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Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Hands-on [PAX Prime 2011]

Considering it’s easily one of the most hyped games at the show this year, I made it a personal point to make sure that Skyrim was my first appointment of the first day. There have been a few opportunities to see the game, including the recent 30 minute walk-through that was performed by one Todd Howard during Gamecom just last week. So what’s different between that and what’s being shown at PAX Prime? This week at PAX we actually got to go hands-on with the game and work our way through as much of the world as we liked (within a 20 minutes). 

If you happened to check out the footage, then you’re pretty aware of exactly where we got to jump in. However, we weren’t working on a linear play-through script and got to wander around where ever we damn well pleased. 

There was the option to start a new game, build a new character from scratch and see the new character creation system… but personally that’s not what I was most looking for in this play-through and I went straight into the game and wasted no time at all tearing sh*t up. 

Easily my favourite part of an open-ended RPG that totes the ability to “play however you want” is just going bat-sh*t insane straight out of the gate, so instead of admiring the view, getting to know the controls, or adjusting my character for combat going forwards, I promptly moved to dual-wielding fire-spells so that I could burn the hell out of a rabbit that had the unfortunate issue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time…

One of the best things that that we got to mess around with was the dual-wielding upgrade. Absolutely you can rock a shield and a sword, two swords, magic and a sword, or all kinds of combinations in between. What’s really interesting, stepping out of the shadow of its predecessor, is the ability to dual-wield spells. You can combine multiple spells into various attacks and even up their effectiveness by doubling up on the same spell. I found myself very quickly learning to hot-swap between dual-health and dual-fire spells for fast-paced combat with multiple enemies. Torching a group with two blasts of fire at the same time proved a rather effective strategy, and when they got a little too close, it was the easiest thing in the world to back of a bit and super-heal. Double fire-spells also did wonders for things like: setting a room on fire, and burninating a yak.

Apparently the yak-burning was a big draw to a lot of people playing the game. When Corey set it on fire, we found out that Todd Howard was in the room, ‘cause he couldn’t help but mention that everyone seems to enjoy setting that thing on fire.

I pushed forward towards a near-by cave whilst Corey went about setting fire to a village, family pets, and various farm animals. Yeah, harassing villagers, killing family pets and transportation is fun and all… but at the core of the game (for me) is all about the loot. 

The cave also provided PLENTY of opportunity for combat, exploring the games new mechanics/engine and getting familiar with the gear that was offered up. Apparently, some of it was even stuff that I wasn’t supposed to have access to. After picking up a set of weapons, the “Staff of Sparks” and “Dagger of Sparks,” it was asked (a few times) how and where I got them by the Bethesda crew. Got to love those random drops! 

I’m not going to lie having a set of pretty-decent weapons and the option to dual-wield with a staff and sword now made the rest of the run a breeze. I remember Todd Howard mentioning being able to do the full ‘Gandalf’ in the most recent play and that’s pretty much the level of bad-ass that I got from wielding those two pieces of hardware… though I might have even felt a little more awesome considering the fact that my sword/staff were electric as well. 

After a quick dungeon-run that netted me some hawt gear for future quests, I made my way to the top of the mountain (shown in the demo run) where I thought I might get to troll some dragons. It’s been my goal since the first videos were released to see how long I can spend just running circles around a dragon and dual-healing. Unfortunately there weren’t any dragons for me to tease, but there was a secondary dungeon that I did my best to speed-run, left with only two minutes… It didn’t happen, but I did manage to get a fair ways into it.

The game is looking great, which is to be expected. The guys have upped the gameplay, the look, the world, and pretty much everything else. The problems that I did have were minimal, and easy enough to look past. It was just stuff like the fact that your weapons just clip through enemies and they don’t really seem to react at all to the damage that they’re taking. That kind of stuff is easy enough to gloss-over though considering they added in those fatalities. No-clip attacks are overweighed in a big-way by the ability to shank a dude with an electric dagger and watch him crumble while twitching from the shock. 

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is scheduled for a November release, and it’s definitely going to be one of this year’s hottest releases. We all pretty much knew going in that the thing would blow us away, but getting that hands-on confirmation of awesomeness is always a good feeling.

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