The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews and Interview

E3 just concluded but that doesn't mean that the latest flood of previews for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is finished, and we rounded up some more for your perusal.

GameInformer on their favorite things about Skyrim:
Shouts Look Like Fun
I love playing mages, and with the addition of Dragon Shouts, the magic system in Skyrim looks to provide even more options. Even though I think the concept of yelling as a weapon is dumb, I can't argue with the results I saw in the demo. From breathing fire to calling down a storm (not just a tiny one; it covered sky as far as I could see), these abilities promise to add some awesome options to combat.

The monstrous creatures roam the world in Skyrim and act as the boss fights for the game. I saw the hero square off against two of these things, and it doesn't look like they pull any punches. They soar overheard, breathe fire, and look like they can completely wreck you if you aren't prepared.

Radiant Story?

This is one of those things that sounds too good to be true. The locations of various quests and plot points can change based on the things you've done and the people you've talked to. In other words, if you've missed a cool dungeon, the game can move your quest activity to that area...though those tasks might be elsewhere if you already explored that particular dungeon. It will be difficult to see how exactly this plays out without getting extended hands-on time, but I'm excited about the possibilities.

As I continued, the Bethesda reps showed off some of the attacks that are possible using Skyrim's dual-wielding mechanic. At point, we stopped by a tower, where I saw a couple of hostile guards conversing. The Detect Life spell was set to one hand highlighted the guards, while the Frenzy spell in the other hand turned one guard against his buddy. With that distraction out of the way, we continued onward.

Eventually, we found ourselves in the Bleak Falls Barrow. After dealing with a crazed bandit and taking an artifact off his corpse, we descended deeper into the system of caves. Along the way, we saw more powers, such as dual-wielding chain lightning. I'll admit, being able to go Dark Jedi on foes looks pretty fun.

The grand finale was a battle against not one but two dragons in the middle of an open field. They swooped in during a battle with a pair of giants and their mammoths, grabbing one of the giants up and promptly dropping him to his death.

The dragons are unscripted, apparently, and battle with a variety of behaviours. They're capable of randomly appearing to lay waste to villages and towns, or simply popping up when you're walking through the wilderness, and they're the game's equivalent of epic boss fights. Some like the one above will breathe fire and try to strafe you down. Others might use frost attacks. Some might prefer to get up close and personal.

One thing remains constant, however: once damaged, the dragons lose the ability to fly. Some will land and try to take you on in close quarters, while others will simply crash into the ground, throwing out a hail of dirt and stones. In this case, our protagonist opted to deal with the dragon in a suitably gory fashion via a cinematic execution animation: after a brief continuation of the battle he clambered onto its head, leapt into the air, and drove his axe through the back of its skull. Immediately thereafter the dragon's body burst into an ethereal flame and dissolved, as he absorbed its soul.

Howard runs into a small town with a lumber mill. He points out that we could choose to sabotage the lumber mill, for whatever unearthly reason, or earn money by chopping wood here. Two ragamuffins run up to our character. (There are children,) Howard says. (No, you can't kill them.) (This is the one and only time when I am less than impressed with Skyrim's graphics; the kids look like ugly dwarfs.)

At this point, Howard jumps us to the part of the demo that I get to play for myself later in the evening. Two thieves are having an argument about a (golden claw) at the entrance to a cave. Not wanting to mince words, I kill them both and head off in search of whatever it was they were after. It turns out that the claw is in the possession of a giant spider of ill demeanor, or at least the other thief holding the claw is. Hacking up the spider and talking to the web-encased thief, he asks me to cut him down so we can split the treasure.

A likely story, I think, but no matter what dialog path I choose, it always seems to end with me cutting him loose. He takes off like a bat out of hell and I'm giving chase. He does not run that fast, and soon afterward he's down, and I ransack his body to find the golden claw. This plays into a puzzle that comes up later there are images visible on the claw when you look at it in your inventory screen, and these must be put into place on a certain door. Not the hardest of puzzles, but these were medieval times and Games magazine wasn't around yet.

His horned Nord wandered through the catacombs of the dungeon and we got varying tastes of the combat system. Bethesda really wants to give the players a lot of options how they approach play. Want to use only melee weapons? You can. Want to play as a battle mage wielding a spell in one hand and an axe in the other? You can do that too. Each hand can have abilities and weapons assigned independent of each other. One of the most impressive features of the new combat engine is ability to equip spells in each hand. For example, if you place fireball spell in both hands instead of slinging two fireballs your character is able to combine them together and cast an even larger version.

Todd progressed to the halfway of the dungeon and we began to see spiderwebs in the room with us. Shouts for help came from down the hall, an elf had been cornered by a giant Ice Spider. As Todd battled the spider showing the quick access list of (favorite spells) the elf shouted for help and encouraged him to kill the spider as fast as possible. Similar to the d-pad radial menu in oblivion this favorites list gives the player quick access to their favorite spells and unlike oblivion there are a lot more than eight slots.
Venture Beat has a short piece which mentions "more than 300 books" for the new Elder Scrolls game:
(We're trying to make this a great fantasy world, and the details really bring it home,) said Howard.

The books are just one more detail that makes Skyrim stand out as one of the most anticipated video games of the year, particularly for fans of the fantasy role-playing game genre. The game comes from a seasoned team that did earlier Elder Scrolls games Oblivion and Morrowind, as well as Fallout 3. It is a good example of what happens when you double down on game quality and take a long time to bring a big game together.

Todd Howard, head of the project at Bethesda Game Studios (which is owned by Bethesda Softworks), said that the company rewrote the entire game, from the graphics engine to the user interface for this fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series. There's a new quest system and all sorts of other things. So much has been redone that it was like creating a new game from scratch.

Finally, CVG has a video interview with lead producer Craig Lafferty, who mentions the team's desire to make the game really accessible while keeping the complexity, the expanded voice cast (70 voice actors compared to the 14 in Oblivion) and gives an estimated length for the main quest and additional content: 30 hours and 200 to 300 hours respectively.