Skyrim, you may have heard about it. The Elder Scrolls part flying V - ala The Mighty Ducks. One of the all-time great open world RPGs in the same way those kids were good at ice hockey. The Nintendo Switch version of the 2011 classic is based on the recently released Skyrim Special Edition (2016) that featured all official content released for the game plus fancy new enhanced visuals for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. So, that means Skyrim for Switch includes the full game, all the DLC, and around about seven million hours of gameplay.
Give or take.
So far, I’ve put at least 20 hours into the Switch version and mostly in handheld mode. And it's something that I don’t intend to put down any time soon. Or at least until this train finally makes it to my stop. Anyway, after not playing the game for many years, and foregoing the Special Edition release last year in lieu of the Switch version – playing it again after all this time feels fresh. Especially when I decided to mix it up and forego my usual wizard of wizardry awesomeness and finally experience Skyrim as a different class.
An archer with pitch black eyes, soulless in every way.
As far as the game goes this is Skyrim as you remember it, or forgotten because it’s been a while. The sheer size and scope of the world and the experience still impresses after all these years. As does the little things, like watching people go about their day in Whiterun or talk about certain battle-related leg injuries. And if they don’t then I just shoot them in the knee.
And then reload.
One slightly gimmicky yet pretty cool feature exclusive to the Switch version, is the new motion controlled lock picking. And if you’ve ever played Skyrim you’ll know that this isn’t just a small part of the game – picking locks be everyone’s subclass in the world of old scrolls. It’s quite fun to use the Switch’s HD rumble to ‘feel’ the tumblers, even though it makes the process a bit easier overall.
In terms of presentation, there are some graphics features missing from the Switch release. Things that are absent are; screen space reflections, volumetric crepuscular rays (aka God Rays) and depth of field effects. Which means compared to the PS4 and Xbox One versions, there is a noticeable visual downgrade. But to me, the most egregious offence is the removal of the sparkly snow shader! Yeah, we’re talking time to start an online petition or write a stern letter levels of egregious.
The feeling of traveling through the mountainous regions of Skyrim and watching the freshly fallen snow reflect the light was one of those little touches that meant walking everywhere on foot was worth it. Or, climbing a snowy mountain in your tank top just like Gabe Walker and having that sparkle keep you warm like that sweater he finds conveniently at a random point on an ice mountain. Hopefully, Bethesda will hear this outcry and patch in this effect. The Switch is more than capable of handling this shader.
Compared to the other recent Bethesda release for the Switch, the all-mighty DOOM
, the frame-buffer here is much closer to the native screen resolution of 720p. It also runs at a Rocky (solid) Balboa 30fps, and best of all the load times are some of the fastest we’ve seen for Skyrim on a console. Which is always welcome. Texture quality too doesn’t seem to be far off the PS4 and Xbox One versions, but there is a reduction in the density of grass and other foliage.
One omission from the Switch version that is fairly important though, especially for those of us who travel to and from places via public transport, is a brightness slider. Some of the caves in Skyrim get very dark making things hard to see. Even playing in decent lighting conditions. Being a sneaky archer, with eyes as black as ol’ Jaws in Jaws, it pains me to have to use a torch just to see what I could normally see on the TV screen or playing indoors.
And hey, that’s just a minor complaint for what is every bit the great port we were hoping it to be. Portable Skyrim, the reason some us bought into the whole Switch concept to begin with. And with so much content, I’d forgotten just how rich and detailed the world of Skyrim could be. Perfect for making even a long commute feel like a breeze.