PC Gamer

At a press event at Zenimax Online Studios last week, the Elder Scrolls Online developer waited until the end of a lengthy presentation to deliver arguably the most important piece of news about their upcoming MMO. In short: TESO will have a full first-person mode in the Elder Scrolls style. This is, I suspect, what the majority of fans have been waiting to hear. It should certainly delay the inevitable “meh” in the comments below, if such a thing is possible.

First person wasn’t available in the build I played - we were shown it in a video, but it looks great. The constraints of MMO development mean that The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t as technically impressive as Skyrim, but this was the moment when the penny dropped for me. Having powered through two and a bit zones’ worth of content - the first six levels of the game, playing as the Daggerfall Covenant faction - there’s much that makes TESO distinct and interesting as an MMO: but proper first person play is the thing.

T.J. will be writing about his experience of the game from the perspective of a longstanding Elder Scrolls fan later on today: in this article, I’m going to cover the new information that came to light in my three hours with the game. Up front, though, I will say this: I went in worried and came out pretty pleased. There are new ideas here. I don’t believe that there’s a single type of person defined by the phrase ‘Elder Scrolls fan’ and I can see it working for some but not others. If your time in Skyrim was exclusively spent tooling around with emergent systems, murdering townspeople in their beds and stacking cheese wheels, then you’ll feel the absence of those things from TESO. If you’re up for something a bit more structured, then keep it on your radar.

The UI is among the most minimalistic I’ve seen in an MMO. The only persistent on-screen items are a crosshair, a minimap, and a small quest tracker. Health, stamina and magicka bars along with the hotbar appear during combat or when you’re wounded, but otherwise the focus is on the world. There are no damage numbers or debuff indicators for enemies beyond what is visibly happening to them. At present, the game could do with better feedback - I can get behind the idea of toning down typical MMO on-hit fireworks, but they need to be replaced with something and at the moment it’s not quite there.

Dialogue takes place in a zoomed-in first person similar to Skyrim, with a slightly expanded dialogue menu that more closely resembles Morrowind. It’s all fully voiced, but facial animation is a bit rough at the moment.

The inventory and skill menus follow Skyrim’s trend toward representing as much in-world as possible. Bringing either of these up zooms the camera in on your character in the world, who then effectively acts as your paper doll for equipping items.

Combat, while not as impactful as Skyrim, is not based on MMO-style rotations. As in any of the post-Morrowind TES games, you swing your weapon (or fire your bow or staff) with the left mouse button and block with the right. Holding attack charges up a powerful strike, and attacking while blocking results in a spell-interrupting bash. If you manage to block an enemy’s telegraphed power attack you’ll stun them, and your subsequent blows do more damage.

The hotbar includes six slots for abilities plus an additional ultimate skill - I didn’t get to use these, but one example would be a Meteor spell - and a consumable. Its resemblance to a traditional MMO quickbar is deceptive, because skills in TESO are not cooldown based. Your ability to spam skills is entirely based on your available health, stamina or magicka, and as such combat is more about effective use of those resources than it is about settling into a set rhythm. Blocking, sprinting and dodging use stamina, for example, making them a trade-off with powerful melee skills like cleaves.

Unlike prior Elder Scrolls games, spells do not need to be equipped into a hand before being cast - they fire instantly. This speeds up combat and is the chief thing - besides the aforementioned feedback issues - that makes TESO feel different to previous games in the series. Expect to see more spells being cast, by more people. Nonetheless, the system is theoretically closer to the single player games than it is to most MMOs.

Stealth is available to everyone, but it isn’t as deep as Skyrim. Press control to crouch and you enter sneak mode, which allows you to bypass camps of enemies and complete quests without violence if you’re good at it. It’s based on line of sight rather than dynamic light levels, so sneaking about requires a bit of planning. Sneaking replaces your cursor with a Skyrim-style eye to let you know when you’re liable to be detected.

