Honestly, if Bethesda took the old Oblivion engine and slapped a new map on it, and called it Skyrim, I’d probably be in line on day one. This is Bethesda, though, and the creators of the Elder Scrolls universe aren’t ones to rest on their well-deserved laurels. Skyrim may be over a year away, but Bethesda has detailed some interesting changes to the game system on GameInformer.com. From all indications, Skyrim should be a far more robust combat experience than its predecessors.
While it may not seem like a huge departure from the last game, Skyrim will use a new two-handed combat system that will allow players to equip any weapon or spell in either hand. This will create a more diverse selection of play styles; dual-wielding, two-handed weapons, sword and shield, ranged weapons, and even dual spell-wielding are all viable options.
Melee fighters will face some new challenges in Skyrim, but the changes should make for a more intense, satisfying experience. Nailing an opponent with a sword will cause them to stagger backwards, creating opportunities for devastating follow-up strikes. Of course, this applies to the character as well, meaning players will have to master the new timing-based blocking system or find themselves at the business end of a claymore. When players became even remotely capable of melee combat in Oblivion, the game became something of a cakewalk. These new changes, along with a slowed-down backpedal maneuver, should make for a more tactical affair where strategy and timing is just as important as the size of your health bar.
Flinging magic spells in Skyrim will be very different than in Oblivion, with a system that requires players to equip one of 85 spells to either their left or right hand. Spells can also be implemented in different ways; casting a fireball requires only a tap of the spell button, while holding it down will create a stream of fire that burns enemies. Players will even be able to draw runes on the ground that act as traps, triggering flame jets when enemies come too close. Fire, ice, and lightning magic will now each have different effects; fire does the most damage, ice slows enemies down, and lightning saps their mana. Spells will also be more visually interesting, with effects like frozen skin and scorched environmental elements.
Stealthy players will find that their ranged attacks (bows and arrows) have been significantly upgraded, with arrows now able to take out opponents in one shot. This will be balanced by an increased rarity and value to arrows, making each shot more impactful, but also more costly. Sneaking up on enemies and stabbing them with a dagger will also be a more powerful option, and the system of NPCs spotting stealthy characters will include a new “alerted” phase, similar to the one found in Metal Gear Solid games.
The article includes plenty more exciting details, such as finishing moves and the new “shout” system, and is worth checking out for Elder Scrolls fans. My only issue so far is that I have to wait at least a year before I can experience any of these new additions. Maybe a medically induced coma will make it seem shorter.