We have two exclusive articles written by Andrew Reiner of Game Informer and Maxwell McGee of GameSpot including full-blown previews and in-depth hands on articles of their Skyrim gameplay testing.
“After years of waiting, the next installment of The Elder Scrolls finally lands in our hands. Follow my journey from Riverwood to Whiterun.
As we mentioned in yesterday’s quick look at the QuakeCon Skyrim demo, my experience started in the character creator. My Twitter followers wanted to know about the Argonian race, the reptilian race that hails from the Black Marsh swampland. This race looks much like it did in Oblivion and Morrowind, with green scaled skin that sometimes gives off a bluish tint, and yellow, cat-like eyes. For my character, however, I chose the cat-like Khajiit race. The level of customization with this race was impressive. I could alter the eyeliner, change the color of the speckles on the nose, add earrings, and even apply a hairdo on top of my Khajiit’s furry dome. As in the previous games, the Khajiit have long, humanoid-like legs and a tail.
My journey started with my character bound in a dreary cave, which Todd Howard said is roughly 30 minutes after the start of the game. When I exited the cave I immediately equipped a destruction spell on one hand and a restoration spell on the other. The button layout is very similar to the previous Elder Scrolls games. The X button sheathes and unsheathes your weapon, the B button gives you access to the menu system, the Y button jumps, the A button interacts, and pressing L3 triggers stealth mode.
While the general controls are familiar, the cEldombat controls have evolved considerably. If you have shield equipped you can bash enemies with it to cause them to stagger, opening them up for attack. If you hold down the attack button with a melee weapon, you trigger a powerful attack that is often accompanied by a cool animation. When I stabbed a wolf with this attack, my character drove the sword deep into the beast and then used the shield as leverage to pry the sword out of the dead animal. You also must actively block oncoming attacks.
The spells also have varying attacks. As I walked down a path toward the village of Riverwood, I spotted two wolves on a nearby hill. When they caught my scent they came charging down the hill and I met them with a powerful flamethrower attack by holding down the spell button. It didn’t take long to burn these gorgeous animals, which look much more lifelike than the animals in Oblivion.
Since Riverwood was in the previous Skyrim demos, I didn’t spend much time in the village. Instead I headed north alongside a babbling stream that had salmon jumping out of the water and stumbled upon a small farm populated by a cow and hen. I watched the hen for a bit as it walked around aimlessly while clucking, and then stole the egg that was sitting in its nest.
I then made my way into the farmhouse, which only took a couple of seconds to load. Judging from the spread on his table – goat cheese and Nord mead – this farmer is living the good life. When I went back outside I met a woman named Sigrid, whose first words to me were “I’m spoken for, don’t get any ideas.” She kept on farming while telling me about herself and her daughter. After she shared five or so details, she started delivering the canned responses of “Yes?”, “Good Afternoon”, and “What do you need?”
Leaving Sigrid and the farm behind, I made my way further north to a large murky river. I could have crossed using a bridge, but I decided to test out the swimming instead. The animations are a little rough, but as I swam across to the other bank I was able to grab a few salmon as they passed by. Who needs a fishing rod when you can just grab them with your fist? As I approached the bank I saw a large elk wade into the river. When I moved in too close for the beast’s comfort, he made a run for it.
Continuing down the path on the other side of the river, I stumbled across a group of Stormcloak soldiers escorting a prisoner. When I approached the group a hostile soldier blurted out, “Citizen, I’m warning you.” Then I was presented three of choices. I could do nothing, free the prisoner, or free the prisoner and give him an item, which I assumed in this case would be a weapon so he could defend himself against his captors. Considering that there were three guards with their swords drawn and I was a mere level one character, I opted to stay out of it. As soon as I moved away, the soldiers returned their weapons to their sheathes.
Heading north again, I ran into another farm. This was a much bigger plot of land, with several gardens. In the middle of this farm a group of three humans were battling a massive giant. Rather than joining the fray, I decided to just sit back and watch. The battle raged back and forth, but eventually the humans prevailed. Afterwards I met Alea the huntress and her sidekicks Farkas and Ria. My first interaction with her was a statement about the battle – I could say “You don’t look like you need any help,” or “I tried to help.” When I chose the flattering option, she thanked me and explained that her band was a part of the Shield-Brothers. I was then prompted to inquire about joining the group or wryly responding “Sounds like a waste of time.” Alea told me that if I wanted to join the group I would have to ask the leader of the Companions.
After going our separate ways, I ventured north again, picking items like lavender and tundra cotton on my way toward Whiterun, a large walled city on the hill. Before I walked up the hill, I stopped by a stable and talked to the stable-hilt named Skulva. I asked to buy a horse, he replied that his horse was seven years old and in fine health. His asking price? One thousand gold. Rather than pay the outrageous fee, I jumped on the horse and galloped up the hill to the city with Skulva cursing and running after me. Since there were no guards in the vicinity, I got off scot-free.
When I approached the gates of the city, the guard told me, “the city is closed with the dragons about.” From here I had a few options to try and get into the city. I could offer him news about the dragon attack at Helgen, bribe him with 56 gold, or intimidate by asking him to stand aside. I chose to pay him off, and soon I was behind the comforts of the city wall.
The loading takes a bit longer when entering a big city like Whiterun, but as the screen loads you’re given gameplay tips, bits of lore, and can even tinker with a three-dimensional object on the screen. Once the city loaded, I took a brief tour. Whiterun looks to be a wealthy city in good shape – the beautifully designed A-frame homes have nice brickwork and look pristine. A large courtyard I stumbled upon served as home to a giant tree and a gazebo. A large outdoor market offered several opportunities to buy or trade gear, and there was plenty of stuff laying around for those who prefer five-finger discounts.The city guards, who have black rams on their shields, would prefer you didn’t.
