The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Preview

The Elder Scrolls series has always been about stories. Forget all the other guff; in the main quests, the quirky side-missions and even the random events, the team at Bethesda know how to spin a yarn. Or rather, they know how to let you spin your own. I spent three hours with Skyrim recently. Three hours in 2011’s biggest RPG. Three hours to tell my own story. It wasn’t nearly long enough.

Before you emerge into the world of Skyrim from the initial dungeon, you must first create a character from a choice of Races. Each boast their own skills and each has a myriad of physical traits with which to tinker. I was a female Wood Elf, adept with a bow and ugly as all sin.

Clambering into the light, high up a snowy peak I was immediately afforded views down into the craggy ravine below and out across cloud piercing mountains. It was breathtaking, spiked with dark green pine forests and dusted in a thick layer of white snow. As far as Bethesda’s trademark reveals go, this one is unmatched. Your immediate instinct is to explore.

[drop]Descending down the mountain I stumbled across a fast-running river cascading over rocks. Salmon leapt against the flow. Celtic-tinged music swelled. A trader had set up a makeshift camp on the shore, with a tiny crackling fire. But I had barely any money, so I pressed on through the thistles and bracken, following my compass to Riverwood, in search of work and adventure.

Riverwood is a small, idyllic little town down by the babbling water. Within it, I decided to spend some time with a kindly blacksmith, learning how to create and upgrade weapons and armour from raw materials, how to tan leather and such. It’s a deep, compulsive crafting system, with its own levelling component. Fun, but I had business elsewhere.

I decided to betray Sven. He was a bard courting a girl from the town shop. But he had a rival; a local archer who also fancied his chances. The archer and I had a chat by the riverside. Though I couldn’t afford his archery lessons (you level up by using your weapon, but can speed up the process with lessons), he seemed like a nice enough chap. So I took a letter from him, forged in Sven’s name, and headed for the shop. Maybe I’ll get some free lessons out of it, I thought.

Entering the store, I found the girl arguing with her brother. Some goods had been stolen by bandits and the girl was intent on getting them back. But her cowardly brother refused. Interrupting the argument, I delivered the forged letter and the girl flew into a rage. “That’s it,” she said. “I’ll never see Sven ever again, not if that’s what he truly thinks.” And just like that, poor old Sven’s chances of love were over.

With the girl seemingly happy with her decision, her action-shy brother made me an offer. Return his stolen goods and a reward would be mine. His sister would accompany me, but only to the bridge at the end of town. Beyond that, I was on my own. It was just too dangerous for her to travel further, he said. So I headed out, but not before visiting the archer to deliver the good news.

What an arsehole. Though he was pleased, he wouldn’t give me free archery lessons and my gold reward wasn’t enough to pay for them. After all I did! Screw him, I thought. I’ll have my revenge.

I took the love of his life to the end of town and called up the game’s swish menus. I assigned a bow to my right hand, accompanied by some steel arrows. I also added them – along with a dagger – to my favourites list, a new system that allows for quick weapon selection from the D-pad. Then I shot the shop girl in the face, finished her off with my dagger, looted the corpse and left her face down on the bridge in nothing but her knickers. Maybe the brother was right to be reluctant after all.

Still, at least I had my petty revenge on the archer.

[drop2]I murdered the entire village in the end, including the archer, the blacksmith, the brother and their families. Their flesh seared with a fire spell that burst from my fingers like a flamethrower. I slashed at their bodies with daggers assigned to each hand. I picked the locks of their houses and chests in much the same way as Fallout 3. Then I fled the scene, traversing mountains, dungeons and icy tundra, weighed down with the very best loot Riverwood had to offer.

My journey continued. I tried to rescue a giant who was under attack. I boggled at the frankly astounding skill trees, caught butterflies and farmed herbs. I stole horses and galloped across the rocky landscape in a squall of rain. I fought off wolves and stumbled past mammoths, scoffing stolen food and potions to survive. I never encountered a dragon.

Skyrim is ridiculously huge. Even with a three-hour play time, I couldn’t hope to even scratch the surface. This is a game that will span days and weeks and months. It’s a game to get lost in, to immerse yourself in and be devoured by. It’s fundamentally the same as Oblivion, yet the world and the systems that run beneath it are substantially improved. The hardware it runs on may be the same, but this is a generational leap.

More than anything though, this is an Elder Scrolls game, and Elder Scrolls games are about stories. Soon you’ll have the chance to make your own. Skyrim isn’t just 2011’s biggest RPG, it could just be the best ever. You should be very, very excited.


