Bethesda Switch Games Hands-On: DOOM And Skyrim Offer Third-Party Hope

DOOM looks great on Switch.
DOOM looks great on Switch. Bethesda Softworks

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. When it comes to Bethesda Softworks, it feels like the constant re-re-re-releasing of titles like DOOM and Skyrim may qualify. But the Nintendo Switch Bethesda games are far from an exercise in deranged thinking. If they’re insane, it’s only because they’re insanely good.

Shotgun is as shotgun does.
Shotgun is as shotgun does. Bethesda Softworks

I recently demoed both DOOM and Skyrim for the Nintendo Switch and really expected both games to be bad. Like, PC-port-of- Final Fantasy VII bad. Nintendo has a flawed relationship with third-party publishers at best; at worst, they’re publisher non grata when it comes to major AAA releases. And if you had told me when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim debuted in 2011 it would eventually be on a Nintendo console, I’d have laughed all the way to Whiterun. But here we are, in 2017, and a white-hot AAA game is on a Nintendo console. Sure, it’s six years later. But we’re talking about a portable Skyrim experience which was something equally unfathomable back then, too.

Then there’s DOOM. Released in 2016, the reboot captured the hearts and minds of many an old-school PC gamer, with plenty of the high-spec, maxed-out visual bragging rights for the hardest of the hardcore PCMRers. So how does a game that can have a LOT going on under the hood fare on a portable console built around mobile tech? Surprisingly well. If you’re used to a polished PC experience you won’t be impressed, but as someone who only dabbled in console DOOM I was floored. It ran really, really well. It did feel a little laggy at first (it runs at 30fps not 60), and I made a point to use detached JoyCons instead of the pro controller for that on-the-go experience the Switch is built around.

It didn’t take long to adjust to the unconventional shooter controls and slight lag. Once I got into it, I zoned out. Everything felt intuitive and balanced, and the graphics really do justice to the screen quality the Switch provides. I’ve been on a steady diet of retro experiences on Switch ( Sonic Mania, Thimbleweed Park, etc) so to see what it could do in the AAA arena impressed the hell out of me.

Bethesda is dragon Nintendo into third party success (get it?)
Bethesda is dragon Nintendo into third party success (get it?) Bethesda Softworks

I felt the same about Skyrim. There’s not a lot left to say about the game at this point; if you aren’t familiar with Skyrim, I don’t know how you made it this far into the article because I’d wager you aren’t familiar with video games or with fun. I loaded up a previously saved character, a level six Redguard battlemage, and spent about 30 minutes doing what I’d normally do in Skyrim: eschewing the beaten path to obsessively collect herbs and manufacture internal narratives around the shit I find along the way. In this regard, everything felt normal. I’d be curious to see how Skyrim performs deeper into the game when you’re dealing with dragons or large groups of enemies. It’s also locked at 30 fps, but that’s far less noticeable here than in the breakneck pace of DOOM.

The real value is in a portable Skyrim experience, something any gamer who’s ever taken a long-distance flight has fantasized about. Like DOOM, it’s heartening to see a AAA level third-party game on Switch. As a Switch owner, I definitely plan on buying one of these titles, if for no other reason than the “vote with your dollars” philosophy that drives development. Strong sales for the Bethesda Switch games might entice more third-party developers to make the effort, maybe even with new releases. Wouldn’t that be insane?

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