Skyrim is one of my favourite games of all time. Between the PS3, PS4 and PC versions I’ve put in well over 300 hours of exploration, questing and sneaky thieving. Even with the vast amount of time I’ve spent in Tamriel there are still huge areas of the game I haven’t explored yet and numerous quests that lay uncompleted in my quest logs.
When I learned that this masterpiece was coming to the Nintendo Switch, a system that I play mainly in portable mode, I was intrigued. Breath of the Wild proved that expansive worlds would work on this system, but could the wizards over at Bethesda make Skyrim work on the Switch?
Leading up to this launch there were a lot of conversations online about which version of Skyrim that we were going to get. Most assumed that it would be the Skyrim: Special Edition that came out last October, but there were of course those who doubted that the Switch could run that. Some said that this would simply be the last gen version that we saw on the PS3 and XBOX 360. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many of the graphical effects added to the PS4 and XBOX One version of the game are there, but with some lower resolution textures. I’ve jump-scaled mountains on the Switch, a way of climbing geometry that you shouldn’t be able to, and was greeted with a big muddy snow texture. Back on the ground it looks great, but you can see how Bethesda was able to shave gigs off the filesize by not including textures in the game that the players wouldn’t normally see.
New to this version of the game are the addition of motion controls and Amiibo support. While not personally a fan of motion controls in games, I fooled around with them and found that they were sufficient. You can lift your left hand to raise your shield or swipe with your right hand to attack with your sword. Sadly there isn’t one-to-one control so your movements just take the place of a button press. I couldn’t help but feel that this was just a tacked on feature to tick a box on a form. I quickly turned off the motion controls and my gameplay was better for it.
Amiibo support on the other hand was a lot of fun to play with. Just choose the “Amiibo” listing in your powers menu and tap the R button while looking at a point close by. This will bring up a gold glowing circle to show where your treasure chest will appear. Tap your favourite Amiibo to your controller when this circle is up and you will spawn a chest into the world. Tapping a Zelda themed Amiibo will give you a chest right out of Breath of the Wild, complete with the classic “Hey you solved a puzzle!” sound effect from the game. Tapping any other Amiibo will bring you a more Skyrim-themed chest. There doesn’t appear to be a limit on the number of Amiibo that you can scan in one day, but you can only scan each individual Amiibo once in a 24 hour period.
The loot these chests contain isn’t overpowered at all and you’ll usually just get some food and maybe some arrows and a gem or two. Later on in the game after levelling up I started to see some better armour and weapons in my spawned chests, but by that time I already had much better equipment in my inventory. One neat addition is that in the Zelda themed chests you do have around a 20% chance of spawning some of Link’s iconic gear from The Legend of Zelda: The Master Sword, Hylian Shield and the Champion’s Tunic. While awesome to look at these items are too low powered to be game breaking. Like the other equipment in the game you can upgrade or enchant them if you so choose. While they look cool, and I’m glad that they exist, they are more cosmetic additions to the game. If you are Amiibo-less don’t fret, all of these items can be found in game at one of the later areas you visit.
When I’m not recording videos or streaming I mainly play my Switch in handheld mode. I was happy to see that the game played beautifully undocked. I expected some reduction in the graphical fidelity, but didn’t really notice anything other than the switch to 720p. I was also quite impressed at the battery life I received while playing in handheld mode. With the brightness turned down to around half I was able to get about 4 hours on a charge. Impressive!
This wouldn’t be a Bethesda game review without talking a bit about the strange bugs I encountered in the game. The weirdness that pops up in these huge games never really bothered me before, and that hasn’t changed here. While playing, some enemies spawned floating in mid air, corpses will sometimes randomly start breakdancing, and giants would still send me miles up in the air with one hit… but that’s all part of the charm for me. There were some issues that were less awesome such as the odd loud pop in the game’s audio or late appearance of the in-game geometry when running through the countryside, but nothing truly game breaking.
By far the biggest issue I had was the difficulty in firing arrows down a slope or off a platform. Repeatedly I would climb up to a better vantage point to target some poor Draugr who was minding his own business, but when I shot my arrow it would hit the platform instead of my prey. I had to basically stand off the edge of the platform for my arrows to fly to their destination unimpeded. This is a weird bug that I hadn’t seen before in my 300+ hours of playing a sneaky thief, but I could adjust for it.
Overall I’m very impressed with my time spent in Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch. While this is a 6 year old game that is getting a new release, I’m jealous of the many Switch owners who hadn’t had a chance to explore this world on any other platform. You’ll get a huge game with hundreds of places to visit and quests to complete along with all of the DLC that was released for this title in one tiny cartridge. You are playing one of the better open world RPGs ever released on a portable game system. If you would have told me this 6 years ago when the game was first released I wouldn’t have believed you. Between Skyrim, DOOM and Wolfenstein 2 I’m hopeful that we will receive all future Bethesda titles day-and-date with the other platforms. I for one know where I’ll be playing them.
- Portable Skyrim on the go
- The Zelda items were a nice touch
- Amazing battery life for a game this immense
- Tacked on motion controls were awkward
- Not as pretty as the PS4/XBOX One Remasters
I played a digital copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that was provided by Bethesda. If you have any questions on our review scale please see our About page.