Features & News

Hands On: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

September 23, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

There are few games I can completely lose myself in. A game world needs to be as rich as it is compelling, and very few developers can pull off such a demanding feat. Bethesda however, are the masters of it, and despite the unrivalled quality they’re already renowned for, with Skyrim, they’re set to deliver their true masterpiece.

I was fortunate to get a brief hands-on with one of November’s most anticipated games, and I’m here to tell you, that the word ‘masterpiece’ may be the only fair comparison I can make…

When picking a race, there was only one choice for me. I proudly brought another male Khajit (think of a walking tiger) into the world, but before taking my stripey companion into the vast unknown, I experimented a little with Skyrim’s updated character creation screen.

While Oblivion’s character creation screen offered lots of choice, Skyrim manages to raise the bar. You still have the same options from Oblivion such as complexion, distance between the eyes, scars and fur colour. In Skyrim, however, you can also add weight to your character (fat, sluggish tigers FTW!) and war paint/dirt to a character’s face. You can also adjust the height of your character, and their overall size. That’s just scratching the surface.

Winter has definitely arrived in Skyrim!

Skyrim’s character customisation certainly gives a more three-dimensional feel to your characters, bringing them to life in new and exciting ways, but it’s the world of Skyrim that will really take your breath away.

Skyrim’s world is designed to make the player pause for reflection, many, many times. Even though I knew I was on borrowed time, I couldn’t help myself. I constantly found myself pausing to look at the snow-coated trees and slopes that surrounded me, stopping to examine the mountain-tops far off in the distance, thinking about how I could get there, and what others wonders I would see from the summit. Skyrim, just like Oblivion, has this unchallenged way of inspiring thought, and making you forget you’re playing a computer game. It’s beautiful.

Most of the terrain I played in was snow-based, and with that terrain comes the type of threats and privileges one would expect. In between harvesting flowers that thrive in the cold, I found myself butting heads with winter-wolves. Combat works very well in Skyrim, but it doesn’t feel as sluggish as Oblivion. Unlike Oblivion where you could run around and catch your enemy with a sly blow now and then, the enemy actually knows how to block this time, and will adjust to your fighting style. Basically, if you’re not adopting some form of strategy in Skyrim, you’re liable to be left for dead.

Skyrim offers you many more options in combat than its predecessor. You can go in with your bare fists, or you can add a sword to your left hand, and a spell to your right. You can go in with a vintage sword and shield, or you can equip a sword in each hand. The LT will control whatever is in your left hand and RT will control whatever is in your right. I tried as many of these options as possible, and still came to the same conclusion. The game is tailor-made to suit your playing style, and works well however you decide to play.

These don't make good pets..

Naturally, though, with combat as important a game mechanic as previous Elder Scrolls games, I found myself needing to seek out aid to heal my wounds. Fortunately, I came upon a house shortly after my skirmishes, which, at first, seemed inhabited. However, after making myself at home, and noticing there was food and beverages to spare, I noticed a note pinned next to the door telling me that the treasure vault downstairs was off-limits and intruders would be executed.

That would be a warning to most people to tuck tail and go home. Problem was, I read the word treasure and my eyeballs turned into doubloons.

As I started to creep down the stairs, I heard the sounds of a half-drunken Nord who seemed to be talking to himself, though could clearly hear my thunderous footsteps stomping around in his home. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, however, he didn’t give me a chance to breathe, and came at me with an iron sword. I had no choice but to defend myself. After a tough battle, I left him in a pool of his own blood, looted his wares, and went on my merry way.


Of course, not everyone will want to fight you; in fact some people will be very nervous of you if you’re carrying a weapon while trying to talk to them. Skyrim is a World full of layers, and offers many dynamics for a gamer to consider while playing.

However, while the game seems to tease perfection, it does bring about some technical hiccups. Like Oblivion, I did notice an excessive number of loading screens. You can expect a data intensive game like Skyrim to load a lot, but it felt as if they were as lengthy as those in Oblivion. Perhaps I noticed this more because I was on borrowed time, but it didn’t make it any less frustrating.

Regardless, more exciting details seem to come out about Skyrim every week leading up to its launch, and, at the heart of it, the core gameplay seems to be absolutely intact. An expo may not be the best place to really engross yourself in something as multi-faceted and deep as Skyrim, but this brief hands-on has definitely done its job.

I now want more, and I want it more than ever…