The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

Bethesda's recent "BFG 2011" press event has spawned three more previews for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, starting with a fairly detailed piece over at AusGamers:
The game's map system is now essentially just a theatre-of-war pull back on the persistent game-world. So you're getting a full 3D map of the land, hills and all. It literally is the game-world, shrunk down, Todd reveals, and allows for a greater sense of direction and exploration. However, dungeons are still as ambiguous as you'd expect, and after our first encounter with a dragon outside, Todd runs (a tactic he implores we utilise when we play the game, to fight another day) into the depths of a set of ruins. Inside we come across thieves (part of the active mission we're on), and a stealthy take-down of one enemy with a bow reveals two current things about Skyrim: Stealth returns in great form, and the enemy AI still needs some work (because the death of one enemy resulted in the one standing next to him to just say (who's there?) with no alarm).

Your skills are still levelable through active use, in that performing said skill will advance it. However, you can't just spam them now, as the active levelable skills require specific use. So, essentially, you can't just stand on the spot and spam jump to level your Acrobatic skill, because it no longer exists. It's a great system that requires consistent and active play and engagement with the game, which is something the team strove for from Day One. Moreover, skills are now actively tied to levelling your character, and not the other way around. It's slightly complex, and Todd explains it better than I could, but we have a Q&A transcript coming today, so stay tuned, but it makes much more sense than the system in Oblivion, with the perk system basically pulled from Fallout 3 to create what seems to be the most logical character-levelling and progression system ever created.

A two-pager comes to us via NowGamer:
Finally we arrive at Break Falls Barrow, an ancient Nordic temple guarded by a dragon, one of the game's new additions. Clearly too powerful for us currently, it's into the darkness we go. After stealth-killing a guard and puzzling through a number of rooms, we're treated to a meeting with Arvel The Swift, trapped within some cobwebs.

Saying he has both the claw and the secret that lies behind it, we foolishly cut him free unsurprisingly he abuses our good nature and legs it; our steady hand and bow resolve that issue. Retrieving what we were sent to obtain, it's a quick trip to the floor below to discover the mystery that he spoke of, but we're blocked off by another riddle.

It seemed odd that Bethesda would sing the praises of a 3D inventory system that allows you to examine every object in the game, other than from a visual standpoint, but it's directly tied to puzzles too. In this instance, the claw in our possession has three symbols engraved on it that just so happen to be the order of three blocks needed to open the path ahead.

And then there's another meaty article over at Giant Bomb:
Melee combat in Skyrim looks largely unchanged from Oblivion, in that you sort of bluntly hack at your opponent when you attack, though you will get scripted execution animations from time to time depending on how the fight is going. Blocking and bashing with shields also looks pretty familiar. The spell system, frankly, looks pretty awesome. You can assign spells to either hand, of course, but then you can combine them on the fly, almost Magicka-style. At one point Howard was using a sword with a heal spell in his off hand, then quickly switched his sword hand to the same heal spell, and you could see the character visibly channel the energies from each hand into a glowing orb that resulted in a massive health boost. In another instance, he put together a fire spell with an area-of-effect shockwave to add a fire effect to the radial blast. I didn't get a sense of how many different spells will be compatible with each other, but this looks like a pretty fun system to play around with.

There are a lot of new aspects to the combat too. One of them is the shout, which is similar to a magic spell but works on a cooldown timer instead of mana. Regardless of which of the 10 races you pick, the story considers your character a "dragonborne," meaning you, uh, have the spirit of a dragon in you or something. What that means in practical terms is that you can read the ancient, forgotten language of the dragons, and you'll discover dragon words of power in various places throughout the game. You can put specific words together to form really powerful magical effects like a massive force push or a brief time slowdown, and you'll be able to stack subsequent related words together into more powerful shouts.