The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

Since QuakeCon kicked off yesterday, members of the press have got the chance to go hands-on with the highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and offer impressions from their experience with the title.

GameSpot doesn't offer any new information, but confirms that you can play as a murderous psychopath:
The old woman, Anise, looked as if her head had been filled with gravel and she refused to speak to us when we talked to her. We took her silence as an invention to wonder inside her cabin were we learned that she was some sort of alchemist, given all the special weeds and roots littered about. Back outside we found Anise sitting in a chair looking somehow even more unpleasant than before, so we attacked her. She tried to fight back using magic, but her wrinkly hide was quickly overwhelmed by our shiny, new axe.

In her basement there was an alchemy station where potions could be brewed. All we needed to do was combine two to three alchemical items (pilfered from upstairs) that shared a special property. Each item had four special property slots, all labeled "unknown," and the only way to find out what they were was through trail and error at the station, or by eating the item. Either method consumed the item(s). Our first potion failed, but the second succeeded since two of the items shared the "resist frost" property. This information was then recorded in the item's description for future reference.

We then made a quick pass through Riverwood before starting up the side of a the snowy mountain. There Knuckleduster encountered some bandits who were eager to thrown themselves on the end of his axe--save for one with a large, wooden shield. This opponent was able to deflect our basic attacks but, by holding down the attack button, we brought our character's weapon around for one powerful blow. The bandit buckled under the attack's weight and crumpled at our feet.

IGN has promising things to say about the perk trees:
In the middle of the mountain range is a town called Falkreath filled with imposing buildings made more ominous as rain and fog move across the sky to soak the scene. There dour NPCs drag themselves through inns and complain of conflicts far beyond their power to alter, so naturally they ask for help. In a dusty corner of an inn is an alchemy apparatus where I can mash together reagents, flowers and plants plucked from fields, to form potions. All the combinations I try fail, so I steal a few things out of frustration and am promptly met by a guard that wants to escort me to jail. I go and, instead of sleeping off my jail sentence, put two picks in the cell door lock. One pick moves along the top of the lock and at any point in an arc I can stop it and test the bottom pick. If the bottom pick turns the lock turns 90 degrees, the door opens. Or if I pick the wrong spot to test, the pick snaps.

I can improve this skill over time, along with pretty much everything else in Skyrim. Leveling unlocks a point to allocate to one of numerous skill trees, from lockpicking to schools of magic to light and heavy armor, bows, blacksmithing, block, pickpocketing and a lot more. Points don't need to be used immediately, so it's possible to store them up across levels in case, at the outset, I haven't yet decided the type of character I want to be. There's certainly a lot of choice, as each skill tree features multiple nodes that trigger bonuses when activated, and most nodes can be upgraded multiple times for enhanced effects. I chose to upgrade my one-handed sword skill to do more damage, but it's clear that when Skyrim eventually ships on November 11 I'm going be spending a lot of time staring at this screen in agony as I decide which paths to follow and which to forsake.

There are bandits to eavesdrop on and sneak around the Khajiit are especially good sneakers, so I huddle in shadow and draw a longbow on the nattering bad guys from a few feet away. Later there are the skeletal draguar, who employ magic as well as swords and axes, and there's a mini boss fight with a giant spider.

There are door switches rigged to banks of arrows that need to be disarmed by observing your surroundings and rotating totems like tumblers in a lock, and there are pressure plates and levers that activate spike doors and swinging blades, which are great for making short work of draguar as their numbers increase.

All the while your individual attributes continue to rise through use and you level up. With each level you can stare up to the heavens and the constellations of perks above you and, after deciding whether to increase Magicka, Health or Stamina, choose the upgrade you want.

You don't have to bank perks immediately though if you are trawling through the constellations and spot a perk you want that requires a higher attribute value than one you have at the moment (Destruction 40 vs. your current Destruction 21, for example), you can simply wait until you've met that requirement.

Destructoid notes that first person is still the way to go for Skyrim:
My favorite weapon has to be the bow. The revamped physics and controls made me feel responsible for every arrow shot. The trajectory of the arrows is realistic and not randomly determined by stats, but the damage is. A stealth arrow to the head is something I don't think I will grow tired of during the many hours I plan to spend with Skyrim. If you aren't a natural Legolas like me, unlockable skills will help you perfect your bow-and-arrow skills by slowing down time or providing a closer zoom.

The cavern itself was rather impressive for being such a hum-drum locale. The elements of Skyrim's new Creation Engine are displayed to great effect. The lighting generates a haunting atmosphere, and a waterfall coming down the multi-tiered levels of the cave presents a spectacle that interiors in Fallout 3 and Oblivion lacked.

Fans of Fallout 3 will be happy to hear that lockpicking, NPC followers that you can direct and weapon crafting will return in Skyrim with subtle improvements. For example, NPCs will follow you based on their perception of you -- a mix of your karma, dialogue choices and quest favors all brought together through the new Radiant AI system.

And finally, GameInformer doesn't have a preview ready yet, but offers some details:
When a strange, imp-looking forest creature approached, the battle began. Judging by the performances of the players, this enemy is not to be underestimated. Many went for the standard Oblivion tactic of shooting fireballs while backpedaling to soften up the oncoming attacker. Unfortunately, the imp creature's closing speed cut off this strategy from the get go. The fights were physical and draining, with several players coming to the brink of defeat only to cast a healing spell at the last minute.

Many chose to play in the standard first-person perspective, but the impressive third-person drew most of Reiner's attention. The characters move much more fluidly than in past Elder Scrolls games, as new animations like naturally reaching for a bow and arrow indicate. Reiner says this may be the first Elder Scrolls game in which he stays in third person.

One person in the demo stumbled upon a solitary cabin amidst the forest, but its tenants two charred corpses laid next to a smoldering firepit were too dead to offer proper hospitality. Another player found a small, rundown village consisting of a handful of buildings. Though not as bustling as a big city, here you could converse with NPCs. One player asked the blacksmith if he could borrow his tools and did some crafting.