Version tested: Xbox 360
Sooner or later you will find a short article on QuakeCon 2011, the id convention being held in Dallas at this time at the Hilton Anatole, a large hotel complex situated in the middle of a city that exists only for business and for oil. It feels a bit like walking on the moon, especially coming from Italy, because I do not know how many colleagues have ever attended and since we are the only ones invited to this event.
The id family has grown recently, however, when Bethesda bought Carmack's software house and this is how it came to be that we have the opportunity to play one of the most anticipated titles of 2011: The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The game contains one of the features most requested by fans of Oblivion, dragons, but there was no sign of these flying reptiles. We will meet them during the main quest, which was disabled in this pre-alpha version of the Xbox 360 (Skyrim will also be released on PC and PlayStation 3 on November 11), which we played from the character creation until the early quests, freely, along with ten other colleagues for a moment in time when [everyone was so focused that] you could hear a pin drop. Imagine a room, wrapped in silence, except for the words of Pete Hynes and Todd Howard, Game Director and Vice President respectively, of Bethesda, who turned in their chairs to help those who were playing. In search of dragons ... that were not there, though.
In the footsteps of Oblivion
One thing is clear, Skyrim is a game too complex to be dealt with in one hour of play. Too many things to do, too many unanswered questions [and not enough time] to be able to concentrate and actually do something productive, really.
Imagine a dozen stations, and at each there was a journalist who did something completely different. The writer has found himself manufacturing armor upon leaving the starting area, delivering a letter and exploring dungeons a bit .
There are those who became archers, who killed wolves and deer, and who traveled through at least a couple of urban settlements, shown on a 3D map with the names of the outposts, including using fast travel, but only after having first explored the area on foot.
To reach this myriad of end results, we all started from a save following shortly after the start of the game, which takes place in a dungeon, as usual, leaving the details of the story to our previous article which is rich with details.
Character creation has always been the pride of Bethesda, and this is no exception, thanks to new engine models, which allow much more rough and realistic faces marked by a thousand details. Tattoos, scars, hairstyles and appearances can be modeled with detail even higher than previously experienced. The races are the races of Oblivion, what has changed radically is the class selection, which no longer exists, as the evolution of the character is completely linked to the skills that you decide to develop, as you level up by playing.
Each of the skills, from wielding two-handed weapons, one-handed weapons, or casting spells to heal, has an indicator that tells you how many times it is used. Each of these contributes to the skill level and every time we reach a new character level, we are asked if we want to increase the magicka, stamina or the health of our alter egos.
Afterwards you can invest one point in any of the skills, to select a perk that permanently increases the abilities of the main character. Each skill is represented by a constellation, each of these branches arranged in a tree, marked by perks that can be activated by having the minimum requirements. Each of the perks on the tree has different levels of development, going to create an overall picture that sounds like a headache, but already at first glance it appears to provide a sufficient level of complexity with greater immediacy than the guilds and classes of Oblivion.
Good old TES
Who has not played Oblivion may not be familiar with the controls of The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim , at least at first. Upon discovering how the different spells and equipment are handled in detail via the favorites menu, the basic commands remain the same. You jump with Y, with A you interact with objects, with B you activate the inventory / map, with X you draw your weapon or stow it away for exploration.
The trigger buttons still handle the task of launching attacks, one for each player's hand and left hand side is the left trigger, until you have run out of stamina.
The similarities however, stop at the layout of the buttons, since the answer to the demands of the player is completely changed.
Just hitting your bare hands, with the new engine offers a physicality and a gravity unknown before, they actually feel like blows, and this makes it difficult to walk around beating your fists in empty air.
Even the new animations, especially those of the protagonist that can finally be controlled with a third-person view without being ashamed to show what really happens on the screen.
The surrounding world seems less obsessed with having to tie a physical reaction to any interaction, but the detail and quality are from a different planet compared to Oblivion. The pop-up problems, vertical sync and even management of polygons all appear to be completely resolved, leaving room for a glance obscured by trees, flowers, trees, rocks and houses far on the horizon.
At the E3 presentation, we feared, among other things, such grace had been bestowed on a world with an almost lunar quality, too devoid of NPCs or enemies, but this test has dispelled this doubt, since the animal encounters and NPCs were frequent, giving the idea of a truly populated world, even unexpected encounters and animated in a much more credible way.
Apart from the desire to recover from back to playing with a new episode of The Elder Scrolls, enjoy the view and the new "physicality" of our hero (which Bethesda should send a screenshot in the coming weeks), there was just enough time to interact with some NPCs and explore a little the world of Skyrim.
One of the first events that struck us was the active quest indicator, in the compass at the top center of the screen, guiding us even to the doors of houses where you need to enter, thus making it much easier to move into cities in search of the NPC [related to the quest].
Load times appeared a little long, populated by polygonal models, however, interactive, and always different, at least in this first test, dragons, statues and figures of the main quest and all well made.
The ease and immediacy with which the the mode of progression in the game seems to have changed were also evident in some aspects of quests. As we helped a person to receive a letter in this brief quest, we could ask him to follow us, and he became an intelligent and careful fellow companion adventurer.
In short, among other things, we were able to craft some armor and weapons at the blacksmith's forge and carve skins to make our own clothes, under the watchful eye of a master blacksmith met after a few minutes in a village.
As the darkness fell, we appreciated the new lighting and thick fog that enveloped the earth, and this took us into the bowels of a mine not far from where we started playing.
There was the usual attack of robbers and rats of different kinds and sizes, with a pleasant sense of dejavu. In short, it seems that Bethesda in preparing The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim has certainly given the strengths of Oblivion, creating an obvious point of continuity, but also sought to solve the cumbersome aspects that could have kept away many players.
Obviously it takes a lot longer to understand the balance of this new nature and the direction taken, in particular in assessing the behavior of the NPC and the merits of the new skill structure, but the first good news is that at this stage of pre-alpha, The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim seems much cleaner than it was Oblivion at launch and this is already a good starting point.
The fact that this happens within the context of aesthetics so lush and detailed, then, can only be expected to improve further by November 11th, the game's release date.