by Chris Priestman
previewed on X360
Menace About Town
A focus on precision and detail will make Skyrim the most realistic Elder Scrolls game yet. The world of Tamriel has been enriched by over 15 years of work by the team at Bethesda, so every aspect from the creatures to religions has a deep history. Todd Howard has said of the design approach, that Skyrim will tread the line between the bizarre cultures of Morrowind, and the classic fantasy feel of Oblivion. What this incites is that Skyrim will generally stick with the more traditional atmosphere of a traditional fantasy RPG, but players will be encouraged in their curiosity with more bizarre sights and cultures to discover. When you arrive in new towns and cities after the usual loading screen, you will be able to interact and affect the day-to-day events more than ever before. This can be as small as dropping an item on the ground causing fights between those who want it, to burning crops and causing the economy to crash due to inflated shop prices. Players can also take on menial jobs such as chopping wood, with the most beneficial being to forge weapons from materials collected. Settlements will feel more populated as the new graphics engine does not force the developers to choose between quality and quantity. Children will be freely roaming the streets for the first time in the series, and you can start fights with any NPC (whether these two aspects will combine is yet to be seen). Additionally, conversations are more natural as they do not pause time and partake during a zoomed static shot, but instead allow both members of the conversation to walk freely and do other tasks while they talk.
Talking to people will result in the acquisition of quests as usual, but which ones the player is issued is based on a new system called Radiant Storytelling. This stores a huge amount of information on the player and tailors the experience according to their playstyle. This means that if the player is more of a mage, they will be approached by other mages and offered quests that are suited more to that lineage. This indicates that replays of the game that adopt different styles of play will provide different quests to complete. The locations of quests are also considered as it avoids sending the player to somewhere that they have already explored. Players can still determine their own quest types by joining any of the guilds in each city and rising through the ranks if they so desire.
It is obvious that Bethesda are putting in a lot of effort into Skyrim to make it the best they can. With the years of experience working on the series and the heaps of fan feedback, they are sure of the approach they have taken with their latest RPG. Regarding the PC version there are some potential things to consider before labelling it the definitive version. Executive producer Todd Howard has made it clear that they intend to cater for their console players, of which he says makes up 90% of those who play their games nowadays. So far the only footage that has been shown to anyone has been from the Xbox 360 version, and all of the details have been based on this. It is not likely that Bethesda would make a similar mistake to Bioware's by neglecting the PC version and focusing on console players, but consider that we never thought Bioware would have been capable of this either. In any case, the PC Creation Kit will mean that any mistakes that Bethesda do make with Skyrim will be sorted through modding. Interestingly, Bethesda have made it clear that they intend to find a way to transfer PC mods to the console versions, although this will not be ready for release.
The latest chapter of The Elder Scrolls looks set to deliver the level of quality that is usually expected from the series. Tweaks have been made to make menus more user-friendly, combat more interesting and the exploration is set to be just as addictive as before. Such a big game is bound to have a number of problems, but we hope the abundance of bugs are not as present with the new engine. We will keep our fingers crossed as we anticipate one of this year’s biggest titles.