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Skyrim: Essential Info

Skyrim: Essential Info

We’ve put our review up but there was a lot of stuff we wanted to talk about but didn’t have the room to. So here’s the longer, more detailed rundown that should answer any questions you have about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s spoiler free too, so don’t worry about ruining anything for yourself.

THE STORY

Skyrim is set 200 years after Oblivion and despite some references which were present in that game – Tiber Septim, the Blades, Dragonfires – there’s no need to have played Oblivion to understand what’s going on.

The story, roughly, is that you’re inadvertedly saved from execution by a dragon attack and it soon transpires that you are a Dragonborn. How the story plays out beyond that would be ruining it for you but all you need to know are the missions span the entire world and as much variety in gameplay – combat, stealth, traps, escort, theft – as the engine can handle. Bethesda also uses the slightly more linear nature of the story as the anchor for some great set-pieces.

And don’t worry about the escort mission. We know everyone hates them but it seems that for the bigger escort missions in Skyrim, your side-kick can’t die. Instead, they kneel down exhausted for about 15 seconds when they run out of health. It’s only when escorting someone is optional that they can die. As we found out when our boney prisoner pointed the way out of a claustrophobic side-quest dungeon, ran off to fight a frost troll and his limp body flew past us seconds later. Whoops.

THE WORLD

Doing a East-to-West voyage across Skyrim to relay the size of the world is made more complicated by random encounters (obviously) but also by the enormous mountains plonked in the middle of the map. There are paths cut through these mountains but it’s not immediately obvious which is the fastest route through or even if there are shortcuts available by jumping around and over rocks. The map itself feels slightly smaller than Oblivion but would probably take longer to cross due to those mountains. All in all, it would probably take between one and two hours to cross.

Oblivion sometimes felt like flatland that had been pinched and tweaked by the developers – you could almost see where the cursors had pulled the land into different shapes for the sake of keeping things interesting. Skyrim feels far more coherent and believable as a world. Waterfalls, winding passages up mountains, cliffs, rivers, ravines… the obstacles feel natural and interesting, not created by human hand.

Similar to Oblivion, you’ll have icons appear on your compass when you approach them, and you can tell if you’ve already visited those areas or not by whether they’re filled in. There will inevitably be a lot of talk in reviews about how you can spot forts, castles, huts, etc. which tempt you to explore but honestly, the bumpy geography of the land obscures your vision a lot of the time and the compass spots areas of interest way before your eyes do. Still, it’s a convenient way of ensuring you don’t miss anything.

Random encounters still happen out in the wild and while enemies do get harder as you level up – you’re more likely to run into bears and frost trolls as your level increases – you still have plenty of ‘safe havens’ near and around towns. As a general rule of thumb, the higher up you go in Skyrim, the more likely you are to run into something dangerous. It’s also worth noting that dragons are random encounters too, with ominous shadows, pad rumbling and loud roars letting you know that there’s one circling overhead and about to breath fire your way if you haven’t paid too much attention.

COMBAT

For Play’s review, I played pretty much exclusively as a Khajiit archer. We had two other people in our office playing at the same time who I was talking to a lot during the days we were reviewing it. One was playing as a walking tank with two-handed weapons, the other was playing with spell-casting in one hand and a mace in the other.

The reason I say ‘pretty much exclusively’ is I tried playing as an archer whenever possible but it’s tough work until around level 8-10. Your Archery skills won’t be high enough to kill enemies outright nor will your Sneak skill be high enough to stay hidden after your first shot. As a result, and despite the new archer melee attack, I was falling back to a spell/mace combo whenever the enemy got too close but eventually, you unlock enough perks on the Archery side – Eagle Eye (allowing you to zoom in), Steady Hand (slowing down time when zoomed in) – and a x3 damage boost to Sneak Attacks with bows on the stealth side that it becomes a viable choice.

