The dream that, to be fair, probably only a handful of complete weirdos ever truly had, is nevertheless now a reality: with its much-heralded release on Switch, in a DLC-complete edition, it’s now possible to play Skyrim on the toilet. Or, more likely, in bed, or on a train or plane. Or even in the toilet of a train or plane. And so you should, too: this port of Bethesda’s role-playing revelation of the previous console generation might just be the best way to experience the fifth Elder Scrolls adventure right now, be that for the first time or in a repeat playthrough.
First-timers need to remember, however, that Skyrim’s a game of its time – that time being 2011. While the Switch edition runs at a delightfully smooth 30 frames per second, and after hours of stress-testing only very rarely takes a moment or two to catch up with itself in particularly busy scenes, this isn’t in Breath of the Wild’s league. What was once the benchmark for complete fantasy envelopment has been superseded a few times since its original release, and now resides not only in the shadow of Link’s latest, but arguably also The Witcher 3 and its expansions, and the Dark Souls series.
Not that you’ll be playing either of those franchises on a Switch anytime soon (he says, which probably confirms Dark Souls: Switch Edition for the next Direct), leaving Skyrim as the most obvious next grand adventure for anyone who’s had their fill of Zelda. And to embark upon it is to be handsomely rewarded, as while Skyrim’s not the market leader it used to be, it retains the potential to leave you astounded. Perhaps not as regularly as it once did, but, when it happens, it’s just as electric.
Yes, Skyrim is full of terrifically stiff NPCs and some legitimately awful voice-over work; its facially identical children, chasing each other through towns all over these frozen lands, are the stuff of Village of the Damned nightmares; and there’s a weightless clumsiness to combat that can sometimes turn the odds against you, even in the simplest of sword-unsheathed situations. But what freedom this game affords you, from the very off. What scale it presents, vertically and from horizon to distant horizon, even now. And what atmosphere it can manifest, as your character – custom created, just prior to the game’s opening execution gone awry – crests a frosted hilltop to gaze down upon a chimneys-smoking village below, Jeremy Soule’s forever-enchanting score swirling around you, chasing away the chill.
If this is so much preaching to the choir, apologies – but there will be those sceptical of paying for what they already own on another platform, just to play it in a properly optimised mobile format. But there can be no doubt that playing Skyrim on a small screen is remarkable, appearing to pull in the sodden walls of forgotten catacombs around you, all the tighter the deeper you descend. The resolution may drop when the Switch is undocked, but it’s never to the detriment of clarity of quest, nor does it compromise the imposing stature of this game’s violent landscapes, carved as they could well have been in places by warring gods. Mountains don’t bend when you reduce the screen size; they remain snow-capped and steadfast, and yes, if you want to go there, you most probably can. Again: Skyrim gives you the world, and merely asks that you sometimes follow a signpost or two.