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Elder Scrolls Skyrim preview: A world you can sink your sword into

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For awhile now, the game publisher has been talking about the size of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and comparing it to the last Elder Scrolls adventure, Oblivion. In actuality, the size of the virtual worlds are the same, but with the mountain region of the new game, the way players will navigate the world will take longer (Oblivion offered flatter terrain for more direct routes). But Skyrim has been designed to offer a larger adventure to gamers in a scope that goes beyond square miles.

Skyrim will offer more dense quests for players to explore through its new Radiant Story System. This technology will serve up random encounters, quests and towns depending on each player’s actions in the game and where they are. It should ensure that players will have a very different experience when playing the game, and offer up replay value for those who want to journey back to Skyrim.

No more dead ends

Those who played Oblivion may have, on numerous occasions, tired of a quest because the game literally broke the adventure. With so many quests built into that game, once in awhile a quest would require the player to vanquish the very person who sent them on the adventure, thus breaking the chain of the quest. That will never happen in Skyrim.

In Skyrim, the new dynamic system will ensure that even if a merchant originates a quest, which later develops into an adventure from the Dark Brotherhood to kill said merchant, other virtual characters will take over the quest-giver role. It could be a relative or a spouse that steps in so that players can seamlessly finish the quest, rather than being left high and dry after a lot of time invested in that particular journey. The ability to talk to NPCs while looking around and taking in your surroundings further envelopes the player within this universe.

This new mechanic should encourage more gamers to engage in more quests. And Skyrim will come packed with them. In fact, that’s partly where the size and scope of the new game comes to play. While getting from point A to point B might take a little bit longer because of the landscape, the developer is also enticing players to experience engaging side quests that should take up a lot of time.

Deeper dungeons, deeper customization

There’s also the matter of dungeons. In Oblivion, dungeons were there for those who wanted to grab some loot, but they didn’t offer engagement. Part of the reason was that artists created the dungeons in Oblivion. But for Skyrim, each dungeon is being designed by level designers. The end result should be unique experiences complete with back stories that the team hopes will encourage more players to spend yet more time underground, exploring for more than just loot.

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One thing you can find in dungeons is ore, which can be used to create custom weapons from scratch. The open world nature of Skyrim is also likely going to make players lose track of time. Bethesda has showed off the depth of this world, which includes the ability to go off and become a specialist in any number of jobs. At E3, Bethesda showed off Riverwood, where players could become a logger and earn virtual currency chopping wood. At Gamescom, the developer talked about how everything in the game can be used to create weapons, potions, and other items that take on an important purpose. Getting back to that ore, players can use a pick axe to collect enough of the raw materials to create a dagger or sword – once they find a weapons forge. Kill an animal, find a tannery, and you have leather, as well as fur. There are plenty of details to play through in this massive game.

Players can specialize in 18 different skills, including one and two-handed swords, archery, enchantment, and heavy and light armor. The sky is literally the limit, as constellations serve as perk trees for each individual skill. There are over 280 perks in the game. Again, plenty to get caught up with as you explore the world.

A world waiting to be explored

Getting around Skyrim will be a little bit easier thanks to horses. Bethesda spent a lot of time creating believable animals, which opens up all-new controls that handle a lot different than the on-foot portion of the game. Shown from a third-person perspective, horses allow players to more quickly navigate this huge area.

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Built with the Creation Engine, Skyrim is really starting to show off its polish. Anywhere players look in the game world, no matter how far in the distance, is open for exploration. The game’s weather system adds more realism to the world, while the real-time shadows brings minute details to life as you explore both above ground and in the dungeons below.

Skyrim remains slated for a November 11 release date (11.11.11) on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Bethesda will also offer a $150 collector’s edition that includes a statue, art book and “making of” DVD.

Also check out our first look at Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

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