Mon
Oct 17 2011 10:00am

A Preview of the Upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

A Preview of the Upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Few video game series have the rabid fan base and near-universal acclaim of Elder Scrolls. The last installment, Oblivion, landed on more game-of-the-year lists than you can shake a sword at. So of course, in this jam-packed holiday season, one of the most anticipated games is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Early videos of Skyrim have shown that Bethesda Game Studios has learned from the successes of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, so fans are already assured of a beautiful, polished game. But what specifically can players expect? I was recently invited to participate in an extended live play demo of Skyrim.

The opening of Skyrim is being kept tightly under wraps, so my play began about an hour into the game. You can gather some clues about what happened in the intro from things NPCs say, but I have been sworn to secrecy. I can tell you that Skyrim takes place two hundred years after the events of Oblivion, a civil war is on, and the player can choose a side. There are also factions new and old that players can join: the thieves’ guild and the magic academy are both back. After witnessing a group of hardy NPCs take down a roaming giant, I joined their band, the Companions, which led to a whole quest line helping your comrades.

A Preview of the Upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It’s amazing how distinct the NPCs are in Skyrim. The folks wandering around the many townships have clear personalities, and there are way more voice actors contributing to the dialogue than in Oblivion. All dialogue is in real time, so no more zoom-in-to-awkward-closeup. This, in addition to the world map, which includes sixteen miles of unique terrain, are a far cry from the looped tiles of Oblivion, and the biggest improvements over previous installments. The result is an immersive adventure that’s bound to keep you busy for hundreds of hours.

A Preview of the Upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

In the years to come, I predict that fans will look back at Elder Scrolls and refer to Skyrim as “the one with the dragons.” Dragon shouts, dragon language, and dragon enemies all feature heavily. As my play time wound down, I found myself under attack by a gigantic green dragon. He flew around, plucked my NPC allies off the ground, torched me and my friends. I can’t really express how epic it is to fight dragons in this game. They swoop out of the sky. The battles are brutal and intense. Victory is rewarding and SO satisfying.

A Preview of the Upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Get excited. Skyrim may not revolutionize the first-person RPG market the way its big brother Oblivion did, paving the way for hits like Fallout 3, but Skyrim has honed Elder Scrolls into the best high fantasy video game there is. Check out my full review of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in a forthcoming issue of Realms of Fantasy, and in the meantime, take a look at my other Realms of Fantasy video game reviews.


Matt London is an author and filmmaker who lives in New York City. He is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, as well as a columnist for Tor.com, Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, and Realms of Fantasy. His fiction is out right this second in the anthology The Living Dead 2. Follow him on Twitter.

7 comments
Marcus W
1. toryx
I've only recently discovered the Elder Scrolls series with Oblivion which I played about halfway through until Fallout 3 got released and I ended up dropping Oblivion entirely for that. Nevertheless, I'm crazy looking forward to this game.

What I want to know, though, is if they did a better job with the dialogue choices? I liked the idea of the bluff/ diplomacy system they had for Oblivion but I didn't care for the execution at all.
Ashe Armstrong
2. AsheSaoirse
I already have it preordered and prepaid. Just waiting. I'm wondering what the modding community will come up with too!
Matt London
3. MattLondon
@toryx The big challenge with games like this is finding a balance between the main plot and the side quests. I often get so detoured running errands for Mr. Blacksmith #7 that I forget what I'm supposed to be doing to save the world.

The dialogue system in this game is much closer to Fallout than Oblivion. Multiple choices on a menu, and some special options depending on your skills: "Lie," "Intimidate," etc.
Matt London
4. MattLondon
@toryx The big challenge with games like this is finding a balance between the main plot and the side quests. I often get so detoured running errands for Mr. Blacksmith #7 that I forget what I'm supposed to be doing to save the world.

The dialogue system in this game is much closer to Fallout than Oblivion. Multiple choices on a menu, and some special options depending on your skills: "Lie," "Intimidate," etc.
Natenanimous
5. Natenanimous
I'm very much looking forward to sinking my fingers and my toes into Skyrim. Similar to MattLondon, I often find myself distracted by sidequests in Bethesda games, but I'm hoping it won't be too much of a problem. The toughest thing for me will be to only enter a dungeon or area if I have a quest to do so. Too often in previous Elder Scrolls games, I would go explore a random dungeon and end up killing someone I'd need for a quest later on, or stumble across things that were clearly quest-related but I had no idea what to do with them. I would also take "shortcuts" across the countryside and end up waylaid by named bandits or forced to defend myself from a crazy wizard with a quest item on him and I had no idea what future events I might be screwing up. I need to keep my nose out of places it hasn't been asked to go, at least until the main quest is over.

But none of that changes the fact that this is the most I've been anticipating a game in quite some time.
Natenanimous
6. Teka Lynn
Eeeeeeeee! Skyrim!

My husband and I have been eagerly looking forward to Skyrim ever since it was announced. He even has a countdown clock on his computer.

@5: I understand (no spoilers!) that the "oops, killed an essential" factor has been reduced. In some cases, if you kill a quest provider, an alternate NPC will give you the same quest.

DOVAKHIN! DOVAKHIN! 11/11/11 can't come too soon.
Joe Dillingham
7. theblacklaser
Man, this preview is basically the exact opposite of the one over at Rock Paper Shotgun. Not in a bad way, but you guys are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum of preview types.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/skanecdote/

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