Since its initial launch in 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has made its way to a lot of different platforms, and it’s understandable as to why. Even by today’s standards, Skyrim is a wicked tale of fantasy folklore that holds up with ease, and that’s why it’s a personal favourite of so many. However, Skyrim on Nintendo Switch represents the first time the game can be readily played anywhere you go, thanks to the hybrid nature of the hardware. And with a near-perfect port to go with it, Skyrim Switch is everything I could have wanted: a great narrative, a massive world to explore, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of content to sink my teeth into — all on the go.
As a quick catchup, Skyrim is the fifth entry in Bethesda’s long-running Elder Scrolls series. Rife with fantasy and heavily influenced by Northern Europe’s medieval history, the game takes place in the titular Skyrim: an open-world, fantasy-driven locale that is under threat by the return of dragons. As the Dragonborn, you have to figure out why the dragons have returned, in turn eliminating them all and ridding Skyrim of the destructive beasts once and for all.Skyrim is a game that invites you to take an interest in its lore and narrative. And you’d be remiss not to. Bethesda’s fifth entry in the series is rife with fantastical characters and experiences to be had, and it is made all the better by investigating everything that’s on offer. It’s a game that prides itself on its lore, and feels immersive from the get-go, especially if you take particular interest in the genre and the setting it finds itself in.
Of course, a game of this size means there’s a lot on offer. An RPG by trade, Skyrim has so many systems at play that it can feel overwhelming at times, but the initial adjustment period is worth it when you finally come to grips with what’s on offer here. And that is, by all means, still one of the best RPG experiences you can have in gaming to date.
So what’s new in Skyrim Switch? Like many of the game’s rereleases in the past, not a lot. You get all three massive content drops included (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn), allowing you to explore some other areas around Skyrim and involve yourself in some other-worldly shenanigans. But other than that, in terms of content you won’t be exploring any new dungeons, interacting with any new characters, or experiencing any new dragons if you’ve already put hundreds of hours into the game previously.There are a few new additions specific to the Switch, though, and they do work for the most part. Motion controls have been added into the game, which allow you to control how you aim your bow in a way somewhat similar to how Breath of the Wild implemented motion. By getting your shot ready to fire with the bow, the game will automatically enable motion control, and you can move your controller (or your Switch if in handheld mode) around to aim. It’s a tiny bit more precise than using the thumbsticks, and I found it to be the most useful new inclusion of the lot.
Another new addition to the game is motion-based gestures. By moving the Switch’s Joy-Cons in specific ways, your character will equip their weapon(s), block, attack, and so on. These are all done via gesture-based movements, and for the most part they work. That said, I tried this for a little bit and then went back to the game’s normal controls. It’s a cool little gimmick, but nothing game-changing in any way.
Amiibo support has also been added, with specific support for the Zelda line of amiibo as well as amiibo from the Smash Bros range. The system works similarly to Breath of the Wild, though amiibo support is registered to the ‘shout’ function in Skyrim. Equipping the amiibo option in the menu will allow you to use your shout and then scan in an amiibo of your choosing. When it registers, you’ll heard a nostalgic Zelda-themed tone and a chest will drop from the sky, containing a bunch of random items to help you on your way. If you have Zelda amiibo, you’ll also have a chance of receiving the Champion’s Tunic, the Hyrule Shield, and/or the Master Sword, which can be used in-game.As a whole, I really do appreciate the little Switch-specific additions Bethesda have included with Skyrim Switch, though they aren’t all that meaningful in any way. Perhaps the most useful, as I stated above, is the gyro-based aiming, which is a life saver when using the bow mid-battle. The latter two feel more gimmicky and cosmetic, though they are welcomed inclusions and round out the experience.
Something that stood out to me from the get-go was that Skyrim Switch runs almost perfectly at all times. Skyrim has had issues on almost every other console its graced, and yet the Switch version feels silky smooth and very rarely drops frames. It’s fantastic, and the fps remained solid even when I attempted to stress test some more intensive moments in the game while in docked mode. And though Skyrim did come out in 2011, the fact even PS4 and Xbox One editions of the game do seem to struggle in some instances means you’re getting a quality package with the Switch version.
Graphically, the game also looks great. Obviously playing on the Switch’s tablet means you’re getting better pixel density and less jaggies when compared to docked, but even the latter holds its own noticeably well. It’s a bit closer to what the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 cooked up back in 2011, but the small tweaks and improvements — alongside the fact the game’s running in native 1080p — means Skyrim Switch still looks and runs really well.
The only minor gripe I have with Skyrim on Switch is that it did take me a while to get used to playing the game in handheld mode, as the thumbsticks and button positioning on the Joy-Cons can be annoying for a game like this. It was similar to the issue I had with Doom last week, though I’m sure I’ll eventually get used to it overtime. An adjustment period is definitely needed for most players, especially if you’re coming off of using any of the console controller alternatives, which are obviously much larger than what’s on offer with the Switch’s Joy-Cons.
Skyrim is a brilliant game, but more importantly its Switch port is fantastic. It performs well, it loads quickly, and the graphical compromises aren’t that obvious. Combined with some neat — if gimmicky — Switch-specific additions, taking a game of this size on the go is wonderful. Whether you’re a newcomer to the game or have clocked up many, many hours over the years, if you’re itching for a return back into Skyrim or for another meaty RPG on Switch, this is your answer.
THE SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW.
Skyrim is exactly the kind of game that demonstrates the power of the Switch and what it wants to be. It’s a huge open-world, console-quality adventure you can take with you anywhere. The port is fantastic, too, and the Switch-specific additions appreciated. Newcomer or not, Skyrim is a classic deserving of a revisit on Nintendo Switch.
Skyrim On The Go
Performance Is Fantastic
New Additions Are Welcome
Graphics Are Great, Especially In Handheld
There's Still A Lot To Explore And See
Getting Used To The Joy-Con In Handheld Takes Time