Skyrim walking through a village.

How Bethesda Ruined Skyrim: Special Edition’s Audio

Sure, the remastered Skyrim looks stunning, but the audio is noticeably worse than the original. We know why.

Skyrim is still the yardstick by which all open world RPGs are measured. The pure scope of the adventure has yet to be surpassed, and with further visual enhancements, Skyrim Special Edition certainly has the video game industry on the edge of their collective seats.

Unfortunately, while the graphics are substantially improved, the experience is significantly worse thanks to the drab audio. But, why? The audio is the same as released with the original five years ago – why is it so bad?

Redditor LasurArkinshade provided an explanation, and it’s apparently due to how Bethesda has converted the sound assets this time:

“The vanilla game has sound assets (other than music and voiceover) in uncompressed .wav format. The Special Edition has the sound assets all in (very aggressively compressed) .xwm format, which is a compressed sound format designed for games. This isn’t so bad, necessarily—it’s possible to compress audio to .xwm without significant quality degradation unless you crank the compression way up to insane levels.”

So, that’s not so bad, right?

“What did Bethesda do? They cranked the compression way up to insane levels.”

It’s a shame that, for the sake of a few extra gigabytes of data, Bethesda have ruined one of the fundamental pillars in the remaster of one of the most successful games in video game history.

Fortunately, modders are already at work to remedy the situation with the original sound files.