E3 2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Updated Preview

E3 2011: Bethesda shows off its latest sprawling role-playing game and manages to slay a few dragons along the way.

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To put it mildly, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of GameSpot's most eagerly awaited games of 2011. Skyrim is the latest in Bethesda's line of open-world role-playing games, and we're expecting it to be one of the biggest, most engrossing games of the year. Speculation over which direction Bethesda might be taking the Elder Scrolls series in came to a welcome end back in April when we got our first look at the game and its rugged Nordic frontier. Now, with the Electronic Entertainment Expo on the horizon, we've been treated to another look at what Skyrim has in store, courtesy of game director Todd Howard.

The demo began with some overlap with what was already covered back in April. Your character, living a renewed life after avoiding execution at the beginning of the game, faces a descending pathway leading down to a river in a heavily wooded area. Surrounding you are imposing mountaintops dusted with snow that immediately let you know that Skyrim is a different world from its predecessor. It's a harsh, northern frontier populated not only by dragons, but by giants and woolly mammoths as well.

The revamped game engine powering Skyrim is an impressive bit of technology. Whether it's a massive view of a distant mountaintop that you can actually go off and climb--one such mountaintop houses a race of men called Greybeards, who have become masters of communicating with dragons--or the ability to wander through the woods and simply pick berries, Skyrim is a game that concerns itself with the big picture as well as the little one. "We're trying to build this complete virtual fantasy world," said Howard. "And we're all about the little details that make it a believable place."

The demo moved from the wooded pathway running along the river into a waterfront lumber town called Riverwood. Howard says that each town or city you encounter in the game has its own economy and job system, which you can see in regular non-player characters going about their day-to-day lives chopping wood, sharpening axes, or what have you. In fact, Howard even pointed out that there are now children in the game to add more believability to the gameworld. But it's believability with one minor compromise. "You can't kill them," joked Howard. "Someone already asked in the last demo."

From here, the demo moved on to the dungeon that we detailed in our first preview of Skyrim. We already talked about how combat has been reworked for this latest entry in the Elder Scrolls series, covering subjects such as dual-wielding a spell in one hand and a weapon in the other, as well as the new "dragon shout" system that lets you manipulate the world around you using your innate abilities as a dragonborn. So instead, let's talk about something that really shouldn't be overlooked: the interface.

The user interface is one of the most common pitfalls of any role-playing game, what with the amount of skill progression and item management the genre throws at you. Bethesda's solution? "We're big Apple fans at Bethesda," said Howard, and the clean, minimalist game interface was designed out of an attempt to create the sort of menu system Apple might make if it decided to build a fantasy game. You can navigate the majority of the menu system using only directions on the analog stick, never having to press a single button until you get to an item you want to use. Skill trees are depicted not as abstract lines on the screen, but as constellations in the sky that you must move from one star to the next as you upgrade your skills.

And then there's the quick favorite system. "You can bookmark items like you bookmark Web pages," said Howard. This system then lets you use the directional pad to pull open a quick list of bookmarked items on the fly, whether it's weapon configurations, dragon shouts, or a hunk of salmon meat for when you get hungry. It's essentially a progression of how the directional pad worked in the console versions of Oblivion and Fallout 3. Though instead of eight directions, you've got a fully customized list of the items and abilities you care most about, divorced from the main item interface and viewable on the go.

After finishing up in this dungeon, Howard emerged in a new territory that wasn't shown in the earlier demo. Contrasting with the dense wilderness at the beginning of the game, this was an open tundra on the outskirts of Whiterun Hold, one of nine holds that make up the game. This particular location happens to be the home of the Companions, which, according to Howard, are one of the three main factions in Skyrim. But Howard kept outside of the hold, because he was more interested in showing off the local wildlife than the politics of the cities. A group of mammoths and giants were walking peacefully across the tundra, unthreatened by Howard's character. That is, right up until Howard shot a fire spell at one of the mammoths to illustrate that even peaceful fauna can get violent when provoked.

