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.

To Arms!

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.

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9 Comments on Everything We Know About Skyrim


On November 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

Excellent article. It has temporarily sated my pre-Skyrim jitters.

Kind of mentioned but not detailed, I seem to recall that Skyrim has varying degrees of stealth detection, letting players know when an NPC thinks something strange is afoot, but don’t yet know what it is. This lets players hide deeper in the shadows until their prey returns once again to their oblivious state of vulnerability.

Mark Burnham

On November 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I’m particularly looking forward to Dragon shouts, and fighting dragons in general.

zomg dragons!

Ben Richardson

On November 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I’m excited for getting stuck in blizzards. Lots of games have dynamic rain, but something about trudging forward through impenetrable snow as frost crusts on my beard and on my battle-axe…so epic.


On November 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Soooooo you can summon a dragon to fight a dragon. Just how does this dragon feel about that? Maybe he’s fighting his mom..won’t that cause zombies? Zombie dragons in Skyrim! You heard it here first folks. Bring your silver swords and crossbows.


On November 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I’d like to point out that while this article may indeed have momentarily staved off my crazed jittering for Skyrim, I am a complete junky and this fix can only delay the inevitable: a complete and utter meltdown if I don’t have this game within 3 days.

Captain Nemo

On November 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Skyrim players will be able to engage in drinking contests, get married (including same-sex marriage!),


If you are caught by the municipal authorities, you’ll have to spend some time in jail.

In our never ending search for realism and political correctness, do you have to worry about your cellmate?

Gordon Freeman

On November 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I’m going to need my silver crow bar…

Angry Gamer

On November 10, 2011 at 5:08 am

*compares TES3, TES4 and TES5 and then COD:MW2, COD:BO ans COD:MW3* right… Glen, here’s a prime example how to make a NEW game, if that doesn’t work, then you’re allowed to whine at how poorly your game is received by the target public.
Bethesda is probably the only company I have any respect left for given the recent id’s Rage flop (shame on you, Carmack! now get your together and give us a proper hit with Doom 4), and the only company I would trust to deliver quality over quantity (yup, you guessed it – another Activision/EA reference).

Great article, guys! The the modding tools, they’ve done it before with raving success – Morrowind PC was being shipped with TES Construction Set, the tool Bethesda themselves used to craft the game. Can’t remember if the did the same for Oblivion though (going to have to find that box now. Damn you, curiosity).

@Nemo: I would, knowing how crazy those Bethesda guys are