The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

Fans of The Elder Scrolls franchise will be pleased to know that the flood of previews that started a couple of days ago for the latest installment in the series, Skyrim, hasn't stopped yet, as we bring you some more hands-on reports from various publications on the net.

Digital Trends:
Venturing further into the city which is literally cut into the bottom of a mountain ravine I walk up to a door being blocked by a well-armed and -armored man. It's another Vigiliant! I've already learned that attacking people willy-nilly can be a bad idea, so I talk to the guy in the hopes of luring him somewhere quiet.

I'm in luck! It seems that the Vigilant knows of some bad mojo involved in the house behind this door, but he's too much of a wuss to venture in alone. I immediately volunteer for the assignment, intending to turn on my temporary partner as soon as it's clear I won't need his help to deal with whatever waits within.

We work our way through a maze of dark, dusty rooms looking for signs of life. Deep inside the house my (companion) suddenly gets spooked and takes off for the door, intent on coming back with help. Not on my watch. As I give pursuit, I hear a deep voice in my head, the voice of some all-powerful daedra that seems very interested in seeing this Vigilant taken down. I like his style.

I catch up to the Vigilant just as he's reaching the front door and cut him down with little fanfare. Random do-gooders come and go, but it's not every day you can help out a daedra. Heading back downstairs, I approach an altar and try to grab my prize, which appears to be an even mightier mace than my now-substandard iron one.

1:55 PM While playing around with my menu screens, I realize that I've been holding an extensive array of weapons and armor this entire time. I save the game and then take out my anger on the townspeople of Falkreath. I am instantly killed by the guards.

1:56 PM Fully clothed and armed to the teeth, I head back to Cracktusk Keep, where I start slicing up orcs with my iron sword. Combat feels like Oblivion crossed with melee from Fallout: New Vegas. Pressing the left trigger brings up my shield, to either block attacks or smash baddies in the face. Tapping the right trigger performs a normal attack with my right-handed weapon, while holding it down for a second or two unleashes a heavy-duty power move.

There are also cinematic finishing moves, which are neat to watch but a little bit jarring within the context of a fast-and-furious battle. The camera quickly zooms out as I stab enemies in the chest, instantly killing them no matter how much health they have left. Jerky camera movements can be disorienting when there are orcs behind me.

PC Gamer has a particularly in-depth preview:
I decide to find the Thieves Guild. Not losing my skill progress pays off: soon I level up, and finally decide to rest. This is where Skyrim goes from exciting to a thing we need a new superlative for not the resting, but the levelling up. Your skills improve as you use them, and improving enough skills increases your character level. That lets you choose a perk: a tweak to one of your skills that makes it more effective. So you have an element of choice, but you can't pick a high-level perk for a skill you haven't practised much: they have requirements.

The selection is literally dizzying. I have a sort of buzz in my brain as I scamper around the menu reading up on all the options I'll never unlock in the time I have left. I have two perks saved up you're not forced to spend them as soon as you level so I put them both into Destruction magic. The first halves the cost of all low level destruction spells, including my fire and lightning ones. The next enables dual-casting: when you equip the same spell in both hands, you can fire both at once for a single, disproportionately more powerful beam.

I blunder into a few dwellings before I find the ratways. They turn out to be a string of incredibly tight tunnels, dank and filthy. Almost immediately, I come out into a larger chamber and find a gaggle of thieves. Excellent!

They demand all of my money. Dammit, I forgot that was the problem with thieves. Renegotiating, I suggest that I keep all of my money, and they instead take all of the fire I'm now shooting from my hands. It's a tough sell: some of them feel I should take one or two of their arrows in return, and one thinks his fists should be part of the deal. There's only one thief left when I run out of magicka, so I bring out my warhammer and crumple him.

I have more experience with Fallout than Oblivion, but I'm aware that they both utilize the same engine. I'm also aware that Bethesda went out of their way to make the towns feel alive in these games, but were only partly successful. Outside of a few vital NPCs, the townsfolk in Oblivion and Fallout felt like automatons on a pre-programmed course around town.

