It seems like it's already been weeks since we last heard from Bethesda concerning their upcoming RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, so the developer took to the pages of Official PlayStation Magazine to keep their fans informed. While there may not be any new bombshells dropped, several key gameplay, environment and quest details have been clarified or confirmed. The theme of Skyrim so far has been change, and this latest batch of details keeps the trend going.
The details come courtesy of the Bethsoft forums, where a user by the name of 'SammiiDoogles' has gone into incredible detail describing the tidbits of information given through OPM's 12-page preview, and a few comments made by the game's director Todd Howard. While some of this news may not come as a surprise to those who've been following our coverage, others might be shocked to hear how much Skyrim is changing the formula.
The king's death and ensuing civil war that was teased earlier has been confirmed, so players can expect to run into several less-than-friendly factions throughout the land of Skyrim. But the political story is really just a backdrop to the star of Skyrim: the game's environments, and the people who occupy them.
Howard had previously spoken about the game's new Creation Engine, and how the more robust system of Radiant Story would be crafting a personal experience for each player. In OPM, Bethesda has gone into even greater detail on just how personalized the quest system will become. The concept of Radiant Story is new to The Elder Scrolls, and another of the influences that Fallout 3 has had on their approach, specifically that game's use of random encounters.
In Skyrim, quest givers will behave in ways that reflect the player's history and path through the game. For instance, a quest giver that likes your character will go into greater detail about the player's mission, and even help lead them to the location. If the NPC has a reason to dislike the player's character, then they will be much more vague in their descriptions. The rewards of a quest won't be as artificially presented as they have been in the past, and players may not find out how much they'll receive until after the quest has been completed to the quest giver's satisfaction.
All of these choices seem to be made in an effort to turn the game's NPCs into more realistic characters, even allowing the player to enter citizens' homes and snoop while they're at work to progress through missions. But they are by no means helpless, and the magazine seems to hint that if a player severely wrongs another character in the world, they may hunt them down later seeking vengeance.
We also have a few more details concerning the game's combat, in case some bloodthirsty NPC decides to hunt you down after all. From a practicality standpoint, friendly fire will be prevented by having attacks drawn towards enemies "magnetically," hopefully avoiding some major headaches during larger battles. In case that sounds like a little too much interference to gameplay, the game will come equipped with mod tools, so it doesn't have to last for long.
We know that the combat systems have been given a major overhaul for Skyrim, bringing new levels of realism and finishing moves to instanced combat. The first example given by the mag is an attack that allows players to drive their sword straight through the heart of their enemy for an up-close kill. Realism is the goal even in this scenario, as the enemy's last moments are accompanied by sounds of him gurgling his own blood. Clearly, Bethesda has learned that gamers today can tolerate a bit more than they used to.
Whenever combat comes up, fans may immediately be reminded of the fact that the game has had any form of player class removed in favor of a free-wheeling, do whatever comes naturally approach to leveling. So for those who decide to wield a warrior's sword in one hand, and cast spells with the other, Howard has some bad news when it comes to defense. If you have a two-handed weapon or a sword and shield combination, then one trigger will be used to attack, and the other to block. But if you're wielding a weapon in one hand and spells in the other, you won't have the option to block at all.
While this may seem a bit ridiculous to some fans, but think of it this way: Bethesda has removed the need to narrowly occupy a single play style by letting players choose their own strengths, but players still have to apply some strategy as a result of their own choices. Given the number and variety of weapon perks to select, and the inclusion of dragon shouts, Skyrim's combat mechanics are looking more and more interesting by the day.
While details about the game environments themselves are still scarce, the magazine did offer up a few examples of the various taverns and towns that players will be able to explore. In case the last batch of screenshots and concept art didn't offer enough proof that the game will be home to some incredibly varied environments, descriptions of the game's settlements confirm it.
First, there's the town of Riverwood, a "smattering of timber buildings, including a sawmill," and Haarfingar, Skyrim's main trading port. Each settlement will express the unique culture of the Viking-like inhabitants who call it home, from colors and banners to the very way in which the cities are built. For instance, the city of Markarth Side is placed on the very edge of sheer cliffs, opening the door to any number of allegories and metaphors.
In case the tavern waitresses are where more of your interests lie, you'll be glad to know that the pubs will be playing a much more significant role this time around. We know the game is trying to be more natural in its execution, so the various taverns of the world will be the best place to hear rumors, gossip, and juicy information about each respective town. Whether you choose to listen, or merely pretend to while flirting with barmaids is entirely up to you.
And of course, there's the dragons. You might assume that Bethesda would keep tight-lipped about the game's main antagonists until we get closer to the game's release, and sadly, you would be right. The magazine confirms the details given by Howard in a recent interview that dragon battles are compeltely unscripted, and can occur throughout the game at any time or place, but whether the creatures have a significant connection to the teased Dwemer Ruins is still unknown.
If the frequency with which Bethesda is handing out secrets and details is a sign of things to come, then Skyrim must be bigger than any of us imagine. It's hard to believe that the developers would reveal everything there is to know about the game before it's released, but honestly, would that stop any of us from buying it regardless?
What do you think of the changes that have been made to the combat, blocking ability, and quest formats? Do you think that some of these details mark a return to the spirit of Morrowind, or is Bethesda moving even further away?
To get an even better idea of the game's direction, check out the rest of our Skyrim coverage for every screen and detail released to date.
We'll keep you up to date on any news and details until The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim finally releases on November 11 for the Xbox 360, PC, and PS3.