Everything We Know About Skyrim
Suffering Builds Character
Most Skyrim players will inhabit the same character for around 100 hours. With this in mind, Bethesda has created one of the most exciting character-building systems in recent memory. Similar to the questing system, character building and progression emphasizes unique, varied, personal experiences. Skyrim will have no archetypal builds and, more strikingly, no classes.
Character creation consists solely of choosing your race and customizing your appearance. Different races have different special abilities, and different starting stats — Orcs start with a bonus to heavy armor, for example. The game’s facial models are a huge improvement over Oblivion’s — indeed, avoiding the ugly, corpselike character models that plagued Oblivion and Fallout 3 was one of Bethesda’s main design priorities. Both player characters and NPC’s appear more alive, and hands-on reports promise cool touches like scars that will keep every character looking inimitable.
Once you’ve picked a race and a look, all the customization takes place out in the gameworld. Bethesda has boiled the game down to just three stats — health, stamina, and magicka, which increase based on character level. Levels are earned by improving your skills — the game has 18 skills, each of which is improved through use. Cast a destruction spell, and your destruction spell ability increases. Despite this system’s similarity to Oblivion, the developers have done away with useless skills like Acrobatics — no need to hop around everywhere you go anymore. Crafting skills like Alchemy and Blacksmithing remain, however.
Skills can be further augmented by selecting Perks, which alter and improve abilities in interesting ways. One archery perk, for example, slows time when you zoom in with a bow. Acquisition of perks is not linear, however, so you’ll have pay attention to specific, complicated requirements in order to unlock the ones you want. A fansite list of the various Perks (and racial abilities) can be found here. Developing skills and perks is represented in-game by an awesome skyscape graphic that fills in with stars as your character becomes more powerful.
Combat in Skyrim is based on an elegant, intuitive system. Selecting from their repertoires of both equipment and spells, players can choose two to equip, assigning one to each hand. Sword and shield. Sword and axe. Fireball and shield. It’s up to you — finding the effective combinations, synergies, and tactics is the name of the game. Powerful casters, for example, will want to experiment with having a spell in each hand — two fireball spells will combine to form a super fireball, and different elemental effects can blend together, resulting in magnificent, highly destructive effects like electrical fireballs.
The game’s interface supports this kind of experimentation — using simple commands, players can “bookmark” certain items and spells for easy access, making it easy to switch tactics in the middle of a fight. Again and again, Bethesda’s philosophy of customization and personalization comes to the fore. Players who want to be stealthy, for example, can look forward to Oblivion’s familiar iconography: an open eye means you’re detected, whereas a half-closed or shut eye represent partial and full stealth respectively.
In addition to melee weapons, bows, spell, and racial abilities, characters will be able to deploy special “Dragon Shouts.” These powerful buffs must be learned word by word by reading special inscriptions hidden all over the gameworld. Combine the right three words, and you’ll be ready to take on a dragon.