Staff Editorials

Skyrim for Dummies
Posted: 17.10.2011 17:36 by Comments: 16
So, you're sitting there at your computer - you keep hearing about how awesome Skyrim, the new Elder Scrolls game, is going to be. That's great, but the problem is you've never played an Elder Scrolls game before so you have no idea what that really means. Sure, you may or may not have played Fallout 3 and New Vegas, which everyone says was totally Oblivion with guns anyway, but you still can't really form an impression in your head when you think about this latest title.

Luckily that's where we come in. In addition to the hands-on we had at Eurogamer, we were also lucky enough to get an extended three hour long session with the game last week. It was pretty much the same as what was seen beforehand, so instead of describing what we played again, we thought we'd put this handy little guide together for anyone who still doesn't know what all the fuss is about. At this juncture, if you're a fan you probably already know everything there is to know, right?

1. IT'S HUGE - Maybe you've played the Fallout games, maybe you haven't, but both those and the Elder Scrolls games like to present the player with huge, very open worlds. Pretty much anything you can see, you can get to - unless they've designed it so that you can't (at the edge of the map, for instance). Still, this is one of the Elder Scrolls game's strengths, as it really gives you incentives to explore and see what you can find, as there's usually secrets to uncover too. We spent a fair bit of our three hours just exploring the local woodland, although we mainly just found things that kept trying to eat our face off. And a sack of potatoes.

2. YOU MIGHT GET LOST/BORED - This leads to the danger though of getting lost, in a manner of speaking. It's impossible to get literally lost, as you have a map and can set waypoints, etc... but there are only lose guidelines to propel you a long in the world, and wondering around aimlessly can get a little bit stale after a while. Make sure you keep the momentum up and stick to the path when you feel yourself flagging, so you can find yourself a quest to complete.

3. YOU CAN LITERALLY DO WHATEVER THE $%& YOU WANT - But that's the great thing about games using Bethesda's Creation Engine (and before that, Gamebryo) - it really does live up to the ideal of an 'open world' game. Not only does the world design let you explore, wonder about etc... but you can interact with the people in that world almost anyway you choose. Obviously, inherently evil people will try to kill you, so all you can do is kill them first, but the various NPC's around the world of Skyrim can either be talked too like human beings, or slaughtered like animals. It was getting to the end of our play-through, and we knew we didn't have the time to start another quest, so we simply killed everyone in the village instead. Good times. This has fundemental affects on the rest of the game though, so it's not recommended as a matter of course.

4. NEW ENGINE IS FANTASTIC BUT BEWARE - As we've mentioned, the Creation Engine has replaced Bethesda's old Gamebryo engine, which they used in Oblivion and the new Fallout games. In reality, everything kind of looks the same, just better, as it's more of an evolution than a revolution, but it's helped include things like Dragons and stuff into Skyrim, making the world that much more alive. Two things you should bear in mind though:

Firstly, given that this is a brand new engine, and Bethesda's history of having slightly... unpolished videogame releases, it's fair to say Skyrim may have a few bugs at launch. We won't know for sure until we get the final build, but Oblivion, Fallout 3 AND Fallout: New Vegas were all slightly bug-ridden at launch, and needed some extra polishing. But that was all taken care of within weeks of launch.

Secondly: technology is evolving so much now that the consoles are having a hard time keeping up. Skyrim on the 360 still looks pretty good, but it's also starting to show the age of the hardware itself. If you're planning on getting it on the PC, then that's fine, but both the 360 and the PS3 are getting on a bit now, so try to curb expectations. It's like what's happening with Battlefield 3 and the new Frostbite engine.

5. CHARACTER PROGRESSION IS VERY FLEXIBLE - There's been a trend of late to move away from fixed 'archetype' character classes, and go for more flexible DIY character progression. Skyrim is a game that follows this newer way of thinking, and it's basically up to you how your character progresses. Doing actions nets you skill points, and depending on what action you're doing will dictate where the skill points go, although they also count towards the overall skill level for your character. If you find yourself using a sword and shield a lot, your shield and one-handed skills will increase. Non-combat skills, like cooking, smithing and alchemy also have skill tress, and every time you level up, you can put a point into any eligible tree to increase that particular skill.

6. COMBAT - is good, but takes some getting used to. You can basically equip what you want to each hand (within reason), and there's a button for each hand to control attacking. Whether you want to equip two weapons, a spell and a weapon, a shield and a weapon, two spells, a bow... it's completely up to you. Attacks usually cost Stamina or Magic, and there's a bar for each which slowly replenishes unless you use a potion. Simple button mashing won't work though, you need to be tactical, move about to avoid counter blows where possible, and kill them before they kill you.

