Let me make one thing clear up front before we get into this preview – Skyrim is my most anticipated game of 2011, hands down. Having spent over 450 hours playing Oblivion and Shivering Isles, it’s easy to see why I was so excited to get my hands on Skyrim. Is it all it’s cracked up to be? The short answer – yes. The long answer follows after the break.
Though my time with the demo was fairly brief (only about 15 minutes or so) what I saw was extremely impressive. I started off choosing a male Argonian (lizard person), as I always thought their water breathing, immunity to poison, and strong disease resistance gave them a distinct advantage. Once I was finished messing around with his face (and there are quite a few options indeed), I set off into the world with no particular destination in mind.
Realizing I was wandering aimlessly, I opened my map, set a destination, and headed off toward the town of Falkreath. Though I never actually made it all the way there, I observed plenty on the way. The most immediately obvious thing is just how great the game looks. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. Remember how you felt when you first saw Oblivion all those years ago? It’s a similar sensation, but greatly magnified.
The world itself is alive. While I traveled down the road, I came across a trader and her bodyguards… then promptly set them all on fire with my left hand. I stumbled into a bandit camp… and promptly set them all on fire as well. I saw wolves hunting a moose…and promptly set them all on fire. You get where I’m going with this?
Carrying a melee weapon in one hand and wielding what is basically a flamethrower in the other just feels right. The combat in general is far more visceral than it ever has been in previous Elder Scrolls games. Your hits feel like they’re actually connecting with flesh and bone, and the execution moves are brutal and satisfying. Enemies also seem smart, and will surround and pursue you if you mess with them. I know one particular group of bandits was not happy with me for interrupting their fox hunt… so I promptly set them all on fire.
On the UI side of things, the game’s menus have also been greatly improved. Rather than a big, bland list of items, the menu is now in a cross shape, making categories easily accessible. Bethesda games have never been known for their attractive menus, so the fact that Skyrim’s is so intuitive was pleasantly surprising.
So even though my time with Skyrim was brief, it was incredibly satisfying and left me wanting more. A whole hell of a lot more. It seems like an improvement over Oblivion in pretty much every way possible, and I can’t wait to pour another 450 hours of my life into it. 11/11/11 can’t come soon enough.