Today at E3 I was invited backstage at Bethesda’s booth for an in-depth demo of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The demo lasted for forty minutes and it showcased many new features that the teams at Bethesda have implemented in the latest entry to the Elder Scrolls series. Read below for my summary and analysis of the title.
The demo was shown on the Xbox 360 and the developer walking through the demo told us that Skyrim has been in development for three years. Skyrim will be using the creation gameplay engine and Havok. The developer used a Nord class that was level 34 and had maximized health so unfortunately actual damage received by enemies wasn’t shown during the demo.
We were shown the various visual improvements that Bethesda has made in Skyrim, this includes fully textured rock faces that look as realistic as actual cliff faces, various plants and ingredients that can be harvested look much more impressive, players can often view mountains in the distance that will not appear as simple gray blobs in the shape of mountains, but will be able to see all the details of the mountain even at a greater distance. This was further emphasized when we were shown a river that had fish swimming along the water and jumping up a small waterfall.
Rather than being born under a sign in Skyrim, players will be able to choose a Birthstone which will provide various statistical enhancements to their character. Combat has also evolved with a kill cam feature which will slow down the world around the player as they finish off an enemy in third person view through an elaborate finishing move.
Other than the finishing moves, players now have the ability to equip two one handed weapons at the same time, or mix and match with various combinations of magic, magic and weapons, or a sword and shield. If the player uses the same magic spell in both hands however they will be able to create a stronger version of the spell by holding down both triggers at the same time, and releasing towards their enemy in a wave of devastation.
The visual enhancements of Skyrim show themselves again when it comes to magic, as the developer showed me that certain spells will allow players to shoot a continuous fire or frost stream. Further magical enhancements were shown in the game’s Glyph system which allows players to create Glyphs on the ground which act as traps to enemies, causing the spell’s effect to go off only when an enemy steps on them.
After fighting a few enemies we found ourselves in one of the towns of Skyrim and we were introduced to the new way players will be interacting with characters. No longer will time freeze the instant you talk to a character in game, instead everything in the world will continue on as usual and time will pass as if you were walking around normally.
After we were shown the new dialogue system we were shown the enhancements to the inventory system. All items in the players inventory will be able to be viewed as complete 3D models, allowing full examination from every angle that you would like. Also mentioned is that cooking has been implemented as we were shown raw salmon meat, and then cooked salmon meat that had better values. Exactly how cooking will be done was not shown, but it was mentioned that players will be able to do so.
After leaving town the developer showed that players’ skill menu will show them looking up into the heavens as they view their skill levels. There will be no minor or major skills this time around, as the developer stated that all skill growth will count towards leveling up. Players can customize their character’s skills further by selecting a skill such as “Blocking” and unlocking further skills inside of the Blocking skill tree, such as a shield bash and more.
The Shout system was also demonstrated throughout the demo. These shouts will provide players an ability that is unique only to their playable character and can be unlocked through various ways. Players can find word walls hidden in any of the game’s 150 dungeons and these word walls can unlock new Dragon Shouts that the player can use. Many of these Shouts are used for destructive purposes, such as Dragon Breath that spews out a flaming ball fire, a storm shout which summons a powerful storm that causes lightning bolts to strike your foes. There are also shouts which allow the player to dash through traps or closer to far away enemies and shouts that can freeze time that were shown through demo gameplay.
The other way to unlock shouts is defeating dragons and absorbing their souls. Defeating a dragon won’t be as easy as fighting any other opponent however because, according to the developer, the dragons in Sykrim have a separate AI designed especially for them. Dragons will react differently to various attacks each time you face them, and they are completely non-scripted meaning at any time you can come under attack from one of them, even if it means that the dragon will your current opponent just to take you on.
The developer was in combat with a Giant and was enduring a losing battle to its club when a dragon swooped out of nowhere and grabbed the giant in its claws, throwing it into the air and killing it. These dragons aren’t invulnerable however and once you do enough damage to them they will no longer be able to fly. They will crash down into the ground in a spectacular scene leaving a dirt trail as well as an impression in the ground where they came to a stop. Then once they are on the ground, players will be able to finish them off however they like; or in the developers case, an axe to the back of the skull.
Many new features were shown off in today’s demo and each of these new additions is certainly welcome to the series. Attacking a dragon in mid-air seemed to be a bit sketchy still however, as attacks that looked like they had hit cleanly, sailed right through the dragon without causing much damage. We’ll be having more coverage of Skyrim and many more E3 impressions in the days ahead!