Preview: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I just want to give you a hug!

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series. Bethesda has shown, time and time again, that they make games that I really enjoy when they keep to their formula…and I’m talking games made by the company, not just produced by them. Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout were all very strong titles that showed a very clear progression of effort and technology, and each brought out new things to love (while, admittedly, producing some ardor about changes made to the game system that some players despised). After seeing (and yes, briefly playing) Skyrim for the first time, I can say that this latest game will be no different.

At its core, Skyrim benefits from the same basic construction that made the previous Elder Scrolls games so fun to play. The world remains completely open-ended, featuring an incredible number of side quests and stories for each player to engage in as they wish. The main story can be followed immediately, or left to spice things up between moments of exploration, and the expansive world may make it hard for some players to stick to only the main story. As was the case with Oblivion, Skyrim provides a massive increase to the detail and attention given to everything seen visually in the world: the terrain is absolutely stunning to behold, and it was hard not to just sit and stare at everything around me at times. Meanwhile, NPCs and mobs in the world benefit from vastly improved visuals and behavior, making them much more lifelike and interesting than they were in Oblivion.

Walking through a town is an incredible experience the first few times; players of earlier Bethesda games will recognize some NPC behavior, such as people stopping in the street to converse about events as the player passes. However, unlike Oblivion, the dialogue is a lot more interesting and unique if you keep moving. Only by hovering around the same NPCs over and over will you hear them start to fall back on generic dialogue, and they get new topics as things happen in the world, which is a nice touch. One of my favorite moments was talking to a blacksmith as he ground an axe on a wheel; rather than put it down and stand just to talk to me, I was able to watch as he continued his work while indulging my need for conversation. Again, a small detail that really got my attention when it happened (incidentally, the same blacksmith is shown in one of the preview videos on the ES site, posted above, if you want to see his behavior).

Combat is something that has especially improved with the long-awaited introduction of true dual-wielding abilities! You can wield two weapons, a weapon and spell, two spells, or go sword and board with a shield if you like. Generic combat has faded away with Oblivion as well, as you learn to do things such as shield bash, charge up and hold spells, and other neat effects. You can even dual wield the same spell in each hand for increased effects. In addition, there are now more effective special maneuvers for melee weapons; this leads to occasional impaling of enemies, or other special animations that really look cool when they happen. It also makes the combat feel more “real”, which helps create better immersion into the game system. While I eventually got bored with Oblivion’s combat due to the ease of being able to fake out the AI of most creatures, I never had that feeling in Skyrim. Each enemy attacked in a way that made them a genuine threat if not taken seriously. The left vs right hand system has been done well, and I think most people will enjoy it…it certainly impressed me!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to draw down with a dragon during the 1 hour demo limit when I played, but watching the videos they are obviously a major part of both the story, and the open world. Personally, I can’t wait to go hunting once I get the chance (and the equipment).

Alongside the visuals are, as always, the auditory effects, and once again I have nothing but praise. The music provides a nice, continual backdrop to the world of Skyrim, and everything from ambiance to combat sound effects sounds a lot more natural than they did in previous games. The dialogue I heard is all pretty well recorded, and I didn’t come across any cringe-worthy, Resident Evil 1 type voice acting in my time with the demo. It’s clear that Bethesda didn’t skimp in this area, and you will really be able to tell the moment you load up the game.

Character creation is, as always, a lengthy process, but unfortunately I don’t have much information on it yet! My 1 hour time for the demo counted the time it took to make my character, so I had to blaze through pretty quickly. I can say that the Argonians (lizards) and Khajiit (cats) both looked very similar to Oblivion, but with a slew of graphics upgrades that really made me wish I had time to really fiddle with all of the modification tools. That said, I was able to quickly make a Khajiit and jump into the world, so you don’t have to take much time with creating your player if you don’t want. Skills work the same as Oblivion and Morrowind anyway, so anything you accidentally don’t boost up at the start, you can eventually practice to perfection later.

Is he cold blooded? Who cares, he can throw fire!

Speaking of skills, that’s the next big thing: talent trees! Well, I guess they’re called “perks” this time, but it amounts to the same thing. As you level up the various skills, you can select how they level: for instance, by leveling the One-Handed skill, you can specialize perks in axes, maces, and swords based on which ones you want to have more skills with. This lets you put more of a personal touch on your character’s abilities as you make them stronger, and take the perks that will be most beneficial to your character, instead of just getting generic upgrades like Oblivion had. The change is a welcome one, and I have yet to find any negatives with it: every experience I had, was a good one when it came to perks during the demo.

There are, of course, some cons to all of this. The rig that we were allowed to play the demo on was a fairly stellar piece of computer, and odds are, a lot of people are not going to have something with that much power sitting on their desks. For those who do, the game should run like a dream, but the others will most likely face compatibility issues and low graphics settings until they give in and decide to upgrade. The exact system specs haven’t been released by Bethesda yet, but I would count on needing some fairly expensive machinery to be able to run this game anywhere near high graphics settings. For those who outright can’t run the game, that means either buying it for a console (which will have all the same DLC, but no mod support for obvious reasons), or upgrading their rig. Those who can’t afford a new PC, or a console, will be SOL unfortunately. This may change later on thanks to the mod community, as there were some modders who helped make compatibility packs that reduced certain graphics requirements for lower end PCs back in Oblivion and Morrowind. Such a thing may happen to Skyrim as well.

