A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is a remastered release of a first-person fantasy role-playing game with frequent and intense violence. Players use medieval-style weapons and magic to slice, bludgeon, and burn human and humanoid enemies to death, often covering the ground in blood and viscera in the process. There's no profanity or sex, but players will encounter dialogue that makes reference to "whores" and "rape," and several scenes include depictions of people -- including the player's character -- drinking alcohol and wine, sometimes to gain status boosts.
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What's it about?
One of the all-time classic fantasy role-playing games gets the current-generation treatment in THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM SPECIAL EDITION. Remastered for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC, this new edition of the game tells the same story told in the original about a person wandering between cities and villages embroiled in civil war in the harsh Nordic land of Skyrim. He (or she) must also come to terms with what it means to be a Dragonborn -- a rare individual linked to dragons in spirit, speech, and power. But the main quests actually make up the minority of missions in what turns out to be a 200-plus-hour adventure, the bulk of which will be spent performing side quests involving various characters and factions as well as one-off missions discovered in both towns and the wild. This provides players ample opportunity to level up their characters, unlock new abilities, and discover and craft better equipment. The Special Edition includes all official expansion content released after the original game, the ability to play PC mods on consoles, and new visual effects meant to bring the game closer to modern graphical standards.
Is it any good?
There's little arguing the original Skyrim is a masterpiece of the genre, but this remake just slightly underperforms due to its age. You'd expect that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition -- which is basically just the original game with prettier graphics -- would be just as satisfying, but strangely, it's not. Its massive sandbox world is still remarkable in scope and sophistication, and the range of options and choices remains so broad that the game feels almost unlimited in its possibilities. And including all expansion content plus access to PC mods on consoles is a treat. It should be noted that mods range from the benign to the controversial; for example, there are some mods which remove the clothing of all characters in the game, or add in other mature subject matter. This means that users should beware about the content they decide to download.
But time is catching up with Skyrim in other ways. The new effects -- depth-of-field camera tricks, god rays, enhanced snow and water -- are nice but can't quite cover up the aging textures and character models, which weren't particularly advanced even when the game was released in 2011 on older hardware. Plus, the branching dialogue and stiff combat feel a bit old-fashioned compared with competing RPGs that have since been released, like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It's still a terrific game that's well worth playing for those who missed it the first time around, but it also clearly illustrates how quickly games -- and game genres -- tend to evolve over time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Many of Skyrim's missions include violence against soldiers and guards who are fighting for what they believe is right, but while fighting these characters, did you consider their backstories -- and whether or not they deserved or needed to be killed?
Talk about choice in games. Do you like it when games let you decide how to proceed? Do you find that having a choice makes you think more about morality and consequences? When games give you a clear choice between good and evil, which do you normally choose, and why?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bethesda Softworks
- Release date: October 28, 2016
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.