Kendis Playthrough,  Other Commentary,  Skyrim

Solstheim is broken in Anniversary Edition on Nintendo Switch

I was going to hold on a post like this until the end of Kendis’ playthrough, even though I’ve been seeing increasing problems running the AE on my Switch. But as of taking her to Solstheim in her run, I’ve discovered that there are game-breaking bugs in the Solstheim content. And that’s vexing enough that it’s finally kicked me over into definitively not recommending the AE on the Switch right now.

Details behind the fold.

Previous problems observed on the Switch running AE

Here’s a recap of the previous problems I’ve observed during Kendis’ playthrough, none of which were issues when I was running the Special Edition on the same device:

  1. Lucia getting stuck in a loop and never going to Lakeview once I adopted her
  2. Lucia and Sofie winding up in Windhelm once I got Hjerim as a house, even though I had explicitly told both girls I had a house in Falkreath for them to live in
  3. Mila and her mother being stuck in place in Whiterun, which blocked me from being able to give Mila her goldfish in the Fishing quest line
  4. Recurring problem, usually reproducing at the Hearthfire houses, where I come outside and the entire world just flat out fails to render
  5. Recurring problem, usually observed at Lakeview, when I come inside and the screen fills with jagged shards that look like failure to render the interior of the house properly
  6. Recurring problem, observed most recently on the Whiterun plains, where graphical elements of the world would just up and vanish
  7. (EDITING TO ADD) The Bones for a Crow quest being unfinishable, because of Bjormund Wind-Strider’s corpse never spawning at the tower at Arcwind Point

Mind you, the first three of these may or may not be the Anniversary Edition’s fault; my searching about them at the time suggested that these are rarer bugs that can occur on other platforms. But I’m noting them here just because so far, in ten Skyrim playthroughs across a variety of platforms, “Anniversary Edition on the Switch” is the only place I’ve seen these things happen.

Ditto for items four through six on this list. The overall impression I have here is that the difference between the Special Edition and the Anniversary Edition on the Switch was enough to push the device from “more or less able to handle this game” to “frequently struggling and failing hard to handle it”.

Quests that are actively broken on Solstheim

And now I’m going to add to this these problems observed on Solstheim:

  1. The March of the Dead quest will not start, which blocks you from progressing to the Served Cold quest, and that in turn blocks you from getting Severin Manor
  2. Both versions of the Thirsk Mead Hall quest are broken

The March of the Dead issue is apparently known to Bethesda. But from what I’ve seen doing searches about them, these issues were known something on the order of ten months ago. And in theory there is supposed to be a “future” patch. But given that I found a bunch of 8-10 month old Reddit threads about these problems, it’s clear that putting out a patch for these has not been a Bethesda priority. This may or may not be because they’ve had to be all hands on deck for Starfield, who knows.

Still though, the Solstheim issues are a goddamn problem. Neither of them are blocking for finishing the main Dragonborn quest line. But not having a house is definitely a poor player experience. There is a lot of stuff to do on Solstheim not directly related to Dragonborn, and a lot of loot to be had. But places to sleep and safe storage for your loot? Kinda sparse. :/

What this means for Kendis’ playthrough

Solstheim being this actively broken in the Anniversary Edition on Switch means I’m now thinking very hard about whether I want to give Solstheim my usual level of attention–or if I’m just going to speed-run it, go ahead and take out Miraak, and return to the Skyrim mainland.

Right now I’m kind of inclined to the latter. Because lack of having a house, even if it’s strictly speaking not game breaking, is a major quality of play thing for me. And while I certainly have a history of being chronically overloaded in Skyrim, I do at least usually mitigate this by being able to drop off stuff in a safe place.

And I’m almost more sad about the mead hall quest being broken, because that is one of my favorite things to do on Solstheim.

Still though let me talk a bit about potential workarounds, if you have more patience about these issues than I do and still want to try a Solstheim run on the Switch with AE.

Workarounds for the sleeping problem, if you’re running Survival Mode

How critical finding a place to sleep is going to depend on whether or not you’re running Survival Mode. If you are running Survival Mode, you’ve got to sleep somewhere if you want to level up, and also to restore your Fatigue stat. And not being able to fast travel in Survival Mode also means you can’t just blip back to a known location to sleep.

