Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimIt’s been a long time coming and I think most people feared that a fifth installment of the The Elder Scrolls series was never going to see the light of day. Bethesda Softworks have certainly played their cards close to their chest by not announcing the continuation of the franchise until just last December. Now nearly eight months on, there’s just another four months left until release. Four LONG months as far as I’m concerned.

My first experience of the Elder Scrolls series was through playing TESIV: Oblivion, a game that I quickly considered to be a near-perfect implementation of the RPG genre. I can clearly remember that my first visit to Sancre Tor was like every Fighting Fantasy novel I’d ever read made real. The sheer scale of the open world environment that the game offered was enough to make it exceptional and the almost unlimited number of community created mods have made it legendary. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I’ve sourced a copy of its predecessor – Morrowind – and have started playing through that with a whole load of graphic and gameplay improvements.

But, can The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim really bring anything new to the genre?

Here’s a list of new and re-developed features that the game is offering.

  • No class selection at the start.
  • Every skill you level adds to your overall level.
  • After leveling, choose from additional health, magic or stamina, along with new perks.
  • No 50-level cap, instead you advance slower as you progress.
  • 18 total skills. Mysticism and others were cut.
  • 10 total Races to choose from.
  • 5 Schools of Magic to choose from: Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion and Restoration.
  • Morrowind had 27 skills, Oblivion 21.
  • You can specialize or dabble in all skills.
  • Set 200 years after Oblivion. Dragons have returned. As Civil War rages, you must stop the Dragon God as the destined Dragonborn.
  • Developers promise combat is more “dynamic and tactical” than before. Focus was on improving combat and the feel of weapons in your hands.
  • Each hand can be assigned a function.
  • Sprinting is now possible, depletes Stamina.
  • Quests will be more dynamic and modified based on how you’ve built your character, you skills and your decisions.
  • Gameplay in the third-person viewpoint has been improved to be more natural.
  • Variation in caves and underground (hopefully underwater as well) portions have been greatly improved.
  • The game includes five “massive” cities.
  • Conversations are more realistic. No more static characters, they will look at you different, walk around as they talk, etc.
  • You can carve new weapons out of metal at a forge by weapon smithing.
  • Both hands are used in combat allowing for dual-wielding. Such using a Dagger with your left hand and a Mace in your right. This greatly varies combat.
  • You can have a Western-style Duel by challenging any NPC character to a life-or-death “Duel”.
  • A new Inheritance system means killing a shopkeeper will transfer ownership to their family. This will anger them.
  • You can still get a quest from the family of an inheritance but it will take more skill in conversing or special favors from you to get the quest.
  • The game will now include level-scaling. For better or for worse. Enemies will be matched based on your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Enchanting returns.
  • The game includes a “Radiant Storytelling” system. This means the game looks at everything you’ve done and tailors Quests based on your choices. So the game will pick a place you’ve never been based on the surrounding quests you’ve done, people you’ve talked to, where you’ve been, etc. The amount of information the game stores based on how you play is infinitely more complex this time around.
  • Fast-travel returns. Travel anywhere with a single button press.
  • Towns will have a lot more to do. Details are few, but jobs seem to include weapon tailoring, farming, cooking, mining, etc.
  • Graphics now include dynamic shadows.
  • Face models have been dramatically overhauled. Characters show more emotion and there are distinct facial differences between races. Characters look more realistic.
  • The game includes a “Radiant AI” system.
  • Water flows more naturally in the game.
  • Weather effects have been enhanced, snow falls dynamically, trees move independently in the wind.
  • Beards have been added and look natural and realistic.
  • There are randomly generated Quests.
  • You can run backwards but not as quickly as you run toward.
  • There are more open cities than before, complete with random dragon attacks.
  • Character creation has been greatly improved. Individual body features are now customizable.
  • Landscapes and dungeons will be more unique and varied than before.
  • The first-person viewpoint can be HUD free.
  • There are finishing moves. These are different based on each weapon and the enemy you are killing.

As you can see, there’s plenty to get excited about, including the return of dragons to Tamriel.

Skyrim will be released on Xbox/PS3/PC on 11 November 2011. While the console versions look very pretty, the real fun is going to be with the PC version as the Elder Scrolls community will no doubt quickly start producing modded and add-on content soon after release. I doubt my current rig will run the game that well, so it’s time to consider upgrading my hardware so that I can enjoy the game at its full settings.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is on its way… scroll on November!