You’d better believe it. The Special Edition has dropped. But the OG Skyrim was released back in 2011, and everybody loved it to bits. I (and probably you) have played a lot of Skyrim. Nothing else on my Steam library even comes close to matching it on time played.
Now I look at my level 105 Dragonborn and feel like I’ve overcome every challenge, gained every artifact I wanted, shouted myself hoarse and stolen every sweetroll. I longed for the excuse of an arrow to the knee to justify an easy retirement.
It’s clear that, for me, Skyrim is played out. To get the most out of my free Special Edition, I’m going to have to try something different. For the benefit of other veterans looking to spice up their playthrough of the Special Edition, I can recommend the following ways to mix things up a bit.
Single Class Playthroughs
In my first Skyrim playthrough I wanted to experience everything I could for my main hero. That meant that this humble orc prisoner eventually became the Harbinger of the Companions, Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, Guildmaster of Thieves and Listener of the Dark Brotherhood. Somewhat implausibly, he had done all this while rising through the ranks of the Imperial Legion, as well as completing the main question and then some.
My Dragonborn had developed an impressive skill-set to live up to his titles – dispatching enemies with sword, spell, or stealth all became ridiculously easy, and just a matter of my fancy at the time.
For a more lore-friendly and challenging game, I’d recommend picking a class and sticking with it. Go for warrior, mage, thief or assassin, do your questline using only skills suited to your class. You’ll end up with a less bland, more distinctive character, challenging gameplay and a more immersive RP experience.
f you’re tired of playing the hero, there’s more than one way to Skyrim. You’ve already played the Dragonborn, so why not try being somebody else? The rise of the dragons can actually be removed by mods, or simply by putting off that initial trip to Whiterun and not triggering that first dragon attack. Free of your destiny, you’re free pursue your professional dreams. Why not try:
- Itinerant potato-picker
- Food Vendor
- Humble Legionnaire/Patriotic Stormcloak
Pick your profession, sell your wares and practice your trade until you can achieve the classic Imperial dream of a house, spouse and 2.4 adopted children. Or go rogue and join the Forsworn in the Reach, living in cave and slaying those Nord occupiers where you find them.
Snag yourself some guard armor and go patrolling in Riften putting down thieves. The Dragonborn’s been all over Skyrim, but has he really ever lived there, man?
Humble Sidekick Playthrough
This one’s a little tricky. Build your Dragonborn completely around non-offensive skills, like stealth, crafting skills, or restoration and illusion magic. Then pick a follower. Your job is now to make that follower the hero of the story. Let Lydia or Borgakh or any of the others have their day in the sun.
The follower does all the fighting, while you subtly help out from behind the scenes with buffs and non-damaging spells. When the townsfolk gather round and gasp, you slink off into the shadows and imagine their awe directed at Aela instead. The Humble Sidekick cares not for the glory.
You can die many a hero’s death in Skyrim, but no one sings songs about the Nord who died from hypothermia, food poisoning or starvation. Survival mode uses a combo of mods like Frostfall for weather and various mods to force the impudent Dragonborn to need to eat, drink, sleep like a regular person. It’s like Skyrim on ultra-hard, once possible only with mods.
It turns a regular jaunt from one village to another into an epic struggle against the elements, with the player needing to manage critical resources. I like to combine it with a profession playthrough as detailed above, playing an Orc hunter bringing food to his stronghold, or a skooma mule taking his wares to the Khajit.
A variant on the class playthrough, the monk ramps up difficulty by roleplaying a class that the game isn’t really built for, but looks awesome. You’re a monk, but not the manuscript-copying, polyphonic chanting kind. Nope, you’re a Dungeons and Dragons style martial arts monk, and you’re going to punch the world-eating dragons to death.
This means the bare minimum of armor, but you might want to get your smithing skills up so you can toughen up that leather. And it means no weapons, so you’re limited to the damage you can do with your fists. And this isn’t much, even if you’re enough of a wuss to select an Argonian or Khajit character. It’s a long, hard road to the top taking the two fisted path. But it’s worth it, because unarmed finishing moves are as rad as hell.
I think it’s definitely going to be the monk for my first Skyrim: Special Edition playthrough. What about you?
Any of you tempted to try some of these playstyles? Or do you have your own ways of bringing new life to Skyrim?
This article originally appeared on video games magazine site NowLoading.co. The site is no longer online, but I’ve uploaded a selection of articles from my time as a staff writer there (2016-2017) here as portfolio samples.