Because You Requested It: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim at E3 2011
User Don Jaime asked us to cover The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and here’s what we found out.
Bethesda gave us a 20 minute demo of Skyrim, running on the Xbox 360, and it is easily one of the most gorgeous games we’ve ever seen. Walking through the countryside, individual plants dot the hillsides, single ferns fully rendered with their own shadows falling upon the rocky landscape. These are not textures or some paint-bucket kind of detail additive; each object is individually placed. The only large-scale exception to this is snow, which Bethesda tells us is something that is not painted on, but rather that it is something which is programmed to accumulate and gather naturally. This is the level of detail and dedication that is going into Skyrim. When a developer puts in this much love, you know you’ve got something special, something you must play.
More after the jump!
Gameplay is similar to Oblivion, but different in key areas. The animations and rendering of third-person mode have been strengthened, as research has told them that people like to see their character as they play. When playing with a controller, each trigger controls its respective hand. (Right trigger, right hand; etc.) At any time, you can equip a spell, weapon, or other object like shields in a hand, and pulling that trigger uses whatever is there. Some weapons can be held two-handed for added damage when you pull both triggers, and damaging spells can be equipped in both hands, creating a more powerful (and highly destructive) version when both triggers are used.
Leveling in Skyrim, you will be happy to know, has been much improved. Let’s say you primarily fight with a sword and shield. Every time you strike with your sword, your skill in One-Handed goes up slightly; same for when you block an attack successfully with your shield. The same would apply to the Destruction skill (like Oblivion, each school of magic is its own skill) when you strike with a Fireball spell. Each skill type has an experience bar, and when that fills, you gain a level in that skill. When you gain a level in the skill, you also gain a level for your character, creating a much faster leveling process.
Also, each skill is displayed in game as a constellation in the sky. Further inspection of a constellation reveals that each star in the constellation represents a perk that can be unlocked, much like a skill tree. This will include things like extra bleeding damage and other debuff effects.
Certain individual powers, known as Shouts, can be upgraded as well, although through different means. Shouts are powerful spells which do not need to be assigned to a hand, and are taught by certain NPCs in the game. Shouts are upgraded by finding locations in the world that display draconic writings, and once a certain word is discovered, it is added to the Shout it belongs to, if you have it. It won’t upgrade your shout, however, until you slay a dragon and absorb its soul, which you can use to purchase the unlock of the upgrade. It’s this kind of reward for exploration that ensures that players will see everything there is to see. Or, if you prefer to go straight to the meat and potatoes, there is a Clairvoyance spell that will paint a path for you to your selected quest objective.
Though combat is much improved through features such as the aforementioned Shouts and through new cinematic executions, it is still the level of detail which continues to astound in Skyrim. Thousands of in-game items are individually rendered and can be inspected in 360 degrees, and doing so will sometimes reveals clues about puzzles or quests. There are over 300 books in the game, each one individually rendered as well. Your character can have notes slipped to him by NPCs which will just appear in your inventory. Each town has a working economy with every NPC working a job, and if you so desire, you can earn money by also doing jobs such as working farms or cutting wood. Doing so will boost the local economy, possibly giving perks locally as well.
These are the kinds of things that show Bethesda’s labor of love for Skyrim, and any fan of the series will surely not be disappointed. Anyone new to the series will find an gorgeous and engaging action RPG, which can be as straightforward or lengthy as you want it. This is going on my reserve list as soon as I get home.