Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Game Studios
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Role-Playing & Action
Release Date: 17th of November, 2017 (EU & NA)
If you had told me 14 months ago (a time before the Nintendo Switch was revealed,) that there would come a day that I could play not one, but two of Bethesda’s biggest games in the last decade on a portable Nintendo platform, I probably would have shook my head, laughed “no” and that would be the end of it.
Only it’s not the end of it, but more the beginning, because pigs clearly can fly and Hell has frozen over because such a thing has happened and Bethesda’s 2 Switch offerings release within 7 days of each other and after already receiving a review key for DOOM, we also got a review copy for Skyrim and I was the lucky son of…gun who got to download the game, for the purposes of carrying out this review and even now days after the fact, I am still over the moon.
Being a gamer who has only owned Nintendo platforms since 2006, there are a great many number of epic games I have had the pleasure to ever experience and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was one such title. Yet, when I did first lay eyes on it in December of 2011, because there was a trailer of it on the TV, I knew it was a game that would appeal to me. A game I would greatly enjoy and yet although I could have brought any of the consoles the game came to its initial release (PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360,) I choose to hold out for a bit.
Then came 2016, I had still yet to play it and even though it then released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we had already seen it teased for Switch when the console was revealed and I knew I just had to have it and now that I do and the embargo has lifted, it’s time to talk about it! So where to begin? Well, since Skyrim is a game that originally released 6 years and 5 days ago, how about we start with the three most important things? Performance, handheld appeal and new functionality.
If you were hoping Skyrim would be a perfect port, I’m afraid to reveal it isn’t. While it is fantastic most of the time, with a pretty steady 30 fps framerate at 720p (900p when docked) but there are bugs and they can be pretty bad. One such bug I encountered, which ended up being game crashing, was when I decided to stow the horse I had brought at the stables near Whiterun. Just as soon as I got off the horse, the game slowed down dramatically, my horse decided to levitate a good few feet off the ground and when I tried to get back on it, I had to walk through it to get on it, before the software crashed.
After this happened, I loaded up the game and tried it again, and again and again to see if it would happen, but everything seemed fine and continued to be fine, until a similar thing happened when I reached Ivarstead for the first time, only there was no horse this time around, just a very slow me until the game crashed again. As for the third and final time the game crashed on me that was further on in the game and just happened very unexpectedly, but every time the game crashed, it all happened in Handheld mode. Yes the game slowed down a few times in varying locations in TV mode, but it was more often when I was playing Skyrim as a handheld experience, which is a shame I know as it is not the flawless port we hoped it would be, but the rest of my time with it has been nothing but bliss.
Other performance related issues though, related to minor texture pop-in and the jagged edges on certain surfaces that aren’t overly obvious and ruin the game, but if you look for them, you will see them and that might make you grumble a little bit, but let’s not forget that Skyrim has not been without the occasional performance issue on other platforms, so we can be a little forgiving on that. Although, Skyrim actually has a Day 1 update and since updating my game, almost all of the issues seem to be a thing of the past, so while we are without patch notes, it does seem as though the update comes with bug fixes and optimisations, so Skyrim is performing a lot better than when I started playing.
Skyrim as a Handheld Adventure:
Now, as for being a handheld game, as great as it is to experience the world of Skyrim, which is a province of the continent of Tamriel, on the big 54’ inch TV screen, it is just as good as playing in handheld mode as you can press your nose close to the action, see all that you need to see and take the adventure with you. Whether you are going to the park to have picnic with your friends, embarking on a drive as a passenger or just sitting on a bus, Skyrim is at long last a formidable game to play on the go, but make sure you bring a battery, because Skyrim is a greedy guzzler and will drain your battery faster than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. (For me, my battery would drain within 2 and a half hours easy.)
amiibo, Motion Controls and Other Old & New Aspects:
So, while performance is what you would actually rationally expect and the handheld side of things going above and beyond, even if battery consumption is terrible, what about the new functionality? Well, like it has been revealed already, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has amiibo support with amiibo acting as one of the Powers your Dragonborn protagonist can use. Only while it is true the Zelda themed amiibo can be used to earn you Zelda themed goodies (3 pieces in total: Master Sword, Champion’s Tunic & Hylian Shield) at a 20% success rate, all amiibo can be used to earn you goodies like gold, food, weapons, apparel and gems. For the players who don’t possess Zelda amiibo though and wish to get the Zelda clothing, you can of course acquire it the harder way and make your way up to the top of the Throat of the World and get the Zelda items from the treasure chest that awaits you there.
