When I was initially contacted and offered a chance to play Skyrim for three hours, two very different emotions ran through me. The first was excitement because let’s face it — you can ‘F’ what you heard right now, Skyrim IS the most anticipated game of the year. The second was anxiety because while getting hands-on for three hours sounds incredible, it’s essentially a huge tease.
What would I do with these precious 180 minutes with the title? I reached out for suggestions from our readers and afterwards had a pretty good idea. Combining those ideas with some internal consulting amongst the team here, I decided I’d play the same way our very own John Colaw handled things at PAX Prime, which meant picking a spot in the distance and get moving in that direction.
I entered the swanky hotel suite where the demo would take place. Yep, because Bethesda’s baller like that. I set down my personal inventory while anticipating the management of my digital one. And then it was time to get my Skyrim on, in what will be our final preview of the title before it releases on November 11th. Read on for details on my full adventure.
At the begining of my demo, just like those lucky few that had the chance to get some hands-on at PAX Prime, I also started at the character creation screen. After taking a gander at the many different options available I quickly realized that even this portion of the game may consume too much of my three hours. After some quick on the fly decision making I decided to play as an “Imperial.”
Not sure if it was the awesome handle bar mustache or the fact that he looked like the often typecast actor Danny Trejo, but something made a connection. Something made me think that this was the best way to travel through Skyrim. I could have very well have something to do with my play style mixed with the race’s ability, but I don’t want to spoil that.
Once I was finally done creating my medieval Danny Trejo stunt double I was ready to venture out into the world. Unlike Oblivion that came before it, there was no Patrick Stewart sending you on your journey. Instead, because of events that happen prior to the character creation screen (which once again, I won’t spoil), you find yourself dazed and confused as you make your way out of a cave and into the lands of Skyrim.
When I finally made it out I couldnt help feeling a bit disoriented. I didn’t have too much of an indication of where to go. After fiddling with the controls a bit I eventually brought up my world map and set a destination for the nearest town, which happened to be a place known as “Riverwood.”
Once my coordinates were set and my direction much more clear, I was on my way. Quickly I realized that I was less than dressed for the occasion I and decided to take a few seconds to get myself properly prepared just in case I was ambushed in my journeys. Thankfully I did because no less than a minute later I was approached by a pair of bandits on the road.
No worries though because after a quick flick of the left trigger both were burnt to a crisp. One thing I did notice when getting my weapons and armor ready was the abundance of inventory available right from the start; but something tells me that won’t be the case once the title ships in a few weeks. Either way I loaded up to be sure that I’d be ready for anything.
Within minutes of arriving in the town I had my first crafting experience. I met a forge foreman and, following some quick persuasion, I was using his forge like my own personal workshop. One thing that I immediately noticed was how fast I began to level up (in crafting) after doing very little actual work. While Elder Scrolls veterans might be upset with this, I see it as a welcome change as I would rather spend my time fighting or exploring instead of crafting.
One thing that has been discussed in Skyrim previews already was some of the overall story and how it revolves around a civil war. One part that really hasn’t been discussed and something I learned during my play through is that both sides have a rather pesky dragon problem, and that was clearly evident after speaking to the inhabitants of Riverwood. How it all ties into the overall story is yet to be determined but the fact that the character you play as has a first hand, eye witness account of a dragon wreaking havoc is definitely something that you’ll want to play close attention to.
When I asked readers of the site what I should do with my play time a lot of them told me to be a thief. Why the hell did I listen to them? Let me be the first to tell you that if there’s one thing you don’t want to do in Skyrim, that thing would be stealing.
For starters, all of the NPC’s have eagle eye vision and they’re all relentless when you get them mad. I tried multiple scenarios with items of different value and my results were never different. As soon as I stole something within an NPC’s field of vision it was on like donkey kong; within seconds I was running for my life. And when I thought that going through a door with a loading screen would help me when someone was giving chase, let’s just say I had one inn keeper chase me not just past the loading screen but to another town altogether.
Don’t think for a second that because it’s open world game that you’ll be playing this like a fantasy version of GTA. Crime doesn’t pay in Skyrim. Don’t be a statistic like me.
At one point during my demo I decided to explore other surrounding towns. The only problem was that it was no longer day time. I embarked on a journey through the dark of night but what I discovered about Skyrim was nothing short of awesome, and that is its sound design. Walking under the star lit night and hearing the winds passing by, the wildlife all around you, and the howling of wolves in the distance was pretty cool.
As good as it sounds, it looks even better. My demo took place on an Xbox 360, which some may argue is the most limited of the three platforms, but let me tell you that the game still looked incredible even on a console that is quickly approaching it’s 6th year of being out. Draw distance was a non issue and textures look as good as ever. This will be the best looking game on Microsoft’s platform, at least until March.
In my three hours with the game I came away with a bunch of information and a new found level of anticipation to play the final product. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not just ambitious for the series, genre, or even console generation. It’s a leap for gaming in general and what can be expected from the medium as whole. Whether you’re already a fan of the series or have been caught up in the hype, what I can tell you from this preview is that you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you clear room in your schedule because it will almost be time for the world of Skyrim to consume you and I have no doubt that it will do just that.