The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preview

Though I was only scheduled to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for an hour, I managed to lose nearly three hours out of my day without even noticing when I played the game at PAX 2011.

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Sitting down in a behind-closed-doors area for press, I grabbed an Xbox 360 controller to begin my hands-on demo with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the next game from developer Bethesda Softworks.

My demo was scheduled for an hour. After going through some create-a-character options, I ventured off into the world of Skyrim. What seemed like no more than twenty minutes later, I looked down at my watch--nearly two and a half hours had passed. Skyrim had captured me.

There's a wealth of options available when crafting your character in Skyrim, which makes sense, considering you're likely to spend a hundred hours with him or her. The demo began shortly after the intro. Here, you can edit your character's race and features. Race offers a back story to your lineage, in addition to various stat bonuses.

A small township called Riverwood was my first destination. The town was made up mostly of Nords, a race of tall and fair-haired humans. As I approached the town, an old woman screams that she had just seen a dragon. The town is on pins and needles. "No one has seen a dragon in more than an age," a man tells me. Though Bethesda says Skyrim features an infinite supply of dragons (essentially "all of the dragons"), I didn't get to see any myself.

I took some time to try my hand at jobs in the area. A lumber mill needs someone to help push logs through an archaic, automated saw. A blacksmith in town allows me to repair my items or craft new ones with pieces I've collected throughout my journey. Quests are available in town, including one that involves a love triangle and a forged letter, written by a man who hopes to sway a woman's affections in his favor.

I left the town to journey alongside the shore of a connected stream and into the mountains across a ridge-line. This is where I lost all semblance of time.

There's a certain joy that comes from losing yourself in a world. A similar thing happened to me when I played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I sunk over 100 hours into the game without realizing it. (Fallout 3 was also a favorite, but I didn't become as enraptured by it because the world, by design, was so desolate.)

The Xbox 360 version of the game was the only one available to me, but it did answer a few questions I had about the game. Namely, how pretty is the game? Skyrim is a gorgeous title. Everything from the snow-capped mountains to the gentle babbling brooks looked spectacular. I can only imagine the more robust PC version will look much better.

The game's menu is simplistic, making it easy to swap combat strategies. In a few battles with bandits, I was able to go from a sword and board configuration to dual-wielding magic spells in moments. You can "favorite" weapons and abilities as well, giving you a chance to swap out with the d-pad rather than return to the menus. The combat is more fluid than what I remember from Oblivion and offers some cool flourishes, like a cinematic switch to third-person when delivering execution moves. On more than one occasion, I was dodging incoming attacks in my seat while I played, as if the game were Kinect-enabled. (It's not.)

The game is available to play in third-person as well. It looks like a lot of work was put into making that a functional option for players, something Oblivion failed at. As a purist, however, I'm going to stick with the first-person experience.

I also got a great sense of how much subtle detail is in the world. After ridding the world of some hostile bandits, I entered a mine where a blind man sat at a desk "reading" a book. After convincing him I was part of his crew, he notified me of an upcoming plan. Sneaking up to him to look at the book he was sitting in front of revealed blank pages, which made me burst out laughing.

Later in the demo, I came to a ridge with an enemy who I sent flying off the mountain with a a fire blast. His lifeless body hit the side of the mountain and rag-dolled down for ages, causing another outburst. Bethesda's Todd Howard laughed along after the enemy went tumbling down the large face of the mountain.

Alas, I wanted to continue playing for hours more. Skyrim has succeeded at luring me back into the world of The Elder Scrolls. While there were a few hitches in the experience, like odd transitions between weather effects, I was fully absorbed. I was always looking forward to Skyrim, but after getting hands on with the game, The Elder Scrolls V has cemented its place at the top of my most-wanted list.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 29, 2011 2:15 PM

    Xav de Matos posted a new article, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preview.

    Though I was only scheduled to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for an hour, I managed to lose nearly three hours out of my day without even noticing when I played the game at PAX 2011.

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      August 29, 2011 2:36 PM

      this game will rule my world.

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        August 29, 2011 2:45 PM

        I think the proper phrase is: "All over my face."

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          August 29, 2011 2:46 PM

          How does it compare to Morrowind and Oblivion?

