The impact that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has had on the video games industry since its release six years ago simply cannot be ignored. Since the massive RPG’s launch in 2011, The Elder Scrolls has gone from being a well-respected and well-loved franchise to becoming something of a household name, right up there with the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Beyond that, it’s even shaped the way we look at open world games and RPGs in general. Bethesda really hit the ball out of the part with almost the perfect formula for an open world RPG when they made Skyrim, and since then, their design philosophy has influenced all manner of games and developers, from The Witcher 3 and The Legend of Zelda to Final Fantasy and Dragon Age.
Usually, if a game were being re-released six years after its original launch, not a lot of people would be paying much attention to it. But such is not the case with Skyrim. In six years, the seminal RPG has broken all kinds of sales records, and even now, it shows no signs of slowing down. People are just as enchanted by the snowy mountains of Bethesda’s magical world today as they were six years ago, and as such, a great number of people are more excited for Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch than they logically should be. The thing is, they have every reason to be.
You don’t need me to tell you that Skyrim is a great game. We loved it when we first played it six years ago, as did most other people, and the Special Edition last year showed that the game still has plenty of life left in it. What, then, makes the Switch version of this modern classic so special? Not any extra content, nor any visual upgrades or new features and mechanics. In terms of content, this is exactly the same as last year’s re-release, including all three DLCs, and the new mechanics that have been added aren’t really completely new ways to play (more on this later). No, what makes Skyrim on the Switch so great is the fact that it’s on the Switch.
"What makes Skyrim on the Switch so great is the fact that it’s on the Switch."
The biggest draw for most people with Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch will be the fact that we finally get to play this game on the go. Skyrim is a deeply addictive game, one that you can easily spend dozens upon dozens of hours playing with without getting tired of it. It makes sense, then, that a portable system would accommodate that playing style best. When you want to play on the big screen, you obviously have the option to do that as well, for an experience that is almost identical in nature to the 2016 Xbox One and PS4 releases. But while battling against dragons, climbing steep and frozen mountains and deciding the course of a civil war is all excellent stuff, it’s even better when you can do it at your own convenience and at your own pace. The very nature of the Switch makes Skyrim a much more engrossing experience that it has ever been in the past.
That doesn’t mean the game loses its sense of scope or scale, though. Skyrim has never been among the industry’s best looking titles. Even back in 2011, it’s visuals could be described as serviceable at best, even while heavyweights like Uncharted 3 and Gears of War 3 were making waves in the industry. That said, Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch looks really good, and if you’ve played the Special Edition, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
While Skyrim is still a game where you will often run into major bugs and glitches – it’d be unreasonable to expect a game of this size to be completely bug-free – the vast majority of it performs very well. For instance, while last year’s Special Edition was prone to noticeable frame rate drops and choppy “killcam” animations, such issues are largely missing from the Nintendo Switch version. In handheld mode, the game looks great, with impressive draw distances, great lighting and weather effects, and very few performance issues. While playing it in the dock, though, I did come across bloated pixels and texture pop ins a few times. While none of these issues were potentially game-breaking or as exceedingly jarring as they have been in past versions of Skyrim, they were still quite noticeable.
"Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch looks really good, and if you’ve played the Special Edition, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect."
Bethesda have also made efforts to include plenty of Switch-specific features in Skyrim with this latest re-release, and most of that comes down to the usage of the Joycons’ motion control capabilities. These are used for a variety of activities, from combat and archery to even something like lock-picking, and most of the times, it actually works pretty well. The motion controls are quite accurate, and often using your hands rather than the analog stick to aim your bow can feel a lot more natural and intuitive.
Similarly, lock-picking is a lot more fun with the motion controls, and is made even better by the Joycons’ HD Rumble. Every time you lock-pick, you have to actually twist your Joycons and feel for the vibrations to figure out when something has been unlocked. It’s a pretty neat feature that has been used quite impressively, and has to be the best and most logical usage of the Switch’s HD Rumble feature to date. What also helps is that the game doesn’t force these motion controls on you- they’re simply another option. Whether it’s during combat, for archery, or for picking locks, you always have the option to play the game with traditional controls.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has always been a great game- that much is beyond question. But six years after its launch, people were starting to question if the game still has any legs to run on. At what point would Bethesda stop milking this admittedly excellent game and finally look to the future? Well, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon – Skyrim VR is still in the pipeline, after all – but Skyrim on the Switch has come in and proven that the game still has plenty of life left in it. The third rerelease of a six year old game has no right being this compelling, but thanks to smart usage of the Switch’s features, and the very nature of Skyrim and the Switch being perfect fits for each other, this latest re-release might just the best way to play Bethesda’s enduring classic.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Skyrim on the go; Deeply addictive and engaging; Lots of content with all three DLC packs included; Looks great and performs consistently well; Fewer bugs than the Special Edition; Motion controls are a good option to have.
Technical issues more prevalent in docked mode; Still plenty of bugs and glitches, despite improvements over the Special Edition; No new content.