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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Hands-On Preview

By Joe Dodson, 9/13/2011

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If you don't know the Elder Scrolls, I might ask if you'd been living under a rock. But under a rock is the perfect place to sequester oneself for hours and hours to play through any Elder Scrolls game, so I will assume instead that you weren't born when the last chapter, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, hit stores - and you are now a formidable 5 and a half years old.

So let me put this in words you can understand: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim look good. Big good.

As much fun as it is to try and fit a game with the scope of an Elder Scroll into baby talk, I'll drop the shtick and get to the stuff I know you want to get to: how it plays, and how good it looks. I'll go deep on the former, and just say this of the latter: you kind of know how it looks, because you've seen the previous games, and that's why you're so excited. Besides, the only way to really see Skyrim is in a crystal ball, and you'll need a pretty large HD one to see the 200 hours you'll probably wind up pouring into Bethesda's latest epic RPG.

That said, playing it helps.

I created a character, and made him both tough looking and kind of fancy. I don't know, that's how I roll with heroes: dark goatees and blond crew cuts. I have weird tastes in heroes; one time I'll model a female warrior off of a New Mexico soccer vixen, another time I'll make a mage who only studies magic in order to turn himself into a woman. Of course, I fill in all these blanks myself, but Skyrim's visual creator leaves nothing to the imagination. You can create a very womanly looking man, trust me.

And so I did, and sent him skipping into the world! The environment is beautifully rendered in Bethesda's hyper-real style, and you just know that fascinating details lurk in every stream and over every hill, just like this development team has been doing for most of twenty years.

Girding myself for danger, I equipped a sword in one hand, and fire in the other. Yes, you can basically equip magic as a weapon now, and wield a real weapon at the same time. I tended to use fire first and sword second, because I didn't want to cut someone and then just cauterize the wound. I wanted to cook them, and then see how well done they were. (Then slice them up and make steaks - aww, but the only cannibalism you'll apparently be resorting to is of the liquid diet variety after taking the opportunity to become a vampire. Yes, vampirism has been confirmed to be in the game but wasn't present in the build we played.)

I came across some bandits, and put my cooking skills to the test. Letting out a womanly cry (which turned a few heads at PAX), I let fire and blade fly, searing here, slashing there, and winning all over the place. I collected victory and loot, and then made my way toward the nearest landmark on my mini-map, which turned out to be a big group of giants.

These massive, lumbering creatures were much tougher to cook, and indeed, I discovered myself in hot water. I have no doubt that I would have eventually slain them, but alas, my hour was up before I was able to take any of them out. Apparently I had taken far too long in the character creator! Many game demos give you a wonderful little snippet in 20 minutes or less, but for something like Skyrim, an hour was pretty much criminally short.

Still, giants are appropriate foes for a game like Skyrim, because the game is a giant in and of itself. It's one I count on slaying over many, many hours. Skyrim's release date is set for November 11 for 360, PS3, and PC.



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