Yes folks, it is time for another of our massive news round-ups. Packing in everything that our weary travelers had to say about their quick trips to the snowy Nordic territories, we have compiled enough information for a bard to sing about all through the night. So, will you stay for a spell?
First up, good news! No more weapon and armor degradation. That is absolutely right everyone, there is no longer any need to worry about how dull our axes are getting or if you accidentally nicked the edge of your sword. Skyrim’s new gameplay mechanics takes out the durability meter and tosses it out the window. But with that little tidbit out of the way, how are smiths going to make a living? With actual item crafting; now there is plenty of reason to start collecting those ores and raw materials. Also, you can now “improve” items –make them sharper, stronger, and altogether more efficient in bringing down those pesky dragons. Being a smith in Skyrim just got all the more exciting.
Of course, some players might find this change a little annoying, as the concept of degrading items and the use of repair hammers added a sense of ‘realism’ to the game. Some would attribute this change as part of Bethesda’s attempt to reach a larger market for Skyrim –while others believe that the certain aspects have been streamlined in order to bring more focus to other parts of the game.
Gamebryo is a powerful game engine, it worked for Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, but the system is old and has been pretty much pushed to its limits. With plenty of great competition out on the market, it is not surprising that Bethesda has decided to push their limits further with the brand new “Creation” engine. We will skip the technical hoopla and just go straight to the facts we want to emphasize: better rendering and even better AI.
Obviously, the first thing that people with notice with a new game engine is how pretty everything looks compared to the previous version (and any HD screenshot of Skyrim easily proves that the game oozes with eye-candy). But what screens and most videos do not show, is the new computer AI.
Now, most of you gaming-folk would probably take this bit of news and skip right on ahead, after all, we have heard of the concept of “tougher, more intelligent enemies” dozens of times over. But what we are going to see is something else entirely: NPCs behaving so life-like, it will change the concept of the open-world immersive gameplay forever. NPC characters will now have their own individual traits and behaviors, choosing where to run, what to equip, where to sleep, what to eat, what to fight, and most importantly, when. Even the wildlife has been given their own pseudo-eco system, so expect to see local carnivores hunting smaller animals. Of course, critical NPCs will have more predictable patterns, but as for how this will come into play, we have yet to see.
For parents who are a little wary about the ESRB and BBFC ratings, here’s the last word on the street: Skyrim gets an “M for mature” and a BBFC rating of 15. This is all mostly due to the game’s inherent potential for violence. There is no denying that the new finishing moves in melee combat can get a little nitty-gritty, and there is a lot of blood and dismemberment to find in-game but if you have played the previous Fallout games then this will be pretty much familiar territory. BBFC states that the game has “strong violence” which is something that we have all seen in the trailers.
In the ESRB description, the M rating gets its basis on a combination of violence, use of alcohol and sexual content –most particularly in the game’s text. For those who played earlier Elder Scrolls games, this should no longer be surprising, a few of the books actually contain adult literature.
The new big baddie of Skyrim is Alduin, the gigantic and mighty dragon (you can grab a statuette of ol’ Alduin if you order the special edition) who comes to Skyrim with a group of, well, other dragons. The best of this is that each encounter with Alduin’s buddies is considered random, so there is no telling where and when you will encounter one. So here is an early protip: save often!
Considering how well Fallout’s perks system has been a boon to players seeking to create a truly unique specialist character, it is no longer surprising that the special passive ability system has been adopted to Skyrim. Back in the previous Elder Scrolls game, the closest thing you would have to a perk is are a few unique abilities determined by your star sign (ES-mythos zodiac) and one unique ability based on your race.
Right now, Bethesda is keeping real quiet about the details. But this is what we know so far: there will be at least 280 perks. Now that is definitely a lot of perks to choose from, and with the character level cap set at 70, we can expect to see some truly unique player builds.
Kiting and backpedaling has been a major strategy for use in 3D action adventure titles, and in the open world RPGs that Bethesda is famous for, these are tried and tested techniques. In Skyrim, that kind of combat mentality has been changed, players now get plenty of penalties for moving backward while fighting, and there is great emphasis on the use of your weapons and shields to block and parry your opponent’s moves. For those players who have been hoping for a more “intense and realistic” combat experience, this is the answer to your calls. Of course, magic combat mechanics have also been tweaked to balance out the player experience.
And Bethesda claims that the overall battle system has been greatly improved -so here is to hoping that the use of the bow and arrow has finally become something that actually works in-game. We have seen the initial “rogue” videos, but it still looks a lot like the old version (with the only exception being a new stylized zooming effect). We will have to wait until getting a bit of hands on time with the rogue to see if the gameplay lives up to what it promises.
Spell casters will definitely lament the loss of the spell crafting function –as we stated previously, but in its place is a massive list of over 80 basic spells to choose from. But that is not all there is to it, there are now charge and dual casting modifications that players can take advantage of. A simple lightning bolt can now be charged up to create a massive electric blast, and if you charge up two of the same kind in both hands, the effect is doubled (same goes for casting cost too). Also, you can combine two different spells at different intensities for some of the most impressive looking magical-experimentation experiences you can have.
Ever hated the fact that Oblivion often placed a bounty on your head for performing certain illegal acts despite the fact that no one has seen you? This is most common for those playing an evil character performing murders from behind closed doors, but others, like horse thieves, often find themselves assaulted by guards under the charge of grand theft equestrian –even without witnesses. Skyrim now promises a more just system by enforcing a new system which requires other characters to actively spot your acts of mischief.
Despite claims that the Sony PS3 has superior hardware (which we are inclined to believe), or that the 360 handles certain visual aspects better or that the PC is the ultimate gaming system, Bethesda has announced that at maximum quality visual settings, all the three versions of Skyrim will be completely indistinguishable. Indeed, short of being able to read the hotkey and button assignments used for the screenshots, it is nearly impossible to tell which screens belong to which systems.
Improved Voice Acting
The use of vocals in any game has allowed developers to create characters that have more depth and personality. This is because the use of voice adds a sense of individuality and attitude to any NPC. Oblivion was plagued with the repeating voice-syndrome, a by-product of the days when game companies like Bethesda tried to save a bit of production cost on voice acting and simply re-used voice talents (not that they went super cheap, we did get Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart –among others). According to Pete Hines, a number of voice actors have been signed up for Skyrim, so we can expect to see the denizens of this new world to speak out in voices truly unique to their own.
The user interface for Skyrim is something that we found truly a sight to behold, but some folks, having a bunch of bars, numbers and meters on the screen still takes away from the immersive experience, and if given the choice, they would completely turn off the HUD. In Skyrim, this is as easy as pie. But turning off the UI is a pretty simple feature –what makes Skyrim unique is that it allows players to determine how much of the UI that want to overlay on the game screen. The opacity of the user interface can be set to any value from zero to 100%, allowing players to show or hide as much of the game as they prefer.