The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim First Look Preview Part 3 -- Dungeon Crawling, Puzzle Solving, and Dragon SlayingBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 20, 2011
Before we begin, it should be said that it might be in your best interest to go back and check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our three-part first look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before proceeding as they will bring you up to speed on the world of Skyrim, the combat system, and inventory management (Part 1) as well as town economies, character interaction, questing, and dragons (Part 2). For Part 3, we’re going to venture into our first dungeon, solve some puzzles, and learn some mighty dragon shouts.
So for the final act of our 45-minute BFG 2011 demonstration, Bethesda Game Studio’s director Todd Howard brings us into our first dungeon, a dark, grimy, wet, stony space literally dripping with detail and shafts of light pouring through the walls. As we move further inside, the flicker of firelight is seen up ahead. From our hiding place in the shadows, we spot a man and a woman talking around the fire. To better help players understand how stealthy they are being, the game now uses an eye icon to tell you how exposed you are, and since all of the shadows in the game are now dynamically rendered, this promises to be a much appreciated feature.
From the shadows, we draw back our bow and fire, taking out the man. “I know I heard something,” says the woman as the man collapses, in one of the demo’s less than on point moments. The woman charges, and we dispatch her with a few choice bolt shots as well. There’s something important worth pointing out about this encounter, since it perfectly demonstrates how the game’s radiant story system factors into every corner of the world.
- VIDEO PREVIEW: Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Gameplay Preview
Like countless quests and miscellaneous objectives in Skyrim, this particular one—find the golden claw that was stolen from a shopkeeper back in the town of Riverwood—could have been stumbled upon simply by chance. Had you found this temple in your open-world wanderings, you would have encountered these two folks talking and been able to eavesdrop on their conversation, which would have prompted the same “Find the golden claw” objective that you were assigned by speaking to the shopkeep back in town. There were similar instances in Fallout 3, but in Skyrim, they will be much more expansive and dynamic, and will help make each players experience that much more unique.
A similar instance occurs in the next portion of the dungeon where we stumble upon another treasure seeker who had broken off from his two pals (the two we just killed) in search of the claw. In our haste, we actually interrupted him before he could try his hand at solving a puzzle standing between us and the next room. Had we not interrupted him, he would have tried to solve the puzzle, and been welcomed with a barrage of darts that would have killed him, providing us with a valuable lesson in how to avoid being killed by a dart barrage. For the sake of the demo, Howard simply solved the puzzle, which entailed turning a series of statues to match the pattern laid out by symbols around the room, and we moved ahead.
We pick up a soul gem here, which can be used to power up spells or create new ones. We didn’t get to see how this actually plays out, so sorry magic lovers. You’ll have to wait a little bit longer to find out more about this particular feature. However, we did get to see a rather nifty spell called Front Rune, which lets you set explosive ice traps on the ground that are triggered when enemies pass over them.
In order to move into the next room, Howard hacks away at a thick cobweb blocking the path, an ominous obstacle indeed. As we enter the room, a giant spider descends from above the center of the room, in a clear homage to The Lord of the Rings. Through a combination of frost traps and powerful sword swipes, the spider crumples into a spindly mass.
A man calls to us from a nearby wall where he has been encased in cobwebs. He promises to explain what the golden claw is and how it unlocks the next room if we cut him down. We take a few swipes at the web until he falls free. In classic “Throw me the idol! I throw you the whip!” fashion, as soon as he is free, he breaks into a run. Before he can get too far, we pull out our bow and use our focus and zoom perks to put an arrow square into the fleeing cowards back. Exploring his corpse nets us some goodies, particularly the dead man’s journal and the golden claw. The journal is just one of the countless books you’ll find in the world, and you’ll be able to flip through and read them to find hints, clues, quest info, and general info that will further fill out the overall Skyrim narrative.
The next area introduces us to Draugr Skeletons soldiers. As they rise out of their crypt beds and close in, we unleash our chain lightning spell, which zaps a number of soldiers at once, and cast a circle of protection to keep the enemies at bay long enough to take out the stragglers.
We continue onward and enter into a stunning cave system complete with a flowing stream and waterfalls pouring in from all sides. Howard shoots a fireball that flies through the cave, beautifully lighting the cave as it floats hundreds of feet into the distance. At the far end, a bright shaft of light leads the way to another draugr encounter. One dude gets an axe to the skull (which creates a sickening crunch sound) and the others get treated to a mix of fire spells and explosive lamps.
Finally, we reach the Hall of Stories, a shrine of sorts where the ancient nords would place fallen comrades as the first step on their journey to the afterlife. To gain entrance, we have to arrange three symbols by spinning three concentric stone circles attached to the door. There’s an imprint in the center ring for what looks like pointed fingertips. The claw! Here, the game’s inventory system become a tool for solving this puzzle, since every item in the world has been crafted down to the smallest detail and can be examined thoroughly in the inventory management menu. When we spin the claw around, we notice three symbols emblazoned on the underside of it. Armed with this new info, we crack the code and enter.
As we step into the towering stone chamber, a small colony of bats rushes past as water pours into the room via various openings in the walls and ceiling. Ahead of us stands a curved rock wall (the appropriately named, Word Wall) with ancient “words of power” carved into it. When you combine three of these words, of which there are around 60 at this point, you create a dragon shout, a powerful, voice-driven attack that will feature prominently in the game’s combat as well as overall story. In our brief dragon encounter prior to entering this dungeon, we actually saw one of these shouts in action, since, as Howard explained, when the dragons breathe fire, they are actually speaking.
Howard demonstrates one of the first shouts you learn in the game, unrelenting shout, which sends out a blast wave that will simply stagger enemies if you only use the first word (i.e. tap the right bumper) or blast them through the air if you charge up and shout the whole phrase. The one we just learned lets us slow down time, which comes in quite handy as just then, a floating Dragon Priest appears and summons an imposing Frost Atronoch to do his cowardly bidding. Howard uses the slow time shout to buy us precious seconds to dispense with the frozen beast with our fire spell before turning our attention, aka our axe, on the floating dragon priest, who quickly falls.
We exit the temple onto an arresting lakefront view. Our serene sightseeing doesn’t last long, as another pesky dragon roars and soars overhead before landing in a clearing just ahead of us. Howard once again uses slow time to get in some solid sword swipes at the beast’s frighteningly close face, which causes the dragon to swoop back into the air to regroup. The dragon’s fluidity of movement and physical construction are as spectacular as they are terrifying. Howard then hits the dragon with a spell, which apparently caused enough damage to cause the dragon to fall out of the sky and then skid along the ground, further driving home the sheer weight of the creature. It regains its composure and begins walking after us with giant strides, spitting fire the whole way. Finally, we unleash a devastating electricity spell that puts the dragon down for good.
When we approach the fallen dragon, the corpse begins to glow. Because the player character is known as “dragon born,” he is capable of “devouring” the souls of dragons. Bethesda has yet to reveal exactly what this will factor into the game (and no, it’s not going to allow you to call in dragon mounts, although Howard hinted that there would be something “on the edge of that”), but expect to hear plenty more at E3 2011. With the dragon’s orange-tinged soul swirling around our character and the bass rattling the room around us, the scene fades out and the Skyrim logo fades up, bringing our demo, and our three-part first look, to a sad, sad end.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be available November 11, 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.