The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim on Switch review: Yet another reason to buy a Switch
You could easily shrug off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim arrival on the Nintendo Switch as an inevitability. Since its release in 2011, Bethesda has seemingly tried to bring its fantasy epic to every platform under the sun. Honestly, with enhanced editions coming to PS4 and Xbox One in late 2016, along with a VR edition landing later this year and a flurry of announcements at the same time, it feels like Skyrim is absolutely everywhere.
However, I like to think that, for the Nintendo Switch version of Skyrim, Bethesda decided to resurrect its most popular Elder Scrolls title just to prove that it could take its fantasy epic and make it a portable game. As with Doom and L.A. Noire, Skyrim has made the transition seamlessly and, in many ways, is all the better for being on Switch.
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim for Switch review: You’ve got to be Dovahkiidding me
Now, I have a confession to make. I’ve never enjoyed Skyrim’s single-player story. Its tale of the mythical dragon-speaking Dovahkiin reappearing to free the Nord homeland of Skyrim from the grip of the Tamriel Empire may sound cool but, in reality, it’s dreadfully dull.
Six years on, and all the visual polish in the world can’t make it any more interesting for me. Even with its current parallels to Brexit and the state of today’s society, combined with the allure of portability, Skyrim’s story is no better. However, I’m happy to concede I’m in the minority.
Thankfully, Skyrim is so much more than just a story. It’s a living, breathing fantasy world with huge amounts to see and do. It’s not quite as meticulously crafted as The Witcher III, but Skyrim did come first and it’s hard to dispute the sheer amount of content on offer. Even if you totally ignore the main questline – which I do every time – there are still hundreds of hours of game to sink your teeth into and a multitude of reasons to come back and do it all again.[gallery:7]
Skyrim represents a journey that’s as big as – if not bigger than – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That’s a daunting proposition, especially when Super Mario Odyssey and upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles 2 are both sizeable adventures in their own right. Thanks to Breath of the Wild we already know a game of this size and scope works wonderfully on Switch but the real feat is how Bethesda has managed to make Skyrim work so well on Nintendo’s seemingly underpowered console.
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim for Switch review: A feature-filled portable fantasy epic
To get Skyrim running, Bethesda has clearly had to dial back a few of it’s more ambitious settings. It still looks better than what you’d find on the PS3 and Xbox 360 titles, but it can’t compare with the enhanced releases on PS4 and Xbox One. But that’s not to say this isn’t a good looking game – far from it.
Draw distance has been significantly reduced compared with that of previous versions and frame rate appears to hover around the 30fps mark, rarely going much higher but occasionally dipping below. Impressively, these drops don’t tend to occur during dragon battles as you might expect, nor when wandering around busy settlements. Instead, it’s when there’s a lot of environmental lighting for the console to handle, alongside the likes of waterfalls and when the enemy count rises above a handful. It also seems to struggle a little more in TV mode but, again, nothing that’s worth really shouting home about beyond the aforementioned issues.
These occasional blips are more than worth it for a game as big and beautiful as Skyrim. Bethesda hasn’t just ported what it had before either. It may not look as spectacular as on Xbox One and PS4, but it still borrows a lot from those versions of the game. It has the increased foliage and texture detail and the all-new lighting engine and this brings the land of Skyrim to life.
It’s also not a boiled-down version of The Elder Scrolls. It contains all of the expansions and extra content, as well as a suite of Switch-specific features that, while not revolutionary, add a nice new way to play. Using the Joy-Con’s motion controls you can block blows with a shield and take swipes with your sword by flicking the controller up or swiping it from side to side. You can also take aim with a bow and arrow but, just like sword fights, this is not as intuitive as you might think. But if you fancy playing it a different way, you can; which is nice.
Support for the Joy-Cons’ HD Rumble is also a welcome addition, reacting when you take and land blows and when interacting with the world. Again, it’s nothing major but does add an extra layer of immersion you don’t find in other versions.
There’s also Amiibo support that grants you a random chest drop. It can only be used every 24 hours but, if you have any Legend of Zelda Amiibos you’ll be able to unlock a rather fetching Breath of the Wild tunic, Hylian Shield and the almighty Master Sword.[gallery:4]
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim for Switch review: Verdict
Anyone who’s had to read my various Switch reviews knows the drill by now. It may not be as glossy or smooth as last year’s enhanced versions of Skyrim, but The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Switch works like an absolute dream on Nintendo’s innovative console.
Being able to explore the vast land of Skyrim and embark on an epic journey, playing as any character you please, any way you want, wherever you want, is incredible. Just as when you first emerge from the cave at the start of Breath of the Wild and see just how vast the world you can play in is, the sheer scale of Skyrim on the go is what impresses the most; it definitely worth enduring the handful of shortcomings it does have.
In fact, the only sore point about Bethesda’s remastering for Switch is its price: £40 may not seem much for the sheer amount of content Bethesda has rammed into just 14GB of storage space, but for a title that’s six years old, and has already been re-released on other consoles for less, it’s lot to ask. Bethesda titles do tend to have fairly hefty price cuts shortly after release, though, so perhaps the same will happen here.
Regardless of what happens, Skyrim on Switch is yet another feat of brilliant game adaptation. It’s also another reason to own a Switch and as just one look at the best Switch games of 2017 will tell you, if you haven’t bought one already, you’re fast running out of excuses.