The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

Official Xbox Magazine is offering a meaty preview for Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, divided in three parts (I, II, III), which focuses on "how to be a complete bastard" in the open-world title. Useful for people planning that type of character I suppose. Here's a sampling:
I was expecting improved weather in Falkreath, located as it is on Skyrim's southern border with sunny Cyrodiil, staging ground for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. Nothing tropical, mind, just a bit of carefree blue sky. What I got was a moonless night and drizzle. The kind of drizzle that sets in just before you jump off an office block, clutching a life insurance policy. It dampened Toxic's spirits, so much so that when a passing guard sarkily asked her whether somebody had "stolen her sweetroll", she let him off with only a mild axing to the face. Fortunately, there were no witnesses to the deed, and my crime went unnoted in the region's invisible lawbooks. An opportunity to dig a little deeper than Toxic's impulsive guard-axing tendencies normally allowed? I embraced it with both arms.

Wandering the streets, a depressed villager. His daughter had been savagely killed the day before, and the madman responsible consigned to "The Pit", rambling of dark forces and necromancers or something. Here was a narrative setup, I ruminated, deserving of slightly more calculating wickedness. Accepting the quest tacked onto the end of the man's spiel, I resolved to locate the lunatic and free him to ply his murderous trade once more. Toxic would play puppet-master to this lost soul, looking on in spiteful glee while he put Falkreath's daughters to the stake.

That was the idea anyway, but on following the waypoint to a central building I could find only a roomful of dignitaries. An Elf lady pointed at a map and jabbered about her ancestry while a general of the Imperial Legion warned of escalating tensions between the Emperor and Skyrim's lords, the Jarls. Two courses of action presented themselves: (1) by stealing people's prized possessions and dropping them in other people's pockets, I would plunge the building's occupants into civil war. (2) I would stand in the doorway and vomit magical explosions into the room till my stamina reserves ran out. Plan (1) looked pretty tempting till I realised that I'd paid zero attention to the Sneak perk, and that as a consequence, Toxic would have to kill people to stop them noticing when she robbed them. Trial by fire, then.

I'll skim over the cut and thrust of the ensuing battle, the way the frame rate collapsed like a deflating cowpat under the weight of guard reinforcements, and the bit where I got stuck behind a staircase with four shrieking, burning legionnaires. Needless to say, Toxic is no longer on Falkreath's Christmas card list. The local bandit population aren't that keen either. Chased off into the forest by the aforesaid shrieking, burning legionnaires, I attempted to vent my frustration on a passing fox only for it to lead me to a greenskin encampment, Cracked Tusk Keep.

It was quite a magical chain of events, actually - the gleam of starlight on the beast's hurrying back as I ineffectually fired arrows at it, then the glitter of torches through the pine needles. Fun fact: Orcs all seem to have the same voice. They also read some pretty up-market books, including "The Biography of Uriel Septim" and "The Acturian Heresy". And their leaders sometimes carry magical weapons, like the double-handed Axe of Scorching and Iron Sword of Cold now in Toxic's possession. Leaving the Keep's cellar considerably more burdened than when I arrived, I set off (via Whiterun, as ever) for the town of Morthal.