The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

Several more sites have shared their impressions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim after seeing Bethesda's next open world RPG installment firsthand on the show floor of E3. Let's get to 'em...

Ars Technica:
Weapons and spells can be placed in either your left or right hand, or you can hold a weapon and a spell at the same time. If you put the same spell in both hands and cast both at once, you're rewarded with a more powerful effect or attack. You can also combine shields with weapons. It seems like a simple thing, but it's handled in an intuitive, effective way.

The team is going out of its way to make sure you can play the game any way you'd like. If you want to level up a skill, simply do that thing. If you focus on magic, you'll become a powerful magic user. A focus on swords will make you a master at swordplay. The game will feature a "radiant" story system, which will generate dynamic quests depending on your character's actions and abilities. If you'd like to see your character progression, look to the heavens: the constellations are actual skill trees, and they will also show you which of the game's 280 or so perks you have unlocked. The story of your character is written on the heavens.

I'm not one to get excited about HUDs and the like, but Skyrim's inventory setup is pretty freaking awesome. When you open your inventory, there's no new window -- instead, a super-clean list of categories like weapons and clothing pops up on the left. Select a category, and a second list pops up of all the items in the category. When you select an item, it pops up super-large on the screen, with detailed stats and information, including details like who made a certain item.

It sounds trivial, but it was really pretty and refreshing to look it. Inventory screens can get so cluttered -- I found the Fallout inventory screen super-dark, and my eyes glazed over if I looked at it too long. Skyrim's system, on the other hand, looks so much cleaner and easy on the eyes.

Books and visual aesthetics barely scratch the surface. Gameplay has evolved greatly combat is more engaging than its predecessor. Simple things such as swinging your sword and casting a spell have become more fluid. When the force of steel cuts across the body of a furious, hungry wolf, it not only looks right but it sounds right. Blood splattering across your blade looks wonderful, and the dynamic display of light, shadow, and fire looks even better as you hurl a fireball spell across the area at an unsuspecting thief. Your actions feel strong and your spells no longer as weak as they did in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. With the addition of kill cams, in the same fashion of Fallout, we may see heroic displays of execution as the player drives his blade through the hearts and heads of enemies. Everything has been tweaked and reworked so that it looks and feels just right.

During our demo, we were taken on a sight-seeing journey, the developers showing us just how good Skyrim looks, taking out a few creatures along the way. A thief here, a wolf there. It wasn't very long before our hero was in town, interacting with and talking to NPCs. When speaking to others, the game no longer stops the world around you everything plays out dynamically in real time. Around town, the hero may choose to disrupt business, or take on some jobs of his own to make some money, both actions we were told to have an effect on Skyrim'˜s in-game economy. However, our hero had no time for such activities. There were dungeons to be raided and dragons to be slain.

Our demo brought us through the living world of Skyrim, from lush forests, through a small village, and up to the entrance of a dungeon named Bleak Falls Barrow, where a dynamically-generated snowstorm started to procedurally blanket areas in snow, covering them up with powder. I don't think the idea is to have snow pile up eight feet high, as the snow was a flat texture laid on top instead of a thick blanket, but at least that means that areas will look vastly different when shifting from summer to winter. Before we're able to study the ruin outside the dungeon, a dragon attacks! It's hitting hard and the player's not doing much damage, so he quickly dives into the dungeon entrance (one of 150, each lavishly detailed and hand-crafted - and far more impressive to see than the ones in Oblivion) to escape the dragon.

The player mows through a few bandits taking refuge and on to a range of monsters using dragon shouts to stun, fire spells to burn, ice spells to slow and freeze, and weapons to hack and cut. Enemies like spiders, skeletons, Draugr Wights (which get up right out of their little tombs to attack), and Frost Atronachs return. The player rescues a thief who has some special key to something later in the dungeon, but the dude runs, so he gets a battle axe in the back of his skull instead. The player gets the special key, and later uses it to unlock a special puzzle-door further down in the dungeon. After dispatching more monsters and reading the ancient dragon language from a wall, the player learns a new dragon word, and as we learn later, finding all three words of a shout allows one to unleash a more powerful version of that shout.

And N4G:
Combat permutations are experimentation-friendly: you can can wield weapon and shield, weapon and weapon, weapon and magic, or magic and magic, with different spells assigned to each hand if you want. A staff can be equipped, axes can be perked to do bleed damage over time, poisons can be applied and casting with the same spell in both hands and at the same time grants more spell power.

The first combat encounter was with a couple of wolves that had the misfortune of dying a little funny, more or less looking as though rigor mortis set in abruptly and the death blow left them quite literally dead on their feet. As that little quirk might imply the graphics look like they need polish, however the art itself is very good and there were environmental details to delight, from the flora to some fish jumping in the water, and as we progressed further up the mountain to a more wintry clime the fully dynamic weather system got to strut its stuff.