Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series have been a staple PC franchise for many years, but the franchise caught the attention of home console owners when The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind saw release on the Xbox. Introducing new RPG game mechanics and a vast, open world like no other RPG before it, Elder Scrolls solidified a place for itself on home consoles & the series hasn’t looked back.
Since Morrowind’s release, Bethesda has only released one installment with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was made available on PC, Xbox 360, and eventually the PlayStation 3. Several years have passed since Oblivion’s release and the next entry of the series is inching ever closer. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim shall release on November 11th on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 & earlier this month we got an opportunity to go hands-on with the Xbox 360 version for three hours and explore the game in whatever manner we saw fit.
I’ll be open and admit that I never played an Elder Scrolls title before Oblivion. But when the title launched on the Xbox 360 I purchased the Collector’s Edition and was prepared to lose myself in the game’s seemingly endless gameplay. However, I couldn’t find myself interested in the characters, the plot, or the combat. I revisited the game countless times hoping the entertainment factor would finally reveal itself to me so I could immerse myself in Oblivion. Well, everything came into place after about two years when I realized my mistake: I focused too much on the main game & not enough on the freedom the title offers. Once I explored the world, did various missions and quests, the game hooked me and I couldn’t pry myself away from it until I completed every quest I could get my hand on.
Now we are on the precipice of Skyrim’s launch and I couldn’t be more excited about its arrival.
We were handed an Xbox 360 controller and told to enjoy. Just as previous Elder Scroll titles, we were first welcomed by the character customization screen. Since Skyrim has dragons, snow-themed environments, and takes place in the North, I thought it would be appropriate to create a character that resembled Sean Bean’s Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones. Making such a character was simple enough thanks to the impressive character creation tool – even detailing finer things like scars and wrinkles. With Ned Stark ready for battle, it was time to set forth for Skyrim and begin our journey.
Seeing as though there was no true destination labeled on our map to head for, I aimlessly wandered about. Exploring the open terrain was awe-inspiring as I watched deer and other wildlife scurry around though aware of my presence. Getting too close to a deer or timid rabbit caused them to run away in fright. Of course, it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a bandit camp and, thus, my first battle encounter began. Using only my fists, I pummeled the female bandit until she was defeated and then took her sword, pelt, and other valuables for myself. Equipping the pelt for a boost in defense and sword for a higher offense & chance of survival, I moved onward to discover what other events may come my way.
Close by, there was a deserted camp site next to a cave. Entering the cave to satisfy my curiosity, it was soon revealed to be a bandit base camp, but their numbers were low with only a handful patrolling the entrance area. Knowing I wasn’t strong enough or well equipped to launch a head-on attack, I hesitantly progressed through the tunnels towards their location. Hoping for a surprise attack, I crept slowly and carefully monitored their patterns but I was spotted and a grand battle erupted. Concentrating my attacks on one bandit, I was able to successfully defeat the first bandit with well-timed blocks and attacks, however, the second bandit would fall victim to Skyrim’s new slow-mo executions. As I got in close for an attack, the game slowed down as I watched my character slam the sword through the bandit’s stomach in a gruesome manner. The bandit was instantly killed & I was stunned was the awesome scene that had just occurred on screen. Sure enough, I left the cave with better equipment, some gold and continued to head to whatever caught my interest.
After numerous bandit battles, cave searches, and the occasional wolf attack, my character had achieved Level 5 and, I thought, was rather powerful for this point in the game. Continuing my travels northward, I found myself in a windy and wintery environment that was home to monstrous beasts like mammoths and giants. As I cautiously navigated through this dangerous terrain, I witnessed a giant sitting by a fire pit. Thinking myself to be clever, I snuck up behind him and began my assault. This wasn’t a wise decision as the giant was far too strong and with one great hit he reduced my health 90%. Knowing death was to be the outcome if I stayed a moment longer I began to flee in haste, trekking up dangerous mountain sides, and eventually managed to reach a Northern location known as The Shrine of Azura.
The Shrine of Azura was a place of worship dedicated to the Goddess Azura – Goddess of Dawn and Dusk. At one point there were many followers of Azura, but a prophecy told that I was coming to the Shrine but didn’t say exactly when. As time passed, followers began to lose faith and left the Shrine, except for one: Aronea. While stationed at the Shrine, Aronea informs me that I am the chosen one and that I should visit the town of Winterhold to find a powerful mage.
Sadly, my time exploring the game’s wilderness was too plentiful and my 3hrs concluded before I could reach Winterhold. Skyrim was a visual treat & looks much better than Oblivion ever could hope to. While the environments were highly detailed and lush, the biggest improvements I noticed were the character models. Thanks to the improved graphics engine, townsfolk and NPCs are nicely detailed and look far more genuine giving the game a strong sense of realism, despite being a fantasy-based game.
Our time with Skyrim was so minor to classify it as an appetizer would be inappropriate. The main course is still to come and it shall be a hardy one. We cannot wait to see what Skyrim has to offer and where the game’s storyline takes us. November 11th can’t come soon enough.