Published on November 28th, 2021 | by Scott De Lacy
Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PC) – Is it worth it?
For ten years, Dragonborn’s have been exploring Skyrim, defeating dragons and taking sides within the war of the Stormcloaks and Empire.
If you are not familiar with Skyrim, or you weren’t born 10-years ago, you are hereby forgiven by order of the Jarl. That being said, take a look at our Skyrim Special Edition review. You will also find many videos, reviews, spoilers and forums online.
The take away at this point, is that Skyrim as a game, is still actively played by a very large community around the world that still continues to grow, increasing in number with new generations of players with Skyrim Special Edition. So, after ten years, Bethesda is able to confidently release this Anniversary Edition, knowing that the demand for Skyrim and new content is still strong and appealing to existing and new players.
Skyrim is one of those magical games that has incredible endurance, because it still delivers an immersive rich open-world fantasy environment that lets the player become the character they wish to be, and direct the narrative of the stories how they want it to be told. Beyond this, we have enjoyed ten years of developer supported – community modding that has added fresh stories, characters, weapons, gameplay mechanics and improved graphics to a game that at the time of release punched way above its weight.
Those ten years have launched careers, brought people together and shaped the lives of generations; all thanks to Bethesda supporting the gaming and modding community.
With the understanding that Skyrim Anniversary Edition, is in fact the Skyrim Special Edition base game with free mods, what is the quality and playthrough like for these mods and is the Anniversary Edition good value?
Survival Mode was released in 2017 for Skyrim Special edition and it has already had a lot of exposure (ahem) to the community.
When you are finished with the initial dragon attack on Helgen and emerge victorious out of the cave, you are immediately prompted by the system to optionally enable the Survival Mode. Doing so will fundamentally change the gameplay and user experience. Now you have to survive the environment as well as the many things that want to eat and destroy you.
In a nutshell, the player is now affected by fatigue, cold and hunger which of course is influenced by weather and the last time your character has rested in a bed or consumed food. Cooked food is required to avoid food poisoning and clothing and equipment offer different levels of warmth and now weighs more.
Each race has unique buffs that that offers some resistance to these negative effects, whilst in game skill-perks have been reduced or altered. When you are tired, hungry or cold, you take a hit to your lockpicking, stamina and magicka regen depending upon the combination, but being well rested, well fed and warm provides some slight positive buffs. Of course, you can also freeze to death on your way to the Greybeards.
Overall, the game is made incredibly more difficult and offers a significant challenge to experienced players.
In this playthrough, on the easiest gameplay difficulty, the challenges of the Survival Mode were overwhelming and caused several deaths with the most basic of enemies including single low-level wolves and spiders.
On a new game, the Survival Mode mod, effectively slows down game play to such an extent, that it will influence and shape the character development the equipment you may select and what quests are able to be successfully undertaken. With no house, no money, no bed, fatigue sets in quickly, then one wolf bite or bear scratch and you have disease. The reduction in carry weight is also significant, that the usual ways to collect and sell things is limited. Even initially getting to Whiterun can be challenging, especially if needing to make decisions on being able to carry only one or two weapons and enough food to stave off hunger for a 12-hour period.
The game itself now forces you to sleep or lose any ability to defend yourself, especially in the early levels and with no skill perks. After you get your first disease, you fatigue faster and so you must sleep, but doing so advances the disease and applies more negative effects that affect combat. Curing disease is only possible if you have the rare ingredients and already know how to mix a cure disease potion, or you suddenly find yourself with a spare 100 gold to use an alter to receive its blessing.
Experienced players will want to know whether this mod is better or worse, easier or harder than a popular survival mode that is available via Nexus. Simply put, yes, it is harder, less forgiving and more encompassing than you may have experienced with other mods. That said, Survival Mode lacks any customizable options or ability to fine tune the survival aspects, it is simply on or off.
Survival Mode is integrated into the clothing and armor, food, positive and negative buffs which include more extreme disease progression. In terms of being immersive, this mod truly makes Skyrim feel like an inhospitable place that demands respect.
As a first play through, this mod will make the game completely different and that can be a good thing for the experienced players, but perhaps not recommended for new players to the game – this isn’t Ark or Green Hell.
Survival Mode, and of course any other (ahem) free community survival-based mods, are best coupled with a camping mod. Without such mods, the Dragonborn is setup for failure.
The most infuriating aspect to Survival Mode is that fast travel is disabled. There is a fine balance between having the choice of journeying across the land and expeditiously getting to a quest marker when desired; Survival Mode lazily removes the fast travel function by allowing you to click on a location and then receive a notification that “Fast-travel is not available from this location.” Such prompts only give one false hope, but at a minimum, the prompt should at least say that fast-travel is disabled by Survival Mode, or perhaps more elegantly, remove the click event from the map entirely.
Fishing was released as part of the Anniversary Edition and adds an interesting aspect to the game.
A new equipable weapon is the fishing rod, which will most likely be acquired for free along the river bank in Riverwood. There are several fishing spots located around Skyrim, and each one of these locations adds the ability to cast a line in and fish out a surprise.
The game dynamics here is effectively a fixed position interaction where the player must wait for a short random time for two tugs of the rod followed by a pulling and then press the action key to reel in the catch.
