Skyrim Special Edition is out now, meaning that players old and new are again flooding the mountains of Bethesda's snowiest RPG. To celebrate, we've gathered together some of the finest words and pictures RPS produced about the game over the past five years - including reviews, mod recommendations, screenshot guides, songs about Lydia, cartoons about wolves, nudity, and more.
Every time Bethesda reveal a new game, one of the first queries they have to deal with is how big its world is compared to previous games, with the general onlooker sentiment being that their open worlds are shrinking with every new generation. I can promise you that Skyrim is an enormous game, perhaps Bethesda’s biggest yet in my perception of it, and that isn’t anything to do with landmass (of which there is a vast and wonderfully varied amount). It’s because there’s so damned much to do. Hours fly by, great adventures are embarked on, and it barely dents what’s on offer. The thieves’ guild questline alone, the closest thing my time with the game had to a fixed purpose, offers more than do most other big-budget games’ singleplayer modes.
I am somewhat perplexed as to many of the design decisions made in Dawnguard – were they a result of limited resources, of Bethesda’s A-team having already moved on to the next project, or simply of faltering imaginations? Not my place to speculate perhaps, but the result is, if not an actual failure, a drawn-out disappointment, and very much at odds with earlier claims made regarding Skyrim expansions being game-changers rather than just more of the same content.
The question, I suppose, is whether it’s enough to drag one back into Skyrim. For me, it was. In Dawnguard I felt like I was continuing because I had to, here I feel like I’m having a good time doing my own thing in a new place that hybridises Skyrim and Morrowind.
Skyrim was ultimately RPS's game of the year for 2011, surprising no one. The team gathered on Christmas Eve to discuss its merits.
We’ve chosen Skyrim, the game we, as a collective of Old Men, have had the most fun with in 2011. You only have to browse through the archives over the past couple of months to see how much we’ve enjoyed ourselves, and that sort of speaks to me as a gamer and as a writer. One of the founding principles of RPS has always been that we should write as much as we can, or as much as we like, about the games we are enjoying. That principle soon expanded to have more of a “let’s try and be a broad church and post all the news, too” but the fundamentals of the site remain about writing lots of guff about arsing about in games. Skyrim is one of those games that, by virture of what it is and what it does, generates anecdotes, ideas, and pleasurable frothings of writerly inspiration. So we wrote. And wrote.
Although most of us loved the game from launch, it wasn't without its flaws and detractors. It's worth remembering some of those issues now, perhaps in light of Bethesda's new review policy.
We’re loving Skyrim. Nary a spare second of our spare time isn’t spent hacking and exploding our way through it. But we’d really like it if it worked properly. Bethesda’s patches have so far been peculiar in the extreme, seemingly making the game more broken, or just fixing the last patch. With new additions breaking mods, and introducing backward flying dragons, I’d like to suggest that future patches maybe strike a bold new direction and bring in some improvements. But what improvements? Below is a selection of what we think Bethesda needs to do to make Skyrim be the game it deserves to be.
Oh, Skyrim. I really am so enamoured by your peaks, and your misty valleys. Oh, what a beautiful world, filled with possibility and with cheese. Oh, Skyrim, let us bask in the the spook of your ghosts and squirm in the horror of your catacombs. Let us be gleefully smacked about by giants and devoured by dragons. Let us steal hats and trade them for unexpected potions. Oh, Skyrim. There’s so much to you that there are even ants crawling on this log! Blimey.
And then we bring up the menu. Oh, Skyrim.
Skyrim has one of the healthiest and most popular modding communities of any game ever, and we'll be updating some of our mod coverage in the coming weeks with newly relevant recommendations. Here are some pieces from the archive that remain useful right now, however.
If you want to plod through the winter wastelands of Tamriel with the same ‘survival mode’ in mind yourself, these are the mods you’ll want to add. Most of them come from a single source, the Nexus modding community. Before you grab them, it is best to have their Nexus Mod Manager installed, as well as something called SKSE. (You will also have to register to join the Nexus community to download these files). Getting all this architecture in place is a minor frustration compared to the improvements you’ll see in the end. It will be worth it when you find yourself freezing to death under a rocky outcrop with no wood to start a fire.
I found Meeko sitting by the side of the road. He is one of Skyrim’s shaggy, grey wolfhounds that look as old as they do stupid. He saw me, turned around and ran into the thicket. I followed him through the trees, where he led me to a run-down shack. I looked inside and there, lying still and grey on the shed’s single rickety bed, was Meeko’s owner. He was dead. The mongrel looked to me, blinked in the cold and seemed to whine. All right then, I thought, you can follow me. It was a decision I never came to regret. Later on, Meeko killed a lot of people for me.
Skyrim Special Edition adds extra pretties to the 2011 game, but mods have been doing that for years. These that Adam lists here from a couple weeks after release have long been improved upon by other mods, but it's interesting to compare them to how the Special Edition looks five years later all the same.
In 2014, Duncan 'Dead End Thrills' Harris wrote us a guide to how he makes Skyrim so look pretty in his gorgeous screenshots. These tips are definitely still relevant, whether it's the mods it links or the console commands it suggests.
What posters of modded Skyrim shots fail to mention is that their game only looks like that 1 per cent of the time, from 0.01 per cent of the vantage points on the map. The numbers are only slightly better for any videogame screenshot worth a damn. Whether you’re an industry screenshot artist or a Steam Community superstar or whatever, what you’re doing is marketing. Selling. Lying by omission.
Perhaps your modding goals are more base, however.
S.EXE: Schlongs of Skyrim (NSFW)
So anyway, in the interest of New Schlong Journalism me and a friend downloaded Schlongs of Skyrim, a mod for Skyrim which frankly just makes large fat growable schlongs available on male NPCs. We also made use of the mod ‘Bathing Beefcake Luxury Suite’, a mod inserting a Skyrim beefcake spa near Whiterun, to make it easier to view tadgers with ease.
If you played Skyrim, you met Lydia. How long you spent with her is up to you, but John became quite attached... until her unfortunate demise.
Lydia, oh Lydia, as much use as chlamydia
Oh Lydia the queen of to-dos
In a doorway she’ll stand, if given the chance
Blocking access to chests is her foremost romance
Her ultimate goal is to block your advance
You can’t go anywhere with Lydia
I readily concede that there’s nothing specifically technical about Lydia that makes her any different from any of the other hirelings you can have accompany you as you play. Whether it’s the creepily long-hair-and-balding weirdo, or the guy who informs you that you’ve been a great friend to him after you beat him in a fist-fight, they’re all going to stand in doorways, walk into a rack of frying pans when you’re stealthing, or time things to ensure they step on every trap trigger just as you’re in the danger zone. It’s what they do.
Want the answer to Skyrim's greatest mystery? John also solved it.
Meanwhile, Alec was solving... a different problem?
Recently, I maxed out pickpocketing in Sykrim. The top perk for doing this is that you can even rob items that people have equipped. This includes, for some reason, their clothes. Yep: they do not notice you removing their clothes. It’s a handy way of making heavily-protected enemies a little less tough before you go in for the kill, which is about the only reason I can think it was included.
It’s also a way of humiliating an NPC populace that has absolutely no idea it’s being humiliated, and would continue to treat me politely even though I could see their nipples. My cause was clear: every single citizen of Whiterun must be stripped to their underpants. It took me one long, strange evening, but I did it. Welcome to the naked city.
Fortunately or unfortunately Alec didn't pair this pursuit with Schlongs of Skyrim, linked above.
We wrote much more about the game, all of which can be found in the archive.