Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda’s legendary open-world masterpiece, has just launched on Nintendo Switch, which means you can now take the massive province of Skyrim and your adventures therein wherever you go. This is a big deal, and plenty of Skyrim fans are pumped. But is this new port worth the price tag? Keep reading to find out!
Since its original release in 2011, Skyrim has won more than 200 Game of the Year awards, and it’s widely considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time. With that being said, it’s likely that you already know the Skyrim basics, but for any newcomers out there, here’s a little peek into what this game is all about.
BASIC STORY & GAMEPLAY
You start as a prisoner on a horse-pulled cart. The three prisoners who accompany you speak of a conflict between imperial forces and a homegrown rebellion, and you discover that you and your fellow captives are associated with this rebellion and have been captured by the imperials. Your cart stops at a small town’s execution site, and you are suddenly prompted to design your character. (This makes clear that you will not be executed, contrary to your present situation.) In designing your character, you control every aspect of your appearance, including gender, weight, and race. Of course, race in Skyrim is different from race in real life, and you’ll be choosing from fantastical races like Imperial (well-educated and balanced), Khajiit (super-stealthy wildcat-humanoids), and Altmer (High Elves skilled in magic). Your chosen race determines your strengthened stats at the start of the game, but you can always develop different stats as you progress through the game’s story. In other words, your race is not your destiny in Skyrim, so don’t feel too much pressure when picking one!
After crafting your perfect character, you’ll watch a fellow prisoner’s execution and step up to the chopping block yourself. But just before the executioner swings his axe, a dragon shows up and destroys the town, and you must make your way to safety. This portion of the game serves as a tutorial, introducing you to Skyrim’s wide array of controls and mechanics. We can’t list all of these here, but we’ll tell you that you can interact with almost everything you encounter in Skyrim. You can also pick up a great deal of what you encounter, but be careful; you can’t carry everything, and you don’t want to get bogged down by extra weight!
After you’ve completed the tutorial and escaped the dragon’s wrath, you can do whatever you want. Many players choose to follow Skyrim’s main storyline, but others choose to explore instead. And if you ever want to pause the main storyline and do something else, you’re free to do that as well. There are hundreds of side quests to complete in Skyrim, and you always have something to do. Skyrim is like a fantasy novel in a Sims-ish-yet-violent video game where you choose your own adventure, and you’re basically in complete control—and people really like this about Skyrim, which is why it’s one of the best video games of all time.
Also, we want to highlight that you can play Skyrim in either first- or third-person, and you can toggle between these views at any time. We’re not sure which is our favorite, but we think it might be first-person—yet there are times when switching into third can be very helpful. All in all, we’re grateful that we have this choice, and we’re never stuck playing in a single perspective.
WHAT’S INCLUDED & WHAT’S NEW?
Skyrim for Switch comes with all post-release DLC—including Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn—but it comes with several new and exciting features as well. First, there’s new Zelda gear, obtainable from Legend of Zelda amiibo. (We hear you can also find this gear in the wild, but it’s pretty well-hidden.) When scanned (once per day), Legend of Zelda amiibo drop treasure chests, which may contain the Master Sword, Hylian Shield, or Champion’s Tunic. (This process will sound familiar Breath of the Wild fans.) Of course, you’re not guaranteed one of these special items, and a chest will often contain only weapons or food. (If you scan a non-Zelda amiibo, you definitely won’t get a special item, and you’ll be getting weapons or food.) But whatever you get will prove helpful, especially if you’re in a pinch. To scan an amiibo in Skyrim for Switch, simply equip amiibo as your magic skill, hold down the designated button, wait for a yellow aura, and scan. We scanned all our Legend of Zelda amiibo in one session and emerged with the Champion’s Tunic and Hylian Shield, so it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to score these coveted items in Skyrim. (We also got the Master Sword in a later scanning session!)
Another added feature is Joy-Con motion control. For the first time in Skyrim history, you can wield your controller like a weapon, pick a lock by rotating your Joy-Con and paying close attention to HD rumble, or aim arrows by moving your controller. We think the motion controls make for more engaged play, especially in battle. Skyrim is often criticized for an air-like battle experience: you generally feel like you’re slashing air rather than a creature’s flesh. If you’re battling with motion controls, you’ll likely still get that airy feel, but the experience will feel more real because of your movement. Of course, motion controls aren’t for everyone, but if you’ve liked the controls in motion-heavy Wii games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Mario Kart Wii, we think you’ll love the motion controls in Skyrim Switch.
But it’s clear that the biggest new feature in this port is its portability: you can take your adventure with you wherever you go. As we mentioned above, this is huge, and if you’ve already invested some time in Skyrim on another system, the portability factor may be your only reason for wanting to purchase a new port. You can play on break at work, during a 20-minute bus ride, or in a long line at the store; your handheld options are endless! We played plenty of handheld Skyrim for this review, and we have no complaints. Of course, the graphical quality inevitably dipped a bit while playing in this mode, but it was hardly noticeable, and we didn’t notice any skips or lagging in our hours of handheld play.
WHAT ABOUT DRAWBACKS?
You probably guessed it: even when docked, Skyrim just doesn’t look as good on Switch as it looks on other systems. Regrettably, this is something we see time and time again with Switch titles, especially ports from PS4, Xbox One, and PC—but really, this is the price you pay for portability. Games played on portable systems simply can’t look as good as they do on home consoles—at least, not in 2017. In the future, things might be different; after all, when Skyrim was first released seven years ago, players would have dismissed a handheld version as impossible. But for now, the graphics in Switch titles are (relatively) inferior to the graphics in games for other systems, and we don’t see this changing anytime soon. But we want to emphasize that Switch-quality graphics look great to us, and we’ve never been disappointed with the graphical quality of any Switch game, even if that game looks better on another system.
TELL ME ABOUT THE SOUND
If you’ve ever played Skyrim (with the sound on), you know it sounds phenomenal—but if you haven’t, you might want to know what this game sounds like, and we’re here to tell you that it sounds awesome! The voice acting is incredible, and we’re floored that each of Skyrim’s thousands of NPCs has a believable voice and distinct personality. You can talk to all of the game’s NPCs whenever you like and for as long as you like, we think you’ll be impressed with the voice acting you hear. In addition to this stunning voice acting, Skyrim features a brilliant soundscape that really brings your environment to life. Paired with the game’s impressive graphics, these sounds—including an original score—make you feel like you’re experiencing a Hollywood movie, and you’re guaranteed an immersive experience.
We think it’s great that Nintendo is broadening its support for mature third-party titles, and we’re thrilled to see an acclaimed title like Skyrim on our favorite Nintendo console. Skyrim for Switch runs smoothly, loads quickly, and offers the game-changing option of handheld mode, a remarkable feature for such a massive game. If portability doesn’t interest you and you’re already happy with Skyrim on another system, this port might not be for you. But if you crave a handheld Skyrim experience, you’ll love Skyrim on Switch, and if you’ve never played Skyrim before, now is the perfect time to try this award-winning title. Skyrim is available on Switch today, and you can pick up your copy here!