by Mike Bendel on June 11, 2011 @ 9:34 pm
With each new installment, Bethesda has continually expanded on the open-ended gameplay that the Elder Scrolls series is revered for. Skyrim is no exception — it’s poised to be the most accessible and content-rich Elder Scrolls yet.
During a preview session at E3 2011, Bethesda gave insight on its plans to further refine the series with Skyrim, while also detailing how the title will bring new players to the franchise. Right off the bat, we noticed that everything is more streamlined. The menu interface in particular has been revamped and simplified, split across four main sections in a vertical fashion. When navigating through items, a full 3D representation is shown near the right of the screen, allowing players to zoom in and rotate the object 360 degrees to get a better look. Books can also be read within the menu. Over 300 books contain backstory into the history and lore of Skyrim.
Underneath the magic category, there’s a “favorites” section in which players can pin items or magic for fast access through the directional pad. Below that is a skills menu, allowing for attribute enhancements. The minimalistic approach works well, and should appease both console and PC players.
As previously released media has shown, Skyrim features lush landscapes that have become a staple of the franchise since its inception. What’s new this time around is the dynamic weather system. When travelling up a snowy hill you’ll begin to see snowflakes fluttering around in the distance. Environmental effects are created entirely on the fly, essentially painting the top of terrain with detail. This approach is interesting, as it allows the reuse of assets during weather changes.
The demo also took us through one of the game’s 150 sprawling dungeon labyrinths. This particular location greeted us with a simple puzzle after downing a giant spider and thief. It was noticeably more detailed than the caves in Oblivion. Cobwebs enveloped the spider’s lair, with candles illuminating the hallways ahead. The surrounding rock textures were rendered with meticulous detail, giving a sense of depth.
There’s an unprecedented level of interactivity in Skyrim, a world filled with choices. Villages feel alive, bustling with activity. Townsfolk have a real sense of personality as they tend to their daily lives. Anyone that’s spent time with Oblivion or Morrowind will notice the changes immediately, it’s an immense upgrade. In the demonstration shown, there was a lumber mill with wood that can chopped up in exchange for gold. Alternatively, players can opt not to play by the rules and sabotage the lumber mill, which in turn has an effect on the economy.
Performance-wise, the demo was running on Xbox 360 — it looked and ran fantastic. The framerate was locked at a solid 30. More than we can ask for really. Considering the sheer size, the fact that Bethesda has pulled off this level of detail on six year old hardware is nothing short of an amazing feat. While the PC version remains to be seen in action, it should look even better with a capable rig in full 1080p.
From what we’ve seen thus far, Skyrim is shaping up to be a worthy sequel. It’s bigger, more robust, and accessible while not sacrificing gameplay freedom. Developing an entirely new engine has certainly paid off. 11.11.11 can’t come soon enough.
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Read more: Skyrim on PS3 Gets Dragonborn DLC Today, Microsoft E3 Presser To Focus On Xbox Live Services, Says Pachter, Sony Dates E3 2012 Press Conference for June 4, Skyrim Creation Kit Released Alongside Official High-Res Texture Pack, Skyrim Creation Kit Due ‘Soon,’ Bethesda Shares Sneak Peek At Steam Workshop