E3 2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview – When Mammoths & Dragons Collide
Written Monday, June 20, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Members of the gaming press who attended Bethesda’s BFG Showcase in Utah a few months back will have been slightly disappointed that Bethesda didn’t bring a whole section of new code along to this year’s E3. That was us, in case you were wondering. But there are advantages of sitting through 95% of the same demo you saw a few months back, and that’s that you can pick up on the little things that have been done to the game code since then. Oh, and I guess the last 5-7 minutes of the demo, which was entirely brand new, was more than worth the wait. It was sheer carnage… and we like carnage!
Before we delve into the Battle Royale between Dovahkiin, a group of Giants, a couple of mammoths and a few dragons, let’s focus on the new stuff that we picked up from the early moments of the accelerated BFG demo. The big one is quite easily that it appears as if mounts are now in the game; this being after Bethesda was still unsure as to whether they’d make the final game. Considering the waves that Rockstar made with horse animations in Red Dead Redemption, it looks like Bethesda has done a fine job in keeping up with those high levels. They maybe don’t demonstrate the same level of intricacy as seen in Red Dead, but that’s a pretty big bar to try and topple.
Travelling through Riverwood and the same dungeon once again, the only real difference is that this time, Todd Howard, Bethesda’s Game Director, was racing through a little quicker and this time he killed Arvel, the thief, with an execution with the Elven Glass Sword. Howard also used the Whirlwind Spirit shout as well to jump forward a great distance rather quickly, as well as the Staff of Magelight to light the way in a dark cave. Amongst other brief talking points was that Howard mentioned there were 300 books to read, 150 dungeons to explore, we saw the Clairvoyance skill that draws a path out of the dungeon, he reemphasised that you could make and improve weapons and we also can confirm 100% that Smithing, Blocking, One-Handed, Two-Handed and Archery were amongst the 18 skills.
Enough of the recap, let’s focus on the new. After exiting the dungeon, where the demo ended for us in Utah, Dovahkiin wanders out into Skyrim’s tundra region, a large open grassland in the middle of the game. On the horizon, lies Whiterun, the home of the Companions, the “warrior faction,” which according to Howard is one of the “three main factions you can play in the game” – the other two behind the College of Winter Hold, AKA the Mages’ Guild and the Thieves’ Guild which can be found in Rythtin. Notice Howard said “main,” meaning that those looking for a Dark Brotherhood may still be in luck.
“Often in the game you’ll see creatures who won’t necessarily attack you on sight, like these mammoths here,” said Howard. “Often times they’ll ignore you, they won’t really mess with you unless you mess with them… which we have to do for the demo,” he finished as he whipped out his ‘dragon’s breath’ to start a bit of a Battle Royale with two mammoths and two guardian giants.
With spells being pinged round left, right and centre and the focused swinging of the axe he was wielding, Dovahkiin made quick work of one of the mammoths and giants, before a fire breathing dragon swoops out of the clouds and picks up one of the giants and slings him to his death. Yes, I think the phrase you are looking for is “Holy fucksticks!!”
At this point Dovahkiin finishes off the remaining mammoth – with a little help from the dragon who swirls above spewing fire – and then concentrates on the pesky dragon who had just assisted him. Backing off towards a large stone tower that sat isolated in the middle of the tundra, Dovahkiin fires spells galore at the beast in a bid to bring him down to ground level, with a little assistance from a group of archers who were taking cover by the stone tower. After landing on a stone structure, the group are finally able to bring down the dragon to ground level and destroy him, allowing Dovahkiin to absorb his soul. But wait… what’s that? Another dragon! One of the frost variety this time.
Desperate times calls for desperate measures then it seems, so Dovahkiin takes to the stone tower and climbs the spiral staircase with a certain level of haste. Once up there Dovahkiin is able to use one of his powerful dragon shouts: Storm Call, which does exactly what it says on the tin… it calls a storm in. As soon as the shout is finished the once blue sky is replaced by a dark grey and cloudy sky, before the rain and lightning start to really take over. It truly is an epic sight to behold. It’s not just smoke and mirrors though and a pretty effect for the eyes, oh no, it actually pings the dragon with lightning till he comes crashing to the ground – no longer able to fly. Without a moment’s hesitation Dovahkiin is in to finish him off with an execution, climbing on his back and jabbing the axe to the back of the dragon’s skull. Dovahkiin 2 - Dragons 0, and with the absorption of the soul, the demo came to an end.
There’s no doubting that Skyrim was one of the most impressive games to be shown at E3 and it’s abundantly clear that Bethesda do have a Game of the Year contender on their hands, but still, from someone who’s already seen most of the demo, we’d like to have seen a little more. Sure, the 5-7 minutes of dragon and mammoth battles that followed the section we’d already seen were a highlight of the show, absolutely, but compared to 30 minute demos of Mass Effect 3 and BioShock Infinite, it was always going to struggle. It’s not a knock against the game in any way, shape or form, but we judge E3 on the demos as well as the games. Otherwise, Skyrim would have been knocking on Mass Effect 3 & BioShock Infinite’s door for Game of the Show… and it probably would have won!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is scheduled for a November 11th release worldwide.