Absorbing dragon souls in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
In the outskirts of the small lumber town of Riverwood - on a ledge jutting off a quaint mountainous trail - a rider on horseback surveys the vista in front of him. He can see for miles in each direction; snow capped mountains painting a backdrop to acres of forest, river and rock. As the first flakes of snow fall from the grey heavens, the horse whinnies and rears its passenger. It's at precisely this moment – as the soundtrack reaches a crescendo - that a layer of goose bumps appear on my arms.
I get goose bumps from trailers all the time - it happened during that Mass Effect 3 trailer just the other day, in fact - but it rarely happens during an isolated portion of gameplay, especially one devoid of dialogue, action and spectacle. It was just a bloke on a horse looking at some trees.
Skyrim itself is an inspiring thing to look at, however.
But enough Tolkien-esque guff. I'm sure you don't care about trees, mountains and rivers (although you might be keen to learn that there was this one bit where a shoal of fish leapt out of a babbling brook - that was really cool) so I'll quickly move onto the good stuff: dragons.
Our first encounter with one of these scaly airborne behemoths was atop the ruins of a tower. The beast circled overhead, exhaling huge plumes of fire as he passed. Thinking better of the situation, Matt Carofano, Skyrim's art director and demo-man, leapt from the tower and scurried off into a network of caves below for safety; a dungeon, if you will. He revealed that Skyrim has over 150 of them.
In this underground mountain pass, Carofano demonstrates that our adventurer can wield two swords at the same time. This was the cause of much guffawing amongst the audience. In fact, our hero is happy brandishing two of any single-handed weapon in the game. At one point, we see him with a sword in one hand, and a staff in the other - a perplexing but rather versatile combination. Skyrim allows players to tailor their character to their exact tastes; every weapon you swing and every spell you cast affects your growth.
"Whatever you put in your hand - that's how you're going to play the game" explains Carofano.
Martin delved deeper into skill trees and the intuitive new UI in last month's preview. I suggest you check that out if you're keen to learn more about the role-playing side of the game - I'm going to gush over dragons for a while longer.