One of the best things to come out of this year’s Spike TV Video Game Awards (besides a rather sweet-looking Batman: Arkham City trailer) was the announcement of a new Elder Scrolls game. Details are scarce about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but right now we know that it’s a direct sequel to Oblivion, that it’s being built on a new engine, and that it’s scheduled to release on November 11, 2011. The name Skyrim suggests that the game will have a Nordic theme and possibly take place in the more northern regions of Tamriel.
Also, there will be dragons.
With less than a year of waiting ahead of us, Elder Scrolls fans will no doubt be keeping a close eye on development of Skyrim. Here are five things that I’m sure we can all agree will make the fifth installment of the popular RPG series a memorable experience … in a good way.
Bethesda titles using the Gamebryo engine (like Oblivion, Fallout 3 and the recently released Fallout: New Vegas) have gained infamy among gamers for their numerous and sometimes bizarre bugs and glitches. From disk read errors to frequent crashes and loading screen lockups, quality time in Tamriel or the Wasteland can be a trial of patience. It can also lead to demonic possession.
Although Skyrim has apparently been in development for a while, we know nothing about the new engine that will be replacing Gamebryo–not even its name. Hopefully, it will avoid the issues that plagued its predecessor and allow us to enjoy the game without needing an exorcist.
Better Looking Characters
Character models in Oblivion were, for lack of a better word, bad. The game’s creation tools offered sliders to adjust almost every aspect of a character’s appearance, but all the tweaking in the world couldn’t make your Breton, Orc or Dunmer look like it wasn’t severely beaten with the ugly stick. Believe me, I tried. It also didn’t help that Tamriel’s emperor resembled that giant turtle in The Neverending Story.
Almost worse than how the characters in Oblivion looked was how they spoke. Not that the voice acting was bad–far from it (see below). Instead, it was repetitive. Many NPC voices were recycled to the point of annoyance, eroding that sense of immersion game developers work so hard to create. Further adding to the disconnect were the dialogue cutscenes, where the camera would slowly pan into the NPCs face and … stay there. Yawn.
Sadly, characters in Fallout 3 and New Vegas have fared no better. While characters that are too pretty can be a turnoff (see: every male Japanese RPG character ever made), perhaps Skyrim can find a happy middle ground between androgynous beauty and carnival freakshow.
An Excellent Voice Cast
Oblivion featured a brief but memorable performance by Patrick Stewart as Emperor Uriel Septim. Sean Bean played his illegitimate son. Liam Neeson lent his voice to the role of the protagonist’s father in Fallout 3, while the cast of Fallout: New Vegas is full of other familiar names, including Matthew Perry, Felicia Day, Star Trek alumni Michael Dorn and Wil Wheaton, and Mr. Las Vegas himself (Wayne Newton). Over the years, Bethesda has been improving when the voice-acting in its titles. It’s reasonable to expect that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will have an impressive roster of voice talent, as well.
Two words: Horse Armor.
The now-infamous content pack charged 200 Microsoft Points to adorn your mount in some shiny new armor and nothing else, causing many Oblivion fans to wonder why they were being charged cold hard cash for a measly in-game item that probably should have been included on the disc. The game’s second DLC, the Vile Lair, also failed to impress. On the other hand, the expansion packs The Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine received warmer receptions and critical acclaim. Bethesda has had four years since then to improve the quality of their DLC, and they seem to be on the right track with New Vegas’ Treasure of the Sierra Madre homage, Dead Money. Hopefully, the developer has learned its lesson when it comes to downloadable content and will stick with what it does well.
Memorable Side Quests
And if Bethesda does anything well, it’s side quests. Whether you’re journeying into the world inside a magical painting to rescue the painter trapped inside, deciding whether or not to blow up the city of Megaton, or helping a religious sect of ghouls achieve their goal of space travel, the side quests of Bethesda’s last few titles have often been more memorable than the main plots themselves. When it comes to creating open world games filled with dozens of hours worth of quirky and interesting things to see and do, few games do it better.