The mammoths and giants went down relatively easily, but the dragon that showed up right after was a substantially harder fight. Howard's strategy for taking this guy down was to focus on the dragon shout abilities, particularly the stormcall shout that immediately summons a torrential downpour and flashes of lightning focused directly on your enemy. Once you take out a dragon--no easy feat even with a character Howard admitted had been substantially leveled up for the demo--you're able to absorb its soul, which becomes a sort of currency for unlocking new dragon shouts. To hear Howard describe the system, it's as though you and your enemies are speaking a common dragon language as you exchange shouts of fire and frost. And as the game progresses, you become more and more in tune with your status as a dragonborn, learning more of the language in order to unlock the powers of the dragons--the beasts that the ancient Nordic inhabitants of Skyrim once worshipped before they mysteriously disappeared from the world. That's all a little too abstract for us to fully wrap our heads around after such a brief demo, but we can certainly say that some of the abilities these dragon shouts offer are pretty cool.

With the dragon slayed and its soul absorbed, the demo came to a close. We're happy to say that Skyrim continues to be one of our most anticipated games of 2011. You can expect to see more on it as we get closer to the game's November release.

Discussion

221 comments
Ramiro92
Ramiro92

I think it will be a great game, however, is not left behind bioware I do not like the comments against bioware, dragon age because it is a series that deserves to be hard-pressed, and both games, both as a dragon age and elder scrolls, compete head which hand-lead the genre of RPGs. I think no leader, just as everyone has to adapt his fantasy world to a game.

nerzil666
nerzil666

Most antecipated game of my life *_*

Happy_Robot
Happy_Robot

I'm getting this on the superior PS3.

rick49111
rick49111

I just found out about this new release a few days ago... I sorta went shopping online for the past two days, lol! AMD Phenom II X6 1075T Thuban 3gHz 6 x 512 KB L2 Cache 6 MB L3 Cache ASUS Sabertooth 990FX AM3+ AMD 990FX with UEFI BIOS, Digi+VRM, SLI/CFX Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3, will be set at: 6-8-6-20 1.65v 1600mhz (2) EVGA SuperClocked 01G-P3-1367-TR GeForce GTX 460 SE (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 $99.99 each after rebate SLI = Core Clock: 720 MHz Memory Clock: 1800 MHz (3600 DDR) Memory Bandwidth: 230.4 GB/sec Shader Operations: 414720 M Operations/sec Pixel Fill Rate: 46080 M Pixels/sec Texture Fill Rate: 69120 M Texels/sec Vertex Operations: 103680 M Vertices/sec

sam85_
sam85_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

titanking54ps3
titanking54ps3

I loved oblivion and this looks even better. November 11th can't come soon enough!

netter99
netter99

I heard that skyrim demos were given out at E3, why dont they have them for download in the game marketplace on xbox.

JackS22587
JackS22587

Skyrim is, without a doubt, my most anticipated game of the year, I'd love to see some more gameplay, though.

Sh-may-cry
Sh-may-cry

Just as great as it was. and dragons are really cool. bioware call those things dragon in dragon age: origins ?

galgawine
galgawine

alot of people (and myself) say that an mmo elderscrolls would suck, but there some online game modes would be pretty cool i think. have like 5-10 guys playing who defend like a castle or a farm or something against like 50+ npc enemies and that would be pretty cool. like halo firefight kinda.

vadagar1
vadagar1

11.11.11 can't be here fast enough COME ON EARTH SPIN, SPIN YOU STUPID PLANET

reevo3000
reevo3000

Bethesda.......... The only gaming company currently making games that are VALUE FOR MONEY! (Mass Effect is the exception to the rule) Oblivion is STILL a much played game by me as are the AWESOME Fallout games! LEGENDS!

william47918
william47918

Away with games like Call of duty with campaigns only 4 to 6 hours long give me the games like this that Im actually going to spend quality time on and get my money's worth! Bestheda I beg you keep making these long extensive games it makes spending hard earned money worth it!

