While a part of me was sad that Bethesda's E3 booth didn't have a playable demo of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I knew deep in my heart that if they had let me get some hands-on time with the game, I probably would've missed all the rest of my appointments that day because I wouldn't want to stop playing.
The new custom engine that Bethesda developed for Skyrim looks utterly gorgeous. The shadows on plants and trees and everything was so beautifully detailed, I probably would have spent the first five or ten minutes just staring at everything before I actually got around to playing. Like before, you can choose from a first or third-person view, but honestly, it always plays better in first. Although I will say that the third-person character animation looks a lot better here than it did in Morrowind or Oblivion.
The demonstration they gave took us into a town where he interacted with a blacksmith and then headed out to explore a dungeon and battle a couple of dragons. Not everything in the world is going to be hostile, though. In fact, he came across a couple giants who were herding some giant wooly mammoths that pretty much ignored him... until he got their attention by slashing at one of the mammoths. This started a battle that got interrupted when a dragon swooped down out of the sky and attacked. There are dragons in the world that are completely unscripted and can appear just like any other creature. And like the world of Skyrim, the dragons are also beautiful to look at. Well, when they're not breathing fire at you. Presumably, the first appearance of a dragon isn't until a ways into the game, because they are big and scary and dangerous.
You equip each hand separately, so you can choose a shield and a sword, two swords or a spell and a sword or two spells. Left and right triggers control your left and right hands, so you can combine as you see fit. You can dual wield swords, or be a pure spellcaster. In fact, you can have the same spell in both hands and cast them at the same time to combine them to make the spell more powerful.
One of the new features of Skyrim is what they called "Kill Cameras." Basically it's a dynamic camera angle on your finishing move when you polish off an enemy. It just keeps things more interesting, visually. They've also overhauled the menu system, and for an expansive RPG, it looks extremely simple and clean. Because I wasn't able to get my hands on it, I can't say exactly how easy it is to navigate, but the guy demoing wasn't having any problems. Of course, he helped make it...
The world map is in 3D, which just looks amazing. In fact, everything about this game looks amazing. There's over 150 custom dungeons to explore, as well as all the Bethesda open-world adventuring to do. So make sure that you've cleared your calendar for a good long time after November 11, 2011, because that's when Skyrim is released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.