Three Hours with Skyrim
Posted on Monday, October 17 @ 07:38:18 PST by Josh_LaddinSometimes this industry is a funny business. There I was, sitting in front of my very own monitor hooked up to my very own debug 360 with my very own pre-alpha build of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and the Bethesda devs spent 15 minutes giving me a whole laundry list of things I couldn't write about: references to anything before this point in the story, after this point in the story, little things that happen along the way, side quests, main quests, particular types of NPC's... by the time I actually got to playing, I wondered if there'd be anything at all I could actually put in this damn manifesto.
But I never should have worried. They only let us loose in Skyrim for three hours, and in that time, I maybe got a whiff of one of the embargoed items. Hell, I have doubts that I'd see any of it even if they gave me ten hours. The world was so beautiful and alive with all kinds of interesting things going on, who'd have time to do stuff like save the world?
I started by heading down a wintry mountain trail. There was vegetation poking through patches of melting snow, which I could of course pick to heal an HP or two if I needed it. The environments were gorgeous, even in a primitive pre-alpha build, providing plenty of breathtaking vistas, lively wildlife (some lively enough to attack me), and amazing water effects in the river rapids.
My first meaningful encounter was with a shack sitting out in the middle of nowhere. Being the curious lizard man that I am (Argonian, technically—thank you, character creator), I moseyed on down there to find a sweet old lady sitting on her porch. But she was a boring old lady, and would only tell me how rare and nice it was to get visitors out in the boonies instead of something useful. On top of that, none of the stuff in her shack was valuable enough to steal. So what to do? I killed her. I killed her with fire.
I went on to kill a lot of things with fire (spells were my weapon of choice), but that first fateful act stuck with me the most. Whatever it was—her anguished screams as she was engulfed by flames, her desperate attempt to attack me back with a pitiful ice spell, or the way her body just hit the porch with a thud—that the was the most visceral moment of my time with Skyrim and probably the most of any game I've played since Deus Ex.
There. I guarantee you that no matter where you look for a Skyrim preview anywhere on the internet, you won't find another one that describes a poor old woman's murder in such detail. In fact, those other websites probably won't even have a peep about elderly homicide by way of pyromania. That's what you get for coming to GR.
I hope I haven't mortified you into leaving the page already. I did go on to do bigger and better things—some of them even halfway noble. Upon finding my first town, Riverwood, I hit up the local blacksmith and immediately got my smelt on with some crafting quests to make some low level armor and weapons. Once I was better equipped, it was time to do some real adventuring.
I started with a local quest to kill a nearby bandit leader. Making my way to the bandit camp under cover of night, I blasted the guards with fire (what else?) before going into the leader's lair, which was essentially a very small mini-dungeon.
Getting through the gate to his room required lockpicking, which Skyrim does a bit differently. Instead of hitting any buttons, you only use the two analog sticks. The left stick controls, well... some kind of literal stick, while the right stick controls the actual lockpick. You want to rotate the lockpick until it "gives" easier when you also rotate the stick. The correct position for the lockpick is random on each lock, and you just kind of have to feel your way through the mini-game, inevitably breaking some picks along the way.
Anyway, the bandit leader had a lot of health, but being a simple melee guy, it was easy to play fireball tag with him by constantly back-peddling around the room and blasting him. The poor guy couldn't swing his axe fast enough to hit me before I already had moved out of range. With the bandit lord dead, I began to ride back to Riverwood but got distracted by a bigger town, Whiterun.
Ever the criminal, the first thing I did in Whiterun was get thrown in jail for trying to pick a locked door right in front of a guard. Ok, so maybe I don't have the brightest criminal mind. But maybe it was a blessing in disguise, because it turns out the jail was right next to the local Jarl's keep where I was supposed to go to advance the storyline. I promised Bethesda I'd keep my mouth shut about it, though.
The story quest sent me into the first dungeon in search of a magic book, and navigating the dungeon itself involved a little puzzle solving and a sub-quest called The Golden Claw. I could go into detail about the dungeon, and the nasty Draugh zombies inside, or I could just point you here where you can actually see the whole thing for yourself in the second video.
And that about wraps it up, cause halfway through my dungeon run (after many retries due to my bad habit of never saving), my three hours had ticked away and they kicked me out. I didn't even make it close to the point in the story where we were barred from going further, although a girl two stations down from mine managed to.
The devs said only about 10% of players have made it that far in the time allowed, but if you ask me, that's 10% too many. In my opinion, If you're blazing through the main questline of a game like Skyrim without getting distracting by every little nook and cranny, you're doing it wrong, no two ways about it.
Killing old ladies, on the other hand, is optional.
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