I made my way into a beautiful manor, where all walks of life were sitting around eating and drinking. One guy was eating a large sweet-roll that looked like it could put a man out of commission with a food coma. I spoke to a musician named Mikael, who played a unique stringed instrument. After conversing, he switched to a wooden flute. In the back of the manor I came across a ledger. When opening it up I was busted by the citizens and apprehended by the city watch. To avoid imprisonment I paid a 44 gold fine.
With only a few minutes left before the demo concluded, I decided to leave the city to head toward a place called Dawnstar. Night had fallen, and the world took on a new personality with new creatures like a torchbug and luna moths that I collected. Stumbling upon Lorieus Farm, I walked in the home to find two people sleeping. Before I could steal the couple’s valuables, Bethesda’s Pete Hines tapped me on the shoulder and told me my time was up. All of my pleading to “play a few minutes more” was met with a shaking of the head.
Overall, Skyrim played great. The framerate was fluid, the combat satisfying, and the world beckons more exploration. After the demo concluded, I chatted with Todd Howard and he confirmed that the Dark Brotherhood is returning in Skyrim. As if we needed another reason to be excited about this game.”
Article by Andew Reiner, Game Informer
QuakeCon 2011 is in full swing here in Dallas, Texas, despite the record-setting heat wave sweeping the Lone Star State. Naturally, this means we’ve been staying inside and checking out all of the games on display, including Bethesda Softworks’ latest entry in The Elder Scrolls series: Skyrim. This open-world role-playing game is filled with tough choices to overcome, but we had to make the hardest decision right off the bat: looks. Among the reptilian argonians, catlike khajiit, pointy dark elves, and many more, we decided to play as an orc with a striking coat of yellow face paint.
The striking yellow face paint was one of the many face-paint options available via the face-paint slider. As you would expect, there were dozens of these sliders to choose from in creating our devilishly handsome (or perhaps hideous) character. Everything from skin tone and jaw width to eye depth and facial hair could be tweaked to our liking. And if we switched to another race in the character-creation screen, the game saved our customizations so that we didn’t have to redo them when we returned to that race.
After deciding on the name Knuckleduster, we were instantly dropped onto a very familiar woodland path. Call it a hunch, but we figured the town of Riverwood couldn’t be far off and that the snowy temple in the distance probably housed an angry dragon. Therefore, we opted to take the road less traveled and wandered into the woods. After almost getting devoured by a wolf, we called up the item menu and outfitted our orc with some weapons and armor. A hand axe and fireball spell seemed chaotic enough for our needs, though we could set other items as favorites to equip them quickly without having to dive back into the menu.
The first thing we stumbled across during our travels was a set of magical stones. We activated one with a carving of a warrior on it and received an enchantment that let us learn combat skills 20 percent faster. We decided to test this out on an unsuspecting merchant we spied camping along the bank of a nearby river. At first, he was more than happy to have a customer at his little shop and gladly bought the wolf pelt we’d collected earlier. However, his mood quickly soured after we cracked him upside the head with our hand axe.
The merchant pulled a dagger on us, and we were locked in a fight to the death. While our opponent looked completely terrified, we had a lot of fun swapping between attacking up close with the axe and hiding behind rocks while shooting fireballs. The battle ended swiftly, and after a brief lock-picking game, we looted a massive, two-handed battle-axe from the dead man’s chest. Flush with victory, we equipped the new weapon and took practice swings at nearby trees until we happened across our next victim: an elderly woman who was gardening.
The old woman, Anise, looked as if her head had been filled with gravel and she refused to speak to us when we talked to her. We took her silence as an invitation to wander inside her cabin where we learned that she was some sort of alchemist, given all the special weeds and roots littered about. Back outside, we found Anise sitting in a chair looking somehow even more unpleasant than before, so we attacked her. She tried to fight back using magic, but her wrinkly hide was quickly overwhelmed by our shiny, new axe.
In her basement, there was an alchemy station where potions could be brewed. All we needed to do was combine two to three alchemical items (pilfered from upstairs) that shared a special property. Each item had four special property slots, all labeled “unknown,” and the only way to find out what they were was through trial and error at the station or to eat the item. Either method consumed the item(s). Our first potion failed, but the second succeeded because two of the items shared the “resist frost” property. This information was then recorded in the item’s description for future reference.
We then made a quick pass through Riverwood before starting up the side of a snowy mountain. There, Knuckleduster encountered some bandits who were eager to throw themselves on the end of his axe–save for one with a large, wooden shield. This opponent was able to deflect our basic attacks, but by holding down the attack button, we brought our character’s weapon around for one powerful blow. The bandit buckled under the weight of the attack and crumpled at our feet.
As our enemies went down, our character leveled up. At level two, we first had to choose among improving our magicka, health, or stamina attributes. Next, we got to pick a perk from one of the many skill constellations. From the two-handed skill set, we chose to improve the first skill, barbarian, which granted our character 20 percent more damage per rank when using a two-handed weapon. The skills improve with use, so by attacking enemies with the two-handed axe, we were improving our two-handed skill.
True to The Elder Scrolls series, combat felt very heavy in Skyrim. Knuckleduster’s attacks came out slowly and had a definite feeling of weight behind them. But while the core mechanics of the combat didn’t feel far removed from the series’ predecessors, the number of options available in battle–such as all the weapons, spells, and shouts–was refreshing. Our hands-on time with Skyrim left us with the impression that Bethesda isn’t trying to reinvent The Elder Scrolls formula; instead, it’s taking what was great about the previous games and adding some interesting new content on top of it. You can check out The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3 on November 11.
Article by Maxwell McGee, Gamespot