Thursday, 26 May 2011

Early preview: Skyrim

There are just under six months to go until Skyrim’s released, but there’s already quite a lot of interesting info to chew over. Unlike Dragon Age, which had a very fast (too fast, in fact) sequel, the follow-up to the epic Oblivion has been a long time coming. Oblivion came out in 2006, and has been one of the defining games of the RPG genre and the latest generation of consoles/PCs. It sold in droves, deservedly so, but was not without flaws. So, how will Skyrim compare and contrast to its illustrious predecessor? 

Size matters: Oblivion was pretty damned big. In terms of area, Skyrim will be very similar, but will seem a bit larger because it’s very mountainous, making certain areas more inaccessible and, effectively, further away. General approach: Pretty similar, if you’ve played Oblivion or Fallout 3 it should be very easy to get up to speed. Single player, first person by default (the third person has been improved if you opt for that), free-roaming, tons of side-quests and a huge number (120 plus) of dungeons.

Ten races: Happily, we get the full 10 races of Oblivion back. These include the human grouping (Nords, Redguards, Bretons and Imperials), the elves (Dark, High, Wood) and the beasts (Argonian, Orc and Khajiit). Early
screenshots of an Orc and Khajiit have emerged, and they look significantly better than their Oblivion counterparts.
Sound: The same composer from Oblivion has returned, and the trailer music sounds pretty damned good. Very little info is out about voice actors right now, although it has been confirmed that Swedish actor Max von Sydow will play an important character.
Two hands, two weapons: Oblivion had a typical weapon set-up, whereby you could have a one-hander and a shield or a two-hander, and always had a spell ‘open’, as it were. Skyrim will allow players to have two one-handed weapons, or two spells (one per hand), or one spell and one one-handed weapon. 
Archery is improved: Early on in Oblivion it was great being a stealth archer. You could kill or seriously injure opponents with one shot but later on in the game it became less enjoyable as opponents survived the initial stealth attack and then hit you in the face with an axe. It sounds like Skyrim will give a bonus to attacks from stealth, with different levels of alertness (from oblivious to the enemy staring right at you) offering higher bonuses. Arrows will be more powerful but fewer in number. 

Levelling: A pet hate of mine was the loathsome Oblivion levelling system. It was overly complicated, and any levelling system that can lead to your character becoming progressively weaker (in relative terms) is clearly flawed. The Skyrim system sounds simpler and more sensible, and will include a number (280, to be precise) of skill-related perks, like in Fallout 3. I believe that perks are attainable based on how proficient you are in a given skill, rather than just what level you are.I’ve not gone off games, but my enthusiasm for them has waned a little over the years. However, Skyrim is one that I am very much looking forward to, and hopefully it’ll be even better than Oblivion.


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