The mysterious message about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
on the cover of February's issue of Game Informer was revealed yesterday
, but didn't reveal too many details. However, this cover was a precursor for the torrent of gameplay details that were to follow in the article itself. I now present thee with a summary of these details.
First the basics. Avid fans of the Elder Scrolls series will know that the game is built on an entirely new rendering engine. Now, all objects within the game throw down perfect shadows, and every branch in the trees moves individually; these are just some of the noticeable improvements. The draw distance has improved dramatically as well. Take your hero to the top of a mountain, and you will be able to view your surroundings for miles around. Finally, as with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
will include both a HUD free first-person view and a third-person view.
Now on to Skyrim itself. Skyrim is the northern nation in the continent of Tamriel. The nation lies to the north of Cyrodiil, the main central nation of Oblivion
. Unlike Cyrodiil, Skyrim is a landscape of mountain ranges, tundras and ancient ruins. The type of landscape varies widely from place to place in Skyrim; the north coast is very icy, whereas an area in the west end of Skyrim, called The Reach, has a very rocky and craggy setting. The underground areas are also rich in variation. Added to this wilderness, there will be five massive cities to explore.
The story for Skyrim
begins a full 200 years after the end of Oblivion
. The King of Skyrim has recently died. His death has set off a potential civil war between those who wish to secede the Empire, and those who want to remain. Dragons have never appeared in any of the Elder Scrolls iterations as they were banished 1,000 years previously, but they are at the heart of this story. The biggest is Alduin, also called the World Eater. This dragon's return was prophesised by the Elder Scrolls. Tamriel's destruction is certain if Alduin is allowed to triumph.
Previously the force existed to expel dragons, but only a few people had these powers. These people were the Dragonborn, a set of individuals that were the true dragon hunters. Your hero may be the last of the Dragonborn. The Dragonborn have the capability to learn and apply the power of dragons through the language that they speak. They can acquire abilities called dragon shouts; more shouts are acquired by absorbing the souls of slain dragons. There are over 20 unique shouts, and each one of them is formed from three words of power.
The Dragonborn are supported by the dragonguard, otherwise known as the Blades. After the dragons were banished from the kingdom of Tamriel, the Blades guarded one of the lines of ancestry of the Dragonborn. These were the Septim Emperors, the story of whom has been told in the previous Elder Scrolls games. Now this ancestral line has died out, and the dragonguard have nearly been destroyed. Esbern is one of few surviving Blades and acts as a mentor to your hero. He is voiced by Max von Sydow, most recently of Robin Hood and Shutter Island fame. As a side note, there are far more voice actors in the game this time around.
The final important band of people that were introduced are the Greybeards. These men live atop the high retreat called High Hrothgar, at the top of the mountain called the Throat of the World. The Greybeards are versed in the power of the dragons, and your hero will need to climb the 7,000 steps towards High Hrothgar to be trained there.
Now on to combat. Bethesda has streamlined the usage of weapons and abilities. Players now have a two hands / two options approach to combat. This translates as the ability to equip any weapon or spell to either hand, at any time. This could involve countless combinations of spells and weapons, including the ability to dual wield. You are fully able to change tactics in the middle of a battle. Skyrim
now utilises a customizable menu, accessed by the press of a button, instead of the previous eight options that were assigned to the d-pad. Here you can trade out items and abilities for others. Melee combat is built around the "give and take of offense and defense"; rapidly back-pedalling is no longer an option. Newly added finishing moves are unique to both the weapon that you're holding, and the target on the receiving end. Ranged combat will still be dominated by the bow and arrow.
There are also dozens of magical spells. The number of schools of magic has been reduced to five, as opposed to the six found in Oblivion
; it is the School of Mysticism that has been dropped. One example of the magic schools is the School of Destruction. This covers your ability to harness elemental energies, and makes it easier to cast spells like Fireball, Ice Spike and Lightning Bolt.
There is no longer a class system for character progression. Instead, there is a levelling system that rewards XP for everything that you do. However, there will be safeguards in place to limit players from using exploits. This new system means that you don't pick your favourite skills at the beginning of the game; the skills naturally progress with the actions that you perform during the game. As any skill increases, it contributes to your overall level growth; the higher the skill, the more it contributes to levelling up. It is advised that players specialize in a few skills, but it is certainly not compulsory. Each level of progression brings a health boost, alongside a choice to further enhance your health, or improve your magicka or stamina statistics. When you level up, you also get the chance to pick a perk, in a similar style to Fallout 3
players ideally reach level 50; in Oblivion
, it was more like level 25. For those of you that are worried that this sounds like an increase in the amount of grinding, it takes a similar amount of playtime to reach level 50 in Skyrim
as it does to reach level 25 in Oblivion
. As a result, players will level up faster. It is possible to gain more levels after reaching 50, but the levelling up process will be dramatically slower.
Finally, no game will ever be the same. The game logs a huge amount of information about how you've played, and then tailors the content to your capabilities and experiences. Your version of Skyrim will be built to your specific playing style. The story changes alongside your character. One example was witnessed when walking down a street in a city. The player, whose magic skills had been upgraded, was approached by a stranger and asked to dual. This stranger may not appear if your character’s weapons are upgraded instead.
Quests won't necessarily disappear if the quest giver is accidentally killed. If you choose to murder the shopkeeper in Riverwood, his sister inherits the shop. She may still give you the quest but will be angry and bitter towards you. Quests can also be gained from overhearing secondary conversations. You don’t have to engage in conversation with those who you eavesdropped on; the details of this conversation are automatically entered into your log. The conversations that you do have no longer have the zoomed-in view of the person that you're speaking to. NPCs will now move about and carry on with their tasks whilst they are talking to you. Finally, if you fancy a break from dragon slaying and completing quests, you can now perform more mundane tasks, such as mining, cooking, and weapon forging, to relax for a while.
Congratulations if you got to the end of this essay. This should be more than enough information to keep your excitement at bay; well, for a few minutes at least.The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
will be released on November 11th, 2011.