Everything We Know About Skyrim
Each of Skyrim’s five urban centers has a distinct architectural feel.
- Riften: A rundown lake town, set in a beautiful fall forest area.
- Markarth: Built in an ancient dwarven ruin in cliff sides.
- Solitude: A castle city, influenced by an Imperial style.
- Windhelm: An ancient Nordic fortress, full of old Nordic architecture.
- Whiterun: A more classic Viking-style – almost mountain-style – city in the tundra.
Paint the Town Red
Oblivion made headlines with groundbreaking AI behavior. The NPC’s players encountered went about their business according to predefined routines, lending an air of believability to the game’s teeming population centers. Skyrim’s Radiant AI system expands and improves on this template. Instead of simply ticking off a list of tasks, NPC’s will behave in a more randomized, natural fashion, responding to external stimuli and changing their habits from day to day.
It should come as no surprise that you can interact with these augmented NPC’s in a vast number of ways. The basics, of course, are there. You can barter to acquire new items and get rid of old ones. You can accept quests to help NPC’s with problems. You can glean information about the story and the local area — the game has a neat feature that enables you to go on a walk with a character while listening to this information, rather than simply clicking through a series of dialogue boxes.
This feature is supported by an improved cast of voice actors. In addition to series veteran Max Von Sydow, the game’s cast includes Joan Allen, Christopher Plummer, Lynda Carter, and Michael Hogan. Bethesda also promises to avoid constantly re-using voice actors like they did — to immersion-breaking effect — in Oblivion.
Apart from its more traditional RPG features, Skyrim is all about letting the player do what he or she wants, and to that end, Skyrim players will be able to engage in drinking contests, get married (including same-sex marriage!), and maybe even visit prostitutes, among a multitude of other things.
Each city will have opportunities to buy and decorate property, in case you need to indulge your inner Martha Stewart in between bouts of bloody carnage. You can also infiltrate other people’s property — Skyrim will have a streamlined lockpicking system that more closely resembles Fallout 3′s. Pickpocketing is also slightly altered: NPC’s are now more protective of valuable or heavy items, so if you try to steal a ring or a broadsword, expect to get caught.
If you are caught by the municipal authorities, you’ll have to spend some time in jail. Skyrim has dispensed with Oblivion’s incarceration system, which punished players by having their skills deteriorate during the time they spent in lock-up. In Skyrim, you’ll lose the progress you made towards your next skill, but you won’t get worse at anything. If you manage to temporarily escape the long arm of the law, you might get a price put on your head, though if you manage to kill all the people who witnessed your crime, the bounty will be removed.
If you murder a private citizen, there’s a chance that his or her family might try to track you down and take revenge. If you roll a six-fingered character, the chances of this happening are greatly increased (just kidding).