The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

"Extremely enthusiastic" is the way I'd describe this preview of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Kotaku, which, as you might have guessed, is based upon firsthand time with the game at last weekend's QuakeCon. An excerpt, as usual:
Luckily, Skyrim's interface allows a "favorites" system that binds items, magic, and weapons to a quickly accessed menu that lets you change up your gear without going into the only-slightly-more-involved regular inventory system. With a little bit of time, I think I could have set up a rhythm that would let me use my bow and arrows, then switch back to my axe and flame combo when enemies came closer.

There wasn't much in the way of treasure in the mine, so I left via another entrance and tromped down the mountain to a small fishing village, name of Riverwood. There I met a blacksmith who was awfully welcoming "Sure, you can use my forge, orc stranger!" and spoke a gentleman about a rival, elven suitor who was wooing his paramour. The lover suggested I deliver a nasty fake letter to his object of affection, signed with the name of his elven competition. A dick move, for sure (and one you can choose to give a twist, by alerting the innocent elf to the plot), but also a testament to the progressive race relations of Skyrim's culture. (If you think I'm poking fun, I'm not. There's something distinct about the way The Elder Scrolls series seems to ignore the issue of race that feels at once mature and perhaps over idealized.)

Even better, the fix to one of my (and everyone's) big irks from Oblivion the sameness of the voice acting was made apparent in town. There were 14 different voice actors for all the characters in Oblivion; in Skyrim, there are 70.

I had no time for matchmaking, though, as there were faces that had not yet felt my axe. (And I didn't have it in my heart to kill the townspeople or their adorable goats.) So across the river and up a mountain path I went, stopping along the way in a ruined watchtower to clear it of bandits. I felt a little bad, cooking those bandits in a gout of eldritch flame, but in fairness they looked pretty cold and lonely up there, so I was probably doing them a favor. Plus they were guarding a chest at the top of that broken outpost and no court in any fantasy realm would convict a man of murder-for-treasure-chest.

The gold from the chest safely in my bottomless nega-pockets, I turned from the top of the tower to descend and was stopped in my tracks. Not by a bandit or a roaring monster, but by the view. Below me spread the river valley, Riverwood, and the mountainside from which I had originally been shoved into the world. Gorgeous, alive, and only a little bit out-of-proportion, in that in a real fantasy world I wouldn't expect so many bandits and mines and gothic barrow temples to be squished into a couple of square miles of terrain. But still, wow. And on a 360, no less.