The release of Skyrim Special Edition is only a few hours away. Can Bethesda’s remastered masterpiece live up to the hype? Will fans and newcomers be happy that they shelled out $60 on a five-year-old title? These are questions that Bethesda Softworks has surely answered satisfactorily for itself. Otherwise, it would have never moved forward with production. However, for many consumers, these issues need to be addressed before they break out their wallets.
Games are not cheap, and gamers are more thrifty than ever. With new franchises and indie titles popping up almost on a daily basis, the competition for the gaming dollar is high. Bethesda would be foolish to think that it could slap a new coat of paint on one of its hottest properties and hope to get $60 out of it.
Skyrim Special Edition has to truly be “special” to get not just new players to buy it, but longtime fans as well. After all, the game has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. This remastered version is going to have to re-tap some of those original purchasers to be successful. A new Skyrim would need more than just a coat of paint to do that, but Bethesda came prepared.
Obviously, “coat of paint” is a metaphor for making something look good, and this is an important part of reselling anything. Skyrim is particularly hard to resell because while it is old by gaming standards, it is not so old as to be considered retro. For example, recently Id Software produced a remake of Doom, which originally came out in 1993. Doom is practically the definition of a retro title, and Id brought it to modern consoles with a whole new modern look. The graphical improvements were exponential in the remaking of the game.
Skyrim only came out five years ago and on the last generation of consoles no less. Graphically, how much could they do? According to Bethesda, a lot.
The Skyrim remaster adds “volumetric god rays, screen-space reflections, new snow and water shaders, and more” to the Skyrim game engine.
Unless you are a developer, most of that probably sounds like babble, but in a nutshell, Skyrim Special Edition will have improved graphics. How much improvement? You can see for yourself in the video below.
So the coat of paint is nowhere near as dramatic as what we saw in the Doom remake. In this instance, graphical improvements are incremental, not exponential. Alone they are not enough to sell many copies of the game, but the developers knew this. One thing Bethesda Game Studios has always been good at is providing content, and content is what is going to attract players and sell this remaster.
To start with, Skyrim Special Edition will include all the downloadable content from the original version. According to Develop Magazine, the $60 price tag includes the original game plus the Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn add-ons.
The Dawngaurd DLC added the ability to become a vampire in the game as well as around five more hours of gameplay in the way of extra quests.
The Hearthfire add-on gave players the ability to craft homesteads in various locations throughout Skyrim. It also allowed players to adopt children in the game. While the download was not heavy on interesting story additions, the building of all the houses could take many hours, and there were some simple missions to teach the basics of home construction that added a few more hours of playtime.
Un truc cool et classe dans Skyrim Dragonborn, voler sur un dragon =D pic.twitter.com/QZ0tc7kXKn— Vivi59 (@oOVivi59Oo) August 27, 2016
Dragonborn was by far the biggest and most ambitious DLC for Skyrim. Not only did it add a whole new map to explore, but it also brought around 12-15 hours worth of new quests to the game. Oh, and did I mention it lets you ride dragons?
The downloadable content adds around 20-25 hours of extra gameplay to what is already one of the most content-rich games ever made. According to the website HowLongToBeat, which tracks the play times of various games, Skyrim’s main storyline takes about 23 hours to complete. Adding in all of the available side quests brings the total time up to 151 hours. Considering this, it is not hard to see why many fans of Skyrim have logged thousands of hours on the game. This fact says a lot considering that it is not even a multiplayer title.
While the DLC is a big attraction for those that are new to Skyrim, it is not necessarily something that is going to re-tap those old customers. For this reason, Bethesda ripped a page out of its PC handbook and decided to attempt to bring mods to consoles. This addition alone is what is going to sell Skyrim Special Edition.
Not only are mods going to add hours of playable content to the game, but they are also something that has never been done on gaming consoles before. Modifications to games have always been the domain of PC titles. However, Bethesda has decided to try to bring the mods experience to consoles with Skyrim and with Fallout 4 as well.
Adding mod support has been a challenge for Bethesda. In fact, it almost did not happen. According to The Verge, Bethesda stated that it was going to abandon adding mod support to Fallout 4 and Skyrim Special Edition for PlayStation 4. It was not that the company could not do it from a technical standpoint.
“Sony has informed us they will not approve user mods the way they should work: where users can do anything they want for either Fallout 4 or Skyrim Special Edition,” Bethesda stated.
Apparently, Sony has changed its stance on the issue. Skyrim will be launching with mod support and Fallout 4 will be getting it at a later date.
Skyrim Special Edtion is expected to release with several mods already available, but the ability to create and download mods in the future is what will extend the life of the title considerably. It will also attract both new and old fans to the game.
Bethesda was smart in the way that it went about redeveloping one of its most popular titles. The developers did not just slap that new coat of paint on it and ship it. They honestly sat down and thought about how they could make it better and attract new and former players to the game. More importantly, they stuck to their guns and continued to work with Sony to allow mod support. Because, without mods, Skyrim Special Edition would just be a rehash of an already popular title.
According to iDigitalTimes, “Skyrim: Special Edition will be ready to go starting right at midnight. This will be local time based on your console, so all gamers will have to stay up late regardless of where they live.”
However, this Facebook post from a west coast fan seems to indicate otherwise.
At least for west coast pre-purchasers, it appears that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition unlocks at 9 p.m. tonight. Regardless of the confusing release time, the chances are good that fans on both coasts will be getting no sleep tonight.
[Featured Image by Bethesda]