The first in-game footage of Skyrim is out, and we have watched it several times at the loudest possible volume. It’s extraordinarily exciting. It’s also very fast, once it picks up, and crammed with interesting details it’s easy to miss. Here’s our analysis and thoughts on every shot. Except the stone mural stuff, we feel chaotic neutral about that.
First, watch the trailer here:
And now, our take:
IT’S A FOREST WE’RE RUNNING THROUGH A FOREST OH MY GOD. Once the initial nerdgasm of seeing Skyrim in action is over, a thought occurs: is that scrambling, bouncy-camera gait how we actually run in the game? I don’t think so: the rest of these sequences all look custom-animated, even though they depict something that does happen in the game.
Shortly after the trailer went up, Nick Breckon of Bethesda clarified on Twitter: “Glad people got to finally see some Skyrim animation in this trailer. All that dragon stuff actually happens dynamically in-game.”
Exclaimation mark! Jesus, look at that forest. In some ways a very frosty world is less appealing than Oblivion’s lush greenery or Morrowind’s otherworldly giant mushrooms, but now we know Skyrim’s craggy geography makes its views properly majestic. This one is basically royalty.
Oh. I see. We play a dork. I’m sort of torn between being pleased with the obviously superior character modeling and thinking wow, you’re pairing that with that? Some sleeves would kill you?
Oh man, that’s a nice forest. Notice the head of an ancient stone statue overgrown with moss. Bethesda have talked a lot about working the history of Skyrim into the environment – it’s an ancient place and they want it to show.
Lovely atmosphere to the towns at night. That building in the background seems to be a temple: I’ll be interested to learn if the Nords have their own religion. One of the more geekily involving things about Morrowind was the clash between the local Dunmer Tribunal religion and the Imperial Cult of the occupying forces – you could join either and serve them to spread the good word.
WOODWORKING: HELL YES. These humdrum activities you see the locals engaging in are apparently things you can do yourself as the player, as part of a crafting system. I look forward to completely ignoring my destiny and grinding the bejesus out of these for optimal carpentry points.
More importantly: horses – best of all the animals – are back. Bethesda were staying tight lipped about mounts: Todd Howard wouldn’t confirm if they were in, and was very critical of them in Oblivion on a Bethesda podcast. But this is pretty much proof: it’s very hard to believe they’d show us horses and not let us ride them.
Easy to miss when it’s moving, but as that shot pans out you can see a misty little harbour beyond the rock arch. It’s a beautiful bit of scenery – I can’t think of many natural formations in the other Elder Scrolls games that were this memorable.
I’m sorry, I know it’s not cool to get excited about a waterfall, but look at that waterfall. You could go white water rafting on that bastard. Lots of games are good at capturing the beauty of nature, but not many get its raw power. I love that this feels like a huge, wild, raw country.
Confirmed: people do look better, and walk a bit more naturally. There seems to be more emphasis on how these settlements actually work: earlier we saw a windmill’s inner workings, and this town has a water mill.
Hurr durr I’m a dragon. Sorry, dragon, that’s not fair, I’ve paused you at an awkward moment. I’m sure you’re very intelligent.
A shaggy three-eyed cave troll, but more importantly, a spell in one hand and a sword in the other. I like how the spell pose is a nervous sort of, “Oh, actually, excuse me, would you mind if I cast a spell now?” gesture.
In Skyrim, I will cut a man’s throat while a dude plays a pimped out lute. That will be my Main Quest. Sneaky backstabbing attacks like this are part of the custom-animated finishing moves system: you get them when you land the final blow in normal combat too, and they’re unique to the weapon used and the enemy killed.
For example: DONK. This kill pretty much explains why they’ve gone to the trouble of making this system: it’s a hell of a blow, and it feels like it. Oblivion’s enemies never really had much reaction to your hits except a generic stagger or ragdoll.
“Why would you shield me in the tongue? Whyyy?”
It’s cool that you can use a wand in one hand and a weapon in the other, and this is a lovely cave, but I have to ask: what are you shooting at? There’s nothing there.
Mixed dual-wielding in action. Bethesda have said they’ve worked a lot on improving the third person camera. I’m not hugely excited about that since I never used it in Oblivion, but then the reason I didn’t use it in Oblivion was that it kind of sucked. I’m assuming this is a custom camera angle on this spinny slashy dual-wielding guy, though.
The atmosphere of this dungeon, crawling with zombies in the dark, is really nice. I hope it’s not staged for this trailer. Also, this spell:
Is the kind of spell I want to be casting. I’m guessing it’s not an Apprentice one.
There was some debate in the office about what exactly our hero hoped to achieve with this slash.
These are Ice Wraiths, seen in previous shots such as pretty much this one. Todd Howard claims they’re very scary, but personally I find non-corporeal enemies rather unengaging and awkward to fight. Where are you going to stab that?
One of those rare cases where it’s cruel not to show a dog being shot – archery’s apparently much more powerful than in Oblivion, inspired by the mods for that game that beefed it up. If I can’t kill a dog in one arrow, I’m not shooting any arrows into dogs. And no-one wants that.
We’ve seen spell-and-sword, now we get to see spell-and-spell. Using the same spell in both hands lets you unleash a more powerful version of it, and this is the two-handed version of some kind of fire spell. Perhaps ‘Fire’.
Yes yes, another brutal finishing move, people probably care about that, but I don’t because I’ve just seen Nirnroot. Nirnroot confirmed! These conspicuous little plants were Oblivion’s token collectible item. You could take them to a guy who’d brew a mediocre potion out of them for you. Now that I write it down, I’m not sure why I’m so excited to see them return.
The cool thing about this fight with a giant spider is that your blow actually knocks him back. What with dragons and giants elsewhere, Skyrim has a hefty dose of fighting big things. If they can make that feel right, they’ll be one of very few games to pull it off.
We don’t get to see anything happen in this scene, but it shows us some of the variety in dungeons. Most of the many we’ve seen in this trailer are noticibly different, and this one has an ornate steamworks feel that suggest it might be Dwemer. Dwemer are the Elder Scrolls’ series dwarfs – if you haven’t heard of them, it’s because they died out long ago. Mostly. Hardcore Morrowind players know otherwise.
OK, our hero looks a bit less of a dork here. Even through his helmet you can see how much better the faces are: this guy has an expression! An actual expression!
Kill a dragon, get its soul. Acquiring souls has been a theme in the Elder Scrolls: you have to kill things and capture their souls to enchant items in earlier games. Dragon souls are special, and absorbing them is a unique ability of the Dragonborn. Getting a dragon’s soul allows you to learn its shout, but you’ll still have to find the actual words written in Dragontongue on ancient murals around Skyrim. Seeing the stuff actually enshround you, I am now expecting Lady Gaga to show up to something wearing only a dragon soul.
But that’s not the climax of the trailer – this is. Cor. When they said Skyrim was mountainous, I thought “Pft. Oblivion had mountains.” Apparently it didn’t. Apparently this is what mountains actually look like, and they give Skyrim a really exciting feel I wasn’t expecting.
I am now officially excited.