It's not that much different in Skyrim, but one thing I noticed was that the townsfolk seemed less concerned about me, the hero. If I tried to interrupt a conversation they were having with another NPC, for example, they would politely ask me to wait a moment. In fact, many crucial plot details were related between NPCs, rather than directly to me.

It's a subtle touch, but an important one. In an open world game like this, it's a bad idea to make me feel as if everything is revolving around me, Truman Show-style. If I wanted that feeling, I would play L.A. Noire again.

It's amazing how distinct the NPCs are in Skyrim. The folks wandering around the many townships have clear personalities, and there are way more voice actors contributing to the dialogue than in Oblivion. All dialogue is in real time, so no more zoom-in-to-awkward-closeup. This, in addition to the world map, which includes sixteen miles of unique terrain, are a far cry from the looped tiles of Oblivion, and the biggest improvements over previous installments. The result is an immersive adventure that's bound to keep you busy for hundreds of hours.

Giant Bomb:
One of the combat memes from both Fallout 3 and Oblivion seems to be walking backwards, waiting for meters to recharge. That appears true in Skyrim, but my combat abilities were so limited in the three hours that I'd hardly consider that a settled statement, especially since I had not been able to unlock my first dragon shout, which would allow me to push enemies back.

And boy, and do those skeletons (and everything else) look good this time around, too. This was punctuated early on by the impressive weather effects. While pursing an early side quest picked up in the game's first town, I started up a nearby mountain. In the town itself, all was calm--it was a gorgeous day in Skyrim. As I began to scale the mountain, heading higher and higher up, the piles of snow began to build, and the wind started to pick up. Soon, I was tossing fireballs and swinging a sword through a full-on blizzard, and I actually found myself squinting to see more. It adds a noteworthy dynamic to even the simplest of battles, as you're not only focused on employing proper tactics, you're fighting through the (virtual) elements, too.

Coin-OP TV tackles Skyrim's combat mechanics:
Skyrim Combat & Melee Pros:

'¢ Switching from first person view to third person view is fluid
'¢ Magic and spell casting is dynamic and engaging
'¢ Quickly change weapons by using the D-pad shortcuts

Skyrim Combat & Melee Cons:

'¢ No lock-on targeting while fighting
'¢ Can't attack while jumping (in the air)
'¢ Blocking and parrying limited to shields and certain weapons

Made2Game calls it "the most realistic game environment ever":
Towns are packed with detail too. Whereas every location in Oblivion had a similar feel, each major town in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim feels completely unique, and this is down to Bethesda's dedication to making its universe utterly believeable.

I was fortunate enough to catch a few words with art director Matt Carofano after my time with the game and he revealed that each town had one dedicated artist moulding and shaping it over the course of two years. Two years! That's an amazing commitment from the artist, and from Bethesda, but it pays off in spades.


Raw gameplay has been improved as well, particularly in the choice department. I needed a key, for instance, and my options were nicely varied. I could intimidate the innkeeper if I thought I was threatening enough. I could bribe him to hand it over. I could pickpocket him. Or I could bypass the gentleman altogether and try to pick the lock myself. This objective was optional but shows a deeper quest structure at play than in any Bethesda game that has come before.

Married with Videogames:
Fully equipped with armor and weapons that I crafted and improved, I headed to the town of Whiterun. On my way, I continued to collect more items for alchemy but now I was on the lookout for things to kill. It wasn't long until I was found by a small pack of wolves so I fought them off rather skillfully. New to combat in Skyrim are finishing moves similar to those in Fallout 3. I'm not sure what triggers these offhand as it didn't happen every time I killed something (or someone) but nonetheless, they looked awesome. Combat is relatively simple and you can pretty much customize the way your character will fight. Use a shield and sword, use a two-handed weapon, dual wield swords, use a spell in one hand with a sword in the other, and once you gain the skill (or perk as they are called), you can even dual wield spells. The combinations are almost endless. Ranged combat seems to have gotten better as well. I remember not really using the bows and arrows in Oblivion as often as it felt very clunky to me. However, this is not the case in Skyrim. I was able to kill a few enemies using ranged weapons and just in the few hours of playing, it will be something that you will need to learn to use effectively. You can still choose to play the game in first-person or third- person with the click of a button and the game will allow you to customize your controls. You can even hot-key your weapons for faster access. During combat, I kept pressing down on the left thumbstick, which puts your character into stealth mode. This is where the ability to customize the controls will come in most handy.

