We've waited so long for the first legitimate look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim gameplay that some may not be able to truly grasp all of the details revealed in the Skyrim gameplay trailer. We know that it the trailer was powered by the Xbox 360's engine, but while the video may seem like a combination of the game's announcement trailer with overhead shots and combat footage, much more is revealed and hinted at if we examine the video moment by moment.
What stands out immediately is the effort Bethesda is making on fleshing out and detailing the environments of Skyrim, not just the characters. The Creation Engine and other game tools make vistas and expanses even more seamless than in the past, which the developer felt they wanted to prove right off the bat. Clearly the land of Skyrim itself is going to be every bit as important as the team has led us to believe.
From glimpses of the different towns and settlements that players will visit, variance is just as evident as its importance. Even in the brief shots of the different towns, The Elder Scrolls V director Todd Howard's words concerning the incredible variety and identity of each are clear. From bright and optimistic, to picturesque yet dangerous, and finally to dark and gloomy, the game environments themselves seem to dictate a player's mood, tension, even desire to get out of the cold and into a tavern.
A bigger world means longer travel times, and while the flying camera swoops may plant a seed of hope into fans' hearts that players will be able to mount and fly their own dragons, this is sadly not going to be the case. Howard recently told Elder Scrolls fans not to get their hopes up, since the idea of controlling a dragon doesn't fit with the overall story of the game.
So without dragons or mounts of any kind locked in at this point, it would seem that running will be the main mode of transportation. No coincidence then is that the trailer emphasizes the first-person sprinting the game will offer. The player seems to be moving at a fairly quick pace, so hopefully the developers are intent on making the journey just as exciting as the destination. That being said, we expect at least horse mounts and fast-travel options from Oblivion to be available.
The star aspect of the trailer is undoubtedly the combat, specifically the struggle to vanquish one of the great winged beasts that have emerged to terrorize Skyrim. Bethesda has told us how the changes they've made to the combat systems will make players feel even more in control during fights, but they may have bitten off more than players can chew.
It's one thing to keep pace and react to a human opponent, but taking on a giant dragon will be quite an ordeal, as evidenced by the many misses and narrow escapes featured in the video. Todd Howard explained the Bethesda's take on their own style of dragons, desiring a presence more similar to that of fairy tales and mythology than typical RPGs. From the movement, power and sheer size of the dragon featured in the trailer, we'd say they're on the right track.
We've taken a few images from the trailer that deserve more thorough analysis. From the details in the dragon's design, to the stunning graphics that Bethesda managed to squeeze out of the Xbox 360, it's immediately clear that the game will be just as varied and immersive as any other title we've seen in recent years. Considering Skyrim is still a long way off, there is still a chance that the game could be improved along the way from what we see in the gameplay footage.
Take a look at a few screens from the game that is quickly becoming our most anticipated of 2011:
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Even with a spectacle as distracting as a dragon/dragonslayer battle, there are still plenty of details and implications to find in the trailer, some of which might drastically alter your thoughts on changes made for the next iteration of The Elder Scrolls.
The most startling Skyrim detail revealed to date was the complete removal of any formal player classes. Players would no longer choose the type of fighter they wished to be, instead forming their own unique character over the course of the story. The biggest question on this change was how the idea would succeed in granting players even more control, or if every player would advance utilizing the same skills and techniques.
From the few moments seen in the trailer, it's apparent that the choice is still very much up to the player. The video features the Viking-like hero from the leaked Skyrim scans, a stealth character assassinating someone in a bar, a fully armored knight and even a partially-armored rogue creeping through a dungeon. Any fears that you were holding onto concerning the wide-open variety of the player leveling should now be dropped.
There are still some lingering questions concerning the new combat mechanics like wobbling, being stunned or moving with greater speed in battle. There were a few shots of combat in both first and third-person, but aside from som fancy footwork and the much-talked about execution, the trailer didn't reveal much. We are in favor of any system that allows players to actually choose their strikes against an enemy as large as a dragon, so we'll reserve judgement until we get a deeper look.
We do wonder though if any of that particular dragon fight was player-controlled. The angles suggest it was a cinematic, so in first-person/third-person, it will be quite different.
And finally, the dragon shouts and soul gathering - It doesn't take too much imagination to wrap your head around Bethesda's idea of dragon shouts; magic words that give the Dragonborn ability to manipulate dragons and their surroundings when in combat. To see the word uttered with a wave of impact is satisfying, but the gathering of souls from fallen dragons takes the cake.
The process was previously described in detail, but to actually see the soul finding its way out of the dragon's form and into that of the main character is, simply put, incredible. With each fallen dragon, the player's fully-customizable character becomes even more powerful, and closer to wielding all of the possible dragon shouts required to destroy the greatest and most evil dragon, Alduin.
Ah yes, Alduin. The main antagonist of the game, who has risen as prophecies foretold is notably absent from either the story or action portions of the trailer. What are we supposed to take from that? Bethesda is keeping some of their cards close to their chest. With so many details on the game's quests, combat and technology, the developer has to keep something to surprise fans.
If that is the motivations, missions and impact that the mythology of the game will have, then we're all in for a pleasant surprise.
So even with more than a few nagging questions still left unanswered, we can at least now breathe a sigh of relief that Skyrim is, in fact, a video game that looks stunning and isn't going to be unrecognizable. With Dragon Age 2 and The Witcher 2 prepared to scratch the swords-and-sorcery itch, it's nice to know that we can still count on Bethesda to give us a comparable experience.
What questions of yours were answered by the first glimpses of gameplay? There were no shortage of reveals that might evoke worry and fear as opposed to confidence, but for now at least, the game looks like one that we wouldn't mind being reminded of everyday.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that Bethesda will be as open about the game's development as they have been already, since the wait until November is going to be an excruciating one.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be making its way onto the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on November 11, 2011. Is it asking too much to hope for a demo?