8 things I wish I knew before playing Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch

Ever wished you could have the sounds and smells of the forest around you while you’re exploring the golden landscape around Riften? Good news: now you can! As Skyrim Nintendo Switch is finally out, us Dragonborn can now take Bethesda’s open world, dragon-decadent extravaganza anywhere and cast spells, eviscerate bandits, and dabble in alchemy on the go. But here’s some things you’ll want to know before you start your next megasized save...

1. Make sure to favourite things before doing anything else

You’re going to want to tag quite a few of your most-needed items as soon as you boot up Skyrim. Press X when in your inventory to favourite weapons, potions, and spells. By pressing the up or down button on the left Joy-Con, you’ll be able to access them in the blink of an eye. Quick word of advice: if you’re a mage, you’ll want to either stock up on magicka potions or favourite a separate weapon, like a bow or war axe. Because once that blue bar is drained, spells are going to be temporarily useless. So turns out favoriting is essential when you’re mid-combat, have run out of magicka, and are in need of both a bow and a health potion STAT. Which I found out the hard way. 

2. Motion controlling magic uses the Joy-Con you cast the first spell with

Unfortunately technology has not advanced to the point where we can exude fire or lightning from our fingertips. Sadly. Until it does, you’ll have to try and recreate the feeling by using the (detached) Joy-Cons in Skyrim to aim your spells. But before you do, it’s worth pointing out that only one Joy-Con will be the one doing all the motion-control (this changes every time you fire something new from your fingertips, so you’re not stuck with one Joy-Con permanently controlling where you spout flames, don’t worry). Even when dual-wielding two different spells, only one controller will direct where they’re pointing. Whichever side got fired first will be the one you’ll want to wave around with semi-reckless abandon. You can also aim using the Switch in undocked mode for both archery and spellcasting - simply tilt the console in the right direction and let rip. 

3. Melee motion control isn’t *that* fine-tuned

Even though the motion controls for magic might make you feel like NPCs should drop to their knees in awed submission, trying to do the same with melee isn’t quite as fearsome. At all. When you’re wielding the detached Joy-Cons if you block with one hand, expertly stagger your opponent, and then want to follow up with a devastating hit with your weapon of choice, you’re going to be disappointed. The transition isn’t nearly as smooth as it is on console or PC. You have to shake the stabby-oriented Joy-Con quite a few times to disengage your block stance. Which might be good exercise for swinging a mace in real life, but isn’t ideal in the game. 

4. You’ll want to use Joy-Cons whenever you pick locks 

Seriously: using one Joy-Con to twist the pick while you gently move the lock around with the other feels brilliant. Even better, the left Joy-Con vibrates as it grinds against the tumblers in the lock, so you can feel even more like a fully fledged member of the Thieves’ Guild. Be careful though - unlike in the PC version of Skyrim, it doesn’t take much to break your lockpick as lessening the amount of pressure on the lock is finickity. 

5. Everything looks a weensy bit better

With the transition to the Nintendo Switch comes improved textures and mouth animations. Don’t expect anything like the modded-up versions of Skyrim that you’ll see on PC - the graphics still look dated, unfortunately - but it looks a damn sight better than it did at launch way back in 2011. The mouth animations have even been upgraded to the point where it’s vaguely possible to read their lips, meaning you could potentially learn a valuable new skill while gallivanting around the dragon-infested landscape. 

6. In-game brightness is...not a thing

The good news is that exploring dungeons has never been more immersive. You’ll need a torch to find your way around, as some areas are pitch black and the last thing you want is a Draugr sneaking up on you in the dark. The bad news is that this darkness carries over to the entire game, leaving interiors oddly devoid of light...and there’s no way to change it. The brightness bar in settings is absent, and turning up the Switch’s brightness only gets you so far. So invest in a spell like Magelight or Candelight asap, even if you’re a warhammer-brandishing Orc. You’re going to need it.  

7. Amiibo is a power 

Got an amiibo of Link, Zelda, or a Bokoblin hanging around somewhere? To use any of them in Skyrim you’ll need to find the amiibo power first. Go to the ‘Magic’ section of your menu and you’ll find it underneath the ‘Powers’ section. Equip it, then once you’ve used the power by pressing R, hold the amiibo over the right-hand analog stick. You can use amiibo from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 30th Anniversary: The Legend of Zelda, or Super Smash Bros. But beware: you only have a 20% of getting the Hylian Shield, Master Sword, or Champion’s Tunic. Time to pray to Nocturnal and roll those dice!

8. Be careful when you’re sprinting

It’s inevitable that you’re going to want to run very fast away from certain things in Skyrim. Storm atronachs. Sabre cats. Frost trolls. To do so you just have to press the L bumper button and you’ll start running as fast as your legs can carry you. When you do, bear this in mind: if you move the left analog stick, you’ll stop sprinting and instead resort to jogging. Instead, use the right analog stick to change direction. The temptation to move using the left analog stick is strong, I know. Resist it.