Dragons and Magic and Dungeons, Oh My!
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.
The Elder’s Are Speaking
The Elder Scrolls series represents nearly twenty years of RPG excellence and is one of the most beloved and loyalty-inspiring franchises in RPG history. As dedicated defenders of the fantasy empire of Tamriel, we’ve lived through some crazy things: the abduction of our emperor, an attack by a malevolent deity, the search for a lost heir to the throne, and a flood of bad-mannered Daedra, to name but a few. Life in the real world just can’t compare to the excitement of life in the kingdom of Tamriel, and so for fans of the series it’s been a long four years waiting to return to it. This week’s confirmation of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim shines a light at the end of a long Elder Scrolls-less tunnel, and the new teaser trailer released this week offers us a glimpse of what’s in store for us come next holiday season.
The trailer starts and a flickering fire illuminates a series of Geiger-like wall carvings of foot soldiers and men on horseback—the sons of Skyrim—fighting what look like dragons. A narrator (who if it’s not Max von Sydow, I’ll eat my hat) reveals in sonorous tones, “We should have acted. They’re already here. The Elder Scrolls told of their return. Their defeat was merely a delay till the time after Oblivion opened.” The view shifts and a closeup of a scaly eye anticipates the rise of a huge stone dragon that flaps its wings as it comes to life and breathes stony fire onto the men and animals. Things look grim for the residents of Skyrim until the camera pans up the body of an armored man spitting fire who the voice tells is, “the one they (the dragons) fear—the Dovahkiin—the dragon born.”
Although Bethesda won’t be revealing anything more about the game until early next year, this majestic cinematic suggests a number of directions the fifth Elder Scrolls title could conceivably go. Most obviously, the mention of the Skyrim (as well as the announcement by Bethesda’s Todd Howard on last week’s VGA Awards) implies that core to the story will be the arctic, viking-like region of the Nords. This rich, mountainous land could provide ample opportunities for amazing adventuring as well as the possibility of throwing back a few tankards of Nordic Whiskey at a local tavern. We might find ourselves employed by Jsashe, the Witch Queen of Whiterun, or the nobility of the rival cities of Solitude and Winterhold. We might be advancing our studies among scholars at the Ysmir Collective or be called upon by settlements to fend off marauding frost trolls. And that’s just what we might be doing in our off time. As far as the main storyline goes, if the trailer is any indication, it looks like the Oblivion Crisis may not be as over as we’d hoped it to be.
Regardless of what happens in the story though, what it seems we can expect from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are better graphics (fingers crossed for better looking character models!) as Bethesda’s indicated that we’ll see an upgrade from the company’s Gamebroy engine, the engine used previously for both Oblivion and Fallout 3. Community manager Nick Breckton recently supported that assertion on Twitter by briefly mentioning a complete technical overhaul.”It’s a new graphics/gameplay engine built internally. We’ll have more details down the road.” Todd Howard, Game Director of Skyrim added to that in the company’s official press release saying, “It’s exciting finally to announce the game. We’ve been working for many years on Skyrim and the technology behind it. A new Elder Scrolls game has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait to show it off.”
In addition to better graphics, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll still enjoy the open-ended gameplay so characteristic of the series, and we’re hopeful that the development team will continue its efforts to streamline the game’s skills and attributes system as well as improve character development. A little extra hot key love added to the slot-limited and occasionally awkward combat mechanics wouldn’t hurt either. Whatever happens, we’ll be on the edge of our seats until next fall, or at least until more information about the game surfaces. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is set for release November 11, 2011 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
- An all new chapter in the Elder Scrolls universe.
- Uncover new destinations to explore.
- Find out what happens when the Elder Scrolls are opened.
- An all new chapter in the Elder Scrolls universe.