The World of Skyrim Now Fits In Your Backpack
As someone who has been working 12-hour rotating shift work for close to two decades now, the majority of my gaming in the past 20 years has been on a handheld. In the back of my head, I’ve always felt like I was missing out on a lot of big game experiences. Don’t get me wrong, the 3DS and Vita have had a string of amazing content released throughout their lifespans, but I still felt as though these handheld games weren’t complete experiences. That’s probably an unpopular opinion, but that’s just the way I feel.
What Was Old is New Again
When Bethesda’s Skyrim released in 2011, I decided to pick it up due to all the high praise it was getting. With my demanding schedule, I knew I would never be able to “beat” it, but I still wanted to know what all the hubbub was about. I fell in love almost immediately! I enjoyed it so much that I used up my yearly allotted amount of sick time the week I purchased the game. I got a solid 50 fun-filled hours in that week and enjoyed every single second of it. But, I have a wife and kid to support, and I kinda like my job. My time off came to a close so I begrudgingly ejected Skyrim from my PS3 and put it on my shelf, where it has been collecting dust ever since.
Here we are in 2017, or as I like to call it, “The year of the Switch”. Nintendo’s new device has taken over my life. I have a fairly powerful console with a ton of amazing content that I can toss in my bookbag and bring with me wherever I go. I can now play superb games such as Super Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to their completion…at work! As you can imagine, I was pretty damned excited when Bethesda announced that Skyrim was going to get a Switch release. I would finally get to experience what millions of other gamers consider the best game of all time! At the same time, I was wondering how well a six-year-old RPG would hold up.
Well, I’m happy to say that it holds up extremely well! I’ve dropped 30 hours into it in just three nights. Not just any nights though. I’m talking three 12-hour nights that I was stuck at work! I’m going to go out on the limb and say that, in my opinion, Skyrim is the best game to have been released on the Nintendo Switch. Yes, even better than Breath of the Wild. Give me a break here. I didn’t get to experience Skyrim when everybody else did.
Choose Your Own Adventure
I’m not going to go into Skyrim’s story because, honestly, it’s somewhat convoluted. This doesn’t really matter because most players are going to be making their own story as they go along. The world of Skyrim is set up for you to do whatever you want, and that’s why some have logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours into it. There is a reason why this game has been released on every platform known to man.
Cheese and Wine
So, how does it look on the Switch? This is a six-year-old game, so it’s not drop dead gorgeous. There is some ugly stuff here, but the good far outweighs the bad. The character models could use some major touching up, especially the elderly characters. But more importantly, the environments are breathtaking. I stopped in my tracks more than I would like to admit to simply take it all in. The mountains, the castles, and the dragons are all sights to behold!
The Switch version of Skyrim seems to run at a solid 30 frames per second in both handheld and docked modes, but on a few occasions, I had that number dip dramatically. It never happened when the action was ramping up, though. Usually, it would be as I was turning a corner while in one of the game’s many dungeons. These dips in frames were few and far between and most players probably won’t even notice them, but they are worth mentioning.
Other than the framerate issue, I did have some problems with dark indoor environments. This was especially noticeable when playing in handheld mode. I was missing key story progressing items due to not being able to see, and I had to backtrack on several occasions. Walking around with a torch would solve this problem, but I don’t remember having to do this when playing the PlayStation 3 version. Unfortunately, there isn’t a brightness slider in the options menu to combat this. It’s worth noting that this wasn’t a problem when playing on my television with the Switch docked.
While the graphics were mostly a sight to behold, I did happen to come across some issues with Skyrim’s sound. My time mainly consisted of playing with a decent set of headphones while in handheld mode, and I’m happy to say all the sound effects that you know and love are intact. But every so often a quick burst of static would blast into my ears. This would also happen while docked and using my home theater system, but it wasn’t as noticeable considering my speakers are fairly far away from my couch. I’m hoping that this is something that will be fixed with an update.
Since Skyrim is an open-world Bethesda game, there are some bugs that you’ll have to deal with. Most are comical and include such things like characters legs getting caught in doors or conversations being rudely interrupted by other characters. But on occasion, the bugs would stop me from actually progressing the story, which is scary. Usually, this would include not being able to open a door or a character’s dialogue wouldn’t start when it needed to. Thankfully the game saves very often and a quick load of a previous save would solve the issue. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the fear of losing my progress wasn’t on the back of my mind. Again, hopefully, a patch will fix these issues.
With Skyrim’s Switch release comes a few new features. Amiibo owners can have treasure chests appear out of thin air by simply touching any Amiibo to the right thumbstick. The chests are usually filled with semi-useful items such as arrows and gold, but boring stuff like food items are also thrown into the mix. Using a Legend of Zelda related Amiibo will give players a chance at getting Link weapons and clothing, like Link’s Breath of the Wild Tunic or the Master Sword! These items aren’t great by any means, but it’s still really cool to see these items in the game.
As with most re-releases to come out on the Switch, motion controls have been added to Skyrim. Swinging around the Joycon as a sword is cool at first, but it’s more of a novelty experience. I had some problems aiming my bow with the bow and arrow motion controls. This aiming worked great using my Pro Controller, but it was hard to get off a good shot when using the Switch in handheld mode. Of course, the motions controls can be turned off at any time.
With the visual, sound, and bug issues aside, I love having Skyrim on my Switch. To be able to lose myself in that world at the drop of a hat is something that I’ll never get used to. I hope more developers decide to release their older titles on the Switch because there are so many classics that us 12-hour shift workers have missed out on.
Available on: Nintendo Switch; Publisher: Bethesda ; Developer: Bethesda; Players: 1 ; Released: November 17, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Skyrim.