Skyrim – released on November 11th, 2011, is an RPG game and the fifth instalment in Bethesda’s flagship series, The Elder Scrolls.

A winner of numerous gaming awards, one of the most extensively modded games, and a title that, even after more than 10 years since its release, is still widely played by everyone.

My journey with Skyrim began on the day of its release – the hype for the game was substantial. Trailers showcased an epic adventure with dragons, wars, and vast landscapes to explore. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of playing Skyrim on almost every platform and have spent over 1500 hours in this world.

It cannot be denied that two editions, in particular – Special and Anniversary, provide the most entertainment. This is because both include fantastic story-expanding add-ons and numerous improvements compared to the basic version released 12 years ago. Today, I will show you a comparison of these two editions, focusing on the differences and trying to guide you on which is better. Enjoy reading!

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CategorySkyrim Special EditionSkyrim Anniversary Edition
Release Year 2016 2021
Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Switch
Base Game Included Included
Expansions All 3 expansions (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, Dragonborn) All 3 expansions (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, Dragonborn)
Graphical Enhancements Improved from the original version Further improved over Special Edition
Creation Club Content Not included 74 additional fan-made DLCs
Fishing Mode Not included Included
Performance Enhanced compared to the original Further optimized for new consoles and PCs
Mod Support Enabled for consoles and PC Enabled for consoles and PC

My Journey with Skyrim Special Edition

As mentioned earlier, I played Skyrim right after the premiere on PS3. The initial version unfortunately had many bugs, and the graphics were not impressive. Nevertheless, the game captivated me completely, and I spent a significant amount of time playing it. A little over six months after its release, the first expansion called Dawnguard, introducing us to the world of vampires, was released.

After a few months, Hearthfire, a DLC allowing us to build a house and start a family, became available. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to play these expansions or the one released in early 2013, Dragonborn, right after its premiere.

In 2016, shortly after the launch of eighth-generation consoles, the remastered version of Skyrim – Special Edition was released, available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Steam users could update their game to the 2016 version for free. The Special Edition included not only the base game and all three expansions, but also an improved game engine and various graphical enhancements. Additionally, this version allowed modding even on consoles.

When I bought The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition on PS4, I discovered the game anew. The enhanced appearance of the beautiful sky, water, landscape, lights, and even improved character models provided even greater enjoyment of the game. The seamlessly interwoven motifs from the expansions, such as encountering cultists in Ivarstead just after visiting High Hrothgar, added to the overall experience.

Speaking of the mysterious monastery at the mountain’s summit, in the remastered version, this location looks phenomenal. The journey through the 7,000 Steps was already picturesque in the first release, but with graphical improvements, it became a masterpiece.

Diving into the Anniversary Edition

Over the years, several refreshed versions of Skyrim have been released, such as the Legendary Edition in 2013, which included the base game with expansions; Skyrim VR for virtual reality devices; and the humorous Very Special Edition, a voice-based game that can be played on Alexa or a smart refrigerator (lol). However, the latest version, the Anniversary Edition released on November 11, 2021, brought a true revolution.

This game was released on the original game’s tenth anniversary, on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and almost a year later on the Switch. This version includes all three official expansions, the base game, numerous additional modifications and graphical enhancements, and… 74 fan-made DLCs from the Creation Club!

An additional advantage of this version is the fishing mode, allowing us not only to gather valuable alchemical resources and food, but also often find treasures and open entirely new questlines.

Personally, when I launched Skyrim Anniversary Edition on the Switch, I felt like I was playing an entirely new game. However, the nostalgia associated with the possibility of visiting familiar locations and meeting “old friends” made me once again immerse myself in Tamriel for over 500 hours.

Comparing Graphics, Performance, and Gameplay

Comparing graphics, performance, and gameplay, I can easily point out my personal choice, which falls on the Anniversary Edition. Although the Switch does not have the power of the latest PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, the game runs phenomenally at 30 FPS. On the aforementioned consoles, the game runs at 60 FPS.

