When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim first launched back in 2011, it was hailed as one of the most complete, engrossing open-world RPGs to ever steal hundreds of hours from your gaming life. Now, six years later, Dovahkiin has made the journey to the Nintendo Switch and we're left to wonder, has this epic adventure stood the test of time?
"Okay, let's head back to town," I say to myself, opting to hoof it rather than use the fast travel option. I'm less than halfway to my destination when I notice an unexplored cave tucked into the side of a mountain. I glance up at the clock.
I've just cleared a camp of poachers and planned on collecting my end-of-quest loot before turning off Skyrim for the night. Then again, how long could it possibly take to make my way through a random dungeon?
An hour later I've emerged from said dungeon. Along the way, I clumsily sliced through a couple dozen Draugr, picked up a bunch of loot, dropped a bunch of that loot because it was too heavy to carry, narrowly avoided some traps and even found a mysterious tome that has opened an extra sidequest for me to tackle later. "Okay, now it's time to head back to town," I say to myself, nervously glancing up at the clock.
This time I stick to my plan to head straight to the nearest market because I absolutely, positively cannot carry anymore loot. Once I've sold all of the rubbish, mixed some potions and destroyed a couple of enchanted items in order to learn their magic, I stock up on lockpicks, squeeze in some smithing and drop all of the items I want to save for later into an apparently bottomless chest in my home.
I head out the door to trigger a save before powering down the Switch. Sure, I had the option to just manually save, but I decided to walk out the door instead. Bad call. I'm immediately greeted by a courier who hands me a letter from the Jarl of a neighboring town. He's heard of my recent exploits and wants me to help his settlement with a bandit problem.
I nervously glance up at the clock for the sixth time that night. I really need to go to bed, but it's not like those bandits are going to slay themselves. I'm the Dragonborn, after all, and the people of Tamriel need me.
Anyone who has played Skyrim has likely lived through this scenario time and time again. While the game is as clunky as ever, there's still something magical about being dropped into a world that feels alive with discovery and adventure.
There's little I can add to the conversation when it comes to Skyrim's quality. From the original launch to its three DLC packs and the enhanced editions that eventually followed, countless words have been poured onto page and screen to explain how it is, quite simply, an RPG classic. The question now is whether or not the game still shines on the Nintendo Switch, and I'm happy to say that it absolutely does. If you're interested in making a return journey to the frozen north or visiting the land of dragons for the very first time, this latest iteration of Skyrim delivers the goods.
That's not to say that Skyrim isn't without its faults, some of which are more noticeable now that six years have passed since the game first came swaggering onto the scene. While the genre itself has marched forward, we're still talking about a slightly spruced up version of a game that's more than half a decade old.
Some of the dialogue still sounds like it is being delivered by part-time employees of the Renaissance Faire. The menus are anything but elegant and frequently frustrating to navigate. While the graphics are improved over the original, the Switch version of Skyrim doesn't come up to the same level as the enhanced editions on other modern consoles. And then there are the big, open-world RPG hiccups you're bound to come across, like multiple events triggering at the same time, important dialogue being drowned out by a random peasant who wandered too close and decided to start yelling about beer, or instances where a character runs in place or an ally steps between you and an enemy right as your sword comes swinging down.
Those things have always been present in Skyrim and, while this might actually be the most stable version of the game to date, they can still pull you out of the fantasy from time to time. In a game all about immersing the player in the life of a wandering hero, there are few things worse than having something silly remind you that you're just a dude on a couch, playing a video game.
But still, this is Skyrim we're talking about and those kinds of issues are momentary distractions at worst. The game looks pretty decent on the Switch whether you're playing docked or in handheld mode. The controls work well and even the new motion-based features are fun to toy around with from time to time. And yes, all three of the game's DLC packs and added features (like quicksave!) are included in the mix. And while the Switch version might not look as sharp as Skyrim on the PlayStation 4, the game still runs at a smoother framerate with relatively snappy load times.
The best way to sum up Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch is to say "It's freaking Skyrim, but on the Nintendo Switch." Everything fans love about the game is present and accounted for, with the added bonus of being able to play on the couch or while going on your own adventures out in the real world.
When Bethesda announced they would be bringing games like DOOM and Wolfenstein II to the Switch, I was skeptical. Can the console even run those games? What will we have to forfeit in order to make them work? Are bugs going to be an issue, since this is Bethesda we're talking about? Well, DOOM turned out to be a pretty fantastic port and Skyrim is cut from the very same cloth. Every ounce of the gameplay that won over fans six years ago is intact and magically crammed into a file size of just 14 GB. Skyrim on the Switch shows its age in a lot of ways, but nothing here prevents it from being the epic, wonderful adventure it has always been.
If you've borne the mantle of Dovahkiin before, then Skyrim on the Switch will feel like slipping into a familiar suit of well-worn armor. As for you newcomers to these snow-covered lands, the Switch is the perfect place to begin your journey.
This review based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.