Anyone who has been paying attention to the details surrounding The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim knows that when a game is as massive in size and scope as Bethesda’s next title, there is just too much information to truly grasp before playing it for yourself. Even so, a few questions have continued to nag at the minds of many fans, and thanks to a recent interview released by Bethesda we have a few more concrete details about the various mechanics and design choices the team has in store with Skyrim.
We’ve been keeping up to date with just about everything there is to know about Skyrim, and it’s been clear from early on that the sequel to Oblivion would be a true successor in every sense of the word.
Now Bethesda has posted some answers to the most asked questions from their fan community on their official forum, revealing even more details on the types of characters, weapons and crafting, and even the different quests that Skyrim will be offering.
When it comes to modern RPGs, customization has quickly become one of the most rewarding and demanded systems for players to truly craft their very own character. Skyrim will be no exception according to Lead Artist Matt Carofano, with players given the chance to select from different hairstyles, face paints, and even a unique body shape ranging from light to heavy for each individual race.
Quick to avoid any accusations of favoring one gender over another, both male and female player types have been given completely unique animations, and a totally equal skillset at the start of the game. Similarly, different races each have their own unique passive abilities, like a Khajiit’s ability to see in the dark or a Redguard’s use of Adrenaline Rush.
Skyrim‘s Lead Designer Bruce Nesmith noted that other characters within the game world may voice certain biases toward one gender or racial group, those distinctions won’t affect the player’s ability to receive or complete quests. So with a similar set of choices open to every possible class, what reason would a player have to choose one over another? Nesmith explains:
“Your race is very important. It’s more than just how you look. Each race has a bias toward certain types of characters. If you want play a wizard, it will be easier with a High Elf or a Breton. If you want to play a warrior, it will be easier with a Nord or a Redguard. However, just like in Oblivion, we don’t force you to follow that bias. If you want to be a Nord wizard, that’s completely viable.”
So just how the Dragonborn will look is up to every player’s imagination, but when facing off against massive opponents, even the strongest Nordic warriors will be requiring armor tailored to their own needs. Carofano confirmed that the armor itself would be very similar to that of Oblivion, but with the upper body armor (cuirass) and lower body armor (greaves) combined.
Some hardcore fans might see the streamlining of any and all inventory or armor systems as watering down, but Carofano maintains that the decisions were made not just to maximize rendering times, but to make the look and feel of the armor fit into the new Nordic/Viking culture of Skyrim. On the contrary, Carofano promises that the newest game will actually offer players more types and styles of armor than any previous game.
Anyone who still believes that Skyrim will be short on variety need look no farther than the screenshots of character variations. With so much variety in armor types, once again the team has decided to leave out the option of medium armor. Skyrim‘s Director Todd Howard explained that while the new armors are rendered much faster, the team’s choices aren’t due to technical restraints:
“As far as medium armor, that’s not a time or polish thing, it’s a design choice to focus on two armor types and making sure those feel different and the player appreciates them. We try to make your character move and feel different between light and heavy and having a 3rd one in the middle just muddies it up in how it plays, as well as visually. And even now, we still have to tweak those two armor types so they feel different, while remaining fun. Every time we slow down heavy armor more, it feels bad, but it’s the main way of balancing it. We’ve added other ways of balancing it that feel right—like different stamina drain rates when sprinting and such.”
The presence of dragons in the game also means that new armor types will be possible, with the developers confirming that both light and heavy variants of dragon armor will be included. Past armor types will still be present, but with the Nordic themes being used for a vast majority of the game, players can expect that the designs and styles seen so far are a good sign of what to expect.
If some of you players prefer to go out and collect the raw materials for your new armor and weaponry, then the crafting systems of Skyrim should come as good news. Players will be able to forge their own items using the blacksmith’s shop, as well as the grindstone and armor-smithing bench. As your skills improve, using the grindstone will increase the damage a weapon can inflict by a larger amount, and increase the strength of an armor via the smithing bench.
These may seem like somewhat tedious tasks amidst a medieval world filled with mythical creatures to those RPG fans who are most familiar with the quest-first-ask-questions-later mentality of Dragon Age, but to fans of The Elder Scrolls, a great amount of depth in inventory and customization is a must.
Weapons and armor will be of the utmost importance in the newly re-designed combat engine being brought out for Skyrim, and the developers are promising that the new weapons and magic at the player’s disposal will be used as much as possible. Different enemies will test every aspect of the player’s arsenal, be it through implementing their own variety of attacks, or attacking en force to overwhelm any strategies.
But in the end, combat is only one part of a much larger role-playing experience, and in a world as fully realized and populated as that of Skyrim, the quests and NPCs show real potential of stealing the show. The developers again hinted that while there will be an abundance of side quests, the mythology and story of Skyrim will be the major motivation for the player.
Nesmith confirmed that the game is full of small changes, but “overall it’s a single story.” Combined with Todd Howard’s claim that players will “absolutely” be able to continue their progress after the campaign’s conclusion, it seem that those expecting a game more influenced by Fallout than past Elder Scrolls titles are in for a surprise.
The Dragonborn’s journey is unquestionably the heart of Skyrim, but the game is named after a country inhabited by thousands of people, so other characters will obviously be important. We got to see a few mentions of how NPCs will be playing unique roles in our E3 preview of Skyrim, but with the increased importance of romance and legitimate relationships in recent franchises like Mass Effect and The Witcher, the developers are upping their game.
Characters in the game world will be given all new abilities to shape the quests available to the player thanks to Bethesda’s new radiant story engine, but giving players the chance to act and react to computer-controlled beings means far more than just alliances or feuds. It seems that fans of the game are already thinking ahead, wondering if players will be able to form relationships with NPCs that go beyond the artificial premise of the questee/quest-giver dynamic.
According to Nesmith, those suspicions are right on track:
“Absolutely! You make friends with people by doing things for them. Friends in the game will treat you differently. Some of them will even agree to go with you into dungeons and on adventures. You can even get married. If you own a house, your spouse will move in with you.”
The idea of having NPCs become something akin to party members on certain quests is a major proposition, and something that shows even more promise in terms of the new story engine shaping a player’s own journey. Nesmith clarified that players wouldn’t be able to control the skills or perks of those secondary characters, but did hint that each would have their own strengths and abilities.
Bethesda certainly isn’t the first developer of an RPG to claim that player choices will have a lasting impact on how their story progresses, but all too often, the idea of morality doesn’t amount to much more than a few binary choices that either send one player down one predetermined path, or another.
But Bethesda isn’t planning on using a simple good/bad meter to decide how characters in the world react to a player’s character, but a much deeper system. Nesmith explained:
“We don’t provide a numeric score that you can track, but the game knows if you’ve been naughty or nice. We felt that a number really didn’t do your fame justice. Characters in the world will acknowledge the specific things you have done rather than just a generalized reputation. If you are a criminal, they’ll know that too. But if you pay your debt to society, all is forgiven.”
With a combat engine and inventory systems that are far more streamlined and intuitive than in the past, and a seemingly clear idea of the type of story they wish to tell, the developers of Skyrim seem to have most of their ducks in a row. Some may still think that a massive scope means that Skyrim is at risk of delays, the developers themselves have maintained that the game will ship on time.
If the amount of gameplay content being hinted at does turn out to be too much to get finished in time, we already know that Bethesda has some serious plans for expansive DLC.
What are your thoughts on these confirmed details? Are you still hoping that Skyrim was more similar to Morrowind than Oblivion, or are you willing to see what the developers have learned from Fallout 3? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be making its way onto the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this November 11.
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Source: Bethsoft Forums