Last month, Bethesda announced that they would be releasing an Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim update that would feature voice command integration with the Xbox 360 Kinect. The announcement evoked a wide range of reactions, from critical doubt to exuberant anticipation. The update was released at the beginning of May with 200 unique voice commands and, in my opinion, quickly silenced the critics.
Some of the most prominent concerns voiced by the community in regards to the integration of voice commands was that the Kinect would not be responsive enough to make using it worthwhile. In fact, the time between voicing a command and that command being carried out is nearly instantaneous. The Kinect is also acutely perceptive and the vast majority of the time responds to the command the first time you say it. At times, it can actually be a little too perceptive. For example, I was battling it out in the Thalmor embassy and was in a bit of a bind. My husband, who was sitting beside me, commented, “See, this is why you should have saved.” The voice icon lit up, displaying the word “quick save” and the game paused momentarily to cement my predicament into the hard drive. Another time, I was listening to music while playing and suddenly and unexpectedly shouted fire upon Jorrvaskr, the home of the Companions.
One of the most exciting aspects of this update was the opportunity to actually shout the shouts. All of the dragon shouts are available and can be spoken in English (or certain other languages depending on where you live) or in the Dovah tongue. There is something quite satisfying about yelling, “Fus Ro Dah” at my TV and having an enemy go flying off a tower. While this feature is beyond entertaining, it also serves a very important function that goes beyond gimmick.
Being able to speak the commands removes the previously mandatory interruption of gameplay to equip different shouts. Before the update, I predominantly used only two shouts - Unrelenting Force and Fire Breath - because having to switch between more than two options was hassle. With the Kinect, however, I find that I’m using many more of my shouts because they are so easily accessible. The same goes for many of my weapons and spells. Whereas I previously just tore around the countryside wielding Wuuthrad no matter the occasion, I am now much more likely to