The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Hands-On Preview - Test Drive an Orc

QuakeCon 2011: We take a new character on a woodland killing spree during our hands-on time with Skyrim.

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QuakeCon 2011 is in full swing here in Dallas, Texas, despite the record-setting heat wave sweeping the Lone Star State. Naturally, this means we've been staying inside and checking out all of the games on display, including Bethesda Softworks' latest entry in The Elder Scrolls series: Skyrim. This open-world role-playing game is filled with tough choices to overcome, but we had to make the hardest decision right off the bat: looks. Among the reptilian argonians, catlike khajiit, pointy dark elves, and many more, we decided to play as an orc with a striking coat of yellow face paint.

"All of the items your character collects in Skyrim can be viewed in full 3D."

The striking yellow face paint was one of the many face-paint options available via the face-paint slider. As you would expect, there were dozens of these sliders to choose from in creating our devilishly handsome (or perhaps hideous) character. Everything from skin tone and jaw width to eye depth and facial hair could be tweaked to our liking. And if we switched to another race in the character-creation screen, the game saved our customizations so that we didn't have to redo them when we returned to that race.

After deciding on the name Knuckleduster, we were instantly dropped onto a very familiar woodland path. Call it a hunch, but we figured the town of Riverwood couldn't be far off and that the snowy temple in the distance probably housed an angry dragon. Therefore, we opted to take the road less traveled and wandered into the woods. After almost getting devoured by a wolf, we called up the item menu and outfitted our orc with some weapons and armor. A hand axe and fireball spell seemed chaotic enough for our needs, though we could set other items as favorites to equip them quickly without having to dive back into the menu.

The first thing we stumbled across during our travels was a set of magical stones. We activated one with a carving of a warrior on it and received an enchantment that let us learn combat skills 20 percent faster. We decided to test this out on an unsuspecting merchant we spied camping along the bank of a nearby river. At first, he was more than happy to have a customer at his little shop and gladly bought the wolf pelt we'd collected earlier. However, his mood quickly soured after we cracked him upside the head with our hand axe.

The merchant pulled a dagger on us, and we were locked in a fight to the death. While our opponent looked completely terrified, we had a lot of fun swapping between attacking up close with the axe and hiding behind rocks while shooting fireballs. The battle ended swiftly, and after a brief lock-picking game, we looted a massive, two-handed battle-axe from the dead man's chest. Flush with victory, we equipped the new weapon and took practice swings at nearby trees until we happened across our next victim: an elderly woman who was gardening.

"You can mix and match different spells and weapons to find the combination that's right for you."

The old woman, Anise, looked as if her head had been filled with gravel and she refused to speak to us when we talked to her. We took her silence as an invitation to wander inside her cabin where we learned that she was some sort of alchemist, given all the special weeds and roots littered about. Back outside, we found Anise sitting in a chair looking somehow even more unpleasant than before, so we attacked her. She tried to fight back using magic, but her wrinkly hide was quickly overwhelmed by our shiny, new axe.

In her basement, there was an alchemy station where potions could be brewed. All we needed to do was combine two to three alchemical items (pilfered from upstairs) that shared a special property. Each item had four special property slots, all labeled "unknown," and the only way to find out what they were was through trial and error at the station or to eat the item. Either method consumed the item(s). Our first potion failed, but the second succeeded because two of the items shared the "resist frost" property. This information was then recorded in the item's description for future reference.

We then made a quick pass through Riverwood before starting up the side of a snowy mountain. There, Knuckleduster encountered some bandits who were eager to throw themselves on the end of his axe--save for one with a large, wooden shield. This opponent was able to deflect our basic attacks, but by holding down the attack button, we brought our character's weapon around for one powerful blow. The bandit buckled under the weight of the attack and crumpled at our feet.

As our enemies went down, our character leveled up. At level two, we first had to choose among improving our magicka, health, or stamina attributes. Next, we got to pick a perk from one of the many skill constellations. From the two-handed skill set, we chose to improve the first skill, barbarian, which granted our character 20 percent more damage per rank when using a two-handed weapon. The skills improve with use, so by attacking enemies with the two-handed axe, we were improving our two-handed skill.

"The land of Skyrim had no shortage of rough characters."

True to The Elder Scrolls series, combat felt very heavy in Skyrim. Knuckleduster's attacks came out slowly and had a definite feeling of weight behind them. But while the core mechanics of the combat didn't feel far removed from the series' predecessors, the number of options available in battle--such as all the weapons, spells, and shouts--was refreshing. Our hands-on time with Skyrim left us with the impression that Bethesda isn't trying to reinvent The Elder Scrolls formula; instead, it's taking what was great about the previous games and adding some interesting new content on top of it. You can check out The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3 on November 11.

