Electronic Theatre Preview: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

As the long awaited return of Bethesda Softworks’ The Elder Scrolls series approaches it’s more common to see the publisher ready to show off its wares. In a recent preview build made available at the Eurogamer Expo, attendees had the chance to get hands-on with […]
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As the long awaited return of Bethesda Softworks’ The Elder Scrolls series approaches it’s more common to see the publisher ready to show off its wares. In a recent preview build made available at the Eurogamer Expo, attendees had the chance to get hands-on with the upcoming fifth edition, sampling an early section of the videogame and dabbling with the many opportunities to interact with its world. Given the basis of The Elder Scrolls series as one in which the way the player interacts with the world being the crux of their adventure, even just a brief moment of being able to manipulate this new locale was enough to get attendees at the show queuing for hours on end.

When beginning the preview build the player was given the opportunity to select any of the common The Elder Scrolls races they so wished, customising their character is a similar fashion to that of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but with a more significant amount of detail ably drawn from its streamlined series of meters. If The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim proves to be nothing more than just a few steps ahead of its predecessor, it’s already evident in the character creation process.

Of course, it’s unlikely that Bethesda Softworks has decided to rest of its laurels, and more plausible is the argument that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is aiming to redefine the westernised role-playing game (RPG) not by way of size, but by depth of its content. When beginning with the actual gameplay of the preview build, the player is thrust into the world anew: anonymous and anxious, just as it always was. Bypassing the slow pace of the training ground and fresh into the world ready to finalise your character, the first challenge Electronic Theatre came across was not one of combat, logic or intuition, but one of choice. As the player travels along a signposted path to whichever destination they may so choose, a rock set as a home to some peculiar carvings adorns the side of the road. This rock enables the choice of your sign, a final and elegantly delivered piece of the character puzzle that, although in the open, is unlikely to be missed due to the initiative given to the player: this is the world, here is a path. Just as Jonathan Blow might wish you to walk ahead down a black corridor to a well lit door in The Witness, Bethesda Softworks manages to pull the same strings in a stunningly vivid fantasy world.

In terms of the nitty-gritty, a few techniques and presentational aspects have clearly received and overhaul in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, most likely based on the feedback from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The third-person camera system has been improved dramatically, not just in the animation of your character but also in the speed at which it is controlled. The structure of the menus has been overhauled, with the options scrolled on the left of the screen and a visual depiction or statistical feedback presented on the right, and also the player’s level progress is now charted on a bar, offering much more immediate feedback.

One of the biggest complaints of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has been addressed: combat. The impact of your swords, axes and maces may still seem weightless, but it’s certainly much more involving. Blocks and parries have a visual design on both player and opponent, and creating a blow-block-blow sequence will pay dividends against the right foe. The magicka system has also seen significant renovation, with costs for use related to your skill in a specific school, rather than your casting skill overall.

The graphics in this build still suffered from some slight technical issues, and it’s uncertain as to whether these will be addressed before release. At one point during Electronic Theatre’s time with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim the line of sight continues for miles, stunning in detail as it reaches the distant horizon, and then in the next moment the scenery textures pop in far too late, ruining the illusion. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is obviously a good looking videogame, but whether it manages o maintain such a grand level of suspension of disbelief as the fans would be hoping for remains to be seen. Thankfully, it’s not long now until we get to find out, and Electronic Theatre will keep you updated with all the latest on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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