The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

It will probably still take a little while before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's coverage from the latest E3 dies down, and we have rounded up four new previews to testify that.

The Sixth Axis:
Todd continues his tour of the area currently granted exposure. We move from dense grassland to a small town, complete with functioning workforce and economy, and then upwards into one of the mountain ranges that defines the game. Snow (and potentially other elements) are handled with the engine and are fully dynamic artists don't need to paint snowed-up textures, the game simply applies shaders to make rocks and paths look snowy. It's a smart idea, although it's a little ugly and blocky just now.

And then there's a dragon. These creatures are feared in Skyrim, and rightly so attempting to combat one at this stage would be foolish, says Todd, and so instead we head inside a nearby dungeon for safety and, hopefully, a way to battle the beast outside. We're safe from the dragon, still swooping overhead but out of sight, but not from the inhabitants of the cavern, dimly lit and packed with danger. After dispatching a few guards, we meet up with an NPC caught up in what looks like a web.

This is Arvel, a thief, and he's asking for help. We oblige, but are betrayed nothing a swift poke with a sword won't fix though and we don't waste any time looting his body for the item he was here trying to steal. It's a claw, which, like all objects in Skyrim, can be examined in 3D this one in particular has to be, its markings crucial to a small puzzle a little further into the dungeon.

RPG Site:
Soon, the character reached the town of Riverwood, one of the first inhabited locations in the game. Quickly, one got the sense of just how vibrant each town really is. As is sort of the norm in an epic RPG, each villager has their own daily schedules that they stick to unless impeded upon.

Everyone has a job to do in order to support their local economy. If the player so chooses, they can tackle pretty much any job that the town has to offer, such as chopping wood, gather resources, or work in a shop. Of course, if they so desired, they can also sabotage any link in the chain or destroy the entire town itself and completely disrupt its economy. Taverns, as always are a great source of rumors and quests. Dialogue between the player and their target is done in real-time, so there is no stoppage in the game.

After jumping on a horse and showing the amazing level of detail that went into animating the creature, Todd Howard made his way to the top of a nearby mountain. He talked about how the quests you go on are dynamic in nature, in that they change based on what you have and haven't done or lately or if you have already visited the location you are going to - if you are tasked to wipe out a group of bandits and have done so already, the quest is completed right away. As he neared the mountain's crest, Todd explained that the weather that we were seeing, in this case snow, and was dynamically generated based on the terrain or cycle of the world - you won't find a bunch of white textures here.

Digital Chumps:
There's no shortage of evident improvements however when taking in the world of Skyrim. For starters, the interface has been livened up with a logical four-way directional selection menu that provides easy access to magic, items, skills, and the map. You will find a quick select menu for your equipment, and you can place anything in your favorites and then quickly recall the command from the menu. Each in-game item is also now rendered in full 3-D, with a meticulous attention to detail even the foods look ludicrously realistic. And you want to talk ludicrous? How about over 300 books in the game, all fully 3-D and readable (if you like). You can also pick up mysterious notes which provide clues to other parts of the game.

While we're on the subject of graphics and detail, kill cams have been added to make the combat more exciting. Now, the finishing blow is often displayed more dramatically to help capture the feel of the battle with more ferocity. The game is also considerably more graphic than Oblivion, so whether or not you appreciate that sort of thing, expect it.

Gamer Theory:
Combat itself is vastly improved over what Oblivion offered. We were able to seamlessly cast spells, defend, or swap weapons quickly as the changing circumstances arose. With the d-pad shortcuts, gone is the clumsy menu system from previous Bethesda games. You can now quickly cycle through items, spells, and weapons without having to jump through menus. There's also a bookmark system for mapping your favorite actions, making you a much more effective character while in combat. It's a small change, but it does big things for the game's pacing and immersion. And while the game is still meant to be played from a first person perspective, Bethesda has gone a long way to improve the third person perspective for those who prefer a more pulled back viewpoint.

Finally, the dragons in Skyrim were truly something awesome to behold. They're non-scripted in the game, and according to Bethesda, they're very smart creatures. The dragons we saw did huge attacks from both the air and ground as they flew around, perched on buildings, or landed to get in close. As the dragons fly around, they can be brought to the ground if enough damage is done to them where the player has an easier chance at finishing them off. Once a dragon has been killed, the character can absorb its soul which goes towards leveling up abilities known as Shouts. Shouts are similar to magic, but are more focused on special abilities, such as slowing time, illuminating areas, or even calling down lightning storms.