Buttonmasher111
Buttonmasher111

This is what I've been waiting for for a long time. Too many shooters are overrunning the 360. While some are good, they'll never reach the epic-ness or enjoyability that the Elder Scrolls series has showcased. Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion are classics now we await Skyrim. Well done Bethesda :-)

MartinX60
MartinX60

Did anyone noticed when he said "a hunk of salmon meat for >when you get hungry

pandee101
pandee101

Looking forward to it. The new system seems quite nice. A new inventory system and the new graphics look nice. I look forward to it.

Maxxgold
Maxxgold

I'm going to play this on the PC but after playing the Witcher 2 in 3D I doubt this game will be as good. I hope it will but just looking at the screenshots that are available it looks like Dragon Age 2 visually. The Witcher 2 raised the bar for graphics in an RPG. I also go bored in oblivion when they kepy using the same dungeon design over and over again. That was really lame and makes a game feel so boring. The Witcher 2 never reused any dungeons everything was fresh and new and exciting. I got bored about half way through Oblivion and finished it 2 years later when I had nothing else to play. The Witcher 2 was so awesome with storytelling and voice acting that I slowed down so I wouldn't finish it so fast.

kaem79
kaem79

@alpha_unit97 Your opinion of course.

alpha_unit97
alpha_unit97

@Kaem79 So what you're telling us is that there's nothing better than perfect? well something you should know before saying something like that is, there's always room for improvement, so the witcher: AoK (as "perfect" as it is) can still be improved upon and made better, thus, Skyrim still has the potential be better than it.

mer1in79
mer1in79

i never said anything about what platform i'd be playing this on but as i mentioned modding and you can't do that on the Ps3 or 360 then it kind of makes it obvious and that means thats yes i've played AoK and yes it's amazing but not perfect i don't think there will ever be a perfect game.

kaem79
kaem79

@mer1in79 Well! Because Witcher:AoK is the perfect game. Then Skyrim can't be better, it can be equally good, but not better. Simple logic really. Only thing you PSx people is nagging about is that you don't have a PC to play Witcher:AoK with.

mer1in79
mer1in79

Kaem79 a bit premature don't you think,how can anyone say that something won't be as good as something else when they've never played it therefore have nothing to compare.

mer1in79
mer1in79

@Doomrul well the horse's don't look as fluid as they do in RDR but still look pretty damn good i hope it ships with as few bugs as possible but i'm sure modders will make a great work of art into a true masterpiece.

kaem79
kaem79

This game won't be as good as Witcher:AoK.

Doomrul
Doomrul

1)Did they actually listen/read/watch/play countless Mods came from relentless fans of Oblivion and Fallout 3? 2)Will it be finally a HUD that won't need modding? 3)Please ,finally a decent Inventory System? 4)Horses (I am not looking forward to any other mount type as long as they are ) on par /better with/than RDR's? 5)Will I still be able to get a conclusion/reward/or just even a "mention" of a quest even if I killed/encountered the related NPC or random world event earlier than "I was supposed to".(as far as I believe Sandbox world made these games legends!) 6)Can I really play a distinctive class rather than trying to MAX OUT every skill/talent? 7)Showed some effort for decent Voice Acting ? 8 )Finally "playable" over the shoulder view ? 9)Are we going to get an ACTUAL FINISHED PRODUCT? or will it be the same story as Oblivion and Fallout 3 and it will take another 2-3 years actually until game "settles down" ? 10) Charisma/Character/Speech ? Finally , will they be functional at all , or just keep holding disk space? ...................................................................... It's all sweet interviews and impressive voice overs mixed with flashy , shiny crisp graphics so far.But I want to see some real "improvement" over fundamentals of Oblivion and Fallout 3,what made those games legends!I want to enjoy that feeling kept me playing of hundreds of hours despite "the flaws" I deliberately ignored! More than 10 years of experience,they had a lot of time to prepare this.Please do not disappoint us.I want to love this one too. (P.S. I noticed some of the comments below mentioned a game called "Witcher" being better than this?Please do not make me laugh , and even if I laughed at it , it's because I laughed at your patheticness and illiteracy.Oblivion is already alone better than Witcher,and Fallout is a legend like Michael Jackson while Witcher would enlist as Ricky Martin (fun to listen for a while 1 or 2 songs but that's it..)I invite you to "think well and long " before you blabber utter nonsense !)

rigzzsy
rigzzsy

this is going to be even better than ES:IV, therefore miles better than the witcher

kaem79
kaem79

Can it beat Witcher AoK? Probably not! But with TES Skyrim and Witcher AoK this becomes the best year for RPG fans in a very long time, maybe in all time.

