The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

After getting to play the title for about three hours, Official Playstation Magazine has prepared their own preview of Bethesda's highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, punctuated with comments from game director Todd Howard. Here' a small excerpt:
One of the things I loved in Oblivion was the atmosphere of the world, and Skyrim takes that to a new level. As I wander a mountain pass, the path crunches underfoot and leaves rustle in the wind. I see a stag bolt through the trees and salmon jumping in the river, all to an uplifting swell of orchestral strings. It's beautiful. You can barely even smell the burning wolves any more.

(From Fallout 3 to Skyrim we've rewritten the majority of the engine,) explains Howard. It looks strong, an advancement of tech rather than a do-over. Oblivion's visual feel is there, but with more detail and fewer rough edges. (It's still a similar-tech game,) says Howard, (it's just we can do more on screen. We did a lot of procedural stuff [in Oblivion]. Now none of the landscape is procedural it's all created by artists.)

An obvious improvement is that people look normal none of the over-thumbed Plasticine faces that used to haunt Oblivion's conversations. The first person I meet is a blacksmith in Riverwood, a small hamlet of wooden cabins. An apparently very trusting blacksmith, who instantly puts me to work making and sharpening knives, tanning leather and using it to make helmets. Being able to make your own gear feels like a useful survival skill, and ten minutes later I'm able to start my own Viking Primark.

The second person is, in all honesty, a bit of a turd. He's jealous of a happy couple and wants me to split them up with a fake letter. I can deliver it, or tell either the girl or her boyfriend the truth. There's clearly a good or bad option here, but according to Howard it's not that clear-cut: (Instead of a karma number like Fallout, we do it on an individual basis. We don't track '˜the right or wrong thing'. It's who you made happy and who you made sad. We do it in terms of towns: how much are you a wanted criminal in this area? Then we have factions: how do they feel about you?)