The graphics in the game are smoother and simply much more beautiful than in the version released five years earlier, although it already looked much better than the 2011 version.

However, mods also play a significant role here. Locations, especially those in Blackreach, are much better and more naturally illuminated – there are no longer moments when we walk in total darkness, even though the cave walls are covered with glowing mushrooms.

Loading screens are also slightly faster than in previous versions, and interestingly, they have been enriched with new descriptions and graphics that not only make the waiting time more enjoyable, but also provide a lot of useful information for the game. The game in this version also crashes and “bugs” much less.

As for the Special Edition, changes have already been made compared to earlier editions. This game can boast more frames per second, faster loading screens, and improved graphics compared to Skyrim from 2011.

As mentioned earlier, the world already looked much better in the Special Edition, and the game was then a pleasant experience.

Content and Features Face-Off – Mods and Community Enhancements

As I mentioned earlier, the Anniversary Edition opens up various new quests, equipment, and many other elements for players, thanks to the 74 mod DLCs from the Creation Club. These add-ons complement the game with over 500 new elements.

They enrich the gameplay with numerous new questlines (such as the lengthy Saints and Seducers quest), locations (several places known from Oblivion or Morrowind), spells, books, many new weapons (like my personal favourite – the Bow of Shadows providing invisibility effect), previously unknown NPCs, powerful dragons, new houses, new mounts (unicorn!), valiant companion animals, and powerful armor and accessories (such as backpacks, increasing inventory capacity by 75). Additionally, more mods can be downloaded.

In the case of Skyrim Special Edition, there was no additional content, but this game allowed the use of mods on consoles, enabling players to independently download and install selected add-ons, such as graphical enhancements, FPS boosters, or new weapons and armor.

Personal Verdict and Recommendations

For me, in the comparison between Skyrim Legendary Edition vs. Anniversary Edition, the version released in 2021 unquestionably wins. The amount of new features this edition offers, the additional hours of gameplay it provides, and how much it expands the base content personally make me consider it the best, most comprehensive and complete edition of all.

Despite completing the main story and expansions, I intend to spend more time in this edition or start a new adventure (perhaps not as a stealth archer this time… who am I kidding? Lol). It’s a title that allows experienced players to rediscover the game and is a great treat for those who, in addition to the main questline, simply love to explore and complete minor objectives.

However, I believe the Special Edition also deserves attention from players. This title is a great choice for those who prefer to focus on the story told in the basic version and expansions, without unnecessary “enhancements” and, in fact, gameplay “easements.”

It cannot be denied that while the Anniversary Edition introduces new, more formidable enemies, it also gives us the opportunity to use more powerful spells, weapons, better armor, and accessories that add helpful effects to the gameplay. The Special Edition focuses on what is most important in this game – developing the vast lore.

Conclusion: The Legacy of Skyrim

And since we’re talking about lore… Skyrim is the fifth part of The Elder Scrolls saga, which began in 1994. With each subsequent installment, the creators delved deeper into their incredibly rich, fantastical world. Into a universe that gave us powerful emperors, omnipotent Daedra, the mystery of the disappearance of the Dwemer, and the enigmatic Elder Scrolls.

Although after the release of Skyrim, another installment – TES: Online, an MMO, was released, it did not attract fans as much as its predecessor. As mentioned earlier, Skyrim is a game that, despite over a decade since its release, continues to attract interest, and its new editions literally sell out immediately.

Will we see another reissue of TES V, or will the future bring us the long-awaited The Elder Scrolls VI? Only time will tell. Unofficial rumors, however, suggest that Bethesda, with Todd Howard at the helm, is quietly preparing for the development of another installment. Especially since Skyrim has not been surpassed even by the new, epic Starfield.

Importantly, there are also rumors of the release of Oblivion on a new engine, as such a project leaked online a few months ago – but officially, as a fan creation.