A date that’s burned in my mind.

The day that the next part of the story will be unfurled…

The day the dragons are released…

The day that dawns in fire!

Good thing I got a chance to play it at this year’s Eurogamer Expo then.  Here we go again!

Say hello to the Dragonborn!

As soon as the doors opened, I launched myself in, rushing towards my goal.  With my two NPC companions, Friend A and Friend M, battling beside me, we rushed towards our prize!  20 minutes of Skyrim were all ours for the taking!

…And again.  And again.  Three times I queued up for Skyrim, and I would have queued up even more if A and M didn’t drag me away to get some food and at least glance at some of the other games on display.  Although, to be honest, queuing up for 20-40 minutes each time wasn’t exactly a burden.  As you can see below, we had all these lovely screens to watch while we waited.  I watched as people fought wolves, explored dungeons, and quite frequently I watched people murder innocent villagers, dogs, and chickens.  One particularly athletic hero actually managed to kill one of the super-speedy rabbits running around.  Another person actually found a familiar-looking black skull-carved door, but evidently did not have the correct password to get in.  A third decided he would rather kill a child’s dog in front of their eyes, then murdered his mother and stole her carefully-tended cabbages – an action that actually changed the plant to show that it had been harvested – before attempting to sleep in her bed.  All this just made me even more eager to play.

On my first go, I decided that I was not going to head to Riverwood.  Instead, I was going to find the nearest town that I’ve not yet seen videos or screenshots of.  After creating a female Khajiit, I set off on my goal…only to whine to A about my inability to get out of the cell.  Turns out that I just missed the rather large tunnel at the other end of the cell in my excitement.  I don’t think it helped that this was the Xbox version, and since I’m an evil PC person I had no clue what I was doing, causing my poor Khajiit to go face-first into a few walls.  Eventually, I got some control over the controls, and ventured forth into Skyrim!

Two words.

Bloody.  Beautiful.

There really were times that I just had to stop and gape.  The water, the mountains, and the view from said mountains! Absolutely brilliant.

Alas, I had to quickly shake off my awe, as time was running out.  I decided to  quickly bring up the map which, as those who have seen it know, is a marvel.  No static map this time, instead the view zooms out until you can see the surrounding land. Trying not to squeal in delight again, I quickly chose my destination, a town somewhere to the south-west of me.  I can’t remember the name, only that it began with F.  So I headed off, wondering what it will look like.

Only, I never got that far before I ran out of time.  This game is huge!

Instead, what I did find included a skeleton trying to kill me with his Ancient Nord Sword, (which my inventory kindly showed me was better than the iron dagger I had equipped), a conjurer next to his sacrificial alter who tried to feed me to some kind of spirit wolf, and a lovely shrine to Talos which was covered with the blood of all the dead worshippers surrounding it.  Oh, and I almost got a chance to talk to a wandering hunter, but then he got distracted by a fox and ran off after it.

Meanwhile, A had already managed to get herself killed by necromancers hiding out in a cave, while M had found a half-submerged ruin called Iltenda’s Deep, which was breath-taking.  Fish, of both the non-attacking kind and the slaughterfish kind, swimming around, beautiful waterfalls, and the remains of a corpse shackled to a cross right in the middle of it.  Yep, more necromancers.  Like A, he was killed as well.  At least before he died, he managed to rid the world of the few slaughterfish he found.

In any case, time was called and we had to leave.  After refreshing ourselves, I decided to head back and try again.  Maybe this time I’ll actually learn to handle the controls effectively.

This time while in the queue, I got a chance to look at some of the loading screens.  Like in Oblivion, there’s a handy little snippet of information on each loading screen.  From these, I learned that Khajiit have the Night Eye ability and use their claws in hand-to-hand combat, Argonians has the ability ‘Histcloak’ in order to heal themselves rapidly, Dunmer can bathe themselves in a cloak of fire, and Nords can use Battlecries in order to make enemies flee for a short while.  A mentioned later that she saw that Bretons have the same abilities that they do in Oblivion.  Yet another loading screen told me that there is a Guardian stone that gives you the ability to raise the surrounding dead to fight for you.

