The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

We have a couple of new hands-on previews for fifth main installment in The Elder Scrolls franchise, this time set in the lands of the Nord, Skyrim, fresh from QuakeCon.

GameInformer describes their playthrough and confirms the presence of the Dark Brotherhood in the game:
Heading north again, I ran into another farm. This was a much bigger plot of land, with several gardens. In the middle of this farm a group of three humans were battling a massive giant. Rather than joining the fray, I decided to just sit back and watch. The battle raged back and forth, but eventually the humans prevailed. Afterwards I met Alea the huntress and her sidekicks Farkas and Ria. My first interaction with her was a statement about the battle I could say "You don't look like you need any help," or "I tried to help." When I chose the flattering option, she thanked me and explained that her band was a part of the Shield-Brothers. I was then prompted to inquire about joining the group or wryly responding "Sounds like a waste of time." Alea told me that if I wanted to join the group I would have to ask the leader of the Companions.

After going our separate ways, I ventured north again, picking items like lavender and tundra cotton on my way toward Whiterun, a large walled city on the hill. Before I walked up the hill, I stopped by a stable and talked to the stable-hilt named Skulva. I asked to buy a horse, he replied that his horse was seven years old and in fine health. His asking price? One thousand gold. Rather than pay the outrageous fee, I jumped on the horse and galloped up the hill to the city with Skulva cursing and running after me. Since there were no guards in the vicinity, I got off scot-free.

When I approached the gates of the city, the guard told me, "the city is closed with the dragons about." From here I had a few options to try and get into the city. I could offer him news about the dragon attack at Helgen, bribe him with 56 gold, or intimidate by asking him to stand aside. I chose to pay him off, and soon I was behind the comforts of the city wall.

The loading takes a bit longer when entering a big city like Whiterun, but as the screen loads you're given gameplay tips, bits of lore, and can even tinker with a three-dimensional object on the screen. Once the city loaded, I took a brief tour. Whiterun looks to be a wealthy city in good shape the beautifully designed A-frame homes have nice brickwork and look pristine. A large courtyard I stumbled upon served as home to a giant tree and a gazebo. A large outdoor market offered several opportunities to buy or trade gear, and there was plenty of stuff laying around for those who prefer five-finger discounts.The city guards, who have black rams on their shields, would prefer you didn't.

While G4 got the chance to experience some crafting, among other things:
When you equip an item, like the Fire Destruction spell for instance, you select it, and then pull the left or right trigger to assign it to that hand. Or, you can cycle through to both hands. Using a spell that way drains your Magicka (just like Mana) very quickly, but it is twice as powerful. You can also hit Y to "favorite" an item or a spell, and then it is something you can access via the d-pad at any time in the game. Hitting the pad brings up a small, scrollable menu that allows you to quickly select something else. Favoriting will quickly become your favorite.

The Skills menu is also complete gorgeous, with skills laid our like constellations in the sky, and as you select a certain area of focus, you'll fly into that constellation and navigate through the individual stars that make up different spells within that focus. Destruction, for example, has different stars and paths that branch out and detail all of the Destruction magic you can level through.

However, Bethesda was only giving us an hour with the game, and that seemed to melt away faster than an icecube on a sidewalk in Dallas (it's 110 degrees here, people), so jumping through menus and equipping items ate up more time than I would have liked. So I went through the world looking for immediate trouble, and found it in the form of the Embershard Mine. Inside, I encountered several human foes, a bunch of treasure, and thankfully no death. Although, I did come close several times. Double fire-blasting was something I relied on too heavily, and I quickly had to switch it up to fire and blades or blunt instruments (maces are handy).

Inside the mine I encountered both a Workbench and a Forge, which is where crafting comes into the game. You can create different items in the game at forges, and you'll be told exactly what you need to make something. Leather strips, iron ingots, and more are the building blocks of armor and weapons, and you'll find them throughout the world. Workbenches allow you to upgrade items through six different stages. I spent some time and materials upgrading my armor (I imagine my Nord sitting there in the dim firelight, adding a double-stitch to his jerkin) so that I'd take less damage, and then it was back into Skyrim.