The AI is also much improved. I tried playing as an archer in Oblivion but when you hit something with an arrow, regardless of how far away you were, the enemy would have a telepathic lock on your position. Now they search around for you, looking in the location the arrow was fired from (maybe the arrow sound gives you away?). It makes playing as an archer viable and even a little overpowered from level 25 onwards. It’s possible to clear out caves, forts and the like without ever having been spotted, as long as you take your time.

Weapons and armour no longer degrade through use. That means if you have a favourite weapon and armour set-up, you don’t have to keep checking back to see what their condition and, more importantly, you don’t need to carry back-up weapons or armour with you should they degrade. You can improve weapons using a blacksmith’s forge, if you have the raw materials and Smithing skill to do so. The blacksmith’s role is now relegated to that of merchant and someone who can teach you further Smithing skill at a cost.

Otherwise, other combat nuances and additions to note – there are finishing animations with a slow-mo effect (think Fallout: New Vegas) if you’re a close range melee fighter, such as running your sword through your opponent, though I’m not entirely sure what triggers this. ‘Duels’ have been mentioned as a new feature but this amounts to sanctioned unarmed combat in town with 100 gold as the reward and isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.

LEVELLING UP

In Oblivion, you could cheat the levelling up system by spamming spells which didn’t need a target. For example, you could easily build Illusion by spamming Light throughout the game, even when you’re in towns or wandering through the world. This saw Illusion rocket and if it was one of your major skills, your level rocket alongside it (you could do the same with Acrobatics by jumping everywhere).

This problem has been solved in Skyrim because building non-target skills is a much slower process. For target skills which require an enemy to be hit, such as Destruction, levels still build quite quickly because they have the obvious limit of there needing to be an enemy. Spamming illusion or conjuration spells is a much slower process. Perhaps too slow but it’s hard to say without having gone down that route myself.

The need to sleep to level up plus the major/minor skills aspects have both been removed, so the actual leveling up itself is much easier. You can choose when to level up and it completely restores your health, stamina and magicka, so you could in theory use it as a last-minute health boost if you level up during a fight.

GLITCHES

(Note: This was written based on a week’s worth of pre-patch gameplay. A patch for Skyrim went live on Tuesday evening and we haven’t yet seen how this affects the following, if at all.)

One concern with Skyrim was how glitchy it would be. While it’s impossible to predict how well the world will hold up for the millions of players who will tackle Skyrim in millions of ways, we can confidently say two things: glitches are present but it’s not nearly as glitchy as Oblivion, and certainly nowhere near as glitchy as the Fallout games.

The main glitches are superficial ones, where you can see ‘through’ rocks, some parts of the floor and so on. We’ve come across over 10 instances of this and while it’s nothing that even comes close to breaking the game, they pop up often enough that it’s worth mentioning. We’ve never noticed these visual glitches in any of the busy towns or high traffic areas that players are likely to pound over and over again, more in the less travelled areas such as the rocky outbacks.

One persistent glitch, if you can call it that, of Oblivion and Fallout has been how you can pick up an item from a cupboard or shelves and every other item will float up slightly. Never understood what caused this to happen but whatever it was, whether by way of new engine or ruthless Q&A, it’s been stomped out of Skyrim. However, Oblivion and Fallout also suffered from a rare glitch where re-entering a room with dead creatures/guards will cause them to spawn, so it looks like they’re falling out of the sky. That still happens in Skyrim.

OTHER STUFF

– Alchemy is no longer done ‘out in the field’ with a mortar and pestle but at specialised alchemy tables found around Skyrim. Each major town has at least one and you often find them out and about too (in Necromancer forts, for example). Enchanting items also needs an enchanting table.

– Unarmed is no longer a combat ‘skill’ which can be levelled up. This makes unarmed a fairly pointless choice although it’s worth noting that you can assign one hand to spell-casting and the other can be used for unarmed combat. The Khajiit also have a special claw attack when unarmed.

– You should know by now that dragons talk to you. This news was met with guffawing but honestly, the moment you have your first, proper conversation with a dragon isn’t cheesy or out of place at all. It fits in and the brilliant delivery of the lines and dialogue makes it one of the standout moments in the story.

