Everything We Know About Skyrim
A good deal of your time playing Skyrim will likely be spent wandering around getting into trouble. Travel can be accomplished on foot, by horse, or by using fast travel. Similar to Fallout 3, you can only fast travel to a location you’ve already discovered.
Finding your away around this gigantic world will be a cinch thanks to Skyrim’s beautiful map, which deploys as a seamless zoom into a bird’s-eye view of wherever your character happens to be standing. Additionally, in contrast to Fallout 3′s canonically accurate but often awkward system, Skyrim’s menus have been praised for their design and ease of use.
When you’re out in the wild, expect to contend with mammoths, giants, vampires, wolves, draugr (creepy, undead, formerly cannibalistic Norseman) and all sorts of other adversaries. Most importantly, however you’ll have to contend with dragons. Dragons follow no preset pattern. Instead, thanks to Radiant AI, they wander the skies, burninating anything unlucky enough to get caught in their path. To take down a dragon, you’ll first have to bring it out of the sky, then win the battle on the land and help yourself to its fiery soul.
Skyrim’s not all danger and massive, fire-breathing beasts, however. The game is a truly living world, with animals hunting other animals and NPC’s in every nook and cranny, going about their business. Some are friendly enough to do favors for you; others, friendlier still, are willing to become “Followers” comrades-in-arms who will assist you on your quest. The game even has a fully-functional economy — destroy a local industry like a lumber mill, and expect to pay more for wooden items like arrows in the local area.
Bethesda has seeded their massive gameworld with hundreds upon hundreds of quests. These range from simple retrieval tasks to epic, multi-part adventures, but one feature sets them apart from the quests in every other game — Skyrim’s quests are randomly reconfigured on the fly by the game engine. A quest might have a basic framework that dictates where it begins and what must be done to end it, but after that, the game takes over to throw in relevant NPC’s and locations. Not only will two players have totally different experiences with the game — they’ll have two totally different experiences of the same quest.
The game also compiles data about player behavior, and changes things around to avoid monotony. Say you’ve spent the last three dungeons fighting vampires. When you’re on the way to the next dungeon, the game will decide on the fly to populate it with living bandits, providing a new, unexpected challenge.
Occasionally, an NPC will have a crucial item or piece of information you’ll need to complete a quest. Skyrim provides new options for dealing with this situation. You can attempt to persuade the NPC — this is a straight skill check, rather than a mini-game. Or you can intimidate them, if your character level is high enough. Or bribe them, if your pockets are fat. Finally, if all else fails, you can attempt to beat what you want out the NPC by using a new “brawl” feature. Knuckle sandwiches for all!