PlayStation Universe

E3 2011: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's dragons are not just the end game

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on 8 June 2011

Most fantasy role-playing games pin brave warriors or wizards against an occasional dragon boss. These epic battles can drive players to madness as they try to learn the best tactics to defeat these giant beasts. But The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes the concept of fighting dragons in an open world to new, alluring heights.

Dragons serve as practically normal enemies in the game, instead of big bad bosses waiting to devour you at the end of a dungeon. As you stumble across the enormous environments you’ll come toe-to-toe with hundreds of these scaly baddies. That doesn’t mean dragons — which appear randomly throughout the environment — are easy kills. It takes upgraded weapons, ancient magic, furious shouts, and mighty strength to slay these beasts.

Bethesda’s Todd Howard told PlayStation Universe after the preview demonstration that players will get a chance to fight dragons early in the game. While he wouldn’t pin point an exact time, he said it’s not just an end game perk. “If you follow the main quest, it won’t be very long,” he said about fighting dragons.

Dragon Words, which are words imprinted on walls that score your character shouts (super abilities), are scattered inside dungeons. During the demonstration at E3 on Tuesday, it was unclear how many dungeons housed these Dragon Words. We do know, however, that Skyrim hosts more than 150 dungeons. The game’s radiant story quest structure sends you into any dungeons you may have missed on your adventure, ensuring you get to see as much as the gorgeous world as possible.

With five major cities, as well as a completely interactive environment and economy, Skyrim is truly pushing the role-playing concept. During our preview time we learned our character could work for his coin. If, by chance, he comes across a lumber village, he can work with the locals to make money the old fashioned way. Then again, if he wants to be a little devil, he can sabotage the village and build a reputation as the local jerk.

The role-playing limits are pushed even further simply through the developers’ mantra: “You are what you play.” It’s this concept that drives players to essentially choose what kind of role-playing character they want to be on the fly. If, for example, you want to take on a mage role, simply equip a fireball spell in your left hand. Or, you can equip a high-level glass sword in your right hand and chain lightning in your left. Take the concept even further and equip chain lighting in both hands for some truly epic fireworks. This basic concept of playing your character exactly how you want to play seems to work so well because of the easy-to-use interface and menu options. During the preview, the character switched between all of these abilities in seconds.

You will probably want to get comfortable with different abilities and play styles as you face all those gnarly dragons. After all, they net you some of the best abilities in the game. Our preview saw Howard deftly eliminate a dragon and absorb its soul to acquire a very powerful spell. Immediately after learning this new ability, an even higher level dragon attacked. The dragon swooped around for a while so Howard ran his character into a stone tower for a better view. He proceeded to unleash the newly-acquired spell, which literally littered the sky with lighting, causing enormous damage to every nearby creature, including that pesky dragon. With a giant war axe, Howard cracked the dragon’s skull a few times to finally end the battle.

This was a moment you will likely only see in Skyrim. Sure, the battle sounds enormous, but this is just something that can happen at nearly any point in the game. And when you face one of these massive enemies, you decide exactly how to kill it, and the choices see endless.