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            August 29, 2011 2:53 PM

            I give some of those impressions in the post. I can't say overall, though, I only played Skyrim for a few hours, whereas I spent over 100 with the other two titles.

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          August 29, 2011 2:58 PM

          how about, "this game will rule my world, all over my face."

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          August 29, 2011 4:23 PM

          I remember when we used to fill cups. Now we take it on the face.

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      August 29, 2011 2:56 PM

      Time to start the "We hate Xav" webpage for all us jealous bastards.

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        August 29, 2011 3:06 PM

        I hate past-Xav for having been able to play it while present-Xav is not playing it.

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          August 29, 2011 6:45 PM

          meta o.o

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          August 29, 2011 7:32 PM

          we all hate future-Xav, who owns it and can play it whenever he wants. what a jerkass.

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            August 29, 2011 8:13 PM

            but in said future, do we not have Skyrim as well?

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              August 29, 2011 8:48 PM

              if your point is that i should also hate future-anbilow, rest assured that i do

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      August 29, 2011 3:12 PM

      How does the new animation system look in person? How significant an upgrade is it from Fallout?

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        August 29, 2011 3:52 PM

        I'd like to hear more about the new animation system too, are the people's expressions/faces and movements more natural? I wonder how big of a leap from Oblivion

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          August 29, 2011 6:05 PM

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9hJMxw126A
          This video is a little old now, but I doubt much has changed since then. The animations look pretty good, but at times they seem a little bit jittery. Could just be that the game is running on a 360 at unsteady/low fps though. I also noticed that when he went into the third person view, he never strafed diagonally so we didn't get to see if characters finally get diagonal strafing animations this time around. I'm onto you Bethesda!

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      August 29, 2011 3:18 PM

      I'm confused, is this the new game that Mojang is working on?

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        August 29, 2011 3:22 PM

        It sure is! It says it very clearly in the title.

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        August 29, 2011 3:57 PM

        Someone is trying to get quoted in court!

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      August 29, 2011 3:33 PM

      Wait Dr. Muzyka?

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      August 29, 2011 3:57 PM

      I saw you used a 360 controller, but to confirm was this test run on a 360 or was it PC?

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        August 29, 2011 4:15 PM

        "The Xbox 360 version of the game was the only one available to me, but it did answer a few questions I had about the game."

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          August 29, 2011 8:52 PM

          You gonna pick it up on PC or 360 when it's out?

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      August 29, 2011 4:01 PM

      After the greatness that was/is Dues Ex i cannot wait for another great RPG, Skyrim looks awesome, thanks for the preview. With Mass Effect 3 and Kingdoms of Amulur coming soon too, this is the best time to be an RPG fan!

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        August 29, 2011 4:15 PM

        Mass Effect 3 preview tomorrow!

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          August 31, 2011 10:27 PM

          YOU LIED TO ME XAV!!! HAHA! like anyone comes back and reads these things after a while...

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      August 29, 2011 4:05 PM

      Do XAVs dream of electric Skyrim?

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        August 29, 2011 4:53 PM

        god xav is still such a good name. That is what I'm going to name my first born assuming I can ever get some woman to breed with me

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          August 29, 2011 5:15 PM

          Still? Like I've been shopping around a different one! Thanks, though.

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      August 29, 2011 4:21 PM

      i kinda want to cancel my steam preorder for pc and get it on xbox instead. somebody convince me i did the right thing.

      can you even cancel steam preorders?

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        August 29, 2011 4:32 PM

        Please tell me you're trollin'

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          August 29, 2011 4:38 PM

          picture me trollin'

          but no, i'm serious. i think i would just prefer it, unless you feel so strongly you could provide a reason not to?

          oh and i don't care about modding.

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            August 29, 2011 4:51 PM

            What about the more pixels and the happier trees?

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            August 29, 2011 5:25 PM

            Why though? "Just because" is not a reason.

            The game is going to look better and play smoother as long as your PC is good enough. You can play it with a wired 360 controller if you'd prefer that over keyboard/mouse.

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            August 29, 2011 6:31 PM

            Well, modding would be the #1 reason I'm getting it for PC, I suppose close seconds would be the better hardware hopefully resulting in better gfx and of course ye ol' kb+m.

