Mindful of the PR handlers (who I imagined were watching me
with concealed disgust at this point), I abandoned my ghoulish fun and ducked
inside a nearby cave, charged the unsuspecting bandit within and immediately
heard a deep rumble from behind me. Assuming the entrance had been blocked off,
I put down the bandit and turned to see that I’d actually triggered a trap,
which had dropped a pile of boulders from the ceiling. Fortunately, I’d been
too quick to get caught in it, and after ransacking the place for more
treasure, I left, accidentally caught the attention of some other giants, and met
with predictable results.
Breathing a heavy sigh, I set off in the opposite direction
and attempted to scale the mountains near Riverwood. I had limited success, at
one point stumbling onto a tower inhabited by a few Nord bandits, who made a
point of yelling something about Skyrim belonging to the Nords. (Clearly, they
didn’t think orcs should be allowed to just wander through their mountains, stealing
things and killing indiscriminately. Racists.) Their anti-orc sentiments did nothing to stop
them from being hacked to death, though. Just to see what it was like, I
tackled this fight with a sword in my orc’s left hand, and a small axe in his
right. Not only was I able to attack twice as often, but holding down both
triggers let me unleash a devastating cross-slash that probably would have
decapitated my foes if there’d been dismemberment.
During the fight, I also tried switching between first- and
third-person perspectives. It turns out that this time around, fighting in
third-person actually feels a little different; where Oblivion’s third-person
view was a clumsy novelty during combat, here the action’s adjusted to feel a
little more like a hack-and-slasher, with more useful camera angles and
occasional slow-motion kill moves, just for the hell of it.
Once I’d looted their corpses and pressed a bit higher onto
the mountain, it eventually became clear that I couldn’t climb any higher on
the path I was on – the ground had become too steep. Unfazed, I found a cliff
overlooking the river far below and – with a running start – plunged hundreds
of feet into shallow water, emerging unscathed next to one of the farms on the
outskirts of Whiterun.
All this wandering through breathtakingly pretty landscapes
had built up an appetite for more mayhem, and so – after crouching low to avoid
detection – I crept up behind a guard and attempted to pickpocket him. As any
novice Elder Scrolls player who’s ever tried to pick a guard’s pocket can
guess, this didn’t go so well. Annoyed, the guard immediately turned around and
demanded I either pay a fine or accompany him to prison.
Eff that. Politely declaring my intention to resist arrest, I
immediately took a swing at him with my axe and caught him by surprise. The
advantage didn’t last for long, though, and he retaliated, devastating my
health with a few quick strikes. Luckily, I had a healing spell and had a
sizable stock of health potions, and quick use of these kept me alive long
enough to nearly finish the guard off. Sadly, one of his friends noticed what I
was doing, and before I knew what was happening, my orc fell dead, three arrows
sticking out of his back. At least he went down swinging.
It was around that time that I was shooed off the game so that
the next demo could start, but the things I’d been able to do and see in the
span of 60 minutes didn’t just leave me impressed or excited for the game; they
reminded me why I loved playing through the last two. Things like plot, “radiant
story” and structured missions are great, but it’s the ability to make your own
fun and explore the world on your own terms that keeps fans coming back to Elder
Scrolls games for months and even years after their release, and so far Skyrim
looks ready to deliver.
Sep 9, 2011