Discussion

469 comments
Omislash1234
Omislash1234

@jchrtianberry..........Man I had forgot about that.....better be gone.

banjoboy85
banjoboy85

my relationship with a beautiful amazing woman ends 11 11 11

jchristenberry
jchristenberry

I am so glad to see the thing I disliked 2nd most is gone... the fact that everyone looked like they were seen through a fish eye lens. The characters look soooo much better this time around. Now I just hope they got rid of the guards having cell phones. That pretty much killed the fun in oblivion for me. I would go into a house, lure a guy into a basement, kill him, then go outside and already see a guard at the door... was such BS... would teleport to another town... and those guards would be after me too... must have gotten a phone call saying I was on my way. God I hope that is gone.

spikepigeo
spikepigeo

@frankpoo Bro, you know what you have to do...

hoodking87
hoodking87

time to set aside some vacation time for the next month or 5

romans1001
romans1001

I looking forward to playing this game it looks so epic

frankpoo
frankpoo

How am I gonna make time between this and the girlfriend :/ damn

john82wa
john82wa

And there is actually a dispute on whether games should be considered art?? ...Really??? They must have missed the screenshots

JohnIndigo
JohnIndigo

This game is worth a LOT more money than $60. I feel like I'm getting an amazing deal just pre-ordering it for that cheap. I cannot wait to play this! The funny thing is it doesn't even mark the end of my social life either! Some friends and I will be getting together with a bunch of different TV's, our own Game systems, and our own copies of Skyrim. Skyrim Party!!!

DopePope_basic
DopePope_basic

killed everyone he met. haha. good job. game still cant be trusted. Yes, I am a little more excited from the video demo (even tho its a scripted run through) I still just cant trust this game. Seems dull and lifeless like oblivion. Hopefully not.... sorry its the truth, deal with it.

Maverick-77
Maverick-77

*Checks pants* got a little excited :D

terminator661
terminator661

I think this game is definetly value for money compared to ther games such as Call of Duty, I CANT WAIT!!!! :)

isshiah
isshiah

SKYRIM Y U NO RELEASE TODAY?

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

I too, have a set of magical stones!

parkurtommo
parkurtommo

Why is RDR the only game with a decent looking horse? The horse in that screenshot is stubby :| I can't wait for this to come out!!! :D

eternal_blade3
eternal_blade3

The wait for Skyrim is bad enough; but I really can't wait for Mass Effect 3. The one thing that annoys me is that TES seems to be much better on the PC due to loads of mods. However, my video card sucks; furthermore, I much prefer a controller over a keyboard and mouse when it comes to action-packed games.

IrithAyllistira
IrithAyllistira

I'm so excited about this game. Bethesda never disappoints me and I'm sure Skyrim will be a strong contestant for game of the year.

Nikore
Nikore

The leveling system seems to be a huge improvement over the one in Oblivion. Choosing a perk that gives you 20% more damage with a certain weapon is much more intuitive and satisfying than swinging your sword 900 times just to have your Blade skill increase by 1. Having said that, I do know that skills will level up the more you use them much as they did in Oblivion, but it seems that you get to see much more tangible increases in your skills between each level.

revanknight
revanknight

@catflabz and @TheGreatOldOne It was a great time for CRPG's and the people who played them indeed. Even though that period is over, The games that it spawned influenced every Western RPG you can name. To my delight there are still games that mirror the design and emphasis on plot today. The Witcher and Dragon Age: Origins are both proof that the industry hasn't forgotten the classics and what made them great. Now, on to Elder Scrolls. In spite of what I have said, I am still EAGERLY anticipating Skyrim. Even if I wasn't a fan before, I know an epic, groundbreaking game when I see one. I just have a feeling that Skyrim will have the right qualities to be great. In its case, it isn't about the story or how you shape the world. Those aren't its ambitions. What it WILL be is an immersive, breathtaking, medieval simulation that will definitely be one of the most critically hailed games this year.

CamiKitten
CamiKitten

My husband and I are eagerly awaiting months of our lives to be lost in this game lol.

Jenova-Witness
Jenova-Witness

Already pre-ordered and paid in full... Now we play the waiting game... Aw the waiting game sucks, lets play hungry hungry hippos.

anshanlord
anshanlord

Great months are ahead of us ...and Skyrim is the best in the great games to come

redscarereiter
redscarereiter

I just hope they bring back cliff racers on this one. KREEE KREEE KREEEEEE!

crazydavey
crazydavey

skyrim, modern warefare 3, rage and dead island. times are looking up for us gamers, has been a lousy year so far. elder scroll was great for its time, this skyrim could be great. Bring it on!

catflabz
catflabz

@Revanknight + @TheGreatOldOne Just wanna let you guys know I feel exactly the same way about Fallout1+2 and especially, Planescape:Torment. No other games will ever touch upon that experience; you are absolutely right, the dialogue, the characters, the story were all engrossing and till today remain as lucid and powerful memories. Chris Avellone is the industry's best writer. The thing is, I think most people that have played F1+2 and PS:T feel the same way, it's just a shame that PS:T didn't get more exposure, even though it has received its just deserts (as in being hailed as a classic) and is STILL being talked about a decade+ after its release. Graphics / cinematics / etc. might make bestsellers nowadays, but there are qualities in games like Fallout and Planescape that - like books, make them timeless.

trastamad03
trastamad03

@Young_Charter You said "Scrolls"... Bethesda is gonna sue you now.

