Norm and I had had the wonderful opportunity to check out the highly anticipated RPG game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim last week and all I have to say is: Can November 11th get here already?!?
Our demo began about 45 minutes into the game, akin to leaving the sewers in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Vault 101 in Fallout 3. You are able to create and customize your character during this time but we were able to create our character right at the beginning of our demo. Not much has changed in the character creation – you can choose your race, gender, and name – and from there, you can customize the look of your character as you could in previous games. There are ten races to choose from – all the same races from Oblivion – and they look a lot more realistic than before. One of the biggest differences in the character creation is that you will not have to choose a character class as you did in Oblivion. In Skyrim, you can choose to mold and shape your character depending on how you want to play your game. As you level up, you can focus on skills that you want to build up and ignore the ones you don’t. The choice is ultimately up to you. I didn’t spend too much time on creating my character as I only had three hours to play the demo and I wanted to try and experience as much of the game as I possibly could during that timeframe. I chose to be a female Nord (I played a Nord in Oblivion as well) and I started from there.
As soon as I entered the world of Skyrim, I was just completely sucked in. I paused for a moment to just take a look around at my surroundings. The graphics are amazing and the detail in the world makes it pop with life. I immediately began collecting herbs and flowers – you can even collect bugs – as I knew I wanted to try out the alchemy system as soon as possible. I had no active quests yet so I went to the world map and found the town of Riverwood nearby and set my destination marker. I made my way, on foot, to the town and got there relatively unscathed. I ran into a small pack of wolves and realized I didn’t have any weapons (I actually did, I just assumed that I didn’t have any). I tried to fight them off with my fists but quickly took off running. The town was pretty close by so I was safe from any danger at that point.
As in the previous Elder Scrolls games, you can interact with just about everything and you can take what you want. Of course, be careful not to take what’s not yours or you could get yourself into a spot of trouble with the law. Lock picking is a lot more like it is in Fallout 3, which is not the first time you will make the comparison between the two games. Even though I picked a few locks and got threatened by the home owners, I refrained from stealing any items. I did however, take almost everything else that I could get my grubby little hands on. Upon finding an alchemy set, I tried out my potion making skills. Each item has four properties which will be discovered as you alchemize things. I created a few potions via trail and error – I also failed at making some potions as well.
Talking to the NPCs in the area will get you more familiar with the world and what is going on in it. Some will offer you quests so it is beneficial to talk to pretty much everyone. I was in search of weapons and armor (since I was too lame to realize that I actually had some already) so I found the blacksmith and immediately started talking to him. He offered a few small tasks that basically introduce you to the blacksmithing processes in the game. At a Blacksmith, you are able to forge your own weapons, armor, and jewelry (providing you have the right materials and the appropriate skill level) as well as improve your items. As you go on, you will level up in smithing which will allow you to craft and improve more items as you achieve more experience. After that, I roamed around some more – picking locks and talking to more people until I took on a quest that led me to another town called Whiterun.
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.
In Whiterun, I followed a side questline that led me to a group called the Companions and after completing a few quests, I was allowed to join their group. Joining groups is a great help to your character as members of the group will offer to train you for a small price allowing you to level up certain skills a little faster than by traditionally leveling up.
The leveling up system has gotten quite an overhaul. Since you no longer choose a character class, you are able to level up according to your play style. You can choose your perks based on what kinds of weapons and armor you use down to the spells or schools of magic you want to use. You will eventually cap out at level 50 but in Skyrim, you will level up faster in the beginning and slower as you gain higher levels. Bethesda has been doing a lot to balance out the game so that while enemies will level up with you, facing a pack of rats at level 32 won’t mean certain death as it may have felt in previous games. During the three hour demo, I managed to almost hit level 7 so you can see how fast your character will level up in a short amount of time.
The talent tree-styled level system is represented by a series of constellations. Each proficiency within a perk is a star within the constellation shaded by ability for quicker identification. They all require a certain amount of points to open up so you will want to explore the options in the tree if you want to plan out your character’s path. I wanted to get the ability to dual cast (cast a spell from each hand at the same time) a destruction spell but I had to take the Destruction perk first, then take on the spell – Burning Touch. I had to use that spell enough to level up my skill in Destruction Spells and then I would be able to take on the dual casting skill.
My three hour demo pretty much ended there and it left me hungry for more. I didn’t touch on the main quest at all but I was able to do a little dungeon crawling in my Companion quests. If you are at all familiar with the Elder Scrolls series, you will see that a lot of care has gone into the making of this game. Bethesda took a lot of elements from Fallout 3 and Oblivion to create what is going to be a fantastic game that will keep you quite busy throughout this holiday season and for quite sometime after that.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be out on November 11, 2011 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.