I can't believe Skyrim has got its hooks in me again. How much of my life can I dedicate to playing this one singleplayer game? A lot more, it turns out. The Anniversary Edition, which appeared last week, has been an excuse rather than a reason. Unlike the Special Edition, this is just some DLC that includes a bunch of premium Creation Club mods, the vast majority which were available already. It's not this lacklustre DLC that's driven me back into Skyrim's arms—it's Skyrim itself. A decade on, nothing else has come around that can topple its place in my heart.
Morrowind is my favourite Elder Scrolls game. This is because I'm cool and have great taste. I love Morrowind. But I can't remember the last time I played. It feels old, and in turn that makes me feel old, and I'd really rather not. Skyrim, on the other hand, can quite easily be made to look just as handsome as a game newly launched today with just a few mods.
So I'm a bit shallow, I guess. But there's more to it than that. Skyrim is a game bursting with potential. It is a platform for adventures and stories and user-created malarkey. Entirely new games have been built inside it. One of the most lauded was recreated and released as a standalone game only this year, and it's brilliant. Skyrim's main story is fine, but these days I'm happy to avoid it for as long as possible—instead choosing to start as a vampire, a warlock's thrall or a hunter just hanging out in the woods. And from there, my own adventure begins, one built in collaboration with Bethesda and an army of creative modders.
The one compliment I can pay the Anniversary Edition is that it doesn't get in the way of this. When the Special Edition launched, most of my mods stopped working, but not so here. The changes are less transformative, and Bethesda worked with SKSE developer Extrwi to make sure their crucial mod, which is necessary for a whole host of other mods, would work at launch. And it does! As a result, pretty much all of my mainstays are working perfectly, from the big overhauls of textures, to smaller things like little lanterns lighting up Skyrim's well-worn paths.
Sure, there have been issues, like the one encountered by Jody, who got a black screen after loading a modded save, but aside from one crash after I messed around with my mod load order too much, I've not had any issues. The closest I've come to hitting a brick wall was when I was playing around with flora overhauls and trying to fix the broken level of detail (LOD) with DynDOLOD. Some files haven't been updated yet, it turns out, but there's still a temporary solution: deselecting the dynamic LOD option, which still gives you object and tree LOD. I should stop writing about LOD now because I'm even boring myself. The important thing is that, after a bit of faffing around, I got Skyrim looking great and running without a hitch.
Are you really playing Skyrim again if you don't first spend at least a day adding mods, an experience that always starts off as magical and exciting, until you realise a big chunk of it is just waiting for shit to download, obsessively making sure nothing has introduced a conflict, and watching programmes do stuff to your game that you absolutely don't understand even if you're writing about them on a PCGamer.com? Not properly you aren't.
Maybe it's just because people are talking about Skyrim a wee bit more than usual, contributing towards a livelier vibe, but this time, the millionth time I've started a new game, it's actually been kinda thrilling. At least it was for a moment. And then it went back to comfortingly familiar, which is really what I'm here for anyway. Strip away all the mods and DLC and new editions, and Skyrim is still just really fucking good. Maybe I'll become a werewolf again. No, I'll definitely become a werewolf again. I'll punch some Imperials. I'll shout at a giant. I like the classics.
At some point, I must have powered through the "I'm so sick of Skyrim" phase, and now I love it because I've played it so much, and with every reinstall, no matter how brief, this is reinforced. And even when I'm not playing it, Skyrim looms over me. Another mod. Another edition. Another flurry of articles. Every day there are a ridiculous number of people reading about or creating new things for a game that, at launch, I couldn't play for more than a few minutes because of how very broken and poorly optimised it was. Even if you've never played, you're probably nearly as aware of Skyrim as you are things you're actually invested in. That's probably deeply annoying. You should go play Skyrim. It is very good.
The Anniversary Edition does not add much to this, but what else does Skyrim need? So yeah, it's just an excuse. For Bethesda to make some cash. For writers to spit out some more articles. But mostly to reminisce and walk those cobbled paths and perilous mountain passes once again.