PAX: Skyrim Hands-on

The ultimate fantasy time sink.

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris


I’ll be honest with you, I left our demo of Skyrim at E3 in June completely underwhelmed. I just wasn’t impressed, at all. That preview was a completely eyes-on experience that almost put me to sleep. If it wasn’t for the dragons showing up at the end, I probably would have been passed out by the time the lights were turned back on. But my PAX experience with Skyrim was completely different. This time I actually got to pick up the controller and play the game for a solid hour. What I walked away with was this: seeing and playing Skyrim are two totally different experiences. It’s like night and day. Basically, playing Skyrim is actually pretty damn fun.

I totally get in now: Skyrim is the ultimate time sink. This not only applies to wandering around the game world, but also to Skyrim’s character creator. I spent a good 20 minutes messing around with all the different races to make the most ridiculous character I possibly could. What I wound up with was something to be proud of — a cat-man creature with an affinity for piercings named “Gordy,” a tribute to my own ferocious cat.

After wasting a lot of my time with the game’s character creator, I was finally dropped into the world of Skyrim. Much like previous Elder Scrolls titles, you’re pretty much just told to go do things. There is no set direction you should travel in. You just have to explore and finds things to keep you busy. But trust me, that isn’t hard to do.

For my demo I was actually placed 30 minutes into the game and given a bunch of starter equipment to make sure I didn’t died immediately upon setting foot into the harsh wilderness of Skyrim. I was given some armor, a little magic, an axe and a shield and told to go nuts. And nuts I went.

And by that I mean that I became the world’s greatest wolf hunter in minutes. I was slaying those bastards left and right. Remember what I said about Skyrim being a time sink? Yup, 30 minutes later and I had massacred roughly 15 wolves, but accomplished nothing where moving the plot forward is concerned. Surprisingly, I was OK with this. And that’s a rare thing for me since I’m a gamer that plays for narrative.

After a little bit more exploring I finally stumbled across my first village. But instead of hitting up NPCs for quests to perform, I instead went to the village’s farm to barbecue some chickens with my fire magic. Waste of time? I think not! I got some tasty chicken beasts out of it.

The last thing I did during my time with Skyrim was hit up a random cavern to clear out the bandits. It was pretty much a gauntlet of fights, but it served a purpose. I was able to level up my axe, shield and magic abilities. So while there wasn’t a reward at the end of the tunnel, at least the whole experience wasn’t in vain. Again, everything you do in Skyrim is worthwhile, no matter how small it may seem in the grand scheme of things.

As I said before, Skyrim really didn’t impress me at E3. I just didn’t understand all the praise it was getting. Now I get it. Skyrim is the type of game that you can load up and escape into for hours, maybe even days. Time flies by playing this game, whether you’re performing important tasks or just wasting time brutally slaying innocent bunnies (Good luck catching them.). Consider me now sold on Skyrim. Bring on those dragons in November.

Read the rest of our PAX Prime 2011 coverage.