Thursday, January 27, 2011

Skyrim Brings Back Stealth In A Big Way

A major component of The Elder Scrolls series has always been stealth, sneaking and stealing. In Obivion (The Elder Scrolls IV) it practically felt like an open world Thief game. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim looks to improve many aspects over the previous games but what’s mostly being improved and changing is the stealth.

GameInformer claims that stealth works basically the same as it did in Oblivion, good right? But with a few key differences: NPCs will now go into an alert phase when they hear the player make a noise or think they saw you. The higher your sneak skill the more time you will have to hide after an enemy has seen or heard you.

The dagger is getting a huge improvement over the last few entries in the series. “Now when you sneak up behind guys, the dagger does something like 10x damage,” says game director Todd Howard. “I don’t know if we’re going to keep that, but you feel like you should be killing the guy if you’ve gotten that close and you have a dagger.” If this is implemented it would dramatically change the way the game can be played, for the better. In Obivion, after striking an unsuspecting foe from behind they would commonly turn around and start fighting, even the sleeping ones. To not be able to get a one-hit kill on a sleeping enemy is just absurd. While Howard specifically mentions daggers it is unclear whether other melee weapons would have the same effect.

The dagger isn’t the only weapon getting a makeover; the bow too will work differently than it did in Oblivion. Bows will now be much more powerful, possibly taking enemies out in one hit. The reasonable drawback is that they take a longer to fire a shot. With more powerful arrows comes a lack of availability, meaning players won’t be able to shower enemies with arrows. While a bow can’t be used very well for defense it can be used to knock opponents off balance allowing the player to widen the distance and get off another shot.

Overall it’s nice to see these areas of the Elder Scrolls being so carefully enhanced. As someone who always took the stealth route it was always disappointing to get caught because the game didn’t work in a logical fashion, like attacking a sleeping enemy and not getting a one-hit kill.

Skyrim: Building Better Combat Via GameInformer

Games with stealth is a column dedicated to, well, games that have stealth but aren't necessarily stealth games. For more games with stealth find the tag below or click here.


  1. Well, now that it's released...

    Stealth is extremely powerful in this game. Probably to the point of being too powerful.

    With appropriate perks you can hit the target for 30x daggers damage from stealth, further increased if you are using power attack, multiplied if you have two daggers equiped and using powerattack that strikes three times and then completely blown off the water by item enchantments, that increases your melee and critical damage on top of everything else.

    Yes, suffice to say, daggers are extremely deadly from stealth. Not so much in direct combat, to be sure, but nothing prevents you from breaking line of sight, vanishing (100 sneak perk) and coming back to open up again.

    Bows are plain deadly as well. Couple a few bow perks with full stealth (sneak) perks set, and you can attack with devastating shots from very far away without fear of ever being discovered.

    All this power comes at a price, however. Should a full stealth character find himself in a situation when he can't open from stealth or escape direct confrontation, it's not going to end pretty. Even on default difficulty setting most of the monsters do brutal damage to lightly armored targets.

    At level 28 archer equipped with dual daggers for instannt assasinations, fully speced in archery and sneak tree (going up onehanded atm) I generally cut through everything but direct combat. Might have to up difficulty level a notch, but then again - it IS satisfying to oneshot stuff, knowing full and well that if said stuff finds me, it will annihilate me in seconds.