Navigating the World of Skyrim: A Complete Guide to Choosing Your Adventure in 2023

I’m not supposed to say this – not in a serious piece of writing – but Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the greatest games of all time. Or, at the very least, it’s one of the most important. At the very least, it’s really, really enjoyable. Made by the farsighted Bethesda Game Studios and unleashed upon the world in 2011, it soon established itself as one of the biggest hits in the studio’s history and – 12 years after release and none too long into the 2020s – is still -- a bestseller. The enormous, engrossing world of Skyrim, packed with lore and quests, is the kind of thing that it’s not too strong to say you can lose yourself in. Losing yourself in Skyrim is what you do with it, even today. Bethesda engineered that longevity through a savvy strategy: they just kept remaking the game. Next-gen, upgraded, up-sold editions, re-releases, remasters, an entire virtual reality ‘port’, and then the largest, newest, and most anticipated handheld re-release of all time. Skyrim can be, almost literally, anywhere.

But when there are so many editions on so many ways of playing, how do you choose which Skyrim to install and play on in 2023? Let this serve as your tour through multiple alternate dimensions of Skyrim to help you find the right version for you.

The Evolution of Skyrim: From 2011 to Virtual Reality

The Original Skyrim Experience

We start with the vanilla Skyrim of 2011, the first release on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, around which all other ports and upgrades would be built. Fast forward to 2024, and seeking this version might not be your best idea, unless you’re hankering for the prehistoric times of old-gen consoles or the golden era of PC modding.

Skyrim: Special Edition - The Definitive Experience

Jump ahead to 2016 and we have Skyrim: Special Edition. The title was a re-release for modern consoles and PC, with all three main DLCs – Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn – included, plus abundant visual upgrades. This is the definitive version for people who want the full depth and breadth of Skyrim’s world with all the bells and whistles of the new visuals and quality-of-life upgrades. It also regularly appears on sale, or via subscription services, like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Extra.

Portable Skyrim: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch

In 2017, the Switch got its own Skyrim port. This time, it offered the entire Special Edition package, with the added sixth Degree of Freedom of being handheld. Adding motion controls as well as an exclusive gear-set modelled on The Legend of Zelda characters, it scratched a specific itch, finding a home among the craggy expanse of Skyrim and the more compact expanse of a Nintendo handheld console.

Immersive Adventures with Skyrim VR

The year after publishing the Special Edition, Bethesda stretched the canvas even further with Skyrim VR – the latest way to play Tamriel, now on PlayStation VR and VR-capable PCs. The game now includes motion controls and VR, which mightn’t sound like such a big deal until you put yourself in Tamriel by immersing your whole self in the VR experience. If you’ve got the gear, it’s a very tempting way to play.

Celebrating a Decade of Skyrim: The Anniversary Edition

It’s been 10 glorious years since the release of Skyrim – 10 years that will be commemorated this fall when Skyrim: Anniversary Edition hits store shelves. This ‘heavy upgrade’ to the Special Edition of the game incorporates more than 70 Creation Club mods, adding new quests, spells, monsters and much more. Available as either a new standalone game or as a downloadable upgrade for those who already own the Special Edition, it’s sold as the perfect way to bring Skyrim back to life for veterans and newcomers alike.

Embarking on Your Skyrim Adventure

In some ways, your choice of Skyrim port is a philosophical matter. Do you want the game as it was on your very first playthrough? Do you want the game as it was on your last playthrough, but improved in every regard? Do you want it on the go? Do you want it in visceral VR? Do you want it in its maximally expanded form? Do you want to live in it? Skyrim has a portal for every kind of adventurer.

A Portal to Other Worlds: Understanding the Significance of PORT

‘Port’ is an essential vocabulary word in the world of gamers. It refers to the process by which a game originally developed for one system is altered in order to run on another system. Ports have allowed Skyrim and other games to escape the confines of the platforms they originally called home and appear on new ones – sometimes with significant revisions, such as the remastered and enhanced versions of Skyrim released for more powerful computers and consoles over time. Ports are the link between the gaming worlds that allow experiences such as Skyrim to continue to exist and reach new audiences.

Finally, it is closeness to the core of what makes Skyrim so consistent and rewarding in its gameplay, and Bethesda’s ambition to reinvent the game for new generations of platforms and players that explains so much of Skyrim’s immortality. The Elder Scrolls 6 will no doubt surpass it, if we’re lucky, but then again, perhaps it will come to pass that one day someone will reach for the game and ask what this thing is, and, upon quizzing their parent, will be told: ‘Once, in a time long, long ago, we took the time and effort to make Skyrim.’

Jun 12, 2024
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