It was only announced last month, despite rampant speculation, but already Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been featured in a mammoth article courtesy of Game Informer. I'm a huge Elder Scrolls fan, and I'm literally buzzing with excitement for Skyrim, so I thought I'd share all the essential details and tidbits from GI's piece with all you lovely readers. So, read on to discover how Bethesda is improving the combat and conversation systems, how quests can become procedurally tailored to your play style, and just how good it looks on that fancy new engine!
Here Be Dragons
Set 200 years on from Oblivion's aftermath, Skyrim relocates to the titular Nord region south of Tamriel, which judging by the art and screenshots attached has a rugged, almost Scottish highlands-esque beauty. Skyrim is in the throes of potential civil war, as the king has died and left the region disconnected from the rest of the empire. Your character is a self-proclaimed 'Dragonborn', a legendary hunter of the famed beasts. Handy, as Skyrim is crawling with them.
Dragons are a major part of Skyrim. They're return is a mystery, although some lore digging reveals their arrival has long been in the making. The destruction of the Staff of Chaos in Elder Scrolls Arena, Numidium's arrival in Daggerfall, Morrowind's Red Mountain and the parting of Oblivion's eponymous portals. All four key events heralded the return of the dragons.
As a Dragonborn - one of the last along with your tutor, Esbern, voiced by Max von Sydow - your job is to defeat a wicked dragon-god. His name is Alduin, a Nordic variation of Akatosh, and is known as the 'world eater'. And don't expect encounters with your fire-breathing foe to be few and far between. You'll face them on a regular basis. Often alone. I expect they'll be split into lower and higher castes. Maybe we'll meet a Hungarian Horn-Tail? Ahem.
Two Hands Are Better Than One
Oblivion was a fantastic game, but combat was a bit of a chore. Swordplay was clumsy, magic a tad underwhelming. With Skyrim, Bethesda is striving to improve not only the basic mechanics of combat, but the overall feel of it. In a move reminiscent of Bioshock, you can assign swords, daggers, shields and even magic spells to each hand, and mix and match attacks at whim. Imagine, wielding a longsword with one hand, an ice spell on the other, freezing your opponent and then following up with a fatal strike from your blade. You can dual-wield or opt for two-handed weapons, too.
Skyrim has also reduced the amount of Skills you can progress in to 18, down from Oblivion's 21 and Morrowind's 27. Bethesda claim it's so you can easily specialize in one particular profession, instead of staring in confusion at a never-ending list of Elder Scrolls nomenclature. Personally, I applaud the decision and Bethesda have also decided to upgrade the leveling system, with 50 ranks available and Fallout-style perks rewarded with each successful level. And instead of opting for a class at the beginning, you shape your character with the points spent on particular Skills.
You're also able to sprint now, which should ensure trekking across the land is less of a chore. The third-person camera has been improved, hopefully offering less of a skating-on-ice experience. In Oblivion, I preferred employing my silver tongue, plundering loot-strewn crypts and wandering the land like a virtual tourist than actually battling folk. It was just frustrating, but all the signs point to Skyrim rectifying that flaw.
Gamebryo Be Gone!
So, we've covered the plot, the improved combat and leveling system. But what of this newfangled engine? Basically, how does Skyrim look? Well - judging by the hazy magazine scans I've poured over - fantastic. You can see ancient, crumbling ruins atop majestic mountains, skeletal, autumnal forests and bleak, atmospheric vistas. It's a genuine step up from Oblivion and even Fallout, and in the article Bethesda champions pedantic - but otherwise exciting - technical features like dynamic shadows, realistic water and trees and branches that bend depending on the direction of the wind. It even has realistic snow that paints a dynamic texture on the environment.
The art, however, is consistent with what we'd expect from Bethesda and, importantly, the Elder Scrolls series. Only now it has a true next-gen gloss and feel to it. I especially love the creature designs, which range from mangy wolves roaming the forest to trolls, zombies, skeletons and even fantastic inclusions like saber-toothed tigers and mammoth. Mammoth!
But it's not just the visuals Bethesda has improved. Dialogue has seen a major reinvention, no longer constrained to stilted, unnatural close-ups. Choose to talk to an NPC, and they might amble around, sit and eat or do a job, all the while continuing the conversation. It's an ambitious concept, but we should all be prepared for a fair few hilarious glitches to emerge. Quests, too, have taken on a procedural quality, with the game monitoring your activities and tailoring missions to your play style.
So far, Skyrim is looking set to make the same groundbreaking strides of its predecessors. Bethesda have made drastic but vital changes to the creaking formula, and if the execution is right we could be looking at a truly fantastic experience. But what did you think of this first preview? Are you as excited as us or less fond of the changes being made? As always, sign off in the comments below!