It’s also possible to loot disguises from select enemies or find them in camps. Wearing a disguise allows you to move around normally in hostile areas, but getting to close to an alert enemy can break your cover.

The skill system sits somewhere between Skyrim and Guild Wars 2, with select improvements over both. As in Skyrim, levelling up in TESO earns you a boost to either health, stamina or magicka and a skill point to spend. You start the game with a selection of skill lines based on your class, race, and equipment. Examples from the weapons group would be:

Two Handed
One Hand and Shield
Dual wield
Destruction Staff
Restoration Staff

Investing points in each skill line unlocks new passive and active skills. Active skills level up through use, and at rank five you can spend another skill point to ‘morph’ these spells and abilities into one of two variants. An example we were shown was a Daedric summoning skill that could be altered to conjure either an exploding scamp or a hulking clannfear.

Although there will be a finite amount of skill points available to a single character, more skill lines can be acquired over time. Members of the Fighters’ and Mages’ Guilds, for example, get access to new skills based on their rank in those factions. There are special abilities for PvP, and this is also how special player states like vampirism will be handled. The system is impressive precisely because it’s so expandable: its easy to see how new skill lines can add options to the game without imbalancing it in the way that an extended level cap or tacked-on alternate advancement system might.

The Fighters’ and Mages’ Guilds will be in at launch, with thieves and the Dark Brotherhood to be added later. Fighter’s Guild members will be tasked with hunting Daedra and banishing Molag Bal’s Dark Anchors from the surface of Tamriel. Mages are tasked with tracking down necromantic lore.

Towns are relatively static, but enemy combat AI has been reworked. NPCs in TESO live deterministic lives based on your actions: they do move about, but this is phased as part of your progress within the various questlines. In combat, however, things are more flexible. Enemies will interact with one another based on their type - for example, multiple humanoid foes will work together, calling for healing or special attacks as the situation demands. Then, enemies who all belong to the same faction will have access to additional powers. The example we were shown was a group of necromancers - a warrior and two mages of different schools - dynamically starting a sacrificial summoning ritual to hold off the player party.

Monsters also have special abilities. Spriggans will possess and enhance any woodland predators that stray nearby, and spiders will eat their slain allies to gain strength. Lovely.

Quests are very subtly instanced. Its surprising to be playing an MMO and find a quest giver jogging alongside you once you’ve picked up their quest - or to emerge from a dungeon only to have the person you’re helping run over to give you your reward straight away. This is thanks to a phasing implementation that is almost seamless. A major part of every personal story will be assembling a group of heroes, and these allies are not only consistent across zones but appear in the open world rather than in specific story instances. Other players’ companions are rendered as anonymous mercenaries, preserving your immersion in a way that evades TOR-style companion clone syndrome.

It looks like an Elder Scrolls game, but it has been designed as an MMO.

An evident effort has been made to match up TESO to the art style and geography established by the previous games, but interiors and doorways have been enlarged to accommodate more players. We were told that the height maps from Oblivion and Skyrim have informed the layout of the relevant zones. In a neat touch, the fortresses that you’ll fight over in PvP are based on the ruins from Oblivion, including their name and approximate locations.

You can play through every zone on a single character, regardless of faction. There’s a reason why few MMOs bother with three factions nowadays - it’s a vast amount of content to create, particularly when you’re only likely to see a third of it. TESO’s solution is clever. You’ll level from 1-50 and do your personal story with your chosen faction, then when you’re finished you can pick a second faction to play through in what amounts to a new game plus. Zones and encounters are buffed to 50 and loot updated accordingly. Then, when you finish that you’ll be able to play through the final faction in an even tougher mode. You’ll still only be able to group and socialise with members of your own faction, but it means you don’t have to pick what race you play based solely on what zones you want to adventure in. Your Breton will get to wander around Skyrim.

