Released in 2011 by Bethesda Game Studios over in America, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is thought of as one of the best games of all time.
It launched on the Nintendo Switch in late 2017 and we finally caught up with this absolute behemoth of an action RPG from July 2019. Too late to the party? No never!
The Brilliance of Skyrim
To the uninitiated, think of Skyrim as a type of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings experience.
Bethesda crafted an astonishingly detailed and enormous world here, with many players thumping thousands of hours into it. We’ve read many gamers are still playing five years in without completing the main quest, such is the complexity.
Skyrim won Bethesda an incredible reputation as one of the leading games developers in the world. And the Switch port is a faithful recreation, but with the added bonus of handheld mode.
Skyrim starts with the player on his/her way to Helgen to face execution. Whilst on the block, Alduin the dragon arrives with impeccable timing.
As chaos breaks loose, you’re able to do a runner to a city called Whiterun. There, you ask Balgruuf the Greater for assistance. He’s the Nord Jarl – like a mayor, type thing.
After a dragon attacks nearby and you help kill the thing, your character absorbs its soul. This means you’re Dragonborn – a mighty impressive thing.
The Nord Jarl sends you off to meet the scholar Greybeards and this triggers a quest off across the vast land to understand your purpose, end civil war across Skyrim, and stop Alduin.
That’s the plot, but as with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) you can totally ignore the main story if you wish.
There are thousands of sub-quests to pursue and so many side-plots going on the absolutely enormous scale of Skyrim is difficult to fathom.
It’s also a complex title to get to grips with. A few hints and tips will save you a great deal of time before you plunge on in.
It gets addictive fast. As all great RPGs do, you’re soon swamped in things to do and you’re totally overwhelmed with the options, main quests, sub-quests, and places to visit.
In terms of the technical performance on the Nintendo Switch (less powerful than most modern consoles and the PC), we’ve seen some pour scorn on the game’s appearance.
Not being graphics snobs we don’t care about such trivial matters. But it’s getting tedious listening to a certain sect of gamers droning on and on about minute graphical differences.
What we do have here is a fantastic game you can take with you anywhere and fully immersive yourself into an epic quest.
There are thousands of hours of gameplay to be had here. That’s the most astonishing thing about Skyrim eight years after its release – the scale of the game.
The attention to detail is exquisite. Bethesda poured a lot of time and effort into this one and it’s so very telling. You can’t help but be impressed.
Above is the city of Solitude, for example, which features incredible architecture. It’s rather tricky to find as navigating Skyrim’s big open world map is tough work.
But the city is somewhere we’ve taken to hanging out, which is where we began to realise the extent of the game’s content.
How can anyone thump in thousands of hours into a game? Is that possible? Yes, as with Skyrim the scale and range of the quests is meticulous. Here’s a random example, a verbatim quote from Mr. Wapojif:
“In Solitude as my protagonist, Fred, I arrived to complete one quest but then chatted to a bloke in an inn, got involved in a drinking contest, and woke up 100 miles away having been on a drunken frenzy. So I, like, had to, like, go and, like, clear a load of different things and, like, totally forget about the quest I was, like, supposed to be doing. WTF!? Lol, it’s cray cray.”
We then tried to sort that mess out, which included apologising and repairing a church we’d trashed, during which time we realised we were now in the city of Markarth.
Walking around, that unearthed a huge batch of new quests to head off. Now 50 hours in after a month of play, we have almost 100 of these wracked up and we’ve not seen much of the game yet.
Exploration is the name of the game, as with most RPGs. But as you level up and progress in unconventional fashion, as the player you can really dictate how you approach Skyrim.
You can rampage around causing havoc or have a more sedate outlook, which is what we’ve done. We like taking in the architecture and helping out the citizens in the towns and cities, you see.
Downsides? After Breath of the Wild, the sense of freedom isn’t near that level. On many occasions we found ourselves wanting to perform Link’s hang gliding jump to move around easily, but it’s sadly not there.
Skyrim is also famous for being a bit buggy and we’ve certainly had a few issues with that recently.
It’s frustrating at times, but most fans have embraced Skyrim bugs and you can find amusing clips of weird incidents online.
Some of these have to do with the artificial intelligence, which is starting to show its age a bit now.
And despite Bethesda using 70 actors to record over 60,000 lines of dialogue, a lot of the blokes we came across sound rather similar.
Like they’re from the Jason Statham school of gruff voice acting.
There’s also an interesting soundbite repeat, where many, many guards regale the story of:
“I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee.”
That sent the internet meme crazy and it’s become one of the most famous gaming quotes in history.
But such issues feel minor in the grand scheme of a quite glorious adventure. As a title from 2011, it’s a landmark achievement.
Skyrim rightly has its place in history as one of the best games ever. We have many, many more hours of awe and fun ahead in this one.
And as an experience on the Nintendo Switch, we find it’s second only to Breath of the Wild.
An astonishing legacy for Bethesda and a sign of Skyrim’s outright excellence as a gameplay masterpiece.
Skyrim’s Outstanding Soundtrack
Award-winning composer Jeremy Soule is behind Skyrim’s sprawling soundtrack and it’s a magnificent piece of work.
Soule is thought of as the John Williams of the video game soundtrack world.
The themes and drama he lends to his projects make it clear why. Skyrim is something of a masterpiece in emotive music compositions.
Keep in mind the extent of the exploration the title offers. As you’re pottering about or galloping around on horseback, it’s all the to the backdrop of this stuff. You get a sweeping sense of grandeur from it.
Soule focussed on orchestral themes and adds in a choir from time to time, but it’s surprisingly subtle.
Secunda is our favourite of the lot, but there are many other pieces that are just as introspective and moving.
It channels the likes of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, of course, but it doesn’t ignore its obvious inclinations towards Medieval music.
Although Skyrim is a fantasy game with dragons blasting around and magic beings, the music and socioeconomic situations are very much realistic.
And so you can find cities like Solitude, which we keep returning to for the music and a chance to wander around the streets again whilst beggars ask us for change.
Kind of like here in Manchester, really, except we don’t get to roar “If you’re poor, you should work harder!” and ride off on horseback.
Jeremy Soule was in his early 30s when he recorded the music for Skyrim and is now only 43. So us lucky gamers have decades of brilliance ahead to listen to from him.
Fun final fact – he personally signed every physical copy of the soundtrack on its release in November 2011, which is nice.