You’ve got to hand it to Kinect: It’s nice to finally know that yelling at the television while playing games is finally good for something.
Microsoft’s peculiar little array of cameras and microphones that allows for hands-free play has had a contentious relationship with traditional action games, but voice commands have proven themselves to be an effective hook. Mass Effect 3 utilized them for simple conversation and battle commands to decent effect. The functionality worked but it didn’t exactly make you feel like the badass Commander Shepard you might have been. Bethesda is ready to try its own method of using Kinect to inspire badness. As promised, Kinect voice commands came to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Monday.
The company announced on Monday via its official blog that it has patched Kinect support into the Xbox 360 version of Skyrim and the number of voice commands available in the game is surprising. Shouts are a natural focus, with both English and dragon language versions of commands, so you can terrify your family or roommates by yelling either “FUS RO DAH!” or “Unrelenting force!” Of course we all know which of these is awesomer.
Shouts are just the tip of the iceberg though, with every branch of Skyrim’s complex menu system represented by voice commands. Favorite weapons and armor can be accessed with new hotkey commands. Just say “sword” and your favorited sword will be equipped, provided you access the favorites menu in the game first. The same goes for bartering options with merchants, commanding companions, or organizing containers like chests and bookshelves. A complete list can be viewed online here.
That you need to access the menus for each of these tasks and inventories first is a necessary evil of the way Skyrim was constructed. Needing to say “Quick Items” to bring up the item menu before speaking the name of the item you want to use is clunky, but necessary, at least at this point. Skyrim was a game built for a controller, not a microphone.
Bethesda’s deep Kinect implementation is encouraging though. Elder Scrolls’ creators have already figured out how to adapt their old modes of play to a microphone, which means they’re deep in the process of experimenting with how to use voice in a more natural, convincing way. Just imagine: The Elder Scrolls VI for Xbox 720/Durango where you don’t need to access menus at all, the game is just built to intelligently know what item, weapon, or command you’re asking for. That was the promise of Kinect when the technology debuted in 2009, and Bethesda’s work is an early march toward that promise.