The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s release was a watershed moment for video games. Its massive open world, filled with quests, monsters, and dragons was refreshing and addicting to millions of players. While many longtime series fans might criticize it for toning down the deeper elements of past Elder Scrolls games, there’s no denying that Skyrim has some magic to it, offering a world that begs to be explored for hundreds of hours. With the launch of the Nintendo Switch version players can now take that huge adventure anywhere they want, and Bethesda tossed a few extra on top for good measure. But like other Switch ports, there’s some big caveats to keep in mind.
Honestly, six years after it first debuted, there’s little else to be said about Skyrim that hasn’t already. The game’s story is fairly simple. Dragons are invading the world of Tamriel and it’s up to you, the legendary Dragonborn, to stop them. Of course, you won’t do this unless you really stick close to the less than twenty hour main plot. Instead all of your time will be spent wandering the wilderness, completing side quests, or just exploring the many nooks and crannies of the magnificently crafted world that Bethesda put together.
Millions of players have put hundreds or even thousands of hours into this game, and for good reason. The cold, icy expanses of Skyrim are glorious to behold, and it’s one of the few games to live up to the “see that mountain? You can go there” promise. You’ll get lost for hours, and love every minute of it, even if you aren’t directly working on any of the hundreds of quests offered. Yes, the game is simpler than its predecessors in many ways, with more streamlined missions that don’t quite live up sometimes. But the world is amazing and the game, when taken as a whole, is simply magnificent.
It’s truly a surreal experience to have Skyrim at your fingertips at any time.
So, what we’re seeing here, like we saw with DOOM for Switch, is an amazing, fantastic game being ported to Nintendo’s console/handheld hybrid. And just like that game we see the same benefits and drawbacks. The biggest benefit is obvious. This is the full featured version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and you can literally take it anywhere you want. Are you in the middle of a quest at home and need to head out? Grab your Switch and play in the car. Get the itch to explore a Dwemer cave while out at the park? Pull your Switch out of your bag (no one has pockets that big, right?) and play for a few hours.
It’s truly a surreal experience to have Skyrim at your fingertips at any time. Perhaps some laptops could do it before, but this just has an extra bit of magic to it. And Bethesda threw in some extra bonuses to make the Switch version stand out from even that. Either via quests or amiibo there’s a really cool set of Zelda themed items in Skyrim for Switch, and players will definitely want to procure them all. Motion controls have also been put in, though this isn’t quite as good an addition.
You can turn them off and play like normal, so they are no detriment to the game’s experience at all. However, the motion controls will likely be ignored by most players, as they don’t really feel that responsive. Swinging your sword works fine, unless you are dual wielding, in which case attacks can get confused. Sometimes the sensors are a bit too sensitive, with your character flailing his arms at slight movements that weren’t meant to trigger an attack. Defending is difficult, making shields less useful. Motion aiming isn’t too bad though, so bow and arrow users might end up using this a lot more than other players.
Now the problem, which is the exact same as other Switch ports. This is far from the best that Skyrim has looked or run. There’s no major issues, and the game actually works far better than I anticipated, but the graphics are toned down in a number of ways. Textures are muddier, the world is less vibrant and alive, and draw distance is reduced. It’s not a major shift as far as I can tell, but if you own the game’s Special Edition on PC, PS4, or Xbox One then this is a significant step down.
Mods are also gone from this release, and with Nintendo’s track record of lagging behind in online features, it’s likely they’ll never appear. Mods have been a major reason for players to spend so much time in Skyrim, so their loss is hard felt for supporters of the feature and community. Of course, this also means players won’t suffer the microtransaction heavy Bethesda Creation Club, but the lack of content is unfortunate.
Aside from some questionable control choices, which can be modified via rebinding, those are pretty much the only downsides to getting Skyrim for Nintendo Switch. That should impress almost anyone, as this is a fairly new console and it is far less powerful than its contemporaries. It’s really an interesting thing to be playing the full Skyrim experience, and be able to pop the Switch out of its dock to continue the adventure on the go. Maybe it’s not enough to double dip on this six year old game, but if that ability does intrigue you then Skyrim for Switch is definitely worth looking at.
But this is a six year old game. The joke lately has been that Bethesda is sticking Skyrim onto anything that can run it. There’s something to that joke, as almost anyone who has even a passing interest in the game likely has purchased it somewhere else, and for far less than the full $60 that Bethesda is charging this time around. There’s also a reason that the game is pushed to so many platforms and in so many ways. It’s a good game, even this far after release. It’s no longer the totally unique and revolutionary experience that it once was, but it still has a lot to offer. There’s nostalgia for one, and a sense of familiarity that is a big draw for many. And if you’ve never played Skyrim before then this is a fine way to do so for the first time.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim for Nintendo Switch sells itself on its name alone. It’s Skyrim…for Nintendo Switch. Are there some additions? Sure, but nothing that changes that core experience. And that core experience is what you’re getting, but with the ability to take it wherever, whenever. If that is worth $60 to you then this is a must-buy. If you’ve never played Skyrim then this is definitely a fine way to play it. If you have the game in any of its other modern forms then that’s probably a better way to play. But this is still an amazing achievement and shows the power of the Switch for AAA gaming, even if it’s a six year old title.