We all have fond memories of special times and places in our lives. It may be our student days or a special holiday, but these times have one thing in common: we look back with fondness and forget the less pleasant realities (such as struggling to pay the heating bill or being covered in mosquito bites). For many gamers, Skyrim is one of those special times.
Release in 2011 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was the fifth in the Elder Scrolls series of role-playing games. The game starts your character sentenced to death for trying to cross the border out of the province of Skyrim but, just as you're ready to see your head parted from your body by the headsman's axe, a dragon attacks the camp where you're located, giving you the chance to escape. Once free, you soon discover that all is not well in Skyrim.The local people, the Norns, feel that the Imperial Legion, which governs the region, is trying to eliminate the traditional Norn way of life and civil war is brewing. The appearance of a dragon is also a very unusual occurrence and the player son finds that their fate and the dragons are intertwined.
As with most role-playing games, there are a range of races and player classes to choose from, but Skyrim differs in that it doesn't force you to stick to a particular class. As well as levelling up your character, you also have a number of skills which cover combat, magic, thievery and crafting meaning your class is ultimately determined by the skills you develop, meaning you can be a heavily armoured mage if you choose those skills. Skills improve as you use them, but skill points gained when you gain a level can be used to customise them further.
One of the most striking aspects of Skyrim is just how vast and detailed the world is. Mountains, plains, swamps, cities, hamlets, castles, dungeons and caves all feature in the world and although they were graphically impressive in the original release, they have had significant improvements in the HD rerelease. New water, smoke and snow shaders and volumetric sun ray effects are the most obvious additions, along with improved far distance textures and dynamic depth of field which, for the non technical people reading this, means it's more breathtakingly beautiful than before.
The other aspect of the game is how much there is to experience. Along with the main story line, there is a huge number of smaller quests which introduce you to several factions you can join, companions who can help you and hidden locations to explore. As well as magic, there is a vast number of ingredients you can gather and craft into potions and magical items and effects you can use to enchant weapons, armour and jewellery. When visiting the local blacksmith, you may be able to use their forge to craft new weapons or armour, or improve the ones you already have, cooking pots allow you to craft raw ingredients into food and rare ores can be mined in mines.
Also included in Skyrim Special Edition are all three Skyrim DLC packages; Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn which extend the adventure by introducing vampires and werewolves, allow you to build your own homes and travel to the Dark Elf island of Solstheim.
Another benefit of the remaster is the significantly faster load times on the console editions, and improved stability on all platforms. When it was originally release, Skyrim was plagued with stability issues, especially on the PS3, and it's good to be able to enjoy the game without the frequent crashes which were common in the first release.
So where does Skyrim Remastered fall short? At the risk of sounding uncharitable, it's an old game and the characters seem a bit blocky and the collision detection (which prevents items from over lapping each other) isn't as good as a current day game. Fans of the series and older gamers may not notice it, but it could well look rather strange to newer gamers and those who haven't played the original Skyrim.
From its vast and beautiful world to its varied and haunting soundtrack, if you're a fan of role playing, adventure or sandbox games, then Skyrim Special Edition is likely to appeal.