I’m not yet done with my first official playthrough of the Anniversary Edition of Skyrim, but I’m close enough to the end of it at this point that I feel like getting some thoughts down about the AE in general is now a thing I can do. So here are those thoughts!
All of this so far is entirely based upon Shenner’s playthrough, as well, even though Faanshi’s playthrough now has access to AE content. I may have additional thoughts later about the AE specifically on the Switch. For now, though, I’m focusing on the experience of playing on the PC and Deck with Shenner’s game.
Deets behind the fold.
Best plot additions
Saints and Sinners, The Cause, and Ghosts of the Tribunal are all good strong solid plotlines, and gave me a bunch of new enjoyment to layer into what had become a standard pattern for Skyrim playthroughs with me. For these plots alone, I was glad to have bought the AE.
Honorable mention should go to the plotline involved with the Fishing content, which actually had plot, which I did not expect going in!
And I’ll give additional honorable mention to the interconnected “get this particular set of armor” quests all connected to the Crimson Dirks. I still kind of wish that that overall plotline would have had a bit more heft to it (i.e., that there would have been significance to your wiping out the Crimson Dirks completely). But I still liked that it made an attempt.
Other than that, as I’ve written in prior posts, I found it weird that a lot of the new plot content very much relied upon giving you information via characters handing you notes rather than directly talking to you. Or, alternately, via your finding journals on dead characters. I get that this was to avoid having to record actual new voice lines, especially for established characters, which would have been expensive beyond the means of just about all modders.
I think that under the circumstances, the AE plots did the best they could with those constraints. But they’re still constraints to watch out for, for any Skyrim player who wants to explore this content.
And speaking of Fishing
I got way more into this than I thought I would when I first started Shenner’s playthrough! It helped a lot that the two parallel Fishing quest lines had escalating stakes, and kept giving good rewards for your actually taking the time to fish.
I found it kind of odd that the Fishing content also added Vagrant mage garb, but on the other hand, I think the Vagrant robe, boots, and hood looked good. I didn’t use them much just because Shenner isn’t a mage-emphasis character. But I think I’ll appreciate this more in later playthroughs.
Favorite new followers
Given that I’ve had Rulnik and Gogh following Shenner for most of her playthrough, I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’ve found both of them to be highly entertaining followers. Both of them had good plots involved with them as well.
Favorite new mounts
The AE gives you a frigging unicorn as a ridable mount. A unicorn that’s unkillable.
I love this to pieces. And at some point will eventually try to acquire the other horses you can get via the Wild Horses addition in the AE. But the unicorn alone makes me love that whole thing. <3 It makes having a horse in Skyrim actually viable. And worth it!
Honorable mention to the conjurable Daedric horse, though I think that as far as conjurable horses go, my heart still belongs to Arvak. 😉
Favorite new houses
I’m ambivalent here, honestly! I like collecting houses in Skyrim, it’s fun, but the AE content adds a lot of new houses. And I kind of feel like it went a little overboard. Here are the new houses I’ve picked up in Shenner’s playthrough:
- Tundra Homestead
- Bloodchill Manor
- Shadowfoot Sanctum
- Dead Man’s Dread
- Goldenhills Plantation
Plus, I know there are a couple more houses I haven’t picked up with Shenner. This pretty much doubles the number of residences you can pick up playing vanilla Skyrim, which was already a stupidly large number of houses. And this exacerbates vanilla Skyrim’s problem of giving you so many houses that you cannot possibly use them all except as places to stash your loot, and then you keep losing track of where you put things. At least, you do if you’re me!
Of the new homes, the only ones I’ve regularly used or at least visited are Hendraheim, Bloodchill Manor, and Goldenhills.
I feel like Shadowfoot Sanctum would be a home I’d use a lot more with a thief character, but Shenner’s not in the Guild, so.
Tundra Homestead is pretty, but kind of pointless given its proximity to Whiterun, which already contains a perfectly decent starter home in Breezehome.