Furthermore, for those of you who do wish to use amiibo, there is no limit as to how many you can scan in a single day, as you are welcome to scan as many as you want, as long as they are not the same, but even if you save your game, use an amiibo and don’t like what you got, so you chose to load your last save, you will not be able to use the amiibo you’ve already used again, so bear that in mind. As for other “additional” content Skyrim has, Skyrim for Switch, it has all of the added enhancements and expansions that the remastered Special Edition of Skyrim has, only it hasn’t got the Special Edition in its title. As for the expansions, they are Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn and can be “unlocked” via in-game progression.
An example of this, is Dragonborn can be begun once you have progressed far enough that you have done “Way of the Voice” and made your way to a major city like Solitude. There will be cultists walking around and by talking to them, you will be asked if you are the Dragonborn and when the conversation is over, they will try to kill you and you will try to kill them, (it’s Skyrim, fights can go either way. Sometimes you win and most of the time you die horribly because you still don’t quite know what you are doing.)
As the final piece of additional content though, (let’s be honest. the expansions are a bit “old news” as they have been out for quite some time,) other new content for Skyrim is downloadable Fully Localised Voice Packs. You see while English is the default language, players in Europe will be able to download voice packs that suits their natural language best. They will take up a bit of space, but if they help you enjoy the game more so than you already will, than the download is more than worth it.
But the best thing of all, Skyrim has motion controls. Not only can they be used for combat and even lock-picking, but they’re actually pretty fluid and responsive. They will take a bit of getting used to and I will admit I didn’t spend all that much time playing about with them, as I much prefer playing with a Pro Controller, but they works reasonably well and only further add to the overall experience and now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, it’s time to move on to the next bit!
Everything Else Skyrim:
Even though Skyrim is a game that is 6 years old, that is no reasons as to why I should end my review here, as like me before this review started, there are plenty of gamers out there who have never experienced Skyrim before, so if you are among those who haven’t had the pleasure, the rest of this review is for you. So the story. Set around 200 years after The Elder Scrolls 1V: Oblivion and not a direct sequel, Skyrim takes place in the province of the same name, during a time of a Civil War. (Stormcloaks vs the Imperial Legion.) Only, while this war is raging, the playable protagonist, is a prisoner, being carted to their own education. But before they can be killed, a name, a face and a race needs to be given, so even though you are supposed to die, there is plenty of time for a makeover and become the adventurer in an open-world role-playing game you’ve always wanted to be.
I debated with the decision as to who I should be for nearly half an hour. Link from Breath of the Wild seemed fitting, since Zelda items are available, but I wanted to play as a kickarse woman and so I modelled my character on Lexa from The 100. I hate the TV show with a passion, but liked her character a lot, so Lexa being let loose in Skyrim felt right.
Once is all said and done though, just as you’re about to get your head chopped off, after someone else already has, a Dragon swoops in to save the day, by laying waste to everything and everyone it sees. You and some others do your best to flee, but lots of lives are lost in the process. Now while the escape is a playable event, the Dragon encounter is just one of many in an epic tale of coming to terms with who…what you are and what is means to be Dragonborn. (Mortals born with the Soul and Power of a Dragon, who can absorb the power of Dragons they kill and use it.) Also because you are Dragonborn, you’re the prophesised hero born with the Power of the Voice and the only one able to stand against the Dragons that threaten to destroy all of Skyrim after being vacant for so long! Evil Dragon leader by the name of Alduin, you are going down!