– Food can now be cooked although the health benefits are minimal. You’ll need salt to cook most food in Skyrim, so remember not to use any when mixing potions if you plan on cooking.

– When fighting guards, you’ll hear lines of dialogue specific to you. Playing as a Khajiit, we heard “you’ll make a fine fur, cat!” and the like.

– Stealth is represented by an eye on the cursor which opens and closes as you’re crouched. When fully closed, you’re hidden. When slightly open, guards are investigating. When half-open, guards are actively searching for you. When fully open, you’ve been spotted. The eye will slowly close when you stay out of view and when the word HIDDEN appears over the reticle, their patrol routes will reset.

– Marriage is in Skyrim but it’s not a key feature as it is with Fable. To marry, you need to get the Amulet of Mara from Riften (only 200 gold but Riften is waaaay off the beaten path) and that unlocks new dialogue with certain NPCs only. We haven’t gotten married in game yet.

YOUR QUESTIONS

Conor Garratt (via Facebook)

How many varieties of cheese are there, and is it possible to make a four cheeses pizza? How long does the main story last? Can I play as a generic space marine?

There are two varieties of cheese – eidar cheese and goat cheese. Both cheeses are available in wheels or wedges. A full wheel of cheese will have a weight of 2 and value of 4. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a four cheese pizza pizza as they are only two cheeses available and you can’t make a two cheese pizza because there is no dough in Skyrim. Sorry. However, goats cheese goes well with alto wine while eidar cheese goes particularly well with a nice Nord mead, especially if it’s been chilled slightly in a Frost Troll cave. Perhaps share your meal with the Frost Troll! They love mead (not sure about cheese though).

No idea how long the main story is, mostly because there are so many distractions along the way that you have to factor into your own playing time. The official word from Bethesda is that the main quest takes 30-50 hours. We reckon that’s a little generous – it’s probably around 25-30 if you don’t have burger hands and consider yourself to be fairly competent at games. But as for side-quests and general exploration, it’ll easily be over 100 hours. Easy.

You can’t play as a generic space marine.

Alex Martyn (via Facebook)

Exactly how did they get the frame rate so smooth with so many objects? Is it a lot of badly drawn polygons?

No idea how it works. Technically, it’s one of the most impressive games on PlayStation3, it really makes a mockery of the excuses people made for Oblivion. However, it does start to look fugly when you start to examine everything close up – blurry textures are the main culprit. It’s nothing hideous and only there if you closely look at it but we’d be lying if we said we don’t know where concessions were made.

Dan Lamb (via Facebook)

Is there a lot of ‘courting’ involved b4 u can marry someone? Because if theres a trophy for getting married it’ll have to be done otherwise i’m sure i wouldn’t have bothered??

Haven’t gone through with marriage but conversation works on a far more black and white level than something like Fable or even Oblivion, where you have to ‘build’ your relationship. You influence NPCs through conversation by admiring, mocking, intimidating or brawling. Increasing your speech skill will probably be done with buying/selling goods rather than NPC influence – we’ve been building our speech level mostly through selling. So we’re guessing marriage is something along those lines. Hopefully not intimidating your partner into marriage. Because, you know. Just no.

Justin Kittle (via Facebook)

TELL ME RIGHT NOW IF:
1. There are ducks in Skyrim.
2. Argonians can still have fins on their head instead of just horns.
3. Those horns on the Argonian’s neck’s are necessary.

No ducks but there are chickens in villages and you can kill them, if no-one’s looking. Argonians can still have fins on their head instead of horns. Not sure about the third question.

Richard Miller (via Facebook)

Is the main plot any good? am i gonna get lost ?

Yes it is and no you won’t. You can call up the map and click on an area you’ve visited before to fast travel back there. Once you’ve explored a bit, fast travel is probably your main way of getting around the game (though we do know someone who managed to complete Oblivion without ever finding the fast travel option… oh dear).