I also got a chance to watch one guy get pulled over a waterfall due to the water currents in the river, noting as he did so that the underwater section has vastly improved.  You can actually see stuff on the bottom now! Another person choose the Heavy Armour perk of Jugganaut, which raises the armour rating of all heavy armour worn by the player.  Yet another ‘hero’ managed to get the entire of Riverwood baying for his blood and chasing him around the village waving maces.  I also noticed someone try their hand at lockpicking.  Apparently, it’s identical to the system in Fallout 3. There were also mudcrabs.  There are always mudcrabs.

Second time around, I gave up on going to the previous place, and settled for exploring Riverwood.  Having managed to actually get my female Argonian out of the cell with no mishaps this time, I ventured forth to Riverwood, bashing a few wolves over their heads with my shield along the way.  Apparently the magic in this is awesome and extremely effective, but I’ve always been partial to just hacking and slashing.  One thing that I did approve with the Xbox controls is how much easier it makes it to block with a shield.  Having had my fill of wolf entrails and blood I grabbed some hides, noting that after looting there is now an ’empty’ sign when I place my cursor over the corpse, and headed off to town, where I decided to first greet that crazy old woman screaming about dragons.  She told me that she had seen a huge black dragon fly over the mountains, then wandered away muttering to herself.

So I decided to do the most hero-like I can think of – head to the tavern!

Along the way, I heard an elf talk about some man trying to steal the woman he loves away from him.  After I got to the Sleeping Giant tavern, I decided to go check out the guy playing an instrument in the corner.  After requesting Rudger the Red – “A great Nord tale, that one!” – I noticed a dialog option involving the woman the elf mentioned.  Here was the other man!  I decided to help this guy out with his love troubles, and he gave me a letter to take to the woman, supposedly from the elf.  I had to take a peek at it, and I started laughing.  These are not the exact words, but it’s close enough.

“My dear <Name>,

While I know you are a lovely woman, I just can’t sully my ancestor’s bloodline with Imperial mud.  While I may not love you, I hope that we can be friends – as long as you know your rightful place in the upcoming Altmer Domination.

Yours, <Name>”

Ahhh, so nice.  I headed to the woman right away, and once I got there, I had two options.  Lie and say it was from the elf, or tell her that the bard had told me to lie to her and say it was the elf.  I chose the first option, and she started screeching and screaming that Elf will die before he sets foot in her shop again.  My job done, I headed merrily back to the tavern, where the overjoyed bard paid me 25 gold.  I was ready to listen to another of his songs, but then a member of staff called time.  I left, already planning my next approach.

Finally dragging A and M back for a final time, I was greeted by the staff who by now recognised me.  While we waited, we saw even more valiant explorers attempting to kill as many people as they could, but I also got my first glimpse of Rohan.. I mean Whiterun!  With my mind mentally playing the Rohan theme, I decided that was where I was heading to next.  So once I got seated, I was off, this time with a female Nord.  With my axe in one hand and my sword in the other, I pity the poor wolf that met me on that path as I sprinted to Riverwood and out the other side.  Only stopping to speak with a courier and examine some guards taking some prisoners somewhere, I eventually reached Whiterun.  However, as I was crossing one of the bridges, I suddenly noticed a familiar ringing sound.  I looked underneath, and lo and behold, a Nirnroot.  You can actually hear them this time!  Pocketing it, noting that the roots were left behind, I continued my journey, only to spot a giant attacking some guards.  Alas, it was dead by the time I got close enough, so I shrugged, walked past them, and headed towards the gate.  Once I was there, I was stopped by a guard, telling me that the city was under lockdown due to a Dragon attack at Helgen.  I could either bribe the guard to let me in, or persuade him that I have important information regarding the attack.  I chose the latter, as I didn’t have much money, and wandered into town.  Alas, I didn’t get much chance to explore and note the architecture, due to that pesky member of staff, but I did get to hear an interesting conversation between someone and the local blacksmith, which alerted me to the chance of a blacksmithing-related quest.

Regretfully placing my controller down and taking my headphones off, I, A, and M parted.  It had been a long, wonderous day, and I thoroughly enjoyed this day.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find any cons with the game, save for the unfamiliarity of the controls and the fact that twenty minutes just isn’t enough.  When I left, the staff summed it up perfectly for me.

“We won’t bother hoping that you’ll enjoy the game, because we know that you will!”