You may have remembered Todd Howard’s Keynote at DICE about the various ideas (skeleton butlers? hell yeah!) that unfortunately never made it to the retail release of ‘Skyim’. One of them was an obvious fit for Xbox’s answer to motion control. With the Kinect’s voice recognition, now you can finally scream at the TV without being angry at 12 year old spawn campers.
I got the opportunity to get a one on one hands-on demo of the upcoming ‘Skyrim’ addition featuring Kinect enabled controls. Well, technically it was a hands-off demo given the nature of Kinect. I’m getting off topic. Anyway, the meat and potatoes of the latest update from Bethesda is the ability to harness you’re inner ‘dovahkiin’ and perform the various shouts that cast magical offensive and defense spells. You can also access the menus and map and assign items with commands like ‘Shield’ or Left Hand Axe’. Along with mapping voice prompts, you can do a bit of inventory management and cleanup by sorting items based in weight, value, damage, etc. This is a very welcome addition as Elder Scrolls are somewhat notorious for cluttered inventories. However, my favorite addition was the quick save and load feature. It seems silly, but not having to go into the systems menu every time you want reload a previous instance is really helpful for some as obsessive as I am with game saves. You’ll also get another labeled save slot for the quick save feature to keep things a bit more organized.
Maps and items and saves are all great but you came here because like me and everyone else way too into ‘Skyrim’- you practiced your dragon shouts in the bathroom mirror. The Kinect provides the best opportunity to put that hard work to the test. However, you don’t need to memorize an entire language to use the powers. For instance, just say ‘Unrelenting Force’ and your dovahkiin will perform the shout. Though, one of the neatest features deals with actually speaking the dragon language. If you want to keep with spirit of the game, simply hold down the right bumper and you’ll notice that a little dragon icon appears at the top right. You’re now in a mode which allows you to speak the dragon’s tongue as it’s spelled. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3; or in this case ‘Fus, Ro, Dah’. Additionally, you’re no longer bound to any single shout as the full vocabulary of the powers can be accessed on the fly.
The last major point is ally interaction. For those of you who loath having to open a series of dialogue choice just to get your follower to attack or stay, you can now simply command the with speech. Point you reticule over an object or enemy and with the proper voice prompt, your follower will pick up, move, or attack. It's very handy to have this has it saves you a few moments so you keep playing without stopping and starting. I could see it work great in sneaking situations a your ally often gets in the way.
As for the functionality, I found the Kinect pretty responsive with few hiccups when I was either talking too fast or not clearly enough. Overall, getting into and around menus and calling up favorited items and spells was intuitive and commanding allies was easy. Performance from the Kinect was on the spot, with only a slight delay with ally commands. Speaking either English or dragonese was just as smooth as tapping the button. If you already have a Kinect and 'Skyrim', this is a welcome addition.