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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Preview

Ever wondered what it feels like to be a guy destined to pummel the life out of a dragon god? If you did, and you liked it, then you should definitely be impatient, because Skyrim isn’t out yet, and your wonders aren’t going to get pampered until the symmetrical release date of 11/11/11, which Bethesda has so wisely chosen for its next Elder Scrolls game.

Skyrim isn’t a direct continuation of Oblivion, but instead set roughly 200 years after the events of Oblivion. We won’t be exploring Morrowind or Cyrodiil – it’s time to go north to the province of Skyrim, and north means frosty areas with the occasional warm green foliage – a place least expected to get mauled by dragons, which eventually is.

If you’re pre-determining which weapon best suits the job of slaying a bunch of over-sized, flying pyro-lizards, then I suggest you don’t, because Skyrim has a set of slightly different methods to tackle these fire belching beasts. It’s not the use of daggers, ancient charmed swords, or even magic; it’s the use of your witty tongue. Yes, you have to curse a few bad or not-so-bad words, which will give you certain abilities – and enhancements to the abilities you already have – and will make things a wee bit easier than they would’ve been.

What you need to say are the key words of a certain ancient dragon language, which is an important element in Skyrim. There are round about twenty of these phrases in the game, each giving you a unique set of abilities and amplifications. I use the word ‘phrase’ because each complete phrase consists of a few words, which need to be learnt at times separately through various ways.

That doesn’t mean there is no limit to casting these spells, as each phrase comes with a cool-down period. Furthermore, if you think you’re the only one in Skyrim who knows these dragon words, then you’re wrong, because there are many NPC’s which also share the same skill.

So what exactly put you in this rather weird situation? Well, like in the previous Elder Scrolls games, you start of as some anonymous random guy who has been imprisoned. Once you step out, you see the vast province of Skyrim, with its vast variety of people and weirdo’s, and learn that Skyrim is mangled with a civil war.

Further in your journey, you figure out that your purpose is more than just to aimlessly wander around in the cities of Skyrim, busying yourself often by cooking, cleaning, forging, wood-cutting, and other silly but fun activities.

You are the last of the Dovahkiin or Dragonborn, a dragon hunter anointed by the gods to hunt down a certain evil god of destruction called Alduin. Also, the civil war of Skyrim is the last of the many prophetic events foretold by the Elder Scrolls, who also tell of the return of Alduin in the form of a majestic dragon.

That is when you set out to fulfill your destiny, and also the side-quests for the various folks you get to meet, beat, and tickle along the way. To do so, you’ll need more than just weapons, particularly when you have giant napalm breathers flying around in the skies. That is where magic comes in. To the relief of many, the use of magic has been greatly enhanced in Skyrim.

The system is similar to that in Bioshock, meaning you’ll be wielding a weapon in one hand, and a magic spell in the other. What it does better than Bioshock is how well the two can be used in collaboration with each other. It’s good to see both hands being used the way they should, because I always wondered where the other hand went when it was really needed in other games.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use exclusively magic for both hands and dual-wield weapons, use two-handed weapons, or use a weapon and shield combo. All the options are available and certain things work better for specific situations than others. For example, if you want to slay a wild beast on four legs from a distant, instead of having to throw fireballs at it, which don’t do a great deal of damage, you could use a two-handed bow to do the job.

Assisting the hack-and-slash weapons and the quick sorcery is a completely reconstructed character development system. The leveling system is almost entirely new. Instead of having to pick your archetypes and skills after playing barely 10 minutes of the game, you’ll be enhancing your skills in the things you use most often. This is analogous to practicing in the real world.

There are around 18 different skill-types which you can master. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to jumping around like a frog to increase you agility skills, simply because many of the areas of the system have been streamlined to give an optimum character development experience.

Another cool improvement from Oblivion is the graphics. The new Creation Engine is extremely impressive, and what we’ve seen of it so far resembles a lot like the green and icy locations of Crysis and Crysis Warhead, only a bit more polished and modernized.

Moreover, the developers have sort of woken up in-terms of realizing that not all mega-structures are the same, and that’s why every city in Skyrim will have an entirely unique look and appeal to it.

Elder Scrolls is not Elder Scrolls if it doesn’t have dungeons in it, and that’s why you’ll be spending majority of your time underground. There are 120 different dungeons in Skyrim. I don’t blame anyone for getting startled at that rather startling figure, but it’s good to know that the dungeons aren’t going to be the same repetitive and claustrophobic stone walled keeps that we have been over-accustomed to.

Instead the dev team has made a huge effort in making every place in Skyrim entirely different and unique. Add to that a set of totally cool dragon fights, which Bethesda promises won’t feel or seem anything like they have been scripted, and you get a very rich world.

The people of Skyrim, some bad and some good, will have a slightly different way of interacting with you. Actually, you’ll have a slightly different way of interacting with them. During dialogues the camera will no longer abnormally zoom into the faces of those who you chat with. Instead, you’ll be chatting in real-time while having the option to wander about.

If you thought that Radiant AI was not too radiant at all, often because of the occasion when you thrusted a massive axe into the bowels of a certain person without any nearby folk even flinching, then you’ll be glad to know that Radiant AI is getting a huge upgrade this time around.

The more interesting addition is that of Radiant Story, a method of creating scenarios from even the smallest bit of interactions that a player performs with the Skyrim world. This will greatly enhance the experience of being in a fantasy world that includes characters and elements which aren’t just for the sake of occupying cities and giving you annoying quests to do.

I won’t blame you for wanting to take four dozen sleeping pills and sleep your way to the release date of Skyrim. This is certainly a game that is developing a lot of excitement. After all, the Skyrim is the limit!