Inside Gaming Daily:
While your character will no doubt be at the center of your Skyrim experience, it's the game worlds of The Elder Scrolls series that are always the stars of the show. It's tough to say just how big Skyrim's world is compared to the other games, but even in our short play session it's obvious this is quite an expansive slab of land. The small area I was able to explore was packed with plenty of small towns, bandit fortresses, and wandering merchants. Exploration is always satisfying because there's always something to find no matter which direction you head.

But at some point you have to latch on to the main quest line. A civil war has broken out between two clans and big-ass dragons have returned for the first time in years and are wreaking havoc on the citizens and towns of Skyrim. I'll avoid getting bogged down with story specifics (for the sake of spoilers) and just say that our time down this quest path culminated in a long, epic battle with a significantly-sized dragon. It's the kind of moment you're not used to seeing in the early stages of an Elder Scrolls quest line. Big open worlds with player freedom are integral to the experience, yes, but more impactful, meatier storyline moments are a welcome and needed addition. Here's hoping Bethesda can continue that pacing through the entire game.

Gaming Truth walks us through a Rookie playthrough and a Veteran one, snippet from the latter:
As I began the first of the campaign missions, I quickly learned that the land of Skyrim was less peaceful than the beautiful environment made it look. With the murder of the king, Skyrim was plunged into a civil war against the Imperials. The player is given a choice to join either side: the Imperials or the Stormcloaks (Nords). I didn't choose a side right away, and it looked as if the game allowed the player to complete a few missions before making any choice. No doubt the player will be exposed to both sides over the early campaign missions, allowing them to weigh their options and choose the side they feel would do better for Skyrim and its people. While in Whiterun I found a warring side on a smaller scale. In the decent-seized town there existed a family feud between the Battle-Born and the Gray Manes. I learned of the feud by Idolaf Battle-Born who pushed me to choose a side between the two families. I told him I didn't choose either side, instead I decided that it would be best to once again figure out what side I should support later on.


These encounters convinced me that Skyrim is full of of choices to be made, and consequences to be experienced. Only three hours in and already I felt overwhelmed by the amount of different stories vying for my attention.

Clambering off the beaten track is always where Bethesda's open-world games shine, and though Skyrim is no different, navigating your surroundings feels significantly changed. This is due to the topography of the world the team have created. With much of the game world dominated by towering mountains, it's now not enough to just point yourself in one direction and walk off in search of adventure, as you're more likely to hit an impossibly steep incline. The world is still expansive, but a more measured approach to exploration and path following must be made to get places. Only time will tell if this new-found "verticality" ends up being a bonus or a hindrance to our adventures.


It was once we reached the major town of Whiterun though that our jaws really hit the floor. We've had our reservations about the console versions of the game being able to deliver as graphically rich an experience as PC versions, and we're happy to report that the incredibly detailed settlement of Whiterun looked stunning on the Xbox 360. Architecturally, it's a mix of cobblestones, auburn wood and leaves, fountains and trestle-work, but the devil is in the details. Folks get on with day jobs at stalls, wood mills and blacksmith huts; the glow of a tavern fire feels genuinely warm; the beams of tall-ceilinged halls cast looming shadows across your path. If the world already felt teeming with life, it certainly looks it too.

