A few years back, I came across a bit of extra cash and bought a game for my PC pretty much on a whim. That game was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I did not regret the purchase for even a day, and spent many late hours delving into the world, making as many characters as I could, and playing the game through in many different ways. This game, to me, was what an RPG should strive to be. Skills were gained, not by an arbitrary level up, by which you decided where your character would excel, but instead by actually performing the skill you wished to improve. This was the core of The Elder Scrolls to me.

Therefore, it was only natural that I be psyched when the sequel, set 200 years after Oblivion was announced at The Spike Video Game Awards: 2010. I immediately wanted to see more. So, I’d like to think that Bethesda Games (eventually) heard my pleas, and answered them with a 20 minute tech demo to show us all just what The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was all about.

To be fair, for the first few hours all I could do after watching the video was point, and yell expletives to show just how awesome I thought the demo was. Now that I’ve been given a bit of time to calm down, I’ll be breaking this preview into parts, in hopes that I will be a slightly more coherent ball of excitement than usual.

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkQqeY7GYbc&feature=relmfu[/youtube]

Story


Only tidbits of the story were revealed in the tech demo. You find yourself in the vast land of Skyrim, and the dragons have awakened once more. You play a character specifically mentioned in the Elder Scrolls as having the power of The Voice, shouts in the language of dragons, and the ability to harness powerful magics, such as calling storms upon your enemies. As you traverse through the game’s 150+ dungeons (some with Indiana Jones style puzzles and traps), you will harness The Voice and become its master.

 

Graphics

Can I use the word ‘amazeballs’ here, and be done? No? Alright. To me, Bethesda Games always boasted absolutely astonishing environments, from the cities and country sides of Oblivion, to the bunkers and barren wastelands of Fallout. Skyrim just takes these concepts and brings them to the next extreme. According to Todd Howard (Skyrim’s executive producer and the video’s narrator), a new engine was created to script, render, and create this fifth canonical installment in the Elder Scrolls series. This engine has been dubbed Creation. What this means is that, like other Elder Scrolls titles, everything from the closest plant to the furthest mountain is detailed. From the video, nothing seemed to be back drop. If you want to climb the mountain way over there, you could, so long as you were prepared to run way over there to do it. Personally? I can’t wait to spend hours playing a pilgrim that traverses one end of Skyrim to the other.An ancient Nordic structure

Another subject I specifically want to touch on is item design. The game menu (I’ll go into more detail later) gives the ability to view each and every item , armor, and weapon in the game to the fullest detail, down to the last piece of salmon steak. Such attention to detail only gains points with me, and I can imagine spending a lot of time just going through my items to pick out the prettiest sword (or double axe) to bash things with.

Since Skyrim is largely about the reawakening of the Dragons of old, I thought special mention should be given to these magnificent beasts. The three dragons featured in the video were all varying in size, strength, and special powers. We got a glimpse of them fighting in the air and on the ground, and I honestly couldn’t tell which I enjoyed more. I think what takes the whole cake though is the special effect on each dragon as they perish. If you want a full taste of it, I’d suggest watching the video, because “bursts into flames” just doesn’t seem to cut it.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-7grzeYpoM&feature=relmfu[/youtube]

Game Mechanics

 

A dragon of SkyrimLike Oblivion before it, Skyrim is meant to be enjoyed as a first person experience, but can also be played in the third person. While I personally am more comfortable with third person, I have to admit it’s pretty obvious that the game was designed with the first in mind. In the video, I noticed the character moving a bit oddly at times, and the design was very shiny and ‘fake’ for the player character (though non player characters were rendered beautifully). Attacks, magic, and enemies also looked more realistic in the first person than they did in the third; things just seemed to flow better overall when no player character was visible. According to the video, the controls of the game will not be that far a departure from previous Elder Scrolls titles, especially Oblivion. Right trigger still controls your right hand, and left still controls your left. The rest is pretty intuitive, but with a few added quirks to make the game even better. Spells can be dual wielded, and, when wielding the same spell in both hands , a ‘super’ version of that spell can be created. That leads me to question: will different spells be able to be combined to create new spells? How awesome would that be?The menu for Skyrimis also rather simple to understand, with sub-menus for inventory, skills (shaped like a unique constellation for your character) and the map. Skills are the same fare as before. As Howard said “You are who you play”. If you want to become a master at a skill, you need only use it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N77fhaoj9E&feature=relmfu[/youtube]

Crowning Moment of Awesome: Dragon, Axe. Watch it.

Overall:  This tech demo was exactly what I wanted to see. Come November, let’s just say you may not hear from me for a while.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be released on November 11th 2011 for PS3, Xbox360,  and PC