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Given the impending release of the latest entry in
Bethesda’s venerated Elder Scrolls series, the gaming community has been
inundated with previews, interviews, and other media touting the new features
Skyrim will introduce to the land of Tamriel.
Devoted fans of the series, seething with anticipation, have dissected
and reassembled everything we know thus far about this frigid northern region
and its prophesied hero, the Dragonborn.
This abundance of coverage, a mixture of shrewd marketing
and genuine enthusiasm, has produced quite a few tidbits of information worthy
of discussion. The revamped interface,
the new game engine, the dynamic nature of sidequests, the unscripted
encounters with gargantuan beasts of terrifying power – these topics and more
have served readily as fodder for gamers chomping at the bit to experience them
firsthand. There remains one subject,
however, that never fails to produce page upon page of speculation even in the
absence of substantial information from Bethesda and its almighty hype
Elder Scrolls lore tells us that Skyrim’s Nords are no
stranger to the werebeast, specifically werewolves and werebears, and of course
many fans of the series have fond memories of becoming a werewolf in
Morrowind’s Bloodmoon expansion. It is
also perhaps worth noting that geographically, the island of Solstheim that
served as Bloodmoon’s setting is but a short distance from the region of
Skyrim. Both areas also happen to be inhabited
chiefly by Nords. In terms of story and
verisimilitude, the table has already been set.
Encountering one of these savage half-beasts in Skyrim’s fabled
wilderness would be consistent with past entries, whereas the absence of them
would be unusual.
Nonetheless, there are other factors to consider when
pondering whether they should be included in the game’s initial release. Bethesda has spent much of Skyrim’s
post-announcement phase emphasizing the role of dragons in the game, deriving a
great deal of thematic content from their connection to the prophecy that
drives the main character’s quest. It
would be a shame if werebeasts were implemented as an afterthought, taking a
backseat to Skyrim’s winged terrors.
Vampirism, for instance, proved to be little more than a diversion in
Oblivion. Should lycanthropy be given
similar treatment, it would be a wasted opportunity. The rugged landscape of Skyrim and the
stalwart nature of its native people could make a fitting canvas for a
lycanthrope questline, if handled with care and attention to detail.
Bethesda’s intentions in this matter are hard to gauge, as
they’ve been relatively tight-lipped on the subject. Skyrim’s Art Director, Matt Carofano, stated
in an interview with Dutch publication 9 Lives that werewolves might be
included in DLC, but aren’t present in the core game. Game Director and Executive Producer Todd
Howard said much earlier in the year, during a podcast interview with Game
Informer, that it wasn’t clear whether or not werewolves would fit into the
release version, but that they were likely candidates for DLC. It seems evident that Bethesda is listening
and is aware that many fans would like to see this element included in the
game, but as of yet no commitment has been made. Perhaps their silence is part of a grander
design to later unveil an expansion featuring werebeasts.
Odd though it may seem to outright exclude
lycanthropy from this fifth iteration of the series, as was done with Oblivion,
it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. The game
will surely fly off of shelves and devour the lives of Elder Scrolls fans the
world over regardless of Bethesda’s plans on this one little point. After all, the absence of werelions from the
region of Cyrodiil had little bearing, if any, on the success of Oblivion. The focus on Skyrim’s other creatures,
particularly dragons, may prove to be the wiser choice. It’s always possible that the team at
Bethesda reached the conclusion that lycanthropy simply doesn’t work with the
design they’ve implemented. Whatever the
case and whatever the outcome, here’s to hoping that Hircine’s Hounds will
make a triumphant and grisly return on or soon after November 11th.