While first-party releases like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and Mario Odyssey have been the face of the Nintendo Switch thus far, it’s things like Skyrim that might (paradoxically) represent its future. Sure, there are a lot of people in the gaming world who are getting a little exhausted by the ceaseless tide of remasters and, sure, third-party ports for AAA games like Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City didn’t exactly salvage the failing fortunes of the Wii-U.
Still, it’s fundamentally-important to understand that the Switch is offering something a little more than just another carbon copy of something you’ve played before. It offers you the ability to take those gaming experiences portable in a way that you’ve never readily been able to before.
This means that even if The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the king of the remasters (to date, it’s been re-released six times since it launched in 2011), the Switch version of the game offers an experience that’s well worth the trip back to Tamriel.
Return to Oz
The easiest way to measure the quality of this experience is to do the math.
What’s in it? The entire Skyrim experience, including the Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn DLC packs. It’s about as faithful a port as they come. If you’re one of the many people who sunk a lot of time into this game, you might even come across a few familiar bugs.
Has anything been added? Yes.
Motion controls - though they are blessedly optional. They allow you to waggle the joycons around to attack, defend, cast magic and pick locks. There’s also some new Zelda-themed content that ties-in with the new Link Amiibo.
What’s not in it? Mod support.
Does it look as good as the other versions of the game? Of course not.
Does that matter? Not as much as you’d think.
For those who somehow missed out on the bestselling game the first five times around, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world fantasy roleplaying game where you take up the mantle of a prophesied hero known as the “dragonborn” and set out to bring peace to a Nordic realm mired in civil war.
Once you get beyond the game’s narrow introductory sequence, how you spend your time and the kind of character you want to play through the game is very much up to you. It’s for that reason that plenty of hardcore fans are still playing Skyrim even six years later - and it’s for that reason that, if you can look past past the choppier graphics, tedious tutorials and relentlessly-wooden voice acting, you’ll probably find yourself getting drawn in once more.
Down the Rabbit-Hole
Even if I’ve always been more partial to Dragon Age (or even Fallout) that the Elder Scrolls series when it comes to sprawling RPG epics, the allure of returning to Skyrim in this new portable form-factor well and truly won me over.
That said, it can’t be stressed enough that this version of Skyrim is easily the worst the game has ever looked. Texture pop-in is frequent, the draw distance is noticeably reduced and the overall level of graphical detail is all over the place. However, in 2017, Skyrim hasn’t actually aged that well to begin with.
What seemed jaw-dropping in 2011, now looks pretty muddy and mediocre by today’s standards. Despite this, the game’s core gameplay loop of exploration, dialogue, combat and storytelling has never been better. It’s also runs at a pretty consistent 30 frames-per-second.
If the arrival of titles like Skyrim, DOOM and LA Noire on the Switch is a sign of things to come, it’s perhaps also a sign that Nintendo’s handheld could become not just a platform for Nintendo titles and a playground for indies but also a space that includes the kind of big open-ended experiences usually reserved for consoles and PCs. There are countless gems from the last generation that could well find new life thanks to the Switch’s portability.
Make no mistake, this is still an enormous and epic game that you’ll lose dozens, if not hundreds, of hours to. This time around, however, you’re free to chip away at Bethesda’s open world RPG away during your morning commute or afternoon lunch break. The ability to take Skyrim with you might not initially sound awe-inspiring but, in reality, that disconnect serves to breathes new life into something that’s fast become a classic.