E3 has been and gone, and while we carefully construct our awesome interview with Bethesda Game Studios’ Todd Howard, we’ve compiled a short run-down of everything we know about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim thus far to prime you. The demo shown at E3 only slightly varied from the one I saw in Utah, though many of the new additions, and the game’s overall look and performance, were still significant; more than worth pointing out in a separate update on the game.
So, before we get to the newer stuff, what do we know so far? We know that Skyrim takes place to the North of Tamriel in the province of Skyrim, the homeland of the Nord race. We know it’s set some 200 years after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and features the return of the mythical dragon. We know that you play as a one of the world’s last Dovahkiin (translated as “Dragonborn”); someone capable of speaking in the dragon’s tongue, which is another thing we know - as well as magic, players will be able to use “shouts”; ancient words from the dragon language with magical powers.
We know that the game-world is roughly the same size in area as Oblivion, but features more vertical play in its towering mountains and peaks. We also know that there will be five major cities to visit alongside a host of smaller towns and settlements. You’ll be able to put aside your travels and quests to take up any job you see any NPC in the game performing and, just for shits and giggles, you’ll be able to mess with each town or settlement’s economy by destroying their trade - we know all of that.
We also know that you can craft your own weapons, dual-wield and even dual-wield weapons and spells as well as separate spells for different effects, or the same spell for a more powerful effect. You’ll be able to partake in alchemy again, as well as farming for ingredients for the aforementioned weapon crafting, and that you can engage in the game’s economy by selling any of what you make. We definitely know then, that alongside the dragon “Shouts”, you can create tactical combinations of magic, weapons and dual-wielding to engage in arguably the most in-depth combat system ever seen in an RPG of this nature.
As well as crafting, we know that item drops are largely random throughout the game-world, unless the radiant system in place for dungeons, enemy-types and quests steps in and gives you a pick-up you haven’t found yet. Also, item management is much refined, and you can now view every single collectible item in the game in a 3D space, which may also reveal secrets about that item; opening up new quests, or helping you finish current ones.
As far as who you are in the game is concerned, we know that the character creation tool is back in full force, and that it means more this time around with a better third-person animation system. There will be 18 active skills and no classes in Skrim, rather you’ll find perks that are specific to skills, and of these there are some 280-odd. This is obviously in place to not lock someone into a class they could care less about once they’re into the game proper, and is a welcome addition. We know there will also more than 80 spell-types to collect, 12 active shouts (three tiers of each) and countless weapons and items.
We also know that through a series of changes, additions, subtractions and major overhauls, the original Gamebryo engine was essentially re-written as “Creation Engine” and that the team have adopted Havok Behaviour as their animation and character physics system (to much applause). They’ve ditched SpeedTree for their own in-engine rendering system that applies different physical properties to the game’s flora for faster environmental rendering and added realism, and the game’s draw-distance is infinitely better than that of Oblivion or even Fallout 3 (which didn’t really have to draw too much, given its setting). Moreover, we know that Creation Engine has allowed for a dynamic weather system to distribute elements such as snow and rain in a realistic fashion, so snow will actually cover previously bare rocks, unscripted based on where you are in the game-world, and what weather it is that’s hitting.
We know the plot involves the assassination of the King of Skyrim, which causes civil unrest in the region, specifically among the Nords, with many of them looking to leave the Empire altogether, and the rest wishing to stay under its protection and sovereignty. We know you’ll play as a prisoner escaping, and you’ll have no voice barring a few lines of dragon tongue here and there amidst grunts of aggression, pain or endurance. And finally, we know that you, as one of the last Dovahkiin will be tasked with saving the world from the threat of dragons.
Which brings me to the close out of our demo at E3, that actually saw the main character facing off against two dragons - the fire-breathing archetype I saw in Utah, and a new Ice-type, that took much longer to topple, and also cause a lot of environmental damage (which we’re hoping is unscripted in the final game, and permanently dynamic). In my interview with Todd Howard (coming uber-soon), I asked if these were the only two types of dragons, or if we’d see more, to which he essentially said there’d be more, but that they weren’t talking about it anymore. Still, the concept of facing off against two dragons at once was great (bear in mind, they’re part of the game-world’s ecology, so random encounters are likely to happen, even in larger numbers than one), and seeing it happen before my eyes made me realise just how rich and wonderfully dangerous the world of Skyrim is going to be, and we absolutely cannot wait for November.
I hereby shotgun the review ;)