Previews

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: 3-hour hands-on leaves us wanting more

Does Bethesda's GoTY contender play as good as it looks?

Here's something to ponder: is there any point in reporting on a three-hour preview of Skyrim?

Oh sure, by the end we can report on some of the gameplay mechanics, the menu layouts, the beautiful presentation and a whole host of monsters we had to fight through. We can even offer snippets of the story and details about a couple of characters.

For tips and cheats have a look at CVG's Skyrim guide.

But what we can't do is present our readership with a full picture. We can't put them in the mind-set of being swallowed by the incredible world that Skyrim contains, or becoming immersed in its truly epic storyline.

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This is because three-hours of playing time on Skyrim equates to being allowed to watch the opening cut-scene of most other games. It's a drop in the ocean - and a miniscule one at that. In that time, while we managed to juggle magic and weapons, navigate a dungeon, join a clique of warriors and sort out the trouble facing a romantic triangle, we know we've barely scratched Skyrim's gargantuan surface.

PRISON BREAK

Here's what we did learn, though; players will begin the game as a prisoner - much the same way as they did in Oblivion. Character creation starts in a dingy dungeon cell, the narrow confines of which are laughably at odds with the massive scale of options available to the player in deciding what their avatar will look like.

All of the races from Oblivion are present and correct from Argonians to Wood Elves, and the levels of customisation could tax hours from the player's life - depending on how exacting they are in how they want their characters to look.

Body-type, sex, eyes, brows, hair, warpaint - you name it. It's all available for tweaking here, or players can go with pre-sets. We created a Redguard female with partially shaved white hair called Tehanu (because well, why not?), and then we were out the door and into the sprawling world of Skyrim.

How the player lands up in the northern territory of Tamriel was unclear at the demo; we were told that the section of play on offer comes three hours or so after the beginning of the game. It's also unclear whether, by that time, players would have access to the mass of equipment our character was endowed with, which included iron armour, a few robes, a sword and shield, and a bow complimented by a quiver full of arrows.

Whatever the case, by that stage of the game, they'll hopefully have gotten to grips with Skyrim's interface. Players can switch between first and third person perspectives by clicking in the right thumbstick, and by holding it in and pulling back on the left stick, you can set your third person view from any distance you please.

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Pulling the right trigger puts your character into a fighting stance, and the triggers themselves wield whatever the player's assigned to them - be it weapon, shield or magic. The X-button puts your weapons away, Y is jump and B brings up a four-option menu where players can access the game's map, magical abilities, the levelling up section and inventory.

It may seem a little strange to heap praise on a menu layout but given the amount of content the player needs to be able to access easily and quickly, the job Bethesda have done here is sublime.

Toggling between inventory sections is swift and intuitive and players are easily able to find their weapons of choice and assign them to a trigger (or two, if the weapon is a two-handed affair).

You can also 'hotkey' weapons, spells, defensive items - anything really - by tagging them in the menu with the Y button and then switching between them in the heat of battle quickly by flicking up and down on the D-Pad.

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