Dead Man’s Dread gets a stupendously high number of points for coolness of concept. But then squanders most of them for being stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the northern Sea of Ghosts.
Hendraheim and Bloodchill Manor wound up being the most useful to me since they had a large amount of weapons racks and armor mannequins, as well as places to display artifacts. (Shadowfoot Sanctum likewise has that, but see previous commentary re: not entirely convenient for a character who isn’t in the Thieves Guild.)
But Goldenhills Plantation, in addition to having a nice little plot associated with acquiring it, is an income generator. So that’s a very useful thing to have. Would recommend getting this farm to other players, just for that alone.
Favorite new armor
There is a ton of new armor to be had in the AE, and I do appreciate that variety. Most of it is armor I didn’t actually care to bother to wear, but I did appreciate the interconnected plots involved with the Crimson Dirks. Here, though, like with the houses, I feel like there’s almost an embarrassment of riches. Especially given that the studded dragonscale armor is ridiculously easy to get, even if you’re a low-level character.
Here are my favorites of the new armor sets:
Spell Knight: This set wins for three major advantages:
- Good plot involved to get it.
- Three craftable variants, all of which look good.
- It’s actually a decent looking heavy armor, and definitely the best looking of any iron or steel armor sets I’ve seen in the game. Also best looking ebony as well. And the enchanted sets you can get have splendid buffs on them.
Remnant: This set’s plot was kind of thin in my opinion. But the armor itself was colorful and distinctive, and I appreciated wearing it for a while before I was able to upgrade to better stuff!
Leather Scout: This is an excellent lower tier armor, since it’s craftable right out of the gate, whether or not you run the quest to get the enchanted set. And it’s a bit better than standard Leather Armor, too.
Studded Dragonscale: I note this one as a favorite even though I have to acknowledge that it’s stupidly easy to get, even as a lower level character. Plus, it shows up as random loot in the world way more often than vanilla dragonscale does, which kind of diminishes the satisfaction of reaching 100 on your Smithing and being able to actually craft Dragon armor yourself.
Netch Leather: This was some of my favorite new armor available on Solstheim, and I liked it not only for the armor itself being appropriate to the island, but also for amusing additional riekling plot content. <3
I should note here that while they don’t really count as armor, the new mage robes that double up on which schools of magic they boost you in are kind of cool. I think the base design of these is good, but I would have liked it better if they hadn’t made all the skill tiers of the robes look the same. As it happened, the Apprentice, Adept, and Master tier robes all looked identical and I feel like they shouldn’t.
Again, though, this is a thing I think I’ll appreciate more with a more magic-focused character. The robes do look cool.
Favorite new weapon
No question in my mind about this: my favorite new weapon brought in by the AE is the Bow of Shadows. I love, love, love me some Bow of Shadows. I’ll love it even more when I play another thief character who can get it. 😀
I like the additional variety of crossbows brought in, particularly given that you can get Enhanced Ebony and Enhanced Elven crossbows without too much trouble if you hit the right bandit hideout. But that said, those crossbows also take a little something away from the ability to learn to make Enhanced Dwarven crossbows in Dawnguard, not to mention the exploding crossbow bolts.
Things I am ambivalent about
Neutral to meh about the following things:
- The entire Pets of Skyrim plotline. As I’ve written in Shenner’s playthrough posts, most of the pets seem kind of pointless to me, and I’ve stuffed every single pet I’ve acquired into various houses so I wouldn’t have to have them following me around. By extension, I haven’t bothered to pick up a couple of pets that seem extra pointless to me, such as the Dwarven Armored Mudcrab, or the Nix-Hound.
- The Plague of the Dead plotline, which brings zombies to Skyrim. I like a good zombie plot but I don’t much see the point of having free-roaming zombies in a game that has draugr-infested tombs to run already. Especially given that the zombies don’t actually, y’know, turn other people into zombies, which is the whole point of a zombie plague! So they just wind up feeling like naked free-roaming draugr, really.