7. DRAGONS - yeah, dragons are a big thing in this game, if you haven't picked up on that already. Fighting and killing dragons nets you special Dragon Souls that you can use for other stuff like Words of Power, and are really just fun to do. Think of it like the very last episode of Angel, except you actually get to see David Boreanaz kick some scaly ass. There's also tons of other classic fantasy creatures too, but we're not allowed to talk about them yet.

8. THERE IS NO MULTIPLAYER - While it might not be something you were wondering about, even Mass Effect has tried to include multiplayer in it's latest instalment, so we thought we'd address it anyway. The Elder Scrolls franchise is one of the few purely single player franchises out there right now and there isn't even a token gesture towards multiplayer, like leaderboards or light co-op or anything like that. You're flying solo on this one.

9. INVENTORY MANAGEMENT IS A BIT ODD - This is only my personal opinion, but if you're an old school RPG fan, you may be used to a certain way of how inventory is presented, especially when it comes to equipping yourself. It's odd, because I HAVE played the Fallout games, and the system is pretty much the same there and yet it's only after having played Skyrim for a bit that it's started to bug me. It's literally just a list of items, divided by category, and you can choose to equip them or not. It can take some getting used to though, as navigation isn't naturally intuitive and there's no visual guide for where things go (although your character does update in real-time while you chop and change your gear). Not a major thing but we thought we'd highlight it anyway.

10. IT'S PROBABLY WORTH YOUR TIME AND MONEY - Assuming you're ok with what we've highlighted, we're comfortable recommending this game at this juncture. Despite the lack of an online component, there's so much potential and content in the single-player that this is one of the few games where it's hard to question whether or not you're getting value for money. Not to mention the DLC packs that have already been confirmed that are on the way (which are coming to 360 first, just FYI), you'll have plenty to keep you occupied. We'd even say this is a day-one purchase, although consider yourself for warned if it turns out to be a 'typical' Bethesda launch.

If you're like me, and have never really played an Elder Scrolls game before, we hope you found this useful. The Elder Scrolls is one of those franchises that has been growing in prominence over the years, and it's almost at a point where it could reach mainstream appeal. There's a lot of stock-fantasy elements, and this particular game is steeped in Norse Mythology, but this is definitely shaping up to be a contender for the Game of the Year 2011, so it's worth keeping an eye on. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is due out on November 11th on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.


By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Oct 17, 2011
Spelling Nazi moment.
Conrol-F "wonder about etc" and change the o to an a please. :)

Quite a good guide. I obviously don't need it since I played the living daylights out of Oblivion. I'm just worried about that new engine killing my rig...
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 18, 2011
The only good Nazi is a spelling Nazi :).
By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on Oct 18, 2011
Hahha I noticed some spelling mistakes as well, but the guide is well written. It answered some questions I had and that's the most important thing.

Anyway, I'm gonna definitely need a new rig for this one :)
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 18, 2011
I just ebayed myself a used hd6950 at a decent price, it should get here by the end of the week, the last upgrade in this cycle. I should now be at peace for the next year or so :).
By devel (SI Elite) on Oct 19, 2011
I never played an elder scrolls :s
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 19, 2011
You're missing a good series :)
If you are into RPG games you kinda owe it to yourself to at least check things out.
By devel (SI Elite) on Oct 19, 2011
I know lots from oblivion, but since knowing very much about it, kindah cuts the will too play. But Skyrim is keeping me very much interested..
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 19, 2011
I know what you mean, that's why i avoid watching game and movie trailers as much i can. All i need is some as general info as possible and the knowledge that the game is good at what it does.
But then again it's impossible to not watch a trailer or two if the game looks awesome :)
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 19, 2011
"I never played an elder scrolls :s"

Me neither - which is exactly why I wrote this guide :)
By devel (SI Elite) on Oct 19, 2011
The experience I have of the genre is Fallot, and thats in terms of RPG'ness and map hugeness ahah I gotta try this one too.. IF.. my Computer handles it. Since not even brink in Low GFX it holds down.. :(
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2011
Brink is pretty unoptomised, so you're not necessarily screwed.
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Oct 21, 2011
Same, not played Elder Scrolls or Fallout (eep!). Thanks for the geat guide!
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Oct 23, 2011
Great guide! It's something I could've used for the Witcher 2. xD
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 24, 2011
My computer couldn't handle Witcher 2 :(
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Oct 25, 2011
Mine handles high preset on 1080 only just too. :(
By Longsword (SI Core Member) on Oct 28, 2011
Been playing since Arena and have loved every Elder Scrolls game since (granted Arena was a few years old when I tried it only due to my age, haha). Needless to say, I am excited! :D