Ken Rolston may no longer be behind the Elder Scrolls
games, but Bethesda
made it loud and clear today that the saga lives on and the IP is
nowhere near giving up. Elder
Scrolls V: Skyrim
beautiful, and contains a heaping
amount of kick-assery that would make even Big Daddy cry.
The team at Bethesda has been working on the title ever since they
finished up with Fallout 3
2008. This has given them time to create a completely new Creation
Engine which has been custom tailored to the specific needs of Skyrim
This doesn't mean that the
game will look foreign though. From the first screen loading, it was
obvious that this was an Elder
game -- just newer
and prettier. The same amount of
painstaking detail is in place as we have come to expect from its
engine allows streaming of textures and content so load times will be
almost non-existent once you're in the world or a dungeon.
But just how vast is the world? There are nine Holds in the game (or
Countries) and the vast landscapes in which you can explore will allow
you to venture to any part you can imagine. We sat in awe of the
detailed terrain as our host walked us through the countryside. He
pointed out some towering mountains that were miles in the distance.
"Yes," he said. "You can climb to the top of those."
can be played in both
first and third person, which will be welcome for some. The good news
here is that the character models and animations are very well done as
well. I always felt the environments of Oblivion
were fantastic, but the
models left a bit to be desired, even more so in Morrowind
That is not the case in Skyrim
The characters we saw were
as detailed and attractive as the fish swimming and leaping out of
streams and the plant life blowing in the wind (these could also be
picked up and used for alchemy).
Combat is action based much like Oblivion
A right click will use your right-equipped weapon or spell and a left
click will raise your shield or swing your left-equipped weapon or cast
your left-hand spell. Everything is interchangeable allowing any number
of combinations to really customize your play style. Wield a sword in
your one hand and cast a spell from your left, dual-wield two weapons,
make use of sword and board, cast different spells from each hand, or
slot the same spell in both hands that, when combined, will cast a
stronger version of that spell.
The implications of having different spells from each hand are
enormous. To illustrate how powerful this type of system can be, our
host loaded up a Detect Life spell in one hand and an Illusion spell in
the other. Casting from his left to detect, we were able to see quite
clearly two figures in the distance. Keeping the detect spell going for
ease of targeting, he then cast Illusion on one of the distant figures,
causing them to attack and kill the other. A second encounter later in
the demo made use of a Circle of Protection spell combined with Chain
Lightning. During a fight with undead, the Circle of Protection would
send the skeletons running, getting zapped with Chain Lightning which
bounced off the walls and floors while they fled. Players will be able
to combine any two spells they've learned to come up with some truly
Guardian stones exist in the game and are standing statues which will
offer a power boost of some sort, whether it be improved swordsmanship
or a bigger health pool. Only one Guardian Stone can be active at a
time, but the player can switch them out as they want, so long as
they're able to physically get to the stone to activate it.
Another boost to the combat system is the addition of killing blows.
These finishing moves vary greatly depending on the type of attack the
player is performing and they look fantastic. They really bring out the
action and brutality of the game while managing to balance it with an
eloquent finesse seen in very few titles.
The coup-de-grace of the game's combat is its 'shouts.' These skills
can be learned by uncovering runes hidden around the world, or even by
absorbing dragon souls after you kill them. We were assured there would
be many dragon fights in the game so learning these shouts likely won't
be too infrequent. There are several types of shouts, including a
knockback that throws your enemies several feet away from you, the
ability to slow time, and a fire breath that the dragons themselves use.
As mentioned, collecting Dragon Souls will help you unlock some of
these shouts, which begs the question: how tough are dragons? There are
several types of dragons you will be fighting in the game, and they
vary in difficulty. The key point here, though, is that dragon fights
are completely unscripted events. There are no "phases" or set scripts
you need to repeat to kill them. You simply need to be aware of their
abilities and figure out how best to defend yourself and gain the
aggressive advantage. Dragons have several powerful abilities including
the capability to pick up an opponent and fly off with them. One fight
we witnessed against a giant was suddenly interrupted by a dragon that
seemed to come out of nowhere, pick up the giant in its talons and drop
it from hundreds of feet in the air. Obviously, the fight from that
point quickly shifted attention to the dragon.
Running to a nearby guard tower employed some help from the locals who
fired arrows and whatever else they could at the massive flying beast.
The good news: after a dragon becomes wounded it will fall to the
ground, making the fight a lot easier from that point on.
the dragon finally fell out of the air, the player was then able to
commence slashing at it with his swords and finished it off with a
final blow that had the player climb atop the dragon's head and drive
his sword through its brain.
This event was just one example of an unscripted fight that players
will encounter when they play through, and with the variations in
weapons, spells, shouts and play styles, players will find their own
unique brand of dealing death to the dragons they face while they level