  1. Amazing preview. I’m more excited about this game than I have been about any other I’m pretty sure. It will consume so much of my time I just know it.

    Out of interest, what format did you play it on?

    • 360 would be my guess. Beth are reluctant to show Skyrim in any other format. Also, the supplied screenshots are not unique to this playthrough, they are supplied by beth, so there’s no telling which platform they’re from.

      With Skyrim less than a month away, I really need to see some direct captures from the PS3. I just don’t have the faith in a Beth product on my platform of choice after being subject to the problems in both Fallout games.

      • My worry exactly. I NEED this game to be awesome on the PS3 or it could quite easily be the most depressing thing to happen to me game related!!!

      • Yeah, very worried about this myself. I’m not sure the PS3 version even exists. Go to the official blog and search for PS3 stuff, in text or image
        s. Plenty of Xbox stuff (nearly every post). None, i.e. Zero PS3 stuff.

        Was it Microsoft’s money? Possibly. But if I worked for Bethesda on the PS3 version, I’d either be (a) at rock bottom morale for not having my hard work recognised, or (b) not not caring less about my work, both having disastrous consequences for the quality (or lack of it) of the PS3 version.

        Maybe one day amongst all this hype we might see one screenshot from the PS3 version, or just one piece of official news. But it is not looking good.

        (and, yes, I did post something similar on the last Skyrim preview. Bethesda are stressing me out. I should just cancel my preorder and be done with it.)

      • Stop scaring me, it’s not funny. I actually could cope with a buggy game like fallout. It wasn’t game breaking for me. But please let it be brilliant. Hate how Beth love the 360 so much.

      • It’s actually pretty funny, they’ve said more about the possibility of porting the game to Wii U, than they actually have said about the PS3 version, not that I care PC FTW!!!…

  2. Thank you for the tease .

  3. so you screwed the poor girl out of of a potentially loving relationship to get her with the scheming archer in the hope he’ll give you free lesson.
    when he doesn’t you then murder the girl.

    i know you have pretty much total freedom in this game, but dayum. O_O

    seriously, the game sounds bloody awesome.
    can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    if i disappear on the 11th of next month, i’m not dead, i just moved to skyrim for a few months. ^_^
    i hope you can still get jaffa cakes in skyrim.

    • I was thinking of moving to Anor Londo (or Firelink Shrine Dark Souls fame)…, but I guess Skyrim would be safer.

    • At my local shop it’s 100% free on Jaffa Cakes at the moment. Maybe you should store some in your inventory in advance.

      • Jaffa Cakes are 100% free? That’s awesome, go and get 1,000,000 free boxes and sell them for 20p each, you’d have £200,000!

      • Oops, I meant you get 100% free…when you buy a normal pack! ;)

      • Ah, 100% EXTRA free? Thought you meant they were giving out free Jaffa Cakes for a moment! I didn’t really, I was just taking the piss ;-)

      • you had me going there for a second.
        i was wondering what this magical place was where the jaffa cakes flowed like wine.

        i’m all disillusioned now :(

        and i meant to buy some from tesco this morning but i forgot. >_<

  4. OK. You’re a psycho. Seek help. :D

    • I agree, but admit it – what he did sounded like a lot of fun ;-)

    • i agree. Lee’s a crazy fucker! i’m never ever asking for his help

  5. 3 hours wasn’t enough for you? I’ve heard people have completed it in that time! ;)

  6. * is very, very excited*

  7. Skyrim is one of those games that I won’t be picking up immediately. With so much content, I’ll probs wait til the Christmas period before I put my money down.

    • Like Mass Effect, I’m gonna wait until all the DLC has come out and you can buy everything in one pack.

      • Good shout, I’ll probably do the same – much like I did with Boredomlands and Red Dead Redemption!

        I also did the same with Fallout, although I had the original game, I just picked up the GOTY edition as it worked out cheaper than the DLC from the PS Store! :)

  8. The more i hear about Skyrim, the more i want it.
    11/11/11 just can’t come quick enough for me.

  9. Just under 4 weeks to go. Wish I hadn’t read this article, because now I have been reminded that there is a game that I really want but can’t have.

    I can see myself getting drawn deeply into the crafting system. I just hope the higher level things you can create are on a par with the items already available in the game world. I’d hate to spend all that time only to find I can buy better stuff in the local shop…

    I should’ve done it like I did with Fallout 3. Metaphorically putting my fingers in my ears and going “la la la” for the better part of 6 months :/

  10. any word on its reliability? New Vegas crashed my PS3 every 20 mins, and I dont want to lay out cash on something that might be unplayable. even though it will seriously upset me not to get it!

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