Crafting adopts a lot of what was good about Skyrim’s alchemy and applies it to the whole system. There are five professions: Armorsmith, Weaponsmith, Enchanter, Alchemist and Provisioner (cook). One player will be able to dabble in all five, but only one can be fully mastered. Items are made from a set of base ingredients and then a selection of bonus additives which all have hidden properties similar to alchemical ingredients in prior TES games. Reverse-engineering looted items will allow you to determine some of these properties, which can then be applied to your own items. In addition, you also pick a style for wearable items like weapons and armour: an iron axe could be orcish, Breton, aldmeri etc. We watched one of the game’s designers invest heavily in crafting a Fine Iron Battle Axe of Undead Bane of Lightning. I understand they’re working on the name.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be playable on the floor at PAX East this week and is in closed beta now. We’ll have a video interview with two of the game’s senior designers going up at 3pm GMT, with T.J.’s take to follow at 4pm.
PC Gamer
Skyrim Luftahraan mod

Luftahraan is a mod for Skyrim that—yes, yes, I know I talk about Skyrim mods a lot. How can I not? When ambitious projects such as this collaborative work from modding team Archon Entertainment challenge the depth and scale of Bethesda's own professional add-ons, it's only proper to acknowledge their quality. That's why I'm looking forward to stepping foot onto the streets of Luftahraan (bless you), the titular city-state of Nordic flair housing a full storyline, voiced NPCs, custom music, and optional activities.

Sitting west of Skyrim's capitol township of Solitude, Luftahraan emerged as an escape from the political power struggles plaguing the rest of the province. The main quest guides you through the city's own problems with a troubled monarchy and factional backstabbing, but you'll also be able to strike your own path and explore the boulevards and districts for side-quests. A few exterior areas surround Luftahraan with Skyrim's staple crags and wooded valleys, and the team plans to pepper several dungeons about the zones.

City mods are excellent opportunities for modders to flex their writing and lore chops, as the hub-like nature of an established settlement is a useful stage for exposition or dispensing tasks (which I have a feeling will involve Draugr, because everything in Skyrim involves Draugr). Luftahraan's size is about three times that of Whiterun, Skyrim's most recognizable hold, so there should be plenty to do and see.

Track Luftahraan's progress on Mod DB, where Archon is also looking for testing and modeling help heading into the mod's release later this year.

Here's a few more screenshots:

PC Gamer
Skyrim Legend of the Toa

I remember the Bionicle toys as one of my earliest obsessions—I even memorized all the cool Maori-sounding character names. File this one under "all of my childhood wants," then: the early concepts for Skyrim's Legend of the Toa mod is just the beginning for a planned total conversion to the island of Mata Nui and its biomechanical guardians.

Emphasis on "early." So far, the small Russian modding team has produced a few character models, weapons, and a region-grid of the island's planned dimensions, but a lack of experienced modelers and texture artists means slow progress. If the project comes to fruition, it could meet enormous popularity—the Bionicle universe features a surprisingly rich lore of disgraced gods and factional power struggles, and the modular nature of the toys' masks and weapons fits pretty naturally with Skyrim's loot system.

Check out Legend of the Toa's Mod DB and official page for more info. If you've got Creation Kit or modding experience, the team would also like your help.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Craig Pearson)

What IS that thing in the sky?

Winter Summer is coming. Hmm. It doesn’t have the quite the same power as “Winter”, does it? Shorts and flip-flops are hardly solemn. Basically, if you’re a season that encourages Cliff Richard songs, then you’re definitely not scarily atmospheric. You are lacking in portent. Which means that this impressive tropical overhaul of Skyrim might change the tone of the game. The dragon shouts will be a bit less gruff and a bit more “Fus Ro Ice-Cream!”. Instead of the aggressive mammoths, they might be frolicking in the meltwater, squirting each other with trunkfuls of water and grabbing tails. My magical renaming software is suggesting “Far Cryrim” as a suitable alternative, because Tropical Skyrim Overhaul is too boring for such a sunny delight. (more…)

PC Gamer
Tropical Skyrim

The frigid fjords of Skyrim constantly remind you that it's cold. Freezing gales howl down from ridges and sweep in fresh flurries of frost, and the arctic air means anything less than a full-blown mammoth pelt wrapped against yourself will probably cause some Seinfeldian shrinkage. It's time for an escape. It's time for a change. It's time for toucans. I can already feel the warmth blasting my face after installing the Tropical Skyrim overhaul to turn the Nords' bleak homeland into a lush jungle sprawl.

The mod not only replaces every environment texture with verdant flora and striking amounts of green and red, it also boosts color saturation and bloom to emphasize the tropical-ness even further. You won't find a trace of Skyrim's original appearance anywhere, except perhaps in the enduring Nordic homestylings of the various townships. Even then, they're surrounded by sand.

Take a look at some more screenshots below, and head over to Skyrim Nexus if you want a Tropical Skyrim for yourself. It's almost too easy to lose yourself in the seas of green rolling off into the distance—until you realize dragons adapt just fine to dripping humidity.


This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim StatueNow available for preorder from the fine folks at Gaming Heads, this $299.99 statue of Skyrim's champion would not be possible without the PC modding community. You just don't get this sort of visual fidelity with today's game consoles.

Now I'm not saying a great statue couldn't have been based on the unmodded PC or console versions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. They're perfectly capable of conveying enough visual data to allow artist Alejandro Pereira to craft a reasonably accurate facsimile of Bethesda's ideal Dovahkiin. He's still be 16 inches tall, cast from high quality poly-stone and dressed in the finest tiny fabrics tailored by what I can only imagine are ridiculously small fashion design students. He'd still be limited to 1,000 pieces for the standard version or 500 pieces for the $329.99 exclusive version with light-up fireball. He'd still ship in Q4 of 2013.

It just wouldn't be anywhere near as smooth and well-defined.

Now that I think about it, I'd pay extra for a special edition jaggy Dovahkiin. Missed opportunity, Gaming Heads.

This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim Statue This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim Statue This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim Statue This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim Statue This is Obviously a Heavily-Modded PC Version Skyrim Statue

PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Plenty of gameplay-tweaking mods for Skyrim sparkle like Ayleid gems in our roundup, but LogRaam's Duel Combat Realism overhaul somehow evaded our stealth detection. It's one of the oldest mods around for Bethesda's RPG, restructuring enemy and weapon behavior for a more realistic level of challenge above the game's stock hack-and-slash design.

Duel Combat's plethora of slight changes to stamina, block, and damage values add up to a rebalanced combat system. With the mod enabled, avoiding hits and waiting for a timely opportunity to strike becomes far more important than charging in screaming your lungs out. (Unless, of course, that's your angle—Skyrim is a wacky role-player's paradise, after all.) Shields reign supreme in saving your hide, but successfully blocking an attack drains stamina—in fact, nearly everything you do sucks up your green bar, so you'll quickly run out of breath if you're unaware.

Enemies won't statically stand still during combat, either, preferring to circle around and hammer down with power attacks and bash combos. Don't expect to shrug off an unblocked blow as easily, either, as your health will plummet dramatically if something sharp or blunt connects with you.

For the sneaky types, dropping a foe from long range or from behind still causes everyone nearby to start searching for you, but they'll keep it up for a far longer period of time. Lightly armored enemies such as archers and mages will try and hide themselves behind objects or structures for an ambush if you get too near, and enhanced lines of sight means you'll get spotted if you aren't patient. That just means clearing an entire camp without a single detection becomes all the more sweet.

Duel Combat Realism sits on Skyrim Nexus for any Dovahkiin up to the challenge, and you can watch a short comparison video below of Skyrim's combat using an earlier version of the mod. Be sure to bring your Rusty Spoon, the mightiest weapon of all.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

Tired of screenshots that feature dudes shooting/cutting/bro-fist-bumping other dudes? Well then, here's A MENU. How about that?