So in this scenario, best thing I can suggest is, stock up heavily on camping supplies. There’s a wood chopping block by Raven Rock Mine, and there’s a tanning rack by Fethis’ selling area if you need to tan pelts to make leather. And you can just make the supplies at Glover’s forge.

Also, make liberal use of any bedrolls or beds inside places you clear all over Solstheim. There should be bedrolls in a bunch of places, at reaver camps and such. And Ildari has her bed in Highpoint Tower. You’ll need to use any bedroll or bed you can find anyway, just because running a full dungeon in Survival Mode will wear you the fuck out.

Plus, sleeping on Solstheim has the added risk of you being randomly moved to any All-Maker Stone you haven’t cleared yet, because of the Dragonborn plot. If you’re running Survival Mode, this might actually help you out–because it’ll save you having to trudge the entire way to that Stone on foot. You’ll still have to trudge back, mind you, but it’ll at least save you the time of getting there. So that’s an extra thing to keep in mind.

Workarounds for the sleeping problem, if you’re not running Survival Mode

If you’re not running Survival Mode, sleep is less crucial. But there’s still the All-Maker Stones thing to consider, as I noted above, if you want to deliberately use sleeping as a means to quickly find the various Stones.

In a non-Survival-Mode run, my thoughts on best options are:

  1. Set up a campsite somewhere most convenient to you; on previous recent playthroughs, I dropped one just outside the Skaal Village. This can serve as a fast travel marker, too.
  2. You can still keep renting the room at the Retching Netch. Yes, this will cost you 10 gold a pop, but if you’re running Dragonborn you’re probably a fairly high level Dragonborn anyway, and therefore probably swimming in gold. You can afford it. 😉
  3. Take a look at the various safe storage locations on Solstheim, and see which of them actually have a bedroll or bed you can use. This may help you decide if you want to set up a base of operations that isn’t Severin Manor.

Places you can use for safe storage

The wiki page for safe storage locations mentions a bunch places on Solstheim you can use for storage after you clear them:

  1. Altar of Thrond
  2. Abandoned Lodge
  3. Frossel
  4. Frostmoon Crag
  5. Gyldenhul Barrow
  6. Highpoint Tower
  7. Kagrumez
  8. Kolbjorn Barrow
  9. Nchardak
  10. Severin Manor
  11. Temple of Miraak
  12. White Ridge Barrow

Obviously, for these purposes, Severin Manor is out because of the Served Cold quest being unavailable. Which leaves a bunch of other locations scattered all over Solstheim, all of which will require some level of engagement with them first. Here are my rough thoughts on all of these.

Altar of Thrond: Hagraven lair. Still a bloody mess even after you clear it, but at least it has both an enchanting table and an alchemy lab. So if you can put up with the bloodstains, might be useful.

Abandoned Lodge: This is the lodge you have to rescue the Skaal smith from in the quest A New Source of Stalhrim. It has one bed and a grindstone, and is otherwise not terribly useful. Also, while the lodge itself doesn’t respawn, the Thalmor outside of it do. The wiki says any respawned Thalmor are not hostile, and I think I’ve seen this in prior playthroughs. So whether or not this place is good depends on whether you mind having extra Thalmor hanging out once they respawn. (Of course, you could always re-kill them, but since they’re non-hostile, that might be bounty fodder. Be wary.)

Frossel: This is the big cavern system with rieklings in it, and a boatload of gold veins. But what I don’t see listed in the wiki page for this is bedrolls or beds. So if you want to try to use this place as your base, you better come in with some camping supplies to set up your own camp. And, of course, you’ll have to take out a boatload of rieklings. Or maybe be prepared to throw a bunch of Pacify spells aorund.

Frostmoon Crag: This is the werewolf camp on Solstheim. If you’re not a werewolf, you’ll have to clear the place to use it. If you are a werewolf, you can get access to the hay piles for sleeping once you’re welcomed by the werewolves there.

