I’m going to get this out the way right now: You’re going to have a major boner for this game if you’re already an Oblivion fan. It’s going to give you everything you could ever want out of the series. The swordfighting amongst Elder Scrolls aficionados in the demo room was unbelievable, and at one point I think somebody hit me in the ear.
That being said, it may actually convert a few new folks onto the series as well. It’s pretty damn bad ass.
It’s easy to want to go into excruciating detail about the lengthy demo, but we’ll get to those details in the future. For now, it’s perhaps better to explain what I saw, what I experienced, and how the demo was represented: as an escalating visual orgasm. Yeah, everything we saw was bigger and more impressive than the thing before it. So, we’ll use this handy scale I’ve developed to indicate my level of excitement along the way:
Let’s get started.
As Game Director Todd Howard begins the 30-minute demo, he notes that it takes place soon after character creation. The hero is dropped onto a path, headed down a snowy mountain peak towards a village. Todd — Can we call you Todd? Are we on a first name basis yet? Because after this demo, we think we love you. — explains to us that everything we see, even the giant mountain in the background, is accessible and streaming from the disk. There are no static background images to mask distance, just a LOT of fog. Oh, and everything looks solid, not stunningly gorgeous, but great for what you’d expect from a game that relies on quest and play hours over infinite graphical detail.
Todd moves on to show us another boner-inducing feature: dual magic-wielding. Yup, like plasmids in Bioshock, spells can be assigned to one in each hand. They can even be mixed in wild combinations, and the longer you hold the triggers (hands) the stronger the spell. Don’t like spells? You don’t have to use them. “You are what you play,” he says, indicative of the Elder Scrolls mantra of character customization based on what weapons, spells, and abilities the user finds most fitting. Since I love Bioshock, this is how I’ll be playing.
Let me step aside quickly and note that the new graphical user interface for item- and spell-management is a beautiful transparent menu system that slides out from the left and right sides. It’s very modern and sexy, and I want it in every RPG.
Okay, back to the giant mountain.
Todd is attacked by wolves and monsters on his way to the village, which means sword-swinging and shield-blocking in first person. Nothing really new here, but the sword stains with blood the more he uses it. He promptly gains a level and shows us how stat bonuses will be handled. Constellations in the sky represent different aspects of the character’s stats, and as points are earned they’re added as twinkling stars, creating custom constellations.
The game is mission-based, and the quests are dynamically created based on what the player has accomplished. Todd’s is to find a hidden treasure in a giant dungeon. As his character crouches and sneaks around the fire-lit cavern, he launches arrows and spells at faraway enemies. We see snow, rocks, waterfalls, and skeletons, and I even saw some lava, I think. It’s what you’re accustomed to finding in dungeons. Todd shows off some of the “shouts”, a new set of secondary abilities that are gained by defeating dragons. These include one called the “Whirlwind Sprint” that allows players to dash forward into… A GIANT SPIDER! The beast is huge, and the battle intense, but Todd finishes it off, taking the venom to add poison to the tip of his weapon.
After walking out of the dungeon, we come across something that blows my mind: giant mammoths being herded by giant giants with giant feet! OMG GIANTS! THERE ARE SO MANY! AND THEY’RE HERDING MAMMOTHS! They take up the entire screen, and the level of detail is astonishing. Docile at first, they quickly panic and attack as Todd nips one of the mammoths in the foot. He polished them off quickly, which is a bummer because they were great to watch.
In the final part of the demo, we emerge in front of a temple, battling a few soldiers. Suddenly, a ginormous dragon drops from the sky, plucking one of the soldiers and ripping them apart mid-air. The dragon is highly-detailed, and just as angry. This sets off a battle between everyone and everything, until an EVEN BIGGER DRAGON ARRIVES!
Yes, holy shit. That’s a MASSIVE dragon! We’re told that it’s a Dragon Wizard, and that a Dragon Shout is earned by defeating it.
MEGABONER. SO MANY BONERZ.
The demo then ends, the light comes up, and the Bethesda staff members bring in towels and mops to clean up after us.
So many boners, you guys. So many!
Skyrim has missed it’s initial release date, which was supposed to be “in my Xbox 360 already” and will now arrive in November. I’ll have to get a bigger XBox by then to fit in all the giants and boners.