|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Bethesda Games Studios|
|Pub: Bethesda Games Studios|
|Release: November 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The Elder Scrolls is an RPG series that is best-known for its amazing scope and strong narrative-based gameplay. For the fifth entry in the series, Bethesda is sticking with the established Elder Scrolls formula, but making everything you know and love about the series bigger and better. Oblivion was an early hit on the current generation of consoles, and Skyrim looks to continue that success with an expanded narrative, even more terrain to explore, a simplified HUD, and some incredible new powers. I was recently able to watch a nearly hour-long presentation detailing what we could expect from Skyrim. Even though our expectations were already high, the presentation left me even more excited for Skyrim.
The main premise revolves around your hero, who has recently escaped execution. The hero is a Dragonborn, which means that they can absorb dragons' souls and speak in dragon tongues. However, the game is about more than just super powers. The world of Skyrim is completely fleshed out, and NPCs (who were famous for being dead-eyed zombies in Oblivion) have their own lives and motivations. We visited a town that was filled with lumber workers, and it was explained that we could dynamically affect the economy of the different towns, depending on what we did in each area. Investing in the town would bring prosperity to the citizens, while ignoring it or destroying parts of the town would leave citizens destitute. The world of Skyrim is one that is influenced by every choice you make, and the ability for players to shape the entire world of Skyrim, from forested towns to settlements on the top of huge mountains, is one that makes Skyrim one of the most interactive worlds ever created in an RPG.
Once we got a glimpse of the world of Skyrim, it was time to talk about what may at first seem like a superfluous element of the gameplay but is actually pretty vital to the Skyrim experience: the interface. If you've played any of the Elder Scrolls games, you know that you'll spend a lot of time navigating menus, trying to find specific items and equipping different skills. The menu system in previous games was relatively intuitive, but took way too long to navigate through and could tax even the most hardcore RPG player. However, Skyrim is simplifying the interface with a simple four-point menu that allows you to use just the control stick to navigate your inventory and skills. The skill tree is replaced by a new constellation system that allows you to spend experience points in a new, more interesting way.
Also new to the interface is a new bookmarking and item view system that allows you to select items, see exactly what they look like in a three-dimensional space, and bookmark your favorite items and skills so you can equip them quickly without scrolling through long lists. Though the equipping process is about the same as you might expect, Skyrim has a new wielding system that gives players more freedom over the way they play. Instead of being limited to just magic or a sword, you are now able to dual-wield two swords, a sword and a spell, a spell and a shield, or even two spells at one time. This new feature definitely brings Skyrim into a new era, and will certainly please those who crave a more personal RPG experience.
But of course, the biggest new feature that fans are excited about is the dragons. Dragons have always been a part of the Elder Scrolls universe, but you'll be able to interact with them in a whole new way in Skyrim. As a Dragonborn, you can kill dragons and absorb their spirits to harness their power. Once you absorb their powers, you can equip special "Dragon Shout" powers that will help you shape the world around you in battle. During the presentation, I saw a dragon shout used to bring on the rain to weaken a fire dragon so that we could bring him down faster. Dragon shouts can be equipped at special altar areas throughout the world and you can switch them up on the fly if you know you've got a big boss battle ahead of you.
The Elder Scrolls is already one of the "golden" series among RPG enthusiasts, but it looks like Skyrim is going to push the series that much farther into epic territory. The land of Skyrim is breathtaking, and the unprecedented levels of interactivity you can have with this world coupled with numerous gameplay improvements, will make this game nothing short of amazing when it releases later this year. Even if you've never ventured forth into the Elder Scrolls universe, Skyrim will be an epic journey that simply begs to be experienced. I absolutely expected to be impressed with Skyrim, but what I have seen has easily exceeded my expectations and has gotten me even more excited for November 11.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer