For its latest bash at the lush world of Tamriel, Bethesda wants to show you a different side of the traditional role-playing land, and it's one influenced by - wait for it - Jurassic Park. This is according to executive director Todd Howard, who's talking to a room full of journalists and demonstrating an early build of Skyrim at a Bethesda event in Utah.
It's the dragons, you see. The proud winged creatures are everywhere, roaming around the skies with their big dragon claws, teeth, and famous fiery breath. Bethesda wants each encounter with one of the creatures to evoke a similar feeling to when the T-Rex attacked in Spielberg's iconic movie.
But while these dragons are flapping about the game's beautiful environments, you'll probably be shuffling around at the base of a mountain immersed in the game's impressive UI. The menu system is clean and organised, presented as a stylish minimal overlay rather than a clumsy screen. Information and inventory are quick to access and navigate, and you can set favourites to all your preferred items and spells. There's even a lavish 3D view of every item in the game, and you can zoom in and play around with everything - channelling the dormant spirit of Resident Evil, some puzzles in the game even require you to look at items in the 3D view to suss out answers. If you're the kind of person who gets in a hot flush thinking about the innate beauty of Helvetica, Skyrim might be enough to induce a coma.
Why focus so much on the menus? Well, think back to Oblivion or Fallout 3 and recall just how much time you spent plugging away in various nested lists and inventories. It makes perfect sense that Skyrim's UI is absolutely gorgeous, to the point you can just sit back and drink it in.
Take the skill tree (there are no major/minor skills anymore) which is displayed in the game as a set of constellations, nicely mixing world-class design with the game's Nordic theme. The screen zooms upwards to the stars, and allows you to invest points gained from levelling into your various talents while looking at pretty pictures.
Every skill affects your overall level in Skyrim, but the more advanced abilities affect your level far more than low-level ones. There is no level cap, enemies do not level up with the player, and skills like acrobatics and athletics have been removed entirely. Skyrim is going for a concentrated, pared back, and streamlined approach to its technical aspects, yet there's more than enough stuff for people fascinated with the fine details to get stuck into.
These macro gameplay elements seem to combine beautifully with the joy of those fleeing micro-moments; such as walking past a river and gazing as you watch fish bounce upstream, watching a giant lumber past as you scale a mountain, and watching the grass sway in a gentle breeze on a forest path.