Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gallery/Impressions: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

What else can be said about what's truly going to be one of the biggest games (in terms of scope and hype) to hit consoles and PC's to date? TES V: Skyrim will no doubt be generously rewarded with huge sales and critical accolades from press and gamers alike, so I'm just pouring more gasoline on the bonfire of praise with these words. Seeing that E3 presentation on TV and the internet is one thing. Seeing it in person id like discovering sunlight for the first time. Bethsoft's proprietary Creation Engine brings the game world to stunning life without any need for 3D glasses or tacked on motion control schemes. The team behind the game has crafted one of the best-looking games to date and you'll see this in many, many fine details such as items that can be rotated in your inventory (helpful when solving some puzzles) and the way the weather changes as you ascend a mountain from the sunny plains below to the freezing summit. Everyone at the presentation was silent, most likely from being in sheer awe at what was on screen...

Among other things, Skyrim adds new and greatly improved character animations in third-person, a fantastic map (the camera just zooms way out to show you the game world), all new leveling, skills and magic systems, children and pets in cities (the former being a first for an Elder Scrolls game) and over 150 dungeons of assorted sizes to explore. And that's just the stuff I can remember, as I was too slack-jawed to take notes. Besides, the game is SO huge that it would have been nearly impossible to list all of the things I saw that I liked (as well as the things Bethesda wanted us all to notice). Perhaps the biggest change outside of the game engine is how flexible the new skills system is.

In previous Elder Scrolls games, it was a common thing for players to put in a few hours with one class, only to see that build wasn't quite right for certain situations, which meant restarting the game with a different set of skills. With Skyrim's well over 200 skills, you can be anything you want as long as you're putting effort into building those skills. In previous TES games you could multi-class, but only to a certain point. In Skyrim, you can be a tank/mage/healer/ranger/et cetera superstar badass simply because you're spending time using all those skills. RPG purists and D & D fans be damned, Bethesda wants you to play their new game how YOU want to, not based on arcane rule sets and tradition. While I can see the Fallout (pun absolutely intended) from this more wide open gameplay being the sole negative thing the developer has to deal with from some users, it's much more important for Bethsoft to not restrict players in this brave new world they've created.

While the presentation was tightly controlled as to what and where was shown, I sat there thinking of the few hundred hours I spent in Morrowind and Oblivion and how much, much larger the game world here will be. Bethsoft promises that anything you see in the game can be reached, so between the mountain ranges and the wide open plains filled with deadly and not so deadly creatures, that's a hell of a lot of ground to cover. Apparently one joke around the Bethsoft offices is from Todd Howard who's been saying they made the game "too big". Well, that's hilariously great news for amateur adventurers and veteran RPG'ers alike, as those damned dragons and their spell-speaking ways just wait to be taken down and learned from. Overused term alert, but in this case, it's true: This one's going to be EPIC. And frightening, and insanely beautiful. I'm thinking maybe 60 hours or so before I even START a review, as Skyrim will be my time-killer for quite a while. And yours, no doubt. November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) is not only easy enough to remember, it's guaranteed to be one of those days where a LOT of people set off on the adventure of a lifetime without leaving their homes...

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