I’m caught between High Rock and a hard place this week. With DOOM releasing on Switch almost alongside Skyrim, you inevitably have to choose between the two. Or do you?
Binary choices aren’t my style, so instead, I did what any rational person would do in this situation. I picked up my Switch, booted up Skyrim, and pretended I was playing DOOM. That’s right; Alduin’s gonna have hell to pay.
I’ve played Skyrim nine times, across four platforms, and let me tell you, I am sick to death of that opening cart ride now. Sick of Ralof, sick of horse guy, sick of Ulfric sitting there with his gag like a jerk. I was already in a rip and tear mood waiting for it to be over. But watching it on the bus while I rode home from work? Now there’s something new.
From the moment I stepped off the cart, I was angry. I went with a Nord this time, called him Doomguy, and decided that Doomguy would definitely be a barbarian. I ran straight at Alduin, punching wildly at the air, and obviously doing nothing since this is a scripted event, and one which looked as good on the Switch as it did when I first picked up Skyrim six years ago. Doomguy and I sided with Ralof in our escape; I punched EVERYONE, then got an axe, and swung my axe at EVERYONE. I punched the spiders, the bear, I didn’t care, I’m the goddam Doomslayer and I will WRECK you.
I realised this was unviable as I progressed, but Doomguy disagreed. Anyone or anything vaguely evil or demonic would fall before me. Thieves Guild? Pfft. I’m a Companion, and only went to Riften to kill the evil orphanage woman. Dark Brotherhood kidnap ME?! I’m the Hellwalker. Astrid got herself punched to death, as did all three options. Ya’ll are probably evil; what’s not to get here? The MBIE employee sitting beside me on the bus to work raised an eyebrow at this, despite pretending he wasn’t watching, but hey, I’ve committed to the bit.
After I became Dragonborn, I continued my tradition of totally ignoring the main quest in favour of Fus Ro DOOMing all over Skyrim. I went to Morthal and killed some vampires, then to Solitude to kill some vampires, then to the Dawnguard to… well, yeah, you know what I did with the Dawnguard. I accidentally caught Sanguine Vampiris (the old fashioned way), so had to cure myself by becoming a werewolf. Because werewolves are… good? Whatever. Draugr? You’d better believe I killed ALL the Draugr. That’s how I roll, and they never stood a chance; none could stand against the DOOMvahkiin.
Well, I’m out of material; let’s talk about the real stuff.
The game runs flawlessly in handheld mode, and my fingers figured out the slightly different controls pretty much immediately. Skyrim has always been beautiful, and the 720p resolution is gorgeous on the small screen; anyone who says they ‘need’ 1080p is a lunatic. The 720 is also vital to getting it on the Switch, with a download size of just under 15GB. Compare that to almost double on PS4, and you’ll see why this is impressive. I’ve barely docked it, I’m enjoying it so much in handheld mode.
The Switch speakers do a decent job of outputting Skyrim’s amazing soundtrack, but you will get filthy looks on public transport if you slay dragons out loud, so decent headphones are essential to truly experience the joy of Skyrim on the bus. And let’s be fair, that’s the selling point here. We’ve all played Skyrim before on PS3, XBOX 360, PC, PS4, XBOX One, PC again, smart fridge, toaster, pocket calculator… But this is the first port that actually brings something new.
Skyrim will always be Skyrim: a beautiful, engaging, true masterpiece of video gaming. And you can play it at higher res, or with mods, sure. But this is portable; I have had the distinct pleasure of swinging an Orcish Battleaxe of Flames into a Draugr Deathlord’s face while a guy in a suit pretended not to watch from the bus seat beside me, and that is something new and amazing. The Switch version is worth it for that alone.
I played Skyrim in 2011 and loved it. I played Skyrim in 2016 and loved it again, but it didn’t bring anything new. The Switch version does. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because, instead of sneaking and shooting, I roleplayed as Doomguy and ran screaming at every obstacle. Maybe I enjoyed it because I did all this on my daily commute; who’s to say?
Ultimately, you might not spend two hours on public transport every day, and your mileage (literally and figuratively) may vary. For me, it’s a no-brainer; I use my Switch almost every weekday, and Skyrim is the perfect game for the ‘pick up and play’ sessions we couldn’t have before. Mash out some alchemy grinding on the highway, do some fetch quests at the airport, be the antisocial weirdo on your lunch break who hides in the break room and bashes out a Daedric quest. Otherwise, to be honest, you’d be better off with the other console offerings.
Just don’t miss your bus stop, which to be fair I only did once… twice.
Skyrim will outlive us all. I gave it a 10 in 2011, a 7 in 2016, and we’re splitting the difference this time; it’s different but the same, but I’ll be DOOMed if it’s not glorious.
Next up I’ll attempt to bring the Doomvahkiin to Mars with the DOOM port. The BFG counts as a shout, right?