The Nintendo Switch is shaping up to be a fitting home for massive open-world adventures, with critically-acclaimed titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the highly-anticipated Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and now even third-party games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which actually marks The Elder Scrolls franchise’s debut on a Nintendo platform.
Being an open-world title, Skyrim gives you a ton of freedom. You don’t feel restrained when you want to explore the vast land at your own pace, including when you’re in the middle of a mission. You could ignore the story entirely for as long as you’d like; you choose where to go and when to do it. At the same time, the game does a good job of letting you know where to go if you want to continue making progress, with clear checkpoints placed on the map that make it easy to follow a path. Building upon the aspect of freedom, players can pick up a variety of items at their disposal, from a wide array of weaponry, shields, apparel, magical tombs, to artificants, pieces of literature and pretty much any random physical objects that you come across.
Despite the option to put the storyline on an indefinite hold, the game manages to tell a gripping tale from the get-go, with an epic soundtrack to boot. It starts off in a first-person perspective with you, a prisoner, and a bunch of rebels on the way to getting executed. It throws you directly into the action when a dragon pops up out of nowhere to inflict chaos on everyone present. It effectively draws you in, by seamlessly making you an integral component as a series of crucial events unfold. The Nintendo Switch version includes all official expansions: Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn – all of which are welcome additions to the main quest. If you want to experience everything Skyrim has to offer, you’re going to be playing for a very long time.
Skyrim is originally a 2011 game and still looks like a 2011 game. Nevertheless, landscapes and settings look appealing from a distance when you’re out exploring or traveling. When you get relatively close to something, however, its age starts to show. Overall, it runs smoothly on Nintendo Switch, even in handheld mode, but that isn’t all that surprising considering it ran just fine six whole years ago on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
There are countless non-player characters (NPCs) throughout the game, including other adventurers, warriors, locals, prominent figures and children alike. Due to the large amount of them scattered all over, a number of NPCs tend to appear lifeless and clones of each other – many also share the same exact physical features, voices and phrases. Although this is quite noticeable in several instances, it doesn’t necessarily deter from the experience unless you’re spending most of your time communicating with them.
You can pick a fight with a variety of adult characters as well, taking their booty as a reward for defeating them. But be warned that they could end up being stronger than you and defeat your character as a result, prompting a game over and forcing you to start from the last checkpoint. If your play session was saved last during or near a tough fight, you may be in for a frustrating killing loop until you manage to find a way to escape – so be careful out there before deciding to quarrel with someone. You can also recruit certain NPCs to join you on your travels, giving you more control over how you want to tackle missions. For example, you may want a talented archer to join your team, an adept sword wielder or perhaps someone to primarily serve as a distraction for your protection – it’s up to you.
Practically all in-game actions are fulfilled using a pointer system through the right control stick. You use it for aiming to strike opponents, shoot arrows, pick up items or speak with characters. It might take some time for newcomers to get used to this control scheme, but you’ll get the hang of it after playing around with it for a bit. Motion controls are also an option via the Joy-Con controllers. You can use this method to aim arrows at your target, swing for melee attacks or rotate for lockpicking in order to gain access to select areas. However, if you weren’t fond of motion controls before, chances are you probably still don’t care for them. Fortunately, they’re not required to perform any actions – you can freely change the settings to meet your playstyle.
Added amiibo support is a nice touch for Nintendo fans who want to play with special gear inspired by The Legend of Zelda, enabling you to take down enemies with the Master Sword, protect yourself with the Hylian Shield, or attempt to mimic Link’s appearance by donning the Champion’s Tunic. These Nintendo-exclusive items can also be unlocked without having to use amiibo; they can be found in a treasure chest at the top of a location called The Throat of the World. Zelda enthusiasts may appreciate being able to be dressed as Link, but it ultimately feels the same as wearing any other gear.
If you haven’t played Skyrim before, it might be worth it to delve in on Nintendo Switch. But then again, you could get the game for a fraction of the asking price on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Heck, last year’s Special Edition version of Skyrim is even cheaper on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You could essentially get the same overall experience by paying significantly less for any of the previous releases. But if you don’t have access to those platforms, you can’t go wrong with getting it on Switch if you’re looking for another solid open-world title that can be played at home or on the go. Ultimately, I hope Skyrim Switch is a sign of more good things to come from Bethesda, such as Nintendo versions of the inevitable next core entries in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series.