PAX Prime 2011: An Hour With The Massiveness of Skyrim
Easily one of my most anticipated games of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was playable for a full hour at PAX. I had a chance to see not only the extensive character customization, but I was also dropped into the world, letting me explore it at my leisure. I was told that the first 40 minutes or so of the game were intentionally skipped to not give away any spoilers, which I was completely fine with, as I wanted to get to the nitty gritty as soon as possible.
The character customization was just as extensive as you remember it from Oblivion, but no matter how cool you tried to make your character look in that game, they always ended up looking hideous. This is changed in Skyrim. First off the presets are varied enough that you'll most likely find the look your going for right off the bat. If you do feel like being creative, or want your character to resemble yourself as much as possible, you can still mess around with the various sliders. The race I chose for the demonstration was the Nord, mostly because they look like bad ass Vikings. One thing that's different from past Elder Scrolls games is that you no longer get to choose any initial skills, instead you start off with everything at the initial level, and progress your skills depending on how much you use them.
I was then dropped off into the wilderness, letting me venture wherever I wanted. Of course, half the fun (if not more) in Oblivion and Morrowind before that was traveling around the map and discovering various settlements, dungeons or special characters wielding some impressive weapons that had to be mine (Umbra Sword anyone?). This was definitely apparent in Skyrim. Much like Oblivion, the compass at the top of the screen outlined when you were near a landmark.
Being the explorer that I am, instead of venturing off to the nearby village (that was shown off in the E3 demo anyways) I decided to just scour the nearby forest, and possibly scale the nearest mountain to see what's on top. Almost immediately I came upon a bandit outpost, which is where I got to put my combat skills to the test. The biggest change to combat is that now you're able to mix and match not only various weapons in your left and right hand, but weapons and magic. At first I thought a sword and axe was a pretty bad ass combo, only later realizing I can wield that same sword and a fireball spell at the same time. I fiercely swung my sword at the nearest enemy, while spewing flames at the archer trying to pick me off from a distance. It was exhilarating even though it felt a bit familiar. The fact that I could switch out any weapon at will and into any hand made the combat bad ass.
Moving forward I then came across a marker on my compass which showed a dragon icon. I immediately got excited as I was hoping to come across one of the giant mythical dragons from the game. I was told however that in the current build that they were showing off, no dragons would show up. This intrigued me even more as I continued to scale the mountain and head even closer to the dragon icon. When I finally reach it, it turned out to be one of the many dragon shrines located across the world that taught players various words of Dragon language, or shouts. I however didn't have any points left to equip these shouts and actually use them.
I then scaled the side of the mountain to come across a tomb. It initially let me only explore one room as the actual entrance to the tomb was locked. A little bit of snooping around however landed me the key to the tomb, which immediately summoned a few ghost guardians on me. They seemed to be extremely vulnerable to magic, so I constantly unloaded my fireball and made quick work of them, though my Magicka was almost completely depleted. Morrowind and Oblivion let you rest in various "safe" areas that let you regain both your health and Magicka. Skyrim seemed to be a little more lenient and let me rest right then and there in that tomb, right after disposing of enemies, ensuring it kept me moving on through without much hassle.
The hour crept up on me and was over sooner than I realized. Which solidified the fact that playing Skyrim for just an hour really isn't enough. The world is so massive and jam packed with sidequests, dungeons and just millions of things to see and experience, I literally felt like I only experienced less than 1% of what the full game had to offer. You can expect to fully explore the world of Skyrim on 11/11/11 which isn't that far off, and you might want to put in that vacation request ahead of time.