we mentioned earlier? Ladies and gentlemen, my Skyrim review.
Skyrim PS5 upgrade
The first noteworthy thing to mention is that this edition of the game is being sold in hard copy form as a PS4 title for around $50. All additional content is included on the disc, and on booting up the game for the first time, you will be prompted to update to the PS5 version of the game.
Don’t panic – this upgrade is free! Indeed, if you own the PS4 Special Edition you can also upgrade to the PS5 version of the game for free – but this will not include the bonus content of the Anniversary Edition.
Special Edition Skyrim owners can (at the time of writing) upgrade to the Anniversary Edition for approximately $15 on the PS Store. This will give you immediate access to all of the Anniversary Edition content – which is incorporated into the main game, to be discovered and enjoyed right from the get-go.
Let’s get one minor disappointment out of the way – the graphics. It would be unrealistic to expect a complete graphical overhaul of the game for the PS5, seeing as the game has not been rebuilt from the ground up (unlike Bluepoint Games’ excellent Demon’s Souls remake).
However, when preparing for my Skyrim review, I was hard-pressed to spot any real difference in the graphics compared to the earlier PS4 version. I guess we’ll have to just wait for Elder Scrolls VI to find out what the PS5 can really do, graphically speaking, with this series.
The only noteworthy thing to mention here is that the Anniversary Edition now runs at a smooth 60FPS, and you will notice the choppiness of earlier editions has (mostly) disappeared.
However, load times have been hugely improved thanks to the processing power of the PS5. You’ll no longer be kept waiting for a minute or more at the entrance of the next dungeon, while its cavernous depths are loaded. Load times are now reduced to a measly few seconds. This is a big selling point for me, and as a quality-of-life improvement, it makes the game more accessible and playable than ever.
What’s New in Skyrim’s Anniversary Edition?
But the real reason you’re reading this Skyrim review, I suspect, is to find out about the new content that has been added. And I can happily confirm that it is vast.
Upon arriving at Whiterun, the first major town you will encounter at the end of the game’s prologue, I was immediately assigned a brand-new questline by Ri’saad, the Khajit merchant outside of the city walls (Saints & Seducers).
This had me tracking down caravans of bandits across the map, battling new foes and acquiring a brand-new set of armor (the Dark Seducer set), a full set of Dark weapons – dagger, sword, greatsword, and mace, and releasing a captive demented elytra nymph which I could converse with and persuade to become my new pet! All this was right near the start of this questline too.
A chance encounter with a courier on the road then side-lined me with a new mini-quest, which (one short jaunt up a mountain and one mini-boss battle later) saw me as the proud owner of a brand-new mountaintop property (Hendraheim); replete with everything an adventurer could ever need.
This included my own forge, enchantment, and alchemy tables, a wealth of mannequins on which I could proudly display my various armor sets, and a trophy room in the basement to house the spoils of my adventures.
This is a real bonus for me. As someone who has fairly exhaustively played the original game, it is gratifying to discover that the new content is completely incorporated into the main game. This means you can access it at any time, in whatever order you choose.
These are just two examples from a pool of brand-new content, which boasts (in addition to the Saints & Seducers expansion): the Rare Curios Expansion (including new armor sets, quests, items, and spells), the Ghosts of the Tribunal expansion, a Fishing mini-game with more than 20 types of fish to catch, Farming and Survival Mode. Plenty of bang for your buck.
Skyrim Review: The Verdict
So there you have it, my Skyrim review is complete. This is Skyrim reloaded – with a plethora of new content. Brand new questlines, new dungeons, new bosses, new armor sets, new weapons, new spells to cast, new homes to adorn, and more.
All of which is served up with a super smooth framerate and impressively small load times, and accessible at your pleasure in true open-world style.
Is it worth the extra money? If you’re a veteran like me and are looking to fill the void until the next installment is released, I would wholeheartedly say yes.
There are hours of extra content here to explore, and this coupled with the fact that most of you can download this upgrade for pocket change makes this very affordable. Is any of it essential to the Skyrim experience? No. But is it fun and engaging enough to scratch your adventurer’s itch? Absolutely.
And if you’re new to the Elder Scrolls series and have hours of time to plunder the virtually endless amount of content available in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition then what are you waiting for?
There’s a reason why the fifth chapter in The Elder Scrolls series has endured for a decade. It is brilliant. And quite frankly if you didn’t already know this, then it’s time that you did.
There has never been a better time to dive in than right now.