Game Reviews

‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ Switch Edition Review: Skyrim Unbound

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Quick Take: Skyrim comes to the Nintendo Switch as a full-featured port, complete with motion controls and some Zelda-themed surprises, and the end result is stunning.

About 10 hours into playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch, I suddenly stopped — my Dragonborn standing on the side of a mountain — and I took a moment to let it sink in that I was playing Skyrim, one of the greatest games ever made, while in the bathroom. Sorry if that’s too much information, but it was a revelation. If nothing else, the fact that the Nintendo Switch version of the absolute classic Bethesda RPG is fully mobile is the biggest selling point here. Sure, the Joy Con controllers open up some neat motion controls, and the Zelda amiibos unlock some really cool Legend of Zelda-themed gear (I love killing dragons with the Master Sword!), but the fact that I can play the first game that I ever gave a perfect score to anywhere I want makes this version a must-own for fans new and old.

After six years, I think we all know what Skyrim is. You play the role of the Dragonborn, a mysterious person who can take the souls of fallen dragons and use them as weapons, called Shouts, to hunt other, bigger dragons. Bethesda created a massive open world full of sidequests and secrets, and the player will spend countless hours moving the story forward and hunting dragons, while also clearing out bandit camps, caves, and dungeons, and exploring all that the world of Tamriel has to offer. A colorful cast of characters come in and out of the story, in classic Elder Scrolls fashion, and by the end of the epic journey, the player will feel like they had truly lived in this world, which is what makes the game — and the series –so special.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Switch Review

The Switch version of Skyrim comes complete with all the DLC expansions, making it the complete story. This version ports the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition from 2016, so the newer upgrades, like Quick Save and shorter load times, are all in place, and the graphics are more on par with that special edition version. This is the complete package, and the Switch handles it all exceptionally well. Skyrim runs at a steady 30 fps in 720p, whether in the dock on the big screen, or as a handheld while waiting at the doctor’s office or DMV or, in my case, in the bathroom. The flora and fauna look great, and makes this one of the better looking games on the young Nintendo Switch system.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Switch Review

The Joy Con controllers open up motion controls, and swinging the right Joy Con to attack and left to block with your shield, or using them both to shoot arrows brings me back to the heyday of the Wii. Picking locks is also done with the Joy Con controllers, but personally, I’ve mastered the other way to break into buildings and locked chests so well that I found this to be a bit distracting. It’s important to know that motion controls are not just a gimmick, and Skyrim can be fully enjoyed using the Joy Con controllers, but I’m glad there are options in how we play it. I also found issue in the sensitivity of the joy sticks on the Joy Con controllers. This is not a fault of the game, but of the hardware. I have large hands and the tiny controllers and strange placement of the joysticks cause issue for me in other games as well. The motion controls work, and are neat, but in the end, I prefer them docked to the side of the Switch unit as a handheld, and using the Pro Controller while docked.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Switch Review

Amiibo support makes for another new addition. Zelda-themed amiibo unlock various weapons (both iconic and basic), and various other items like food and potions. I will never forget standing in the front row at the Bethesda presentation at last summer’s E3 when it was revealed that Link’s Breath of the Wild tunic and Master Sword and Hylian shield were in the game. For a hot second, my brain stopped working as it tried to comprehend the Master Sword in Skyrim. And I can tell you that using it is as epic as that reveal. And if you don’t have amiibos to use, players can still get the gear, they just have to climb the Throat of the World, one of Skyrim’s highest peaks. It might just be easier to hit up the local Target and snag a few amiibos for your journey. Besides, the little figs are cool on their own, and work with other Nintendo games, both on the Switch and the 3DS. Destructoid has published a handy guide on what works and what doesn’t with amiibo. You can find it here.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Switch Review

I make it no secret that I love The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It truly was the first game that I gave a perfect score to, after almost 20 years of reviewing games. The Switch version does nothing to change that. It’s still a perfect game, one full of mystery and adventure; action and peril. Skyrim is still worthy of the praise that was universally given in November of 2011 when it first hit consoles. But now that video game perfection can be taken on the go, and one of the best games ever made can be enjoyed virtually anywhere.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Switch Review

Bethesda has done a wonderful job bringing Skyrim and Doom to the Nintendo Switch, proving that huge third party games can succeed on Nintendo’s hot new game system. If this is any indication of how these games perform on the Switch, how long will it be before we get Fallout 4 and the Wolfenstein games to play on the go? Much can be said about playing a six-year-old game on a brand new game system, but this is only the doorway, and Bethesda has shown it’s ready to step through it with full support, now and in the future. And they don’t need motion controls to pick the lock. That door is wide open.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the Nintendo Switch is available on November 17, in both physical and through the Nintendo eShop. This review is based off a review code provided by Bethesda.

SCORE: 4.9 out of 5

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