Skyrim preview: We stumble upon the secret of Pinewatch Sanctuary

An amazing incidental tale in a beautiful yet deadly land

Doesn't Draugr play for Chelsea?

I proceed through the caves, deeper into the bandits' hideout. Along the way, I pass a locked door and then later, several desiccated human-looking corpses of 'Draugr' - pronounced 'drogger' - who have ancient weapons concealed about their icky persons. Later in my time with the game, I meet some of these very much alive, but still dead-looking. A loading screen informs me they are believed to be ancient soldiers, cursed into an eternity of living as punishment for swearing allegiance to the dragons. Awesome.

Above: This Draugr has a particularly nice hat. Kill him and it could be yours. Imagine that

But for now, they're just dead things full of loot, which I take. I soon happen upon my first really difficult encounter - a girl with ice magic. As she throw torrents of ice shards in my direction (in a fashion not dissimilar to my own fire spell), wayward shots leave icicles on the crates around the room.

Several deaths later, I continue onwards. There's a locked chest which gives me my first taste of the new lockpicking system (more like Fallout's than Oblivion, as Mikel mentioned). It's hard, but once you've got the knack, it's definitely doable, though it is hard to remember to breathe when you're doing it.

Are we there yet?

By this point, I'm wondering how much further the caverns go. But I end up in a room with a big wooden screen in one side and some shelves with potions on. As I'm stealing the potions, I hear someone stirring behind the screen, where (as I later discover) there is a bed. This is the bedroom of 'Rigel Strong Arm' – a fierce woman with a big shield and a good line in battle taunts.

She doesn't have any magic, but she's a fierce fighter and, despite the potions, I'm the subject of many cutaway impalement death scenes on her sword. Eventually I face her with her own tactics of a big shield and one-handed sword. Beating her has taken a good 20 minutes and I start to fear that I'm wasting my precious time with the game.

Above: I could be out exploring this, yet I'm getting repeatedly killed by a girl in a cave

But finally, success! After a particularly powerful parry with my shield, she grunts with pain and stumbles, allowing one final smite across her back to finish her off. About her person are two keys, the Pinewatch key and the Pinewatch Treasure Room key. No wonder she was so tough – this was the 'boss' of the dungeon!

But it doesn't end there. I move on, into what can only be described as an Indiana Jones film set. Countless traps line the corridors, triggered by panels in the floor that you can admittedly clearly see once you know what to look for, but easily catch you out until you do.

Call him Dr Jones, Doll

At one point, what looks like a thousand blow darts fly from the walls all at once, whistling past my nose. Another trap has me physically dodge in my seat and exclaim 'aagh!' as I open a door and a spiked ball on a chain swings towards the camera. I'm completely engrossed in the game, possibly helped by the large screen and headphones. This is getting too dangerous, but the treasure must be near now.

It is. Finally, I enter a room with a large table, absolutely covered in wondrous treasure, There are ingots and sapphires lying amidst individually-rendered (and collectable) gold coins. I am, quite literally, rich. I ask the PR rep if I can take a photo to show you, but the answer is sadly no. But just imagine a table laden with treasure – that's what it looked like.

Above: No photos, so here's a picture of a city. You can walk behind those waterfalls - I did

But gold is only gold. And as I finish clearing the table into my inventory, I discover my biggest prize of all - an item called 'Necklace of Waterbreathing'. I've found an enchanted item that allows me to breathe underwater, indefinitely. Woot once more... until I remember my Argonian can breathe underwater anyway. OK, let's revert to "I'm rich!"

I head through the last door with the Pinewatch key (it's the door I passed earlier on) and make my way out of the hideout and into the moonlit woodland. Where now? The whole of Skyrim lies before me. I've beaten just one of its hundreds of incidental quests, and I'm in love. This game is amazing.

Above: WANT!

17 Oct, 2011

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The longest-serving GR+ staffer, I was here when all this was just fields. I'm currently Reviews Editor but still find time to speedrun Sonic levels and make daft Photoshop articles.
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