Skyrim Fan Remakes Whiterun In Unreal Engine 5 And It’s Amazing

whiterun skyrim
The Elder Scrolls Part V: Skyrim came out on November 11th, 2011. It was released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PCs, where the Sandy Bridge Core i7-2700K was the fastest CPU you could pair with a brand-new GeForce GTX 580 or Radeon HD 6970 GPU. It wouldn't be surprising for a new PC at that time to have 1GB of RAM, and even that dwarfed the 512MB of memory available on the game consoles.

The first two Elder Scrolls games made heavy use of procedural generation resulting in a lot of extremely samey environments, but ever since Bethesda abandoned that technique in favor of detailed hand-crafted locales with TES3: Morrowind, they've had a much smaller scale to the world and settlements than the intended "reality" of the fictional world of Tamriel, all due to the limitations of hardware and storage space.

overhead view

But what if we could see Skyrim as it would "really" be if it were an actual place? That's the concept behind the latest Unreal Engine 5-based remake, created by professional environment artist Leo Torres in his free time over the course of a month. This demo isn't playable, of course; it's really more of a tech demo than anything.

whiterun entrance
This familiar view at the entrance to the city is shown twice in the trailer.

Even still, it's a tantalizing glimpse at what could be for the next Elder Scrolls game. All of the landmarks of Whiterun are there—the Drunken Huntsman shop and Warmaiden's smithy across the path, the massive Dragonsreach castle and the Jorrvaskr, the guild hall of the Companions. Even the statue of Talos near the central Gildergreen Tree is faithfully represented.

gildergreen tree

Torres says that the purpose of this project was simply to "visualize a more real-life scale to Skyrim," in particular the holds and cities. Any given screenshot of Skyrim's wilderness is reasonably convincing—as you can't tell how small the wild areas actually are in a screenshot—but the towns really stick out in the modern day as being unrealistically small, especially considering the way NPCs and books talk about them.

talos statue

The artist worked off historical sources for population numbers in medieval Scandinavia to come up with a population figure of between 9,000 and 12,000 people for the hold of Whiterun. He says that he initially thought it could be as high as 30,000 but figured that Skyrim's harsh climate as well as the constant conflicts and bandit attacks would keep population figures lower.


Despite how cool this is, Torres admits that you might not actually want something this big in a real game for playability reasons, to say nothing of how much work it makes for the artists. It took him a month to create this scripted cinematic trailer with nothing but terrain and structures—no people and few objects—and that's while working with "a mix of third-party models and custom assets modeled in Blender."

The cinematic, including the scripted flyby camera as well as the first-person walk-through, were rendered on a GeForce RTX 3060 Ti in real time, at 30 FPS. What makes this kind of thing possible are the geometry and lighting instancing technologies in Unreal Engine 5, known as Nanite and Lumen, respectively. These same technologies are also what made The Matrix Awakens and the recent footage from Unrecord so impressive.

Hopefully we start to see some games showing off Unreal Engine's cutting-edge tech, but we may have to wait a few years for Sony and Microsoft to release new console hardware. While PC gaming is huge, the audience just isn't there for AAA developers to target the PC exclusively with releases that have the kind of budget something like this would require. Still, the future looks bright for open world games. Here's looking forward to TES 6!