E3 2011: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

By Darryl Kaye on June 11, 2011, 10:45PM EDT

When it released towards the start of this console generation, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was one of the break-out success stories. It introduced many console gamers to the franchise, which had already gained quite a following on the PC, and garnered much critical acclaim. It's a tall order to top that, but Bethesda has been hard at work since finishing up with Fallout 3 and initial signs are more than positive. In fact, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was easily one of the best games on show at this year's E3.

As the name implies, the next Elder Scrolls game is set in the world of Skyrim. And from what Todd Howard, the game's executive producer, showed off, it's a beautiful world too. Bethesda has taken the time to add even more detail to the minor scenery elements and it makes the fantasy world of Skyrim much more believeable. There will also be weather changes and dynamic elements, such as snow laying on the ground.

Despite being very familiar, at the same time, Skyrim is also quite different. For example, in Oblivion, almost everything you did improved your character somehow. Whether this was simply jumping, or swinging a sword against an enemy, your statistics would increase accordingly, depending on what you liked to do. This system is also present in Skyrim, but it has been enhanced. Now, all the main attributes have their own skill trees. So, as your one-handed sword skill improves, you will be able to unlock special abilities to perform. The presentation of this is very apt too, with each attribute being given a star constellation in the sky.

Expansion has also been provided in the form of tons of new spells. Oblivion had a fair few, but Skyrim has considerably more. So many more, that categories are now necessary in order to sort them and a new "favourites" system has been implemented so you can quick-select different combinations of spells and weapons. What makes this even better is that you can now dual-wield spells. You can have a curative spell in one hand and an offensive fire spell in the other. Or, you can put the same spell in both hands to increase its effectiveness. One slight deficiency was the presentation of the menus "“ compared to the rest of the game, it seemed a little clunky.

As Todd went through the demo, various spells and their results were tested out, but the introduction of Dragon Shouts was by far the best. Blowing out a huge gust of wind which sent enemies flying off a cliff, Howard said "oh, and that's one of the Dragon Shouts," as if nothing had even happened. As Skyrim is all about dragons, and because of the story, you will be able to wield their magic "“ including the ability to breath fire. These shouts can be used to compliment what other offensive or defensive combinations you want to use and can be gathered through exploring the world of Skyrim.

The demo also attempted to showcase some of the random events that can occur, although for the purpose of this, they were a bit scripted so it's difficult to tell how it will translate to the full product. Upon attacking a group of giants, the fight was interrupted by a dragon swooping down and maiming one of them. If this kind of thing happens infrequently, and with differing effects, it would make exploring the world of Skyrim even more special.

In short, Skyrim is a vast improvement on Oblivion and it looks like it will be one of the stand-out games of the year. It's great to see that Bethesda has taken the time to expand upon the role-playing elements, but the improvements to the visuals and lore should not be understated. At one point, Howard panned out to show the world of Skyrim, which was then rendering in (what looked like) real-time with a birds-eye view. And with the attention to detail shown on things like objects in the world also shows how much Bethesda care about the lore. There are even full books in there if you want to read them.

When Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launches on 11.11.11 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, fans of RPGs would be silly not to check it out.

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