Gyldenhul Barrow: This is the barrow you have to run to get at the Deathbrand hoard. And it does at least have one advantage over other draugr hives: it’s fairly small! There’s nowhere to sleep in it, though, so this is another location you’d want to use in conjunction with a campsite set up outside. But since “outside” is also Horker Island, which does respawn, be real careful about where you put your camp.

Highpoint Tower: This is the big ol’ ruined tower you have to run to take out Ildari Sarothril for Neloth, in the big side plot involving that. It does have two arcane enchanters, an alchemy lab, and a couple of wood chopping blocks going for it. But you do have to clear it first for it to be useful to you.

Kagrumez: Of the various spots you’d have to clear in order to use their storage, this one at least has a very easily accessible sleeping spot. The tent outside the ruin doesn’t require you to actually clear the place first to use it, so there’s that.

Kolbjorn Barrow: You could use a huge draugr hive as a base of operations after you clear it, but do you think it’s wise? Did you kill all of the draugr? Are you sure? And do you really want to try to sleep in a place where a dragon priest drove Ralis Sedarys binkybonkers? If your Dragonborn is untroubled by that prospect, well, more power to you! There’s no place to sleep inside the ruin, so this is yet another place you’d want to try with a campsite set up outside, maybe. And use your own campsite–because the one set up by Ralis and his miners does go away once you finish the quest.

Nchardak: There are multiple chests and some bedrolls available outside of Nchardak, so you don’t even have to go back in there once you’ve cleared the place. So this might be a viable option.

Temple of Miraak: It’s kind of hilarious to me that Miraak’s actual temple on Solstheim is a safe storage space. But there are serious questions of optics to consider here. It’s not really a good look for the Last Dragonborn to try to take over the temple to the First Dragonborn, y’know? ;D

White Ridge Barrow: There are bedrolls and a chest in the first room here. But I would not recommend this locale as a base of operations for anybody squicked out by spiders.

One other option

If you run Ghosts of the Tribunal in favor of the Almalexia cultists and get access to Ashfall’s Tear, there will certainly be a lot of crafting stations in there you can use. I don’t know whether there is a place for you to sleep, or safe storage for your stuff. The wiki pages for this content are not really fleshed out, and these weren’t questions I had to answer during Shenner’s run, the only time I’ve run this content so far.

But this might be an option to check out for any playthrough where it would be appropriate for your Dragonborn to support the Almalexia worshippers. Maybe not so much if you’re playing, say, an Argonian or a Khajiit. ;D

Meanwhile, Thirsk Mead Hall is also fucked

From what I saw looking up Solstheim issues last night, the quest for Thirsk Mead Hall is also broken, whether you want to run it for the Nords or for the rieklings.

The behavior on the Nords side is that Bujold, the leader of the Nords, is already named Bujold the Intrepid when you find her, rather than Bujold the Unworthy. And you do not have the dialogue option necessary to start the quest on the Nord side. So you can’t launch it at all.

On the riekling side, apparently you can run the quest up until the point where you go with the rieklings to attack the Nord camp. But you have a counter for how many Nords you have to kill, and that counter gets stuck at 5/7. Reports I saw were saying that the counter remains stuck even if you’ve killed all seven inhabitants of the camp.

The counter problem may be related to whether or not you’ve cleared the Beast Stone, since some of those Nords do work the Beast Stone up until the point where you’ve cleared it.

I am not aware of any workarounds. Some of the Reddit posts I saw on the problem were explicitly from players who said they for sure killed all seven Nords in the camp, they counted the bodies–and yet the counter was still stuck.

And this makes me sad, given that Thirsk Mead Hall is one of my favorite things to do on Solstheim no matter which side I play it for. (Though I usually prefer to play it for the rieklings, just because I love the little blue guys.)

All in all

Solstheim still seems doable in the Anniversary Edition on the Switch, but it’ll require more planning and forethought, especially if you’re running Survival Mode. And you’ll have to live without running the quest for the mead hall on either side.

If you feel like you’ve got the patience to work around these issues, good luck! If not, my recommendation is, plan to be on Solstheim only long enough to do the main Dragonborn plotline and no longer.

And maybe also consider asking Bethesda when the hell they’re going to release a patch.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.