A game worth shouting about!
It has just passed the six-year anniversary of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s release, and in those years it has been the contributor to many memes, a buggy mess (to some) and has become one of the best selling video games of all time. Skyrim has also, arguably, become one of the most pivotal RPG’s of the last decade – with the game changing the landscape of RPG’s and bringing a lot of newcomers to the genre. Winning multiple “Game of the Year” awards, Bethesda’s open-world epic was certainly well received and now, for the first time, it can be experienced on a Nintendo console!
The game opens with you on the back of a horse-drawn cart being led, with fellow captives, to your death. It seems that you have been wrongly arrested, caught in an ambush while attempting to cross the border. Arriving at your final destination, you watch as your travel partners are called one by one to meet their maker. You are not on the list and, when asked who you are, you are presented with the game’s character creation screen – where you can pick which race you would like to be and your appearance. It is at this point that you will start to realise just how vast and expansive this game is. The choices available to you will help shape your character, with each race having different proficiencies in the 18 different skills available. Once you have decided upon your noble warrior, it is off to the chopping blocks and off with your head! What a waste after all that time creating the perfect Khajiit, eh?
Of course, your head remains firmly on your shoulders – as moments before the axe comes crashing down the village is attacked by a dragon. This opening sequence serves as a tutorial of sorts and you are soon making your escape, fighting off soldiers and avoiding the dragon fire. The game proceeds to take you through a keep and down into a series of caverns where all you see are various shades of brown and beige, before you complete your escape and reemerge back into daylight and experience one of the game’s first (of many) jaw-dropping moments.
The world of Skyrim is a thing of beauty, and even six years on the game looks fantastic. The fact that you can now experience this on a handheld console is nothing short of phenomenal. Walking out into the open-world of the game for the first time and seeing this vibrant, alive playground that has been built for you to explore is one of those gaming moments that will stick with me for a while. You can explore every nook and cranny in this game – if you can see it, you can get to it. This sense of exploration is one of the main things that makes Skyrim so brilliant, you will often find yourself sidetracked as you make your way to the next story mission and the next thing you know you’ve completed a dozen side-quests, killed a few dragons and ended up further away from the mission marker than you started all those hours ago.
There are a few issues with items popping-in when you approach – like branches on trees and smoke billowing around a keep in one early mission, but nothing that can’t be forgiven. The game also looks and runs better than the last-gen versions it is a port of, with frame rate remaining steady no matter how many villagers were attacking me onscreen at once because I accidentally slipped and Fus-Ro-Dah’d one of their kin to death. I also noticed a weird audio issue whereby I would hear a short, sharp static noise every now and then with no logical reason to it, but this didn’t have any major impact on anything and was more of an annoyance. Aside from the initial load into the game from the main menu, the load times as you transition from dungeons and cities into the open world are nice and short – getting you back into the action in a matter of seconds – meaning you are not distracted from the game for too long.
The game’s story casts you as the Dragonborn (or Dovahkiin in Skyrim language). As this chosen one, you can devour the souls of dragons once you have killed them – finishing them off for good. As you make your way through the various main story missions and side quests you will face off against these beasts, but it is arguably the random encounters that are the more terrifying – hearing the roar of one as you emerge from a cave with your health bar depleted from fighting a troll will bring fear to even the most worthy of warriors. The souls that you collect are used to unlock “shouts”, phrases of dragon language made up from words of power that can be used to unleash powerful, devastating effects. Nothing is more satisfying in this game than sneaking up on an enemy and shouting them off the side of a cliff – not only are these powers incredibly useful in the game they also make you feel like a complete badass!
You will need to find word walls in the game to unlock the full power of these shouts, and you will stumble across most of these as you tackle the game’s main quest and the side missions. While the main quests follow the over-arching story of the game, the side quests also have their own fleshed out stories that will further explore the lore and history of the world and all of its conflicts – sucking you further into the fantastic, fantasy sandbox that is laid before you.
Unlike most other RPG’s, however, completing these quests and slaying your foes does not grant your character any experience points. Instead, you level up in Skyrim in one of the most organic ways I’ve seen. You have 18 different skills that you can level up, and these combine to form your overall character level. If you wanted to improve your archery skill, for example, the only way to do this is to equip your bow and start firing. I found this way of levelling to be a refreshing, natural approach that encourages players to experiment with all of the skills available. All of these skills and abilities are accessed via one of the best inventory systems I’ve seen in an RPG – one that still works well today, and doesn’t look too small on the screen when playing in handheld mode.
Additionally, the Nintendo Switch version does also have some new features – with Bethesda making use of the console’s amiibo and motion control functionality. You can unlock the Master Sword in game, as well as a Breath of the Wild outfit for your character with the tap of a Link amiibo – these items can be found in the game through exploration, so don’t feel left out if, like myself, you’re not an amiibo collector. Bethesda has also implemented the motion control capabilities of the Joy-Con, and you can swing weapons, raise a shield, fire your bow and arrow and pick locks using this method if you so wish. I tried this method a few times during my time with the game, and although fun and novel – I did find myself reverting back to the trusty Pro Controller for the majority of my playthrough.
In all, Skyrim is still as good today as it was when it first released more than half a decade ago, if not better! The fact that this version runs well on the Nintendo Switch without any major issues – which is an amazing feat considering that even the remastered PS4 and Xbox One versions had their fair share of with issues when they released – is truly amazing. This is a game that will take up all of your time should you decide to pick it up, you can spend well over forty hours playing and not even scratch the surface of the base game – let alone the three DLC packs that are also included in this release.
I know full well that most people will know what Skyrim is all about, and plenty of you will have already played it and are only reading this to find out how it performs on the Nintendo Switch.
Well, it’s Skyrim, it runs well, it works and it is portable – what more could you want?