When the Nintendo Switch was first revealed over a year ago, one of the games featured in the trailer was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This shocked many people (including myself) because Bethesda hadn’t made a game for a Nintendo system in over 25 years. The game showcased how cool it would be to take a full length console game on the go and continue playing no matter if you were on a plane, in a car, or relaxing at home on the couch. Indeed, the dream of having a handheld Elder Scrolls game was dashed back during the PSP days when Oblivion was canned for complications unknown. Well, I’m happy to report that Skyrim for the Switch is the real deal – the full enchilada. All of the features are included here (except Mod support), even all of the DLC! If you’re looking for another epic action/adventure/RPG to keep you occupied for weeks or even months on end, charge up that Switch! You’re about to get your money’s worth.
When it debuted back in 2011, Skyrim was revolutionary. It featured a vast open world to explore with tons of caves and dungeons and quests to discover and get lost in. Part of its charm was that the game seemed so organic. One minute you could be frolicking through the forest and the next you come across a stranger in need of your help. This moment to moment storytelling gave the illusion that this was a world teeming with life and unexpected situations. Since then other games have come out that have borrowed some of those ideas and even expanded on them. Six years later I’m happy to report that the game still holds up and even if you’ve played through the game before, it’s still a ton of fun to revisit the areas and even try to tackle different quests in various ways.
Skyrim’s emergent storylines do a fantastic job of instantly grabbing your attention, giving you plenty of quests to take on in any order you see fit. In fact, for a newcomer this can be somewhat overwhelming and freeing at the same time. There’s no hand holding here, although the game nudges you and gives you waypoints on your map on where you should probably go next. It’s up to you whether or not to follow that direction or to simply go off on your own and see what you discover along the way. Early in the game you’ll come across a small village where you can take on optional adventures or simply move on to progress the main story. You see, a dragon has emerged and threatens the lives of everyone in the vicinity. You’ll need to warn the nearby leader so they can prepare defenses against the vile beast. Of course, this tale is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story. There’s oh so much more to unravel and unless you’ve played this before, expect upwards of 100 hours of playtime.
The Switch version contains some exclusive features. Besides the fact that you can take it anywhere you like in handheld mode (which is really a fantastic feature for a game like this), you also have optional motion controls. Having given them a try, I much rather play with standard joysticks and buttons, but some might enjoy the hacking and slashing. One thing I do appreciate is that if you’re using a bow you can aim with the right analog stick and also slightly move the Joy-Con (or Switch in handheld mode) for precision targeting. This is identical to how Zelda: Breath of the Wild handled it and it works flawlessly here as well. Speaking of Zelda, if you have some of the amiibo you can tap them to get access to special gear to make your character appear like Link. If you don’t have the figures, there are still ways to obtain the special crossover items. The game does support HD Rumble and it really shines when you’re trying to pick a lock. Subtle clicks can be felt as you move around the lock pick trying to find the exact spot in the tumbler to turn and unlock it. Pretty cool!
Having played Skyrim on the PS3 and more recently on the PS4, I’ve come to realize that the game isn’t perfect by any means. There are odd glitches here and there and some of the controls kind of drive me crazy. My biggest gripe with the game is its combat system. I’m just not a big fan of the sloppy melee weapons. It seems like some of my swings don’t really connect, but yet they do damage, and vice versa. The ability to switch from a first-person view to a third-person vantage point is nice, but I’m not really happy with either choice. The fighting seems so clunky and cumbersome that I miss the grace of games like Zelda. Ranged fighting with magic spells and arrows is more satisfying, but I really wish they’d adopt a sort of lock-on technology like some other games to make the combat flow better. I also wish changing weapons and was more seamless, again like Breath of the Wild where in one second I can be pounding away on an enemy with a sword and the next easily pull out the bow and arrow and strike from afar. The fewer menus I have to enter and exit the better.
Graphically Skyrim on the Switch looks pretty impressive, especially when playing in handheld mode. The game lies somewhere above PS3/360 but below PS4/Xbox One in visual fidelity. When playing docked on the TV you’ll get 900p resolution, and it looks fine. In fact, I was impressed with some of the textures, especially the bricks and some of the walls in the caves. Wide open areas look less inviting, but overall the game still manages to look good. I played mostly on the TV, but when taking it on the go it really shines on the Switch’s smaller screen. I suppose this is to be expected with the pixel density and the fact that it runs so smooth really adds to the experience. Of course, the game still features ugly as sin NPCs across the board with some really disturbing characters sprinkled throughout. Animations are still a bit stilted and if you noticed them in prior releases of the game, you won’t be surprised to see them here. Obviously the best looking versions of the game will appear on the PC, but I have to say the Switch really holds its own here and I don’t think many will be disappointed in the visuals.
Perhaps it’s because I’m so trained to expect text boxes from games on Nintendo systems, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much of the game featured voice acting. Now, some of them are better than others, but pretty much every single character has lines of dialog and the hours upon hours of voiceovers remains as impressive as it did six years ago. It was more noticeable when playing in handheld mode because I’m so used to Nintendo games (first party especially) skimping on this feature. Perhaps more than any other game to date, Skyrim exemplifies the fact that you’re truly playing a full featured console game on the go. The soundtrack is equally fantastic with majestic music, exciting battle cries, and ambient tunes matching the on-screen action to a tee.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a perfect example of how to properly port a game to the Nintendo Switch. It not only runs fantastically on the system, but there are extra features and improvements made to it as well. The game isn’t watered down in any fashion and the developers truly deserve credit for fashioning such a complex game on Nintendo’s hybrid system. The ability to play anywhere and anytime really helps with such a long adventure. The Switch’s sleep function makes it a snap to instantly resume where you left off so you can get right back into the action. It’s just so much fun to explore the world, climb a mountain, discover a lost treasure, and simply get completely consumed by the game. There’s a lot of content to digest here, and it’s well worth the price of admission, even if the combat is a bit clunky at times.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.