Skyrim’s combat detailed, no more “chopsticks”

Tuesday, 25th January 2011 01:59 GMT By Brenna Hillier


Game Informer‘s ongoing series of chats with director Todd Howard continues with a look at the game’s new two-handed combat system, which replaces the “chopsticks”-like efforts of previous titles.

“I think if you look at our previous stuff I sometimes equate it to fighting with chopsticks – you sit there and swing them in front of yourself,” Howard said.

In Skyrim, players can now equip weapons, shields, spells and special Dragonborn skills to either or both hands, allowing for multiple combinations including dual-wielding. Hotkeys or bookmarks permit rapid switches in playing style to suit the situation as players juggle melee, ranged and magic approaches according to class.


Many familiar Morrowind and Oblivion tactics have been nixed by the new combat system. Back-pedal speed has been reduced to disallow hit-and-run tactics, while stagger and balance have been implemented to ensure successful hits are far more dangerous than their base attack stat suggests.

Shields won’t help – you’ll need to time your blocks to meet blows correctly. In compensation, holding down the block key will produce a bash attack which may stagger your opponent. This move can be performed with two-handed and ranged weapons, at greater risk.

Pull it off successfully, and you may be rewarded with a flourish animation to mark your kill.

“One of you is going to die,” Howard said. “I think you get very used the idea that enemies are all there for you to mow through, but it doesn’t seem like someone’s life is going to end. We’re trying to get that across.”

Perks make a return to encourage specialised skills, including increased critical strikes for swordsmen; bleeding status infliction for axe-wielders; and armour negation for maces. Shield ability unlocks elemental warding.

Ranged and Stealth

Compared to Morrowind and Oblivion, Skyrim’s bows are increasingly differentiated from melee choices. Bethesda took inspiration from a popular community mod by turning up arrow damage but making ammunition scarce. Players may only have one shot, but if it lands, the result is devastating, increasing the role of stealth in the archer’s skill set.

Daggers get a serious boost, too, to the delight of rogues everywhere. Increased stealth skill unlocks dagger perks, and a successful stealth back attack currently does ten times the damage of a standard blow, although Howard isn’t sure this feature will make it to the final game.

An overhaul to Stealth introduces an “alert” phase between “aware” and “oblivious”, lending a more analogue feel to sneaking, and a chance to salvage a failed sneak attempt.


Apparently inspired by BioShock’s plasmids, Skyrim makes a return to Morrowind’s insistence on keeping magic and weapons separate. Although a player can equip a spell in one hand and a weapon in the other, gone are the days of firing spells while swinging a sword and shield.

Five schools of magic return from previous titles, with Mysticism spells being absorbed by other schools, but individual spells are now far more flexible.

Rather than fire each spell as a projectile, it can be held for a continuous streak, placed in the environment as a trap, or double-equipped for increased damage at higher magicka cost.

Each spell has been individualised, too, with varying levels of damage versus cost, and even added status effects, so that a choice between shock and fireball is no longer largely cosmetic. Bethesda may implement combined spell effects similar to Fable III’s before release.

Magical duels have received a similar treatment to melee combat, requiring timing and use of defensive measure rather than attrition and potion gulping.

Skyrim releases for PC, PS3 and Xbox 350 on November 11. Head on over to Game Informer for more details.



  1. Phoenixblight

    Yeah from what I have seen in the GI article, this game is looking very promising and look its not a desolate are but a lush area full of life.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Erthazus

    “The game is looking very promising”

    Oh yeah… Everyone said about Oblivion that also and we got tons of prerendered PR trailers and a pretty MMORPG without players.

    I give an F about battle system, there are far more problems within balance, roleplaying, NPC AI, story, LORE, Quests.
    Give me a SHITTY Morrowind Battle system but improve roleplaying, because it fucking sucks in Oblivion. SUCKS HUGE ASS! The worst roleplaying system, almost at the level of some Korean MMORPG.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Phoenixblight


    Go read the article it doesn’t just cover the combat the all aspects of this Skyrim. THis is no Fallout 3 by any means.

    Go whine and cry about Oblivion somewhere else. No one cares.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Erthazus

    “Go read the article”

    Article cover a battle system only. Thats it. No one cares, except for people who rage in Bethesda forums about roleplaying that is fucking sucks.

    “Go whine and cry about Oblivion somewhere else. No one cares.”

    Cares. Even to this day. That just show that you don’t care.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Phoenixblight


    Go read the GI article not this article and no it doesn’t just cover the battle system but all aspects. Me thinks that you don’t get laid enough and thats why you have this troll holier-than-thou attitude.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. TheWulf

    So it’s essentially Oblivion with mods, then?

    I mean, everything described there is old news to anyone who’s played Oblivion with mods.

    I don’t have much faith for this though, really. A lot of the problem is that the setting seems as cliche as cliche could be. I mean – manly man of manliness kills dragons? Eesh.

    I miss the Morrowind era of Bethesda, back when they knew how to create a genuinely interesting world.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Phoenixblight


    Well Bathesda is not exactly known for their story telling, I generally like story centric games like the Bioware games for example but I play Bathesda because of its open world, choice, talent/perk system. Now if there was only a way to merge Bioware story centric theme with Bathesda open world/choice. THat would be like the second coming of Christ right? I mean if you believe in that sort of thing.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Blerk

    I wasn’t a great fan of the sword-play in Oblivion, but making it more complicated turns me off it even more. On the flip side, if I can take a more stealthy approach and do a lot more sneaking and stabbing from the shadows then that’d be awesome. Interested to see where they actually take this.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Gekidami

    I wouldnt mind some gore in the game. Its pretty lame in Oblivion when you’re hitting a guy with a sword and he just falls to the ground as if you managed knocked him out with a foam bat.

    Swords tend to be quite good at cutting stuff, afterall.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. onlineatron

    Move support seems ideal for this.

    #10 4 years ago

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