3xc315i0r
3xc315i0r

can't wait to get my hands on this ;)

Neo1O1
Neo1O1

This will be my favorite game of all time - bar none!

death12323
death12323

never been as excited for a game, than i am for this. -sorry for bad english :)

Gunathar
Gunathar

This may be the first console RPG I buy. Ever.

kerc_chaos
kerc_chaos

This is just me and I'm sure many will disagree however, I must say one reason I didn't enjoy the Elder Scrolls 4 was it's overly open ended nature. Don't get me wrong, I can acknowledge that the scope of the game was immense but nothing kept my attention. I found combat sluggish and slow. Realism, maybe I escape it. I also found myself really lonely through out the game. Somehow or another, I just really enjoy team based, fast paced action RPGs, like KoTOR, Mass Effect or even Dragon Age for that matter. I guess Bioware are my go to RPG people. Still here's hoping that Skyrim turns out to be awesome.

DrNecroFiend
DrNecroFiend

The first line is a lie. It wasn't even a choice for best of E3.

drdoris
drdoris

Why shouldn't a player slaughter children if they want to? Pah.

genosis27
genosis27

Why do these PC vs Console wars start on a Skyrim preview. Come on guys, talk about Skyrim!!!

webb20k
webb20k

really cant wait for this game ^^

Maxxgold
Maxxgold

If you want to play a really good RPG play the Witcher 2. This game will be ok and that's about it. They just want to cash in before it's to late. Computer graphics have way surpassed the Xbox or PS3. If you play this game do it on a PC.

Simeon_Crane
Simeon_Crane

I just hope they dont f*&k it up like they did DA2. I hope this isnt just another crappy xbox port.

muffinman179
muffinman179

@HHKev84 Uh... I'm not really sure what you're talking about. Build a computer, and you can make it last 6 years, your games are just going to start running like crap. Take a look at multiplatform games coming out, and compare the pc and xbox versions. The xbox is old, man.

jcdabomb12
jcdabomb12

@Battleseed yah they did no more thank god

Battleseed
Battleseed

Just hope they dumped the Oblivion major and minor skills leveling up system.

HHKev84
HHKev84

Can someone intelligently explain why "dumbed down" and "more accessible" are synonyms? Without trolling or fanboyism, please. We certainly wouldn't say that buildings that are made to be more accessible to people with disabillties are "dumbed down", right? So why say that consoles, which are made to be accessible to people with the disadvantage of not being able to upgrade every year "dumbed down"? Consoles can remain solid and relevant for years, PCs rarely last that long in terms of technology.

Commando015
Commando015

@grakinfrak Are you just trying to be lame for the sake of being lame or are you really believing what you're saying? Okay, so you have a problem with shouting to invoke the Dragon powers... why? They're the best abilities in the game, so it's not like you'll be shouting every five seconds if you want to use magic, it's only for the dragon-abilities... How does that lower your want for it? As for your second "problem", if you'd have actually been reading up, then you'd know you're the dragonborn and such you are intertwined with the souls of the dragon - so it's built directly into the lore and it's not like they've not said this in every interview or anything, it's also directly in the first trailer, too.

grakinfrak
grakinfrak

A character that goes around shouting to invoke their magic sounds pretty stupid, like Bethesda is trying too hard (or not hard enough) to be original. And absorbing the souls of dragons seems lame, too. It made sense in Demon's Souls because souls are part of the mythos of demons. But souls and dragons--where is the connection? Lame. Also, I guarantee whatever their UI is, Steve Jobs would hate it. Nevertheless, if the rest of the game can make up for some of the boneheaded premises, it can still be a winner. I'm looking forward to seeing it.