The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is so close to release that I can almost feel the snow from the game's gigantic mountains on my nose at this point. We've seen the same Skyrim demo for months now, ever since it was first shown at E3 by the legendary Todd Howard himself, but it wasn't until PAX Prime 2011 that I actually got to get my hands on the epic role playing game.
As Kevin Kelly recently took an in-depth look at the Skyrim character customization, I didn't want to spend too much time with that. Normally I'd go through every single slider and option for hours until I picked the perfect character, (which is definitely an option within Skyrim as there are hundreds of ways to customize each race) but I skipped through that so that I could jump straight in to the action.
Our demo started about 30 minutes in to the game, as the developers didn't want us to see any of the starting areas for our characters. That part of the story is going to be a surprise up until when the game is released. So, my character, a high elf, got dropped off in the middle a lush forest with no direction as to where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to be doing. For crazy people like me who love to explore every nook and cranny and pick flowers and kill everything, this was particularly glorious.
The developer sat behind me and didn't give me instruction unless I asked for it. I asked if I could go anywhere and he assured me I could, and encouraged me to explore the forest. After playing in the beautiful rushing stream and splashing my way to a town, I decided that it's much more fun to kill everything in games than to you know, actually be nice and do the quests like a normal RPG player.
So I went straight up to the first chicken I found in the town and slashed at it with my battle axe. That chicken stood absolutely no chance. I then saw a little boy in the town and took my axe to him as well. The dev told me that you aren't allowed to kill children in Skyrim, but that they would alert the townspeople that I'm a maniac, which is exactly what he did. I ran around the town killing dogs and cows before the townspeople finally came after me with pitchforks and axes of their own. But let's be serious, they're no match for a Dragonborn.
With my fire spells in my left hand and my trusty axe in my right I made quick work of the two townsfolk who tried to teach me a lesson. It's what happened next that basically had me in stitches. After killing the townspeople, I looted their bodies, and when you loot people in Skyrim, you actually take all of their belongings, clothes included. I took everything from these two, including all of their clothes, trinkets, and weapons, and then noticed that I had killed them by the same stream I had been wading my way through earlier. The developer told me that if I wanted to drag them in to the water I could, so you can guess what happened next.
That's right! I dragged the two townsfolk in to the stream and away they floated. The developer let me know that if I had stayed with them that they would have kept floating for a very long time, fallen over waterfalls, and more. I would have loved to see this in action, but I knew there were dragons to slay, so I went on my way. However, this left me wondering what would have happened if those townsfolk would have given me quests had I not killed them. Would there quests now be given to me by others, or did I forgo them forever? It's a question I didn't get any answers to, and for that I'm sorry.
At this point, I was still lost in the stream, so I budged and asked the developer where I should go. He pointed me in the general direction of a temple high up on a snowy peak, the same mountain temple that's shown in the Skyrim demo we've seen since E3. As I made my up through the frigid mountainside, I began to really feel how the combat system would play out in the game. Honestly, I felt that the combat was a bit clunky, and that I threw punches rather slowly, but that made also made it much more realistic. I felt like I was really putting weight in to each of my axe swings, and that's neat. I found that the bow was a pain to use, and that a quick one handed axe or sword was much more my style. More than anything though, I loved using magic. I have a feeling I'm definitely going to be using much more magic than weaponry when the game comes out. For one, it looks really cool, having your hand in front of you constantly weaving a spell, and secondly, I think that the magic was stronger than my weapons were. I'm all about getting the most out of the damage in any video game, so magic was definitely for me.
During the demo, I was still only a level one character, and the temple I was in was a bit too high level for me so I was dying constantly. There are checkpoints for when you die, but not after every turn so I found myself having to go back through the same parts of the temple a few times before finally getting to new checkpoints. The developer assured me this was because I was too low level for this area, not because there were other, more strategic ways to get through. He was probably just being nice.
I did find my way through most of the temple however, and got to fight a terrifying spider as well as run through a room filled with evil undead skeleton things. Luckily the room was equipped with a booby trap that smashed the skeletons to bits, but as soon as I realized that there were tricks here and there to kill the skeletons, my demo timer came to an end.
It was sad, as I was finally starting to get the hang of using my items and abilities on the go with the favorites system, as well as really starting to get in to the combat and other mechanics of the game. For only playing Skyrim for about thirty minutes, I really got a great feel for how the game plays, and how easy it will be for the average RPG lover to get sucked in for hours on end. The absolutely beautiful landscape and soundtrack truly immerse you in to the world of Skyrim. While I didn't have any idea what was going on, I'm sure that the story will be fantastic and will only pull players in even more.
Our social lives will come to an end on 11.11.11 when The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim lands for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.