@WickoGUY (via Twitter)

are there werewolves in it?

Yes. Not a massive spoiler because you see one on the loading screen and they were confirmed anyway but we also know about how they’re – and ultimately you – get caught up with werewolves in Skyrim. We’re saying no more on the matter. Have a proper root around in Dragonreach.

@paul_bowler (via Twitter)

Can you tame a Dragon, keep it as pet & fly around on it?

No. Cleaning up after them would put that mammoth turd in Jurassic Park to shame.

@AlexTiff (via Twitter)

can you make your own swords/weapons in sky rim?

Yes. You can make really basic weapons and armour to start with. Improving your Smithing means you can make Elven, Daedric, etc weapons and armour. You can also enchant them with special properties (damage enemy’s stamina, Shock damage, Soul Trap, etc) so you could create a magical weapon from scratch, if you have the resources and appropriate skill.

@zainmotalif (via Twitter)

how’s the plot this time round?

The plot isn’t any better or worse than what we remember from Oblivion but the gameplay that goes along with it is far better, if only because you’re not closing Oblivion gates this time (which, everyone seems to forget, was really tedious).

@AaronTehCreator (via Twitter)

can you costumize cat color? i want natural cat color not Kellogs Tiger one !

You can costumise Khajiit colour, and the colour of any race you play as. Not extensively but enough that you won’t be playing as Tony the Tiger.

@Protag22 (via Twitter)

Is there a chance i will die of malnutrition while playing? Is there Glass Armour in it?

Yes and yes.

@Stuart__OConnor (via Twitter)

IS Skyrim a game for RPG newbies like myself? I usually play shooters or sports titles but Skyrim has got me interested.

It’s definitely more accessible than something like Dark Souls and although it does suffer from a slow opening (on rails tutorial plus fairly bland opening area), it’s a game that differs from Dark Souls in that the pace is far more gentle and the whole experience is more languid and tranquil. So we’d say this is the best action RPG for a newbie to get into, just because the pace is far more comfortable.

@PsychoboyUK (via Twitter)

with Skyrim completed, What is your fave BIG open world game?? Cant be elder scrolls games 😛

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

@dannymanning87 (via Twitter)

simple question, should I book a week off work for its release??

Definitely.

@JamieTarren (via Twitter)

Can I have a family with anyone in a village? Even the blacksmith?

You can only marry certain NPCs so no, not the blacksmith. We won’t ask why you want to marry the blacksmith though. We don’t judge people here on Play. OPEN-MINDEDNESS AND THAT. You can’t have children though, with any NPC.

@XperiaHusky (via Twitter)

Is it worth playing if I never finished oblivion?

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. YES.




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  • Conor

    Thanks for answering my werewolve question! 🙂 I cant wait to get to dragonreach! My Dovahkhin is gonna be the biggest badass Werewolf Nord Ever!!!

  • Joe

    Do dungeon’s creatures/loot respawn like in Oblivion?

  • Ryan King

    I’ve only noticed creatures respawning in one dungeon so far but I don’t know what triggered it (ie: how much time elapsed, if it was only that dungeon, if it was because I didn’t fully clear it, etc)

    Loot doesn’t seem to respawn. Only place I’ve noticed it respawning is in front of the Greybeard temple (which fits in with the world, people delivering good to them and leaving them by the front door. You’ll see.)

  • Conor

    I read this review and my character is excactly like yours! Well, i use duel daggers sometimes, but im trying really hard to be a ninja khajiit werewolf

  • Joe

    *sadface*
    Thanks for the answer though.

  • Jerry

    How do I fix the glitch where my right hand is “slow mo:ish” whenever I dual wield?

  • mick

    has anyone had this problem yet the quest is called rebels cairn: the legend of red eagle well ive completed
    the quest not once but 3 times know and it gives you the quest to do every time you pick up the book and also i tried putting the sword in my house for safe keeping and guess what it started the quest again why is it doing this