I’m sorry, Skyrim. I thought I could do this, but I just can’t. After several years, 5000 screenshots, and almost 500 play hours, our love affair may finally be over.
Call it the six year itch if you must, but this is not the first time I’ve come to this conclusion. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has wandered in and out of my life like a stray dog ever since its 2011 debut. After my first game file, I took a break for several months and thought for sure I was “one and done.” When I started the second file, enough time had passed that the game felt fresh and I could enjoy Skyrim again. But the disinterest set in eventually, and according to Steam, I haven’t played since 2015 (except once in 2016, to test a full conversion mod). The screenshots have long been zipped and packed away on another hard drive. I haven’t updated my blog in years.
By the time I heard Skyrim was coming to the Switch, it almost seemed sad. The game has become not unlike Bethesda’s high school senior portrait, faded from years folded away in some dusty leather wallet, pulled out occasionally to show strangers that yes, they were hot once.
But this time they put a spin on it that I couldn’t ignore: Amiibo compatibility with Link from The Legend of Zelda. There’s something about “guest appearances” of my favorite characters that is immensely hard to resist. For all my cynicism (and when it comes to Bethesda, believe you me, I have plenty), I couldn’t help but lay aside the critical lens and indulge my fangirl side. I quickly decided this would be the perfect time to start my Legend of Zelda Amiibo collection, which I’ve been putting off since the first wave Amiibo craze. I never got to enjoy their use in Breath of the Wild, and I know they’ll be compatible with the next Super Smash Bros. game. But more than that, there’s something special about my favorite characters showing up in places I don’t expect.
This is something of a habit with me. I recall when Soul Calibur II released a version on the Gamecube that included Link as a playable character. I ate that shit up like candy. It turned out to be a wise investment, interest-wise: I ended up really enjoying Soul Calibur, and still play the games to this day. Both Nintendo and Namco got exactly what they wanted out of that crossover. I remember it fondly.
The reality of Skyrim on Switch has, unfortunately, been less than ideal. I’ve had the game for several days now and I can’t get into it. I got as far as staring down Arcadia’s face in the alchemist’s shop in Whiterun before realizing I just can’t do it anymore. It’s just too much. The scenery, the game’s strongest and most appealing feature, is too familiar to impress or awe, the faces and names and problems and sidequests of its hundreds of NPCs too repetitive and meaningless to stir affection or concern. And I have no desire to clear Draugr from yet another cave.
The obvious observation here is that after hundreds of hours (only two playthroughs), I’m simply burnt out. But I think there’s more to it than that. These days my OCD is more or less under control, so an epic RPG-lite, with its hundreds of unique collectible armor and weapons, has less power over me than it might in the past. My old Skyrim files look less like the record of time well spent, and more like the scene of a crime. All I can see are the cumulative days and weeks of obsessing over the acquisition of some trinket or rare bow, the thousands of thankless edits and uploads on the Elder Scrolls Wikia, the exhaustion of keeping up my dedicated Skyrim blog. The last time I popped into my file, it took me hours just to track down all my gear, and I never did regain any sense of cohesion with the previous events I’d played through. I probably ruined this game for myself.
And then there’s the fact that the Switch version will likely never have mods, or even console commands. My husband was playing Skyrim on the Switch the other night and the console did a hard crash, an event that no other game has triggered in our time of owning the Switch so far. He also got stuck in a wall at one point and with no other options had to reload his file, an inconvenience that can range from minor to major when dealing with the game’s save system. While playing Super Mario Odyssey on a ferry headed back to Seattle on Thanksgiving, another couple approached us and asked about the best games to buy, and I honestly had to steer them away from Skyrim on both the Switch and PlayStation 4. With a game as buggy as Skyrim, it felt almost mean to recommend anything but the PC. I can’t imagine trying to play the game without a workaround for its many glitches.
And when it comes down to it, the bonuses offered by plugging in a Link Amiibo really aren’t that great. Arguably the biggest draw of Skyrim on the Switch is the ability to dress up as Link, which compelled me to get the game in the first place. But you don’t even need a Link Amiibo to get the outfit, which is in a chest at Throat of the World. And since the Amiibo can only be used once per day, and doesn’t always spawn a piece of the ensemble (offering, instead, some cheap alchemy ingredients that can quickly and easily be collected almost anywhere), it doesn’t seem worth it to buy them at all. In fact, why did I get so excited about a Link outfit in the first place? They must be a dime a dozen in the Steam Workshop.
My daughter and niece, for the time being, are having some fun with Skyrim on the Switch, but only as a temporary amusement. Without the freedom of spawning packs of rainbow bunny samurais and indulging in other mod-related amusements, the novelty wears off quickly. My niece is currently in this phase where she restarts a game every time she plays it, and I suspect the fun of creating a new character and replaying the Helgen scene over and over and over is going to get old real soon. Lord knows it already has for me.
With Skyrim now released on virtually every console available on the market, will this be the last we see of its re-releases? I can’t imagine they could milk this cow any drier than they already have, and it doesn’t speak well for the future of the series that six years after the fact, so many resources are still being devoted to the same game. Perhaps, finally, with Skyrim on the Switch, Bethesda can finally move on. And they probably will—to developing more The Elder Scrolls Online expansions.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.