The price of the game will also be an annoyance to some, even the PC game will retail for $59.99 according to most websites selling the game (instead of being the usual $10 cheaper than console versions). Notably, direct2drive.com features a preorder discount of 10% for the game, so currently they have the best deal. While no retailer is currently offering a presale bonus, there is a special collector’s edition of the game which will include a 200-page art book, a making of DVD, and a 12″ Alduin dragon figurine. The collector’s edition is only for hard copies of the game (so no special CE for digital download versions yet), but it retails at a hefty $149.99 on the release date, which is certainly more than I want to spend, even if I do want that art book.

Overall, my impression of the game is fantastic after only playing for 1 hour on the demo. Even that incomplete version was wonderfully refined, and everything simply felt “right” about the game as I played, and watched others do the same. I spent the entire hour repeating “that’s so cool” every minute or so, and laughing to myself as I did, which should be the hallmark of a good game experience.

Release date: Currently 11/11/11

Durandal is a well-known sarcastic jerk; he’s not always a sarcastic jerk, as sometimes he’s asleep.

About these ads
    • Pedobear
    • September 22nd, 2011

    wut?

    • It’s obvious which one’s going to win, peruly because MW3 is pretty much an on rails shooter, and Skyrim is an RPG. The only questions MW3 is going to get is probably involving multiplayer, and it won’t get many. Skyrim on the other hand will get questions on practically everything, from character builds, to money making tips etc etc.

      • There isn’t really part of pniayg for a small fortune for that business if not everybody realizes all you own personal. Oriental ladies coming back again from your European grocery shopping maintain their very own statements, never in the event of your money back, and yet of showing to the pals.

  1. Cant wait for my bday (11/11) :D

    • Preemptive happy birthday then! Remember to take a Skyrim break to enjoy a party and cake though ;)

      • No, you pay Gold for Dage’s Paragon armor. If he wins. If not, it’s going to be Legion Tokens. If Nulgath wins, you eiethr pay AC or Diamonds, which eiethr are not simple to get; one takes ads or real money, the other takes days/weeks of mindless grinding. Once the war is gone, Diamonds will be even harder to grind like before the war. Diamonds cost both time and gold. Derp.

      • With all these silly websites, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

  2. man you’re a jerk lulz

    • Geralt
    • September 23rd, 2011

    “The rig that we were allowed to play the demo on was a fairly stellar piece of computer”

    Can you give some more details? Do you know what CPU & GPU were in the PC and how smooth was the game – did it feel like 60 FPS?

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the PC itself…we were timed while using it, so no one really wanted to take the time to open up the properties and check out the exact specs ;) I would estimate at least a GeForce GTX 560 Ti for the video, based on the graphics settings, but I can’t be completely sure.

    That said, the game was extremely smooth, it felt natural walking around in the world while I played (definitely 60 FPS), and the folks from Bethesda assured us that they had done a lot of work optimizing the game for play on as many systems as possible. Even if we have to gear down the graphics a bit for our home PCs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see gameplay that was just as smooth at lower settings (while still looking great).

    Time will tell, but I’d imagine the PS3 and XBox versions will look stellar as well!

      • Geralt
      • September 23rd, 2011

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. My PC should be more than enough to max it (i7 2600 + 2x HD6850’s), but I’m just concerned about crappy optimization. Too many games are released nowadays that run like absolute crap on more than capable hardware.

      • From what I’ve seen, I think we’ll be safe. Time will tell, of course, but I’m confident!

        I did also want to add, for those who haven’t pre-ordered yet, there are some special deals out there now, in addition to the Direct2Drive.com 10% discount. Gamestop is offering two items: a bonus premium map (available for both online and in-store pickup, included in the game case), and customers who fully pay off the game before 10/16 receive double PowerUp Rewards Points. There is also a 30% bonus on trade-in credit for this, and other games, if anyone is a bit short on funds.

        While Best Buy and Amazon currently are not promoting any special items, it should be noted that Walmart is also advertising the map for their preorders; the maps should be available for both the regular and collector’s editions of the game.

        I’ll be keeping updated on this game and others, so once the system specs are published, look for that info here!

      • aff, n o vejo a hora de olhar atrav s daquele elmo de cfreihs e encarar esses desafios. Tomara que o hype esteja certo. Sempre curti os rpgs da Bethesda. Meu primeiro contato foi com Pirates of the Caribbean, onde o game tinha tudo pra ser bom antes da Disney meter o bedelho. Vamos l . Estamos esperando.

  4. Just another update for all of you Nintendo fans out there, if you’re planning on snagging a Wii U when they release, Bethesda’s VP of PR and Marketing has stated they will look at a possibility of a Skyrim port:

    “We’ll look at any platform that will support the games we’re trying to make, but that’s the key thing – the console has to support the game as it is designed,” Hines told ONM. The executive discussed the challenges of bringing games to various consoles, noting that it’s not just the task of bringing a title to a new platform, but ensuring it’s localized to all the relevant languages as well. “It’s a pretty huge undertaking,” Hines said.

    Maybe Nintendo-only loyalists won’t miss out on this latest edition after all! We’ll see what the future brings.

    • Will
    • September 28th, 2011

    The FOCUS or title of this review should have been “Skyrim PC Preview” since this has to be one of the very few, if the only preview that was done playing the game on a PC! We didnt find out until the end that it was played on a PC…

    The fans that have been following Skyrim have propbably read 100 previews already with the same info over and over again. I’d like to hear more about how the PC differs from the consoles. Besides graphics, how does the interface differ from the XBOX? How are spells and favorites set up using the keyboard and mouse? Ect???

    • Excellent promotion idea, I hope a week will be eugonh to draw eugonh users in. I think we really need a prominent ad for new users displaying it.Also, very nice contest site! Kudos to the designer(s) :)

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