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            August 29, 2011 7:14 PM

            The framerates of oblivion were shit on consoles. Fallout was better but it had fucking long loading times.

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            August 30, 2011 6:19 AM

            Considering the game is largely about the world, the better graphics at higher resolution and framerates is a big one.

            Also since it's first person and immersion is important, the natural looking around you get with a mouse will help, I imagine. Though admittedly I got New Vegas for 360 and loved it on there. I have a good PC now though, so there's no question.

            Also a small part of it is wanting to support this kind of game being made for PC, but really it doesn't factor since it's by far my preferred platform to buy it on already.

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          August 29, 2011 4:38 PM

          picture me trollin'

          but no, i'm serious. i think i would just prefer it, unless you feel so strongly you could provide a reason not to?

          oh and i don't care about modding.

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            August 29, 2011 5:01 PM

            I think that its your perogative whether or not you want to cancel your preorder. As far as differences goes it looks as though multiplatform games are not optimized for the pc like they used to be (with some rare exceptions). That being said I preordered the collector's edition for the pc simply because I played oblivion on the pc and so I'm very comfortable playing this game on the pc.

            If you want to cancel here is a good link that i found:
            http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1117862
            Let me know how it goes

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        August 29, 2011 5:07 PM

        I would probably do the same, but I refuse to play with ridiculous load times between areas and buildings/dungeons.

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          August 29, 2011 6:01 PM

          The load times really got to me with the 360 version of Oblivion. I made sure to get Fallout 3 on PC because of that shit. I took a long hiatus from Oblivion and the load times made me never return because every time I tried to get back into it I got so frustrated waiting around.

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        August 29, 2011 5:21 PM

        Don't be dumb. Get this on PC, the mods for this on PC will probably be amazing.

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        August 29, 2011 5:23 PM

        Every previous ES game has been best on PC. Why would you choose console if you have a PC that can play it?

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        August 29, 2011 5:24 PM

        The mods alone should be enough to convince anyone to play on the PC.
        Im sure you could get an x-box controller to work on the PC too if thats your reasoning.

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        August 29, 2011 6:01 PM

        I'm placing this in the top 10 for bad ideas for you. Which is saying quite a bit.

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        August 30, 2011 12:38 AM

        OK BROS FINE I WILL PLAY ON PC HOWEVER

        i do want to play this with a controller on my 42 inch. i have a 460gtx and an available hdmi port open on my tv.

        are the controllers plug and play? do i just hook up the hdmi cable (do i need a special kind???) to my tv and flip the input?

        then i will truly be in heaven.

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          August 30, 2011 12:59 AM

          [deleted]

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            August 30, 2011 4:00 AM

            You can
            http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Oblivion:Controls

            I'm pretty sure they said Skyrim would have controller support though.

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              August 30, 2011 9:07 AM

              New Vegas had plug and play support for my wired 360 controller. I'm pretty sure Fallout 3 was the same. Skyrim would be taking a step back if it didn't have the same feature.

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            September 2, 2011 5:32 PM

            You could play on PC version of oblivion with an XBox 360 controller the exact same way as Xbox 360 Oblivion version. I did for a while. Went back to keyboard. It is nice to be kicked back with your feet up with just a 360 controller.

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          August 30, 2011 8:50 AM

          Just hooking it up through HDMI to your TV might get you a picture but no sound (I'm assuming you use the speakers built into your TV). I think the 460gtx is capable of passing sound through hdmi, but you may need let it know you want it to do that. To do that on Windows 7 you would need to right click on the speaker icon in your taskbar and click Playback devices. Under the Playback tab, you should see something labled NVIDIA High Definition Audio. If you don't, right click anywhere in the blank area and make sure Show Disabled Devices and Show Disconnected Devices are both checked. Right click on the NVIDIA High Definition Audio device option and make sure Disable isn't checked. You may also need to right click on it and check Set as Default Device. Right click it again and hit Test to see if you get audio. Before you mess around with any of this just hook it up and see if you get sound though. If you do, awesome, but it would surprise me.

          Alternatively, if your soundcard supports digital output (most do these days, even onboard soundcards) and your TV has the same type of digital input, you can hook your soundcard up through with a digital (optical or coax) cable. This would be more complicated to set up though. You would need to make sure your soundcard knows it's supposed to pass the signal through digital, you'd probably need to set it up to use Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect (not all soundcards come with either of these out of the box), and your TV might need to be configured to know play back the audio signal that way instead of over HDMI.

          If I were you, test my PC out with that 42 inch before Skyrim is released. You won't want to be working out kinks like this on release day when you could be playing the game instead :D

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        August 30, 2011 6:46 PM

        i'm getting it for xbox cause my couch is comfy.

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      August 29, 2011 4:26 PM

      Oh cool, you can play it from a third person perspective. When I was younger, this is originally why I hated the Elder Scrolls games. I couldn't adapt after doom et all

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        August 29, 2011 5:19 PM

        What.

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          August 29, 2011 5:37 PM

          For realsies, now it doesn't matter. I'm 30 now, and I don't think I finally enjoyed daggerfall until I was about 20 or so

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            August 29, 2011 5:43 PM

            No, that 'What.' was because your post didn't make any sense. You said you couldn't adapt to first person mode because you were too used to Doom...which is a first person game.

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              August 29, 2011 5:58 PM

              Ah, I meant the style of gameplay within the FPS genre. It was slower-paced and I couldn't adjust

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                August 29, 2011 8:43 PM

                Weird.

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                  August 29, 2011 8:53 PM

                  that's a terrible excuse. Morrowind is one the best games ever made.

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                    August 30, 2011 6:14 AM

                    Also because first-person is the most immersive, and the whole point of these games is to be immersed in the world and become your character. It just wouldn't feel right playing it 3rd person, even though it works fine for the Witcher games.

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      August 29, 2011 5:47 PM

      Stopped reading at grabbed an Xbox 360 controller

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      August 29, 2011 7:35 PM

      "I took some time to try my hand"

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      August 29, 2011 7:35 PM

      What happened to the Steam deluxe edition? I can't find it anymore.

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      August 29, 2011 8:44 PM

      How is the skill tree looking? Is it difficult to get an overall sense of the paths available? The one preview that I saw a while ago make it look really clunky (where you actually had to move from skill to skill to actually see what it did/upgrade it)

      I like my skills neatly laid out so I don't have to be bouncing around trying to remember what the hell there was.

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      August 29, 2011 10:36 PM

      Thanks for the report and thanks for touching on the subtleties, XAV. Can't wait.

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      August 30, 2011 12:26 AM

      is so looking forward to this

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      August 30, 2011 4:21 AM

      As long as theres no gates ala oblivion

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      August 30, 2011 6:15 AM

      Xav my good man, I've never been so happy to be so insanely jealous of another person.

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      August 30, 2011 8:09 AM

      I have not yet seen anything about the advancement system. Have they announced whether I will need to maintain a spreadsheet to min/max my character? What about enemy scaling?

      (Sorry, I haven't been able to pay this title the attention it deserves.)

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        August 30, 2011 6:12 PM

        From what I could gather the advancement system is the same from Oblivion in which you simply level up your skills as you use them. You pick a race from the beginning but not a class. They completely removed the class system in favor of a more freeform advancement system in which you can change your class at any point in the game and still level up those abilities.

        As far as enemy scaling goes I think they said it will be the same as Fallout 3 in which there will be some scaling of enemies but also many areas will have a fixed level

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      September 2, 2011 7:24 PM

      I had the amazing opportunity to play SKYRIM for a full 2 hours straight at PAX Prime 2011! The gameplay is quite different than previous Elder Scrolls, especially combat. I actually felt my heart pounding in my chest while under attack! :)

      I run a blog called NERD TREK which recently scored an amazing interview from Bethesda Softworks main art director as well as others who answered some previously unanswered questions about the game. Check out the article here: http://nerdtrek.com/skyrim-answers-bethesda/

      I hope the quests and stories in this game harken back to the Morrowind days when things felt much deeper and immersive.

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      September 3, 2011 6:54 AM

      I really hope they have a reasonable PC Interface this time. I'm sure dARN will work on a Skyrim Darnified UI but I'd like to just have the PC interface out of the box.

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