- Several of the weapons plots, which, even if they had decent plots to pursue to get the weapons, resulted in weapons about which I had zero fucks to give (e.g., Dawnfang and Duskfang, or Sunder and Wraithguard); some of the weapons plots I haven’t bothered to run at all, on those grounds.
- Brawling gauntlets. Don’t care. I’ve never seen a brawl situation in Skyrim where the player doesn’t eventually win, so I don’t feel like there’s much added enjoyment to those if you’re wearing spiky gauntlets that’ll do more damage to your opponent. “Oh, you want me to kick that puppy? Hold on a sec while I put on my steel-spike-toed boots.”
- The Divine Crusader plotline. While I appreciated giving a little bit of additional plot to the bandits at Four Skull Lookout, I’m not terribly interested in having armor that actively judges me.
- Backpacks. Given that I’ve gotten chronically overloaded in every single playthrough I’ve done in Skyrim to date, I should like backpacks more than I do, since they give you an additional 75 points of carry weight. I’d like them more though if they didn’t clip weirdly with whatever arrows I have on my back. Or if the backpacks that claimed to have bedrolls had actual usable bedrolls. What’s the point of looking like you’re lugging a bedroll around if you don’t actually have a usable bedroll in your inventory?
- The Gray Cowl. Again, for purposes of a boost to carry weight, I feel like I should like the Gray Cowl more than I do. It does have a good little plot associated with acquiring it. But that plot’s flaky. And plus, I feel like the Cowl would be way more interesting for a character who’s actually a thief. But I have yet to regularly use it, just because of the risk of pissing off guards if I accidentally set foot in a town while wearing it.
- Craftable staves. I’d probably care about this more if I ever used staves at all in combat. Which I haven’t. I tend to sell every staff I get, if my follower doesn’t beat me to it and snurch a staff off a fallen foe.
- New arrow types. I do a lot of archery in Skyrim and the fire, ice, and shock arrows are useful at lower tevels, but less so later. And I cannot see how anybody would bother to craft Bone arrows when for the same materials you can get a lot more Dragonbone arrows to shoot with, for only a slight reduction in damage.
Things I haven’t tried yet
- Survival Mode, which I feel like almost deserves its own playthrough
- The Forgotten Seasons plot
- Getting the Dwemer-themed home Nchuanthumz
- Several of the plots for getting new weapons, and a few of the Crimson Dirk armor plots that didn’t seem as interesting to me
- Telekinesis arrows
In general I feel like paying the additional bucks for the AE on top of regular Skyrim was worth it. It added a bunch of new content I’ve enjoyed exploring, even if some parts of it wound up impressing me less than other parts. (But that’s true of the game in general!)
So in general, I lean towards recommending it. If you’re on the fence, here are the pros and cons I see about whether you should get it.
- Lots of new plots, at least three of which are large and complex and fun
- Lots of new houses if you enjoy collecting houses
- Some excellent armor and weapons to be had
- And did I mention UNKILLABLE RIDABLE UNICORN?
- AE now available on Nintendo Switch if you’re a Switch player
- If you’ve got enough of a history with Skyrim that you’ve maxed out your willingness to give it money again, fair enough, spend your money on something else 🙂
- The AE is repackaged Creation Club content, so if you actually bought this content off the Creation Club, you have no reason to get the AE
- If you’re considering getting into modding Skyrim, you may or may not have issues running the AE, just be sure to research what mods you’re interested in and see if running the AE would break you (particularly if you’re interested in running Skyrim Together Reborn)
Depending on your tolerance for spoilers, you might consult this page on the UESP wiki which gives a good overview of all the AE content. This might help you decide whether you want to play it.
I have at least one and maybe two more Skyrim playthroughs coming, which will feature Survival Mode and possibly approaching some of the other AE content from other angles (like, say, getting Shadowfoot Sanctum as a thief). So expect me to record my opinions on that!