Young_Charter
Young_Charter

Enough of the Teasing. . I shall wait for the Skyrim Scrolls till 11-11-11 so I could journey One Hundred Hours on the First Week ! ! :D

Hirfel
Hirfel

@ TheTenth10 There's no karma system in Oblivion either, just jail. What makes you think there won't be jail in this one?

TheTenth10
TheTenth10

so there's absolutely no Karma system? you can kill whoever you like with no consequence? meaning you have to do it cause it would be stupid to miss some XP and loot ... just random killing ... kinda disappointing for a game that had dire consequence in Oblivion for stealing a bottle

kian681
kian681

The game sounds great and I love all of the customization options that will be available ,but I would have enjoyed this preview more if you had engaged in combat with a powerful warrior, or sorcerer or dragon ,rather than a merchant and an old woman . Curious choices to show what the game is capable of.

soda5
soda5

hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

quinholo
quinholo

More videos = more spoilers. Lets just wait for the game and enjoy it by ourselves! Let's discover the huge world of Skyrim!!!

Wula_
Wula_

@petywentout if you stopped believing false information given to you by random people. You would know that the darkbrotherhood is still in the game. And was confirmed during the quakecon demo to clear up the confusion over it.

peteywentout
peteywentout

whaaaaaa? no dark brotherhood (or similar) for killing unsuspecting innocent people? how am i gonna please The Night Mother then?

ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

Is it just me or is this game looking more like Fallout 3 then Oblivion? In my opinion, Oblivion looked better than Fallout 3. Remember the forests, and the grass? What happened to all the colors? **Note that I loved the hell out of Oblivion**

supertom221
supertom221

@jennermam Totally. I would play this demo countless times over to death, until my PS3 will beg me to stop and put the controller down!. And then when it comes out, I'll get it for PC to screw with it :P. VIDEO, Gamespot, VIDEO. There's a reason i'm not into LARPing or Text Adventures. I WANT TO SEE IT!!.

jennermam
jennermam

Just cant Wait why dont they release a Demo to keep us happy till they release the full game would make me happy and loads of other peps happy tooo

purple_T
purple_T

i am definitely taking 2 weeks off work for this! Cant wait!

Haphazard85
Haphazard85

Entering a self induced coma until November. See you all later.

meke186
meke186

I really hope they fix up the dark elves customization, in morrowind, it was old so you only got to pick preset face and hair, but they still looked awesome. In oblivion i was super disappointed, no matter how long i customized the dark elve always looked super awkward. Hope they fix it

TheGreatOldOne
TheGreatOldOne

@revanknight Torment has the best story and dialogue of any game period. The kind of investment in writing that game has is just not feasible anymore. Fallout was just too well-done, the ability to integrate items into solving quests instead of items being useless junk, and true freedom to do whatever you want, now that's role-playing in its purest form. Most of the resources nowadays that are put into graphics, voice-acting, cinematic cut-scenes, multi-console coding, multiplayer modes, etc -ie aspects essential for the success of modern games- and that just makes it difficult for developers to duplicate the quality of writing and depth older rpgs like Torment, FO1/2 & BG1/2 have. Different era now. Graphics and cinematic experiences sell, writing and depth too but to a much lesser degree. Gotta roll with the punches to make a living off selling games or become defunct I suppose. *sniff* Black Isle, Troika *sniff*

Gifted_One
Gifted_One

Okay sooooo... im burnt out on my fps games... i prefer mw2 over black ops and oblivion still gets played... Looking forward to a fresh experience from a series ive grown to love and adore. cept for some changes in terms of enchanting and how u do constant effects(morrowind to oblivion) other than that... i have to change my draws everytime more substantial news comes out regarding this game... LOVE!

Chaoskillakam
Chaoskillakam

I never thought I'd anticipate a game so much! :)

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

TAKE MY CASH & GIMME DA GAME

JokerFoxx
JokerFoxx

c'mon gamespot! Why no video ?! It's too much of a tease to have this a headliner with no video..... :'-(

Ridgeblader
Ridgeblader

Can't freeeekin wait. This game is at the top of my list of single player games.