If you’re anything like everyone else in the world, you’ve probably put at least 347,867 hours into Skyrim. Now you’re pressed up against the level cap, face like a grape about to burst against its impenetrable ice. Yours is the hardest life. But soon, you’ll never have to stop leveling ever again. In short, legendary levels will “effectively remove the overall level cap.” Also incoming: a new legendary difficulty mode to match. But how will it all work? Well, wouldn’t you like to know. And you can, but only if you’re capable of braving the notoriously merciless difficulty of the unforgiving realm beyond the break.


PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim concept art 13 2

For all its overabundance of sweet rolls and murderous dragons, Skyrim is absolutely beautiful. Mods enhance the windswept plains and craggy mountain peaks of the Nord homeland into a truly spectacular vision, but it all arose from the RPG's original, bleak, Scandinavian-style landscape.

Among the artists responsible for illustrating the first fledgling looks during development was Adam Adamowicz, a concept artist best known for his numerous Fallout 3 designs. Adamowicz is no longer with us—he passed away due to lung cancer complications last February—but his exceptional skill lives on through the piles of environment and character concepts he created for Skyrim. Beyond marveling at the amount of Adamowicz's ideas that appear in the final game, it's worthwhile to appreciate these illustrations as standalone works of art.

Click through for more of Adamowicz's masterful work.

PC Gamer
Skyrim 610x347

Bethesda are planning to release Skyrim's upcoming 1.9 update at the end of the month. The end of the month?! That's slightly under a month away! Fortunately, given that patience has never been among a Dragonborn's required skillset, you can test out the patch's beta version right now. With it you'll gain access to a new Legendary difficulty level, as well as Legendary Skills - a system that removes the level cap by using what sounds like a CoD-style Prestige system.

"Skills of 100 can be made Legendary," Bethesda explain on their blog. "This will reset the skill to 15, return its Perks and allow the skill to affect leveling again. This effectively removes the overall level cap."

A screenshot of the new system hints at how it will work. Plus side: the character is now at a previously unreachable Level 106. Downside: they've completely forgotten how to do Smithing twice. Presumably that playthrough's economy has nosedived in response to all the hastily crafted steel daggers that must be flooding the market.

To access the beta, you'll need to right-click Skyrim's entry in your Steam library, pop into the properties menu, skip over to the Beta tab and opt-in from the drop-down box.

You'll also gain access to this giant list of bug fixes:

