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Skyrim’s wolves (at least in the demo) are almost comically easy to beat. Since I already had the bow equipped, I fired a few more shots into a wolf’s head until it slumped over, giving me a chance to not only grab its pelt, but quickly steal back the arrows. That’s also when I found out I’d managed to hit the hawk after all, as its body lay right next to the wolf’s. Quickly scavenging its corpse, I pocketed a few feathers and its beak. Gross.
That left one wolf still to deal with, so I re-equipped the flamethrower-like fire spell (this time pairing it with a hand axe for variety), and shot a jet of flame into the poor creature’s face, eventually causing it to crumple mid-lunge and crash to the ground in a sad, smoldering heap.
Pleased with my wildlife-thinning exploits, I continued following the path until it led me to a huge valley, at the center of which was the towering city of Whiterun. And after exploring a few small farms on its outskirts, I came across something I’d been hoping to see: one of those caveman-looking, mammoth-herding giants, who was currently locked in combat with what appeared to be a couple of guards.
This time, I decided to lend a helping hand. Readying the bow, I took a few potshots at the giant, enraging it enough to come charging in my direction. Fortunately, this also caused it to ignore the people fighting it, and they brought it down before it ever came within striking distance. Walking up to meet my new friends, I got a lecture on how I should go and join the Companions, Skyrim’s version of the Fighter’s Guild.
Yeah, no. Time limit. Let’s go wreck some shit.
Wandering away from my new friends mid-sentence, I found a stable – which, happily, contained a horse that I immediately stole. Ignoring the stablehand’s shouts of “You can’t do that!” and nimbly dodging a few guards, I rode out into the open countryside to get a feel for my new mount.
Above: HELL YEAH I'M ON A HORSE
Some time ago, Skyrim’s director, Todd Howard, told us that Skyrim’s horses would feel more like actual horses, rather than jeeps. And while my new friend wasn’t quite as “realistic” and willful as, say, Shadow of the Colossus’ Agro, it definitely had a more organic feel than Oblivion’s mounts, putting it closer to how horses handle in Red Dead Redemption or Assassin’s Creed. They’re pretty easy to control and fun to ride, but sadly, they’re not any better at climbing.
Not that I had much of a chance to try and force them up the slopes. Riding out a little further, I came upon a blazing farmhouse that appeared to have been set on fire by another one of those bone-wielding giants (at least, he was busy smashing things while the place burned, so it was easy to lay blame). Feeling suddenly vengeful, I rode straight at him – at which point he killed my horse with one blow, knocking me to the ground. Undeterred, I tried to run up and cut him down – at which point he brought his massive femur-club crashing down on my orc’s head, instantly killing him.
OK, so that was a bad idea. Restarting from the path where I’d killed the wolves, I retraced my steps and, this time, crouched in the brush a safe distance from the giant (who had a friend with him this time). Unseen, I notched an arrow and let fly at the giant’s head, scoring a direct hit. Unfortunately, this also tipped the giant off to my position, and as he and his friend charged, I backpedaled furiously, sinking at least five more arrows into the giant’s flesh as I ran.
It didn’t do any good, though, and after the club came down again, I found myself back on the mountain path. Clearly, these giants were Skyrim’s equivalent of Fallout’s Deathclaws, in that I wasn’t meant to take them on just yet.
Heading back one more time (but in a slightly different direction), I chose instead to enter a small, log-fenced fort occupied by a few bandits, who did a pretty good job attacking as a team but were nonetheless easy to put down. As any decent player would, I stripped everything from their corpses, regardless of value, and experimentally hit buttons to see if one would “grab” their bodies and allow me to drag them around. Sure enough, the feature’s still there, and I spent a good two minutes laboriously dragging the bandits’ loincloth-clad bodies to the center of the fort and attempting to pose them in a sexually suggestive pile.
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