Once upon a time, on a console that might still be plugged into your television or even the very PC you’re reading this on, Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In the six years since that time (a vast expanse in video game land), many other games have come and gone, yet Skyrim holds on, clinging to that part of our brain that only recognises the very best of the best, refusing to let go.
While Bethesda appears to ignore the clamouring of fans for The Elder Scrolls VI, it is at least expanding the reach of Skyrim to include PlayStation VR and, of particular note for this very article, the Nintendo Switch. If you’re interested in playing Skyrim –again or for the first time – and don’t want to wait for a port to be announced for your toaster, Bethesda and Nintendo’s alignment might well to prove to be something very, very exciting indeed.
First, a little catch-up. A stand-alone game that doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the storied franchise, Skyrim allows players to assume the mantle of pretty much any kind of magic-infused fantasy character they like. There are many races to choose from and playing the game the way you prefer to develops your character to suit. There’s no need to muck around choosing between your typical role-playing classes here.
Played in either first or third-person, Skyrim allows you to wield all manner of weapons, magic, and dragon-derived "shouts" in your mission to obliterate pretty much whoever you want as you either wander the land or pursue the various quests you encounter. The Switch version includes content from all three expansion packs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn) too, as well as upgraded graphical finesse as first seen in 2016’s Special Edition for PS4, PC, and Xbox One.
So, should you bother? It’s pretty simple, as it turns out: yes you should. Skyrim in portable form is incredible. The Switch renders a mighty fine version of the game, and playing one of the best games ever made feels even better when you can lug it about in your bag to play whenever you want. Over the course of the review I found myself playing in cars, at work, and on aircraft, and having access to such an incredibly immersive experience in those situations is a new and unique pleasure.
Performance, too, is fantastic. None of Bethesda’s typical flakiness appeared during my time with the game, and Skyrim rendered consistently at a high framerate, removing any excuses I might have had for the odd death or two that may or may not have occurred during my adventures. The game even stands up in docked mode on my large-screen, 4k, normally PS4-playing monster telly, with beautiful lighting a particular highlight of the Switch’s graphical rendering tricks.
The game has aged a little bit, of course, with some crappy voice acting here and there and some other minor issues which highlight its origins and age. It’s still great though, and even those that haven’t been exposed to it yet are in for a good time. About the only issue I had specific to the Switch is that indoors and in dungeons, things can get pretty dark. Even with the Switch brightness dialled all the way up – there are no in-game brightness or gamma options – I found myself staring at my reflection on more than a few occasions except in the very best (darkest) lighting conditions.
Still, that’s a minor deal, especially to those of us ancient enough to remember the original Game Boy Advance. And besides, this is an issue I suspect Bethesda will address with a patch in short order.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been my most mind-blowing gaming experience since I played Half-Life 2 on my Nvidia Shield tablet, and really sets the bar high for what’s possible on Nintendo’s wonder console. It’s so good, in fact, it’s worth buying a Switch for, which is the rarest and best kind of acclaim any game can aspire to.