General memory and stability improvements
Fixed issue with quest scripts that were not shutting down properly
Companions will equip better weapons and armor if given to them
Fixed rare issue where player is unable to learn the Clear Skies shout during “The Throat of the World”
Fixed rare instance where Alduin would become invincible during “Alduin’s Bane”
Fixed a rare issue where player could become stuck in Night Mother’s coffin during “Death Incarnate”
Fixed rare issue where protected companions could be killed from poison damage
Fixed rare issue with certain ash piles left from resurrected NPCs not clearing properly
Fixed rare issue with NPCs and creatures respawning improperly after player fast travels
Fixed rare crash when entering Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary
Fixed rare crash when entering a player owned home
Random dragon attacks will no longer occur during “Battle for Whiterun”
Fixed a rare crash when attempting to save your game during “Waking Nightmare”
Fixed issue where “Glory of the Undead” would not start properly if player is in combat with Eorlund Gray-Mane
The white phial is no longer consumed if given to a follower
If player marries Aela, the “Totem of Hircine” quest will be available
Unused briar hearts can be dropped after finishing “The White Phial”
Fixed issue with paying off a crime against the Companions that prevented player from getting Companions quests properly
Thieves Guild caches are now properly enabled in the appropriate cities
The Dragon Infusion perk now works properly when taking Esbern’s Potion
Cragslane Cave properly resets if player receives a radiant quest to clear it out
Fixed rare issue with bounty quest objectives not properly clearing after completion
Gallus’ Encoded Journal is no longer a quest item after completing the Thieves Guild
In “No Stone Unturned” Vex will now accept Unusual Gems if you’ve collected them all before starting the quest
Vekel the Man now gives rewards for completing “Toying with The Dead”
Fixed rare issue with being unable to turn in stolen items in “The Litany of Larceny”
Fixed issue with followers becoming over-encumbered after being repeatedly rehired
Fixed rare issue with visiting Kynesgrove on horseback not progressing “A Blade in the Dark” properly
Fixed issue with receiving a duplicate radiant quest from a Jarl
Fixed conflict with clearing Driftshade Sanctuary before starting “Trouble in Skyrim”
Fixed issue with using shouts while in jail and having guards unlock the jail cell
Fixed rare issue with quest NPCs not properly moving to quest locations
Fixed issue with NPCs not selling master level spells
Fixed rare issue where player gets control locked outside the Thalmor Embassy at the start of “Diplomatic Immunity”
Fixed rare issue with disappearing containers after upgrades in player owned house
Fixed issue with being erroneously attacked while as a werewolf during “Ill Met By Moonlight”
The Ebony Blade is now only improved by two handed perks
Locked door to Proudspire Manor can now be unlocked by proper key
Fixed issue with merchants not receiving the proper additional gold with the Investor perk
Fixed a rare issue where the player would be unable to learn a word after leaving for several days during “The Way of The Voice”
The Nord Hero Bow can now be improved
The Purity perk no longer requires the Experimenter perk
Fixed rare instance where Lovers Comfort would not be applied properly
If you approach Frostmere Crypt from the north, “The Pale Lady” will start properly
Fixed rare issue where player could be prevented from speaking with Atub to start “The Cursed Tribe”
Fixed rare issue where a dragon could appear in the Mind of a Madman realm and kill the player
Fixed instance where player could get stuck in Japhet’s Folly
Fixed rare instances where Arngeir would not teach Worldwind Sprint
Fixed issue with “Ill Met By Moonlight” if Sinding dies before the quest starts
Gharol can now properly train up to level 75
Fixed conflict with visiting The Karthspire before starting “Alduin’s Wall”
Reduced the instance of random dragon attacks after fast traveling post main quest
Recruited Blades now have appropriate dialogue while at Sky Haven Temple
Fixed rare issue where an incorrect dungeon could appear as a location during “Totems of Hircine”
Fixed rare instance in “Fetch me that Book” where books found before getting the quest would not be properly recognized
Fixed rare issue with traveling to Thalmor Embassy with companions during “Diplomatic Immunity”
Fixed issues with Matching Set perk not working properly with certain pieces of armor
Fixed issues with Custom Fit perk not working properly with certain pieces of armor
Fixed issue with NPC dying in a bear trap blocking progress in “Time of My Need”
Fixed rare issue with swinging door becoming stuck and blocking an entrance in Volunruud
Imperial Light Armor can now be crafted
Fixed issue with “Vald’s Debt” where Vald was not leveled properly
Fixed issue with Vilkas not giving proper greeting after completing “Battle for Whiterun”
Fixed issue with respawning actors that were raised by using the Ritual Stone power
Fixed issue with the Ancient Knowledge perk not calculating properly
The Palace of Kings now has patrolling guards on upper floors
Reduce percentage chance of getting a werewolf loading screen while player is a werewolf
Pantea’s flute is no longer a quest item after completing “Pantea’s Flute”
Placing an unread Oghma Infinium on a bookshelf in the player’s house no longer allows the book to be reused again
Adjusted dialogue priority to improve chances of hearing more combat dialogue from certain NPC enemies
Fixed issue with falling damage on high difficulty levels
Fixed bad collision on certain clutter objects
Fixed rare instance of couriers who would appear only dressed in a hat