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Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - The most beautiful game of the generation?

Show me a home where the Dragonborn roam...

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Our first hint of what Skyrim offers in terms of actual gaming comes when a scallywag with a sword and a smattering of armour comes ambling along the road, sees our humble face and takes exception. We should point out that not everyone in Skyrim is out to get you, even the most intimidating of folk (we'll come on to that) but in this case, apparently, the penalty for walking down a public path is a fight.

The combat, this time around, is what Howard describes as more "visceral", a term which is thrown around so much in video games that it's hard to know what it actually means, but what it translates to is a more physical affair.

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Howard is battering his opponent with his shield, as well as taking swipes with his sword. The combat hasn't moved on loads since the last iteration in terms of the way they play out; if you ask us, enemies still react far to little to being slashed and shot with arrows until the final blow when they reel backwards and collapse on the floor.

What you can do, however, is duel-wield with both weapons and spells - we were shown an ability to conjure a circle of protection, chain lightening, a spell that detects and highlights life and you're basic frost spell that ices-up enemies temporarily. Importantly, you can now duel-wield different spells in each hand, ever-ready, using left and right triggers to fire from the respective hands or firing both at the same time with the same spell in each to up the power of, say, chain lightening and take out a whole group of foes by sending them flying all over the shop.

Unlike most games though, there's so much more to the Elder Scrolls series than combat and the most impressive bits are the little things that bring the world to life.

We get our first glimpse of Skyrim's day-to-day happenings in a small town called Riverwood. Todd is keen to point out that the smattering of people contained in the tranquil town all have their own lives to be getting on with. We come across a bloke hauling massive logs in a lumber-yard, for example, which makes for a more impressive showcase of graphics and animation compared to typical AI townsfolk in other games who often do little more than wonder round waiting to be interacted with.

We hang around to see if he's on a loop and of course he isn't, Howard implies that we could watch him all day and he'd fulfil a natural, realistic routine. He eventually finishes the log shifting and moves on to the next step of his job, powering up the lumber mill.

Players will be able to get involved as well; everything you see the characters do, you can do as well if you fancy putting your idle thumbs to something other than slashing and spelling. Or you can be destructive in other ways. You can sabotage that lumber mill, for example, and the town may be forced to halt production seeing its economy suffer as a result.

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As usual the townsfolk are also a source of mission starters and we're sent into the mountains by a shop-keeper to retrieve a golden claw that was stolen from him. We're only yards out of the confines of the village when a giant suddenly appears from around the corner. After seeing NPCs covering a narrow height range so far, this is a sudden and incredibly impressive sight with the giant being awe-inspiring both in size and detail.

Howard takes some cover under a rock ledge, out of the giant's way, but the big fella has no interest in us anyway, which is even more exciting for some reason. Instead he just trudges past in an almost melancholy way with thundering booms and slight screen shake accompanying every step. His sad expression manages to muster sympathy and makes us want to interact with him to find out what's wrong. Shame we weren't the one's in control.

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