Fishing adds 24 new species of fish and some fetch quests by 7 NPC’s. Each fishing location will yield different species and a book from Riften NPC Swimms-In-Deep-Water will advise the best environment to catch each species initially.
In conjunction with Survival, fishing could be a brilliant immersive function, but would absolutely require camping so that the Dragonborn can setup camp by the fishing spot and catch and cook food and keep warm.
Fishing won’t be for everyone; there isn’t any action here and it is kind of like sitting in front of a pokies machine and mindlessly waiting then pressing the action button. On the other hand, all those fish are helpful for cooking food and aiding in survival.
Fishing is a bit of a non-starter and there was not much interest in attempting to get through the quests. Also considering that the conventional swim-and-catch method isn’t disabled, it is far quicker to catch fish by swimming, although specific species and items are only (as far as this experience found) caught through the fishing locations exclusively.
Interestingly, if the fishing rod is equipped as the weapon, then enemies seemed to attack with much lower damage, but a follower is able to ravage an enemy quickly. This seems to be a great approach to level up armor and one-handed, but also alteration with the use of oakflesh or stoneflesh which are available earlier in the game. Equipping healing and using it judiciously will also level up restoration if the battle can be sustained for a longer period.
It still is hilarious to dispose of a wolf and bear with a fishing rod.
Saints & Seducers
Saints & Seducers are the warriors of Sheogorath, the Mad God and will they will be familiar to all who have read the books on the matter within Skyrim or have played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Shivering Isles. Released in 2019, and also includes the Rare Curious content, this is the more significant of the three mods that have been included in the Anniversary Edition.
The roaming Khajiit Merchant Ri’saad is the quest-giver who will secretly pass you a note. Once this note is read, you are informed about bandits attacking the caravan and of course, you need to sort out these bandits.
Tracking down the bandits and disposing of them via notes and journal entries, you will end up with:
- Two spider followers, which both can be active at once
- Regular poison source from the spiders, similar to Frostbite Venom
- Spell Tombs to summon Saints & Seducer Warriors and Archers
- Ability to smith Saints & Seducer armor
- Stash of Saints & Seducer armor and alchemy ingredients
Ultimately you are led to a shady wizard who is attempting to get to the Shivering Isles and will cough up some special Amber and the Sword of Jyggalag (Aka Sheogorath).
If you enjoyed the Shivering Isles expansion in Oblivion and desperately want to be reminded of the glory days, then this mod will be welcomed; however, expectations should be immediately lowered.
The armor is cool, and looks very sexy on Lydia, but not at all appealing for a male character, in fact it borders on effeminate roman at best.
The alchemical ingredients are pretty and well thought out, and many of them can be purchased by Ri’Saad after the quests are completed.
Saints & Seducers still recycles most of the known trite of “Kill the bandit leader at..”but is simply packaged with nice female armor and a two-handed blade that has no special features.
The weapons rate between Elven and Ebony and can otherwise be improved and enchanted. The Saint’s armor being heavy and the Seducers being lightweight.
The difficulty of the NPC’s is scaled higher than expected so these quests should only be attempted once leveled up a bit. But in terms of story, this mod lacks any significant wow factor – but it is still pretty good, albeit mostly derivative.
SKSE and Mods
Bethesda provided the developer of SKSE with an early release to ensure that SKSE would be game ready for the release. This means that most mods are going to be compatible subject to the usual conditions and rules. Basically, mods that share locations or change the same objects/game mechanics will conflict but otherwise most of your mods that worked with Skyrim SE should be good to go.
Hands down, Skyrim is arguably still worthy of being voted for game of the year even in 2021, although some 2K-4K texture revamp or improved graphics and some bug fixes would have been welcomed in this new addition. Of course, so would a new Elder Scrolls game for that matter.
The game itself still plays unfriendly with multiple monitor systems (which also may be a steam-thing), and incorrect selection and clicking is consequently still a thing. But such things are minor.
Survival Mode is not everyone’s cup of tea. When asking a friend if they would use it, they vehemently exclaimed “No way man! I wont ever use those mods… I’ve tried them before and didn’t like them.” Why? “Because the Dragonborn should never be weak.”
And that is precisely the point. Your character, your story and your game. It is all subjective, and with a vast variety of Creation Club and Public free mods, this game is extremely expansive and the choice is endless.
The Saints & Seducers mod although quite good and offers a welcome set of new items, it is a take it or leave it situation, as is the fishing which really is a non-starter. Survival is for sure an absolute winner, but there are other mods that perhaps offer a better balance and better ability to customize the experience, which is otherwise free. You may want to combine these mods with other gems out there which provide a unique combination or play experience that suits your play style.
When it comes down to value, if you do not already have the game, then don’t give it a second thought, purchase the Anniversary Edition. If, however you already own the Special Edition or even the original release, then you may wish to first take your fill of other free mods that provide similar experiences.
Keep playing Skyrim, and try to avoid an arrow to the knee.
Skyrim Anniversary Edition
Summary: Great value for new players, but existing owners of Skyrim: Special Edition should consider whether these mods are right for their Dragonborn.