However, while there is an epic story at play, Skyrim is more than just a game with a story. It is a game with character, life and most importantly, choice. Not only can you create the character you want to play as, you can decide on the person you want to be as well. If you want to be a true blue hero, you can. If you want to be a heroic thieving pickpocket, you can and if you want to be a mass murdering psychopath that sets fires and slaughters people like they’re animals, well you can do that too. While some games will prevent you from killing NPC’S, Skyrim almost encourages it. You are welcome to try, but everyone fights back and some of them are hard as nails and aren’t afraid to run you through. Also, some can’t be killed as they are crucial to side-quests later on in the game, whereas others can be killed and then certain items and future quests can become available. So, if you do want to kill people, you better put them down before they can put you down. It’s a dog eat dog world and yes, you can eat dog meat. In fact, if I had to say, Skyrim is essentially any Grand Theft Auto game, if the game took place in the dark ages, and was called Grand Theft Horse, or it is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only instead of becoming a Hero once again and defeating Ganon, Link’s resurrection has gone wrong and all he wants to do is rampage.
Still, just because you can try to murder everyone you encounter, not everyone does it, not just because they’re decent people, but everything you do in Skyrim matters, as the snowy majestic, yet possibly vile world will dynamically change around you. So try to hold off on the unnecessary murders if you can, kill any and all Thalmor Justicars you see, as they do deserve it and robbing the clothes off their backs is always fun, but the rest of the time it’s really not worth it. Especially when you can much rather spend your time hunting down Witches, killing Vampires or just focusing on slaying randomly generated Dragons that can appear all over the map. But there is more to do than just go round murdering everything your eyes fall upon if you’re interested.
For starters, you can forage for food. Cook up a whole range of ingredients. Loot every treasure chest you encounter until you’re carrying too much and slowed yourself down because of the weight of it all, so you either need to get to a shop or a merchant and sell stuff ASAP, or just drop the things you don’t need. Why carry a weapon that has no real resale value and deals little damage? Either head to one of the game’s many forges and strengthen it, make better weapons/appeal (clothing and armour,) or disregard all of that and just buy beater stuff. I could recommend killing those who have better stuff than you, but if they have better stuff than you, there’s every chance that you’ll be the one who dies from the encounter. It sucks, but it happens. Also if you leave any witnesses, bounties can be placed on your head and you can be pursued and when caught, you can either pay the fine, go to prison and actually serve your sentence (or break out,) or kill all who oppose you.
But, if exploring, collecting, enchanting weapons, learning new Dragon powers to strengthen and better your Thu’um and killing doesn’t tick any boxes for you, as Skyrim has so much to do in all those aspects, there’s side-quests too and a whole lot of them. From running simple errands, to carrying out assassinations, there is a whole lot to do, include jobs that will have you farming and so much more that will eat up so much time of your time that it is easy to invest 10 hours into Skyrim and not actually progress any further into the game’s main quest than you already have. Yes, Skyrim is that time consuming, but it’s all good because it is worth its $59.99 asking price and then some!
The absolute best thing about Skyrim though, other than its soundtrack, which can be downright majestic at times, is the personal growth of your character. While the world can vary depending on your actions, so can your skill set. If you have using magical powers, your spell casting powers of Destruction for example, will increase and level up. The more you get hit, the more your armour will increase and even wielding a weapon in one or both hand, can also see you grow and the more you do, the more you can level up your 18 available skills that are divided evenly among the three schools of Combat, Magic and Stealth and when you level up yourself and not just your skills, you can then choose to increase your Magika, your Stamina so you can run further and do more Power Attacks, or your Health. You’ll also get a perk every time you level up and can either store it to build them all up, or use your perk points to boost your character even further, so even just by playing you are personalising your protagonist even further!
So yeah, that is a great aspect Skyrim introduced and it really shows off the game for being the creative piece of kit it is and although I said it’s the best thing about it, it’s not. There are so many great things about Skyrim that it is hard to have just one because you can also do things like buy a house, adopt children, make friends and take them into battle with you and even wield two swords at once and old game or not, but while it’s visuals may not be on par to some of the BIG games that are released nowadays a dime a dozen, it still gives them a run for their money in terms of experience, quality, content and is still as iconic and epic as it was the day it released on the 11th of November in 2011.
I have waited a very long time to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and that patience paid off. Yes, it has its issues, with most seemingly being taken care of thanks to the Day 1 update, and massive battery consumption, but old game or not, whether you have played Skyrim before or not, it really doesn’t matter. For virgin players like myself it has a lot going on and for Skyrim veterans, thanks to its new touches and new ways to play, Skyrim still has a lot to offer and does a great job of reminding us all as to why it became such an iconic game in the first place.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Review Key Provided by Bethesda Game Studios