Let me just say this up front: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks amazing, and I want to play it right now. Now, let me tell you why I would make such a bold statement. When I was ushered into a theater room, I figured that I would be shown a short demo that showed a small bit of what the game had to offer, Instead, we were treated to a full 30 minute section of the game, demoed by Todd Howard, that showed off all of the new features that are coming with Skyrim.
Our demo of Skyrim started with a bit of background on the game’s development. The team started on development of Skyrim right after the release of Fallout 3 and it’s subsequent DLC releases. The entire engine was rewritten, creating a whole new look and feel, “We have colors now.” joked Todd. He talked a bit about the things that the new engine allowed them to do, such as having an insanely high draw distance, something that you don’t hear or see a lot for something being demoed on an Xbox 360. Skyrim is also fully playable from a third person perspective, a first for the series.
He then preceded to show us how the action will work. Equipment and spells are now able to be attached to each hand independently, making for infinite combinations. For example, Todd is ambushed by a thief. He then equips a frost spell to his left and his sword in his right. From there he is able to quickly cast the spell using the left trigger and attack using the right, quickly defeating the foe. Todd then equips the healing spell and replenishes the health that he lost during battle. We are then shown a quick run-through of the quick-menu, which houses four main values: Magic, Items, Skills, and the map. Magic has to do with the different spells that the player has learned and what they are equipped to cast. Items is a simplistically designed inventory system that I would love to see incorporated into all RPGs from now on. Each item in the inventory can be examined from all angles, which often reveals the solutions to puzzles. Skills offers a place to see all of the skills that your character has learned and how they can be upgraded. The upgrade system for skills is pretty neat, the camera turns to the sky and each constellation in the sky represents a skill, with each star in that constellation representing an perk for that skill.
There are over 280 different perks in the game for upgrading skills. These Books are scattered across the world and when picked up, they can be read in your inventory. There are over 300 full-length books in the game and all of these were created specifically to fill in a backstory for the region of Skyrim. The final part of this menu is the map, which I’ll be brutally honest, puts all other maps to shame. Todd hit the button for the map and the entire room filled with applause as the camera zoomed out to view the fully rendered world with weather and everything. From there it showed town names, quest markers, and fast travel locations.
We walked to a town near by and Howard showed us one of the biggest improvements over the last Elder Scrolls game. When we entered the town, we saw merchants talking to each other about things that real town people would talk about. We went and talked to the blacksmith and asked him if he had any work, as he was responding, Todd just walked away and continued his journey. This is huge compared to Oblivion where you were locked in and had to stay and finish every conversation. The towns have living economies that will change depending on things that happen in the world. For instance, if you kill the lumberjack, then he won’t be able to deliver wood to the other towns people. Another way that this economy can be affected is by the dynamic weather system. The weather is not just textured to the environment, it is completely dynamic. Snow will come down and cover the tops of mountains. When it is cold enough, rain will flood the lands.
Howard then took us through one of one hundred and fifty hand crafted dungeons. Inside we got a taste of how the magic and skills could be utilized in close quarters situations. He went through a moment were it wasn’t apparently clear where he needed to go next. He said that they didn’t want to have to worry about people getting lost in the world, so they gave the player Clairvoyance, which draws a spirit line that guides them to their next objective. This is where the demo got crazy though: DRAGONS.
Dragons play a huge part in Skyrim, as the character was dragon born. Todd wants to show us how the dragon calls work. He casts a dragon shout on a wandering mammoth herd and moments later a dragon swoops down and takes out the mammoths, but the beast soon realizes that the character made the dragon shout and not an actual dragon, so he turns on Todd. Todd then must fight the dragon using his weapons and magic. The great part about the dragons in this game is that they are randomly generated so you never know where they will be. Right after Todd defeats the first dragon, a second joins the fight. Todd used the storm spell to call in lightning and thunder to take the dragon out of the sky. When the dragons take too much damage, they can no longer fly. Now since the character is dragon born, he absorbs the dragon’s souls after he has killed them to grow stronger. That’s right where the demo ends.
With draw distance never seen before on a console, dynamic weather and story conditions, and the quite frankly amazing Dragons (which I didn’t believe were real time at first), Skyrim is going out of it’s way to become one of the greatest action-RPGs of this generation. It is clear to see where the extra development time went and we can’t wait to see more of it when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releases on November 11th for PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.
You can pre-order Skyrim from ShopTo here (PS3), here (PC) and here (Xbox 360).