Our time in Skyrim begins roughly an hour into proceedings, so as not to arm us with any spoilers. Having jumped in at a point post-tutorial/story-setting, Skyrim's portion of Tamriel's world lies before us to explore and lose ourselves within.

And what a world. After exiting a small, claustrophobic, dimly-lit cave we emerge into a landscape composed of a lush green grass and trees, vividly-coloured wild flowers, galloping deer, stalking foxes and singing birds. In the distance we see blue-grey ice capped mountains sheltered by imposing dark clouds. Separating the distinct hues of blue and green is a river, at some points flowing gently, at others rushing over rocks to form small whirlpools and dramatic waterfalls.

Lead artist Matt Carofano told us that the landscape has been created entirely by the hand of the artists and level designers, shunning the procedural generation that had been employed formerly. Having played within the world for ourselves, it's a claim we're not prepared to argue or disagree with. It looks beautiful, completely ridding itself of the stale, cold nature that often categorises games of this type.

Destructoid compares Skyrim to, ehrm, Megan Fox:
As cool as it would be if Bethesda always shipped flawless games, it's not something we've come to expect from them, and unfortunately, I don't think Skyrim will be an exception. During my three hours with the game, I died three times from getting stuck in invisible holes in the ground. I don't know if I played a final build of the game or not, but I'll be extremely surprised if the retail version isn't without a few glitches. I can't ignore problems like this, but I'm not about to let them ruin my experience. Skyrim's got some bugs? Megan Fox has weird thumbs, I'd still bang her.


In addition to being a videogame where you can steal beer and kick animals in the throat, Skyrim is also a really good hiking simulator. That might be the dumbest thing I've ever written about videogames, but Bethesda's managed to make a hyper-realistic game about walking around in the woods. Videogame nature will never outdo actual nature, but as someone who lives in San Francisco and doesn't like driving three hours to the mountains to see a tree with some snow on it, Skyim's pretty fun to look at.

GamesRadar double dips with a list of "63 amazing things they saw and did", although, to be fair, most of it sounds part for the course for an Elder Scrolls title:
- We went into someone's house and were asked politely to leave. Then firmly. Then they started calling for the guards. So long, old RPG tropes!


- We reloaded a previous save because an NPC wouldn't progress the quest. He just stood in the room looking like he wanted to attack a wall like it had wronged him. Or there was an enemy stuck in it. tells us why they're "unashamedly hyped" for the title:
I play Bethesda games like a cartographer. I want to see everywhere. I want to turn over every stone in every dungeon just to see what story Bethesda put underneath it. I want to go to that town that travelling merchant told me about, or that I saw written on the signpost, or scrawled in the bandit's note. But more than that, I want to see every single thing between where I am and where that town is. The beauty of these games lies in the hours before you decide to just quick-travel to your destination, when it is still about the journey. I want to see everywhere. I want to turn over every stone in every dungeon just to see what story Bethesda put underneath it.

But it is a charm that eventually, inevitably must fade. As I explore these worlds, as I draw mental maps of them through my journey, I become familiar with them. Nowadays when I play Fallout 3 and walk towards Megaton to sell all my scrap metal and appropriated plasma guns, I walk through the ruins of Springvale and look up at the '˜scenic lookout' where I first stood after exiting Vault 101. How alien The Capital Wasteland was to me then! How exotic! How impossible it seemed to me then that I would be as comfortable in it as I am now.


And that is why I can hardly wait for Skyrim. More than an open world, it is a new open world. The mountains on the horizon? That town Howard was heading to before he decided to attack those giants? I have never been there. I don't know what is underneath them or atop them. I don't even know where they are in the world or how to get to them! But I am going to. One day soon I will walk down that very path Howard walks down, and I will know where I am in my world. Heck, I will leave the path and just wander off into the forest. I will know the names of the flowers, of the farm peaking through the trees, of the churning white river flowing past.

Finally, The Totally Rad Show has a video segment in which the hands-on experience with the title is discussed with Shacknews' Xav de Matos.