“Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes…”
Of all the games released on the Nintendo switch, the one I find myself putting more hours into than any other is Bethesda’s Skyrim. I’ve played it before – many, many times across multiple platforms. But the switch version of the game might just be my favorite incarnation of the classic RPG yet…
If you’re yet to play the switch version of the game, you’re probably thinking what could this version of Skyrim offer that the 3 million other versions of the game couldn’t? Well it’s certainly not the janky motion controls tacked on to the switch version. They’re fun for all of 5 minutes. And it’s not the Xbox 360 level graphics that the switch version boasts (and that’s being generous). And it’s definitely not the fact that the version of Skyrim on the switch is the bog-standard, vanilla, 2011 version (abiet with all the subsequent DLC) with no mods allowed. The one thing the switch port of Skyrim has that deems it a must buy is simply it’s portability. It doesn’t sound like much, especially if, like me, you’ve put 1000’s of hours into the game and it’s DLC’s across all of it’s various console ports. But the ability to play Skyrim on the move, on the bus, in bed, during your breaks on a night shift (something I’ve been doing) revolutionises a 9 year old game into what feels like a mostly new experience.
The game is the same old Skyrim, quirks and all. There doesn’t seem any signs that the longstanding problems like quest bugs and glitches have been solved but I’ve not yet ran into any of the major problems which cropped up on the first wave of editions back in 2011. However, with this being the vanilla base game, I wouldn’t rule out them making an appearance. As I previously mentioned, the graphics aren’t up to much. In fact the switch version of Skyrim probably has the worst graphics of all versions. This is especially noticeable in the games draw distance, something it seems the developers try to compensate for with a strange, light fog over the games vistas, perhaps to hide it’s shortcomings. But having said all of this, the game still remains gorgeous to look at; beautiful landscapes lead to creepy caverns and caves and wonderful monster designs. The city-scapes are occasionally sub-par but they always have been, as are some of the textures (namely the gross faces). This is another area where the small screen becomes a plus as shrinking the game down to a 6.2 inch screen (or 5.5 inch, if you’re playing on the Nintendo Switch Lite) hides most of the the games jagged edges. And performance wise, the handheld mode always gives a smooth 30fps, 720p experience, with very little slowdown.
I’m not going to try and sell you too much on the mechanics of the game itself; Skyrim follows the classic Bethesda formula for better or for worse. The quest-lines will be depressingly black and white to those used to the complex morality of a game such as The Witcher 3. It’s often a case of going from A to B, killing baddies at B, finding a quest item, and then returning to A. But against all odds, the game works. It might be nearly a decade old (and often feels it too) but the writing still holds up, as does the quest design and combat. Even in the vanilla base game, all forms of combat more or less work. On my play-through, I opted for one handed melee weapons and the much-maligned destruction magic. Even this held up surprisingly well. Problems with the game design and areas where the game shows its age are often hidden by the fact that I was sat playing Skyrim on what amounts to a small tablet.
It’s a joyous feeling to be able to take you adventure where ever you go. I might not want to return home from a long shift to sit on my Xbox and play Skyrim again but to crawl into bed and play it, or to play it on public transport or on a break at work completely changes the experience. Even the game’s more tedious moments (dwemer ruins anyone?) are overshadowed by the novelty of playing on the go. For seasoned Skyrim players I’d recommend purchasing it on the Switch, although perhaps at a reduced price on the Nintendo store. For new players or those who haven’t played in a while however, Skyrim on the switch should be at the top of your buy list. The game shows it’s age in the combat and graphics and occasionally succumbs to Bethesda’s typical repetive quest design. But all of this is overshadowed by the beauty of the Nintendo Switch and it’s portability.
Reviewed by Tom