The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Previews

The flood of hands-on previews for Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has understandably slowed down to a trickle in the last few days, but that didn't stop us from rounding up a few new previews to keep you occupied while waiting for the title to be released.

A grey landscape confronted us, covered in tall trees, with a river running through a large valley banked by mountains on either side. The view was expansive, but not exactly impressive and as we moved through the landscape, grass, rocks and shrubs were popping in to view, breaking some of the immersion. This was on the Xbox 360 version, so we're hoping that the PC version won't suffer such LODing issues.

While the game world, or at least that small part of it we saw, may not have looked incredible overall, it was more impressive when explored in more detail. The trees swayed gently in the wind and salmon jumped from the rivers, while butterflies and dragonflies fluttered around aimlessly. These may be minor aesthetic points, and individually didn't add much, but together they created a world that felt detailed, and more importantly, organic and alive.

Adding to this was a convincing weather system and a measured day/night cycle. At one point when approaching a town the colour slowly seeped from the world. There were big grey clouds rolling in, and then it began to rain. It was so convincing that we picked up the pace to get to town sooner, the advice of our mothers ringing in our ears: '˜You'd best get inside soon, before you catch a chill.'

The way day turns into night is just as good. We're not sure exactly how long a Skyrim day lasts, and that's a good thing. There was no sudden change; instead dawn turns to morning, which turns to afternoon, early evening, dusk, then night. It's a gradual process that doesn't draw attention to itself, thereby creating a more believable world.

It was difficult to see due to the amount of snow falling, but I finally came across a large structure known as the Bleak Falls Temple. I made my way in and took care of some obviously upset people that didn't like my presence. This temple was was dark, but far from being abandoned. It was clear that this temple was being visited on a fairly regular basis. There were chests, bonfires, broken supplies and dastardly rats. I one particular area, I was forced to do a little bit of puzzle solving in order to open a gate. I'll leave those details out as to not ruin the fun.

After making my way to the lower section of the temple, I came across a massive spider that was holding some guy captive. Fighting off the spider was not easy and it's what I would have considered as a mini-boss battle. Fortunately, after dying a few times, I managed to fend it off, thus saving the man. Apparently, this man knew the location of an item called the Golden Claw, which I was to retrieve, but he proved to be ungrateful and ran away. He was not to escape however and his ultimate demise proved to be my gain. It wasn't without a battle though as the temple hosts some pissed off skeleton warriors. The Golden Claw was soon mine and I ended up finding the diary of the man I hash tried to save, Valur, which informed me that this claw is a power of the ancient Nordic heroes. It was supped to be taken to the Hall of Stories to unlock a door. But what lies beyond this door, and what powers do the Golden Claw yield? Only time will tell.

I met the Jarl of Whiterun and his commander Irileth. She informed me of the reports of a nearby dragon and enlisted my help to see to its death. We rode out from Whiterun, seven in all, in search of the deadly dragon.

I was instructed to take lookout on top of a tower in the middle of a plain. I climbed to the top of the tower and saw the dragon sailing over the top of a nearby mountain range. It was Mirmulmir, the dragon Irileth had told me was nearby. He sailed toward the tower as shouts rang out from the ground below. I raced towards the ground just in time to see Mirmulmir grab a soldier in his jaws. He killed him and set a long breath of fire at me. I ran, dodged, weaved and struck my blade home... maybe 100 times... 150... I don't know, I lost count at this point. It took several minutes of fighting, both on the ground with my blade and at range with a bow, but eventually Mirmulmir fell.