What we learned about Skyrim from the new trailer

As we announced earlier, the first in-game footage for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released today. Now that we’ve all seen it, what have we learned about the next chapter in the greatest RPG epic of all time?

As I mentioned yesterday, the aspect of the game I most wanted to see something of in today’s trailer release was the interface, as it seems to have been a bit lacking in the last two Elder Scrolls titles. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see anything of that aspect of the game in this footage.

Either the game has no HUD, or the HUD was turned off for these clips, and there was no display of any skill screens, inventory dolls, or even maps.

That aside, we did get to see plenty of the snowy wastes of Skyrim.

The first thing I noticed was that the trees and other vegetation, while not quite the best I’ve ever seen, are more natural and organic looking than Oblivion.

The major difference being the seeming complete elimination, finally, of any sprits in the leaves and grasses. The place where it really seems to shine, though, as Elder Scrolls games tend to, is in the cities and villages. 

Places which look all the more real seeing that we’re getting yet another new architectural style.

Notably, however, these snowy mountainous wastes seem to be the entire landscape, unlike Oblivion’s Cyrodiil, which showed the player a wide variety of landscape types from the highlands near Hammerfell to the thick woods near Elsweyr to the Marshes of Black Marsh and the rock plains of Morrowind.

It seemed like the terrains of all the lands of Tamriel were spilling over the borders of Cyrodill to create a wide variety of landscapes. 

In Skyrim, however, all is snow and rock, lending the game a much bleaker tone than past games. Hopefully, Bethesda’s talented artists have still found some way to make each area of the game visually distinct in some way, but we haven’t quite seen enough yet to judge that.

It’s obviously similar to the northernmost Cyrodiil city, Bruma, which makes sense since it was supposedly settled by Skyrim folk.

We also see a mix of first-person and over-the-shoulder shots which is great. We, as a gaming culture, will never be able to come to a consensus over which of the two views is more appropriate in an RPG, but we can all agree that being given the choice is best.

Another exciting scene showed the improvements to the archery system. It looks like they have put some thought into how bow fighting should work, and perhaps improved the viability of non-magic ranged weaponry. It’s no V.A.T.S., but it’s something.

Along that same vein, there was some depiction of some sneaking characters, and even some sneaky surprise throat-cutting going on.

This again shows me that they’ve taken some aspect of the game which was perhaps not as robust as it could have been in past games (there wasn’t too much use being a really sneaky guy in past Elder Scrolls games) and really put some work into it.

I kind-of like playing that way (after level 10 in Fallout 3, no one ever sees me again), so it’ll be interesting to try to play through Skyrim that way once or twice.

The only magic that we really get to look at is a couple of particle effect blasts, which really don’t tell us much other than how cool the magic will look, so we’ve got some waiting to do to learn more about that as well.

Finally, the bit at the end is tough to puzzle out. It looks like the killing of the dragon is imparting some kind of Highlanderesque power transfer to the hero, but this could have just been some visual effects with no real effect on the game.

Over all, the trailer does its job of increasing my desire to know more about this game. I’m waiting impatiently for further information. November seems a long way off.