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Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: PC Performance, Benchmarked

Can Your PC Handle The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?

The Elder Scrolls series of role-playing games is distinguished with a tradition of pushing PC graphics past contemporary expectations. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind amazed players back in 2002, and was one of the first games to use pixel shaders for realistic water effects, along with hardware-accelerated tessellation, a feature that only went mainstream when it was incorporated into DirectX 11. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion took visual quality up several notches, but also completely redefined what a rich, detailed, and open virtual world could aspire to be.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lands at our feet with big expectations to satisfy. How do Bethesda’s developers push the envelope in the series' most recent chapter?

Time To Crack Open Another Elder Scroll, Don’t You Think?

You may be surprised to learn that the fifth Elder Scrolls installment doesn’t really push graphics much further than Oblivion, despite the fact that it centers on a new engine. The Creation Engine, as it's called, does facilitate improved detail, better lighting, and more realistic character animation. But, at the end of the day, Skyrim is clearly cut from the same cloth as its predecessor. Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 are in different leagues when it comes to visual fidelity.

Nice, but Crysis 3 it is not.

So, if the studio didn’t concentrate on graphics, what was its focus?

When Skyrim is compared to Oblivion, it’s clear that the goal was to make a great game better. Everything is incrementally improved: the narrative is more engrossing, skill progression makes more sense, crafting is expanded, the game interface is more accessible, level scaling isn’t as ridiculous as it was in Oblivion, and combat is more engaging. It’s all smoother, better-designed, and more intuitive. It’s basically Oblivion, refined.

Beautiful view. Bethesda knows how to craft a landscape.

In fact, that might be the worst thing we can say about Skyrim. The feel of the game is so similar to its predecessor that it could have been sold as an expansion and I wouldn’t have thought twice. To clarify, I’m not saying the game is a ripoff; I think it’s worth every penny of the asking price. But it doesn’t feel like a new game. It feels like I'm playing Oblivion again. That’s really not a bad thing. Oblivion was good enough to claim more hours of my life than I care to calculate. In short, there's a winning formula in place, and Bethesda didn’t mess with it much.

Mead, elk, and a potato for $4.99

I could spend all day going over the refinements that Skyrim introduces, but this is a performance analysis, not a game review. Let’s face it: if you’re an Oblivion fan, you’re going to give Skyrim a try no matter what I say. So, have fun discovering the nuances when you dig in.

Congrats, you reached 27! I'm level 9000.

Let’s look at the graphics options and performance. That's why you're here, right?

  • xx12amanxx
    Ive been a fan of the Elderscroll series for years i look forward to playing this!
    Reply
  • Jarmo
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    Reply
  • lunyone
    A bit disappointing to see the 2 threads thing, no doubt the console versions are much better optimized.
    Looks like I'm both CPU and GPU limited with Phenom x4 and ATI 4870.
    Well with a Athlon II x3 450 and an AMD 4850 512mb GPU w/6 gb's of DDR2 it seems to work fine. The game has picked "Ultra" settings when launching the game the first time. I haven't seen all of the settings that the game has selected, but the game looks pretty good and is running quite well. I haven't run any FRAPS on it, but it seems to be about 30-40 FPS, from what I can tell, which is good enough for me :)
    Reply
  • lunyone
    Oh and forgot to mention that the game is running at 1920 x 1080 resolution (unless the game adjusted to something different). I'm trying to play and post, so I'm a bit distracted to say the least. I'll post back if something changes :)
    Reply
  • computadoro
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    9522636 said:
    O well, was hoping to see the 560ti and 6950 tested as those are the two cards I was going to choose between.

    Just look at 6850/GTX460 and 6970/GTX 570. The 560 Ti and 6950 will be in the middle of those, closer to the higher end though.
    Reply
  • Swolern
    Bethesda disappoints PC gamers again! It's very sad that Bethesda chooses to optimize the consoles and leaves PC with a basic port with a little extra detail. I'm not saying it's not a great game because it is, but the thought of what it could have been if Bethesda put a little extra effort into the PC makes me sick!
    Reply
  • Swolern
    Bethesda=Activision. Dice blows em both away!
    Reply
  • koogco
    I havent played this yet, due to a pending CPU upgrade (somehow i doubt my athlon x2 5600+ (2,8ghz) is enough for much.
    But even if this game doesn't quite push the top cards, you gotta commend them for the great scaling! Some of the worst console ports doesn't even HAVE graphics settings, in other games the settings make little difference in the hardware needed, and based on these screenshots (if rather small, larger ones please!) the game looks almost as good if you turn the settings down some.
    Reply
  • Man looks really castrated so it can work on xbox/ps3. Too bad, 5 year old graphics are lame.
    Reply