5 Reasons Skyrim is Going to Kick Ass
I played a helluva lot of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. A monster game anyway, I delighted in rising to the tops of all the guilds, laying waste to the followers of the Mythic Dawn, and racing around Cyrodiil, striking down anyone who pissed me off and blasting the rest Paralysis staff, then watching them roll stiffly down hills. It was great fun. I roamed the plains of the Shivering Isles, made a pirate ship and a mage’s tower my fortresses of solitude, and completed every task the gods of Bethesda could think to place before me. It’s fair to say I was a fan.
But I’m not half as excited about Oblivion as I am about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game looks altogether amazing, especially after I watched Bethesda’s Todd Howard demo the game at E3 this year. Even if Skyrim weren’t a vast improvement over Oblivion, it would likely be great. But from what I can tell, Skyrim won’t be great — it’ll kick ass.
If you’ve been paying attention, you probably already agree with me. If not, here are the top five reasons you’ll be joining the Dragonborn come November.
5. A World Living Around You
Radiant AI in Skryim is meant to make the world feel bigger and more expansive than just a series of creatures and people who react to you, the player. While in Oblivion characters had preset scripts of places they could go and things they could do at different times of day, with Radiant, things are a lot more variable. Characters don’t have a list of actions to complete until they’re interrupted like in Oblivion, they have variables that cause them to change what they’re up to. During the E3 demo, for example, we wandered out to find giants herding mammoths at the foot of a mountain, going about their business. They didn’t have anything to do with the player character and would ignore Howard until he messed with them. In cities, you’ll see characters going about their jobs, farming, and basically living life. The better to immerse you in Skyrim.
4. Classless Warfare
Previous Elder Scrolls games, along with just about every RPG ever, require players to choose a class at the outset of the game that defines their skills and play style from the outset. Some specialize in stealth and ranged attacks, others in two-handed combat or sword-and-shield combat, still others in magic. But all of them require a choice at the beginning of the game that shapes how the player is able to play. In Skyrim, there’s no such choice — the game is designed to react to you as you play it. Every action, every swing of the sword, every flame spell or arrow shot, every conversation affects the way your character develops. Your Skyrim character very definitely is you, and your decisions guide the ways
3. A Story Not Etched in Stone
Bethesda has added a new system to Skyrim that’s similar to Radiant AI, but didn’t make it into Oblivion. It’s called Radiant Story, and like the character progression system, it’s all about gathering information about the player and pays attention to the way you play it, then adjusts your quests on the fly. Not only is Skyrim huge and expansive, but it’s learning while you play it (in a sense). The simplest examples have you murdering random locals in towns — situations that would then adjust how other characters, like the victim’s family members and community, react to the situation and to you. Kill a shopkeep and his daughter might replace him. The choices you make in quests will change the way the characters deal with you or reward you — do someone a favor now and he might do you a favor later, in another encounter. They game is constantly adjusting itself to the way you play it, meaning that every trip through Skyrim is your trip, and yours alone.
2. Dual-Wielding Done Exquisitely
Perhaps the coolest adjustment to the way you play the game is the BioShock 2-inspired dual-wielding system. During Howard’s E3 demo, it was clear that the system isn’t just robust, it’s damn near endless in its freedoms and combinations. You, the player character, have two hands, and what you choose to do with them at any time is up to you. Take a bigass broad sword in both and hack away at skulls if you like, or switch to a war hammer in your right and fill your left with a healing spell you can call whenever you need it. Toss the healing spell for fire in your left and hand put the same spell in your right and you can charge and combine it for way more power. Scream “You shall not pass!” at every encounter as you Gandalf it up with a staff in one hand, a sword in the other. Or opt for the more traditional shield. It’s up to you, and not only did Howard show off tons of variations, he was switching almost constantly. Players will have a lot of tools for combat in Skyrim; you’re gonna feel awesome when you play it.
1. F–king Dragons
There was a reason the primary focus of my write-up of the E3 demo was on Skyrim’s dragons — they’re huge and spectacular, scary and awe-inspiring. Dragons are at once creatures you’ll encounter in the wild, the same way you might a band of brigands or a bear in the woods, except they’re boss-caliber enemies that should be feared, respected and perhaps avoided much of the time. They’re also a marauding force of death and destruction that doesn’t only hate you, specifically, but everyone. The E3 demo saw dragons strafing small outposts with flame as archers returned fire, picking off giants and mammoths just to carry them into the air and drop them hilariously, and everywhere spreading chaos and destruction.
The dragons truly are a scourge on Skyrim and you’ll need to worry about them — about killing them to gain their powers by absorbing their souls and about avoiding becoming a crispy snack when you encounter one. Howard refers to the dragons as “dynamic boss fights.” That means they have minds of their own and will show up where they like. You might start fighting a dragon just to have a second show up to help it out, or maybe attack it. The point is, dragons are going to change the way you venture through Skyrim: they’re both a source of power and of intense danger, and every battle with them seems to be dripping with excitement and energy.