Home Editorial Slightly Late: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim impressions from E3


Not pictured: actual scrolls

After our trip back from E3, we lost a great deal of things, including a few files. Thanks to the power of time travel and/or looking a little harder, we managed to recover some Skyrim impressions from Ferret’s media-only preview event.

So today we got a super duper hands off demo of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda had their swanky little press-only party which I got to attend, though WiNGSPANTT didn’t (he had to go torture Space Hamlet even more). The Bethesda booth itself was enormous and intimidating, and those exiting its walls were visibly shaken.

What sort of secrets would I be shown? Would Skyrim carry on the Elder Scrolls legacy with honor and dignity? Find out on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z!

Erm… after the break.

The first thing we talked about was the new engine from Bethesda called “Creation”. There’s a new renderer, new level designer, new everything. And from what I saw today, it sucks. I hope it was just an issue with it being early in development and the demo being on the Xbox 360, but it’s also possible that Bethesda is simply terrible at making engines. The edges were jagged; the lighting was crap; the shadows looked fake.

Regardless, the world itself looked pretty. Like in all Elder Scrolls games, it’ll take you about an hour and a half to render the massive open world and walk three steps. But you can go anywhere in the world as long as you don’t mind your graphics card exploding from rage.

The equipment system was different this time around. You have two buttons to control each hand, and you can equip one thing per hand: a weapon, a shield, a staff, or a spell. There may be other things as well, but this is all we saw today. There are also two handed weapons available, and if you equip the same spell in both hands you’re given the ability to super size charge your spell.

Next up, we saw another one of the major changes from the previous Elder Scrolls games. The demonstrator walked up to some sort of stone, which is part of a group that are replacing birth signs. There are many of these ability stones scattered around the world, and they allow you to change which one is the active ability for your character at will.

"You can butcher wolves in Skyrim? Get a copy in my campaign bus now!"

After that, we finally got to see a bit of combat. Most of it is very similar to Oblivion aside from the equipment changes. We started out with a sword and shield and later replaced the shield with a spell. Upon killing the third wolf, we saw the best addition to the series yet: finisher porn! Yes, the camera switched to a third person view and we got to see an overly long, super slow motion, extra gory killing blow… on a wolf. Not a dragon, not anything that took us a while to kill, just a single mother fucking pointless-ass wolf. This won’t get annoying in the slightest.

Next we were shown another extremely major and important change to the game, the menus. Yes, the menu system has been completely overhauled (is it possible to overhaul a menu system?) to something that looks like… a menu. Just with a transparent background and slightly reorganized. Am I missing something here? The map was decent looking, and it’s in “3D” this time. Looking at your skills seemed pretty cool, as well. Your character looks up to the stars and each constellation is a skill. Each star inside that constellation is a perk that you can buy after leveling up.

I should also note that while they didn’t talk about it in depth, the leveling system is different this time around. There’s no more major or minor skills, it looks like you’ll just periodically increase a skill level, and each time you get a bit closer to going up a character level. (Also since I doubt WiNG’s actually going to read this… WiNGSPANTT YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE AND NOBODY LOVES YOU)*

Next they showed off how “detailed” the game is. Basically what they mean is that you can look at pretty much every item’s model in detail, and there are a lot of readable books. Later on in the demo we saw a puzzle in which the solution is on the back of a quest model. It was kind of cool, but doesn’t really add a whole lot of depth to the game. Finally, we reached our first town. And in true Elder Scrolls fashion, the voice acting was completely terrible. Bethesda took a minute to show off their new conversation system. The world no longer pauses whenever you talk to an NPC; they continue doing whatever they were doing before, as does everyone else. When you exit a conversation mid-sentence, the NPC keeps on talking to you.

The economy system also sounds like it’s likely to have changed. Though we didn’t talk to any shop keepers or hear a ton about it, the town we were in was a lumber town. We walked around and saw people working in the forest and the mill, and we were told players could sabotage the mill and affect the economy. So basically, you can still be a gigantic turd of a human being.

Finally, we got to see some dragon combat. The dragons in the game are unscripted in that they have their own AI, and spawning rules just like everything else in the game. They are definitely tougher characters to take down. Dragons alternated between flying and landing, and breathed *lots* of fire at you. (Also apparently them breathing fire is what happens when they speak dragon…)

As a dragon’s health begins to get low, it will crash to the ground. After you get around to actually killing the thing, you’ll start to see its flesh dissolve leaving just a skeleton. Apparently that’s how you absorb their souls and learn new dragon shout magic. Yes, you absorb dragon souls. I can’t decide whether that’s really awesome or really dumb. But that’s what it is.

After that we were quickly ushered out to see the other games they had to show. I didn’t get a chance to ask any questions, so yeah… Mostly it looks like just more Elder Scrolls. Regardless of whether you like or dislike the changes you’ve made, it will pretty much boil down to if you liked the previous Elder Scrolls games. If you did, you’ll probably like this one.

* Don’t bother coming in tomorrow, pal ~WiNGSPANTT

20 replies to this post
  1. I think the ugliness was because of the 360. At least I hope so. Some of the earlier screenshots made it look way nicer. Given that, I don’t see why they would show off their brand new engine on old hardware. I would bitch about consoles and all that, but in all honesty on 11/11/11 I’ll be killing dragons and eating their souls, just like everyone else.

    Still, pretty stupid to show an uglier version of the game, unless the screenshots were too flattering and it’s bad on PC too. Then we’ll just wait for modders to fix it I suppose (we’re getting mod support, right? RIGHT?)

  2. A game is not only about graphics dammit.
    It’s about the actual gameplay too. Gameplay Here sounds stupid though.
    And I’m pretty sure than at least 1 person loves WiNG. His mother.

    • I’d never mention somebody’s mother in a conversation. Even though it doesn’t happen often, somebody’s mother might have died in a horrible accident. Conversations heading down this road always end up in shit.

    • Yes it’s not only about graphics, which is why the article talks about the other things too…
      And even if they’re not very important, they should be mentioned, especially if the developers created a brand new engine for the game. Also that gives us an occasion to rant about/make fun of consoles.
      What sounds stupid? The dragon soul eating? Yeah that’s weird, but that’s more related to lore. Fights against dragons seem cool, and dual wielding any weapons/spells is awesome (can I haz dual wielding shields?).

      • AAAAND the plot thickens. Stay tuned for the next episode of The T3 show, guest stars kaidou and Guy.
        This just in, the series is canceled. You’ll never know now.

  3. Nice try rabbid ferret nice try… WiNG is always watching…

    Anyways I’m sorry to say, although I really want the game to succeed, I think it won’t improve much from what you described mainly because the limitations of consoles, which sadly for now make up the majority of the gamming market… Must resist… inner… PC fanboy… asdfghjkl

    • I disagree. Oblivion was also on consoles and it did just fine. One of the major staples of The Elder Scrolls series is how moddable they are which can breathe endless life into them. With Bethesda also talking about the possibility of bringing mods to the 360 version, the PC version might not be the only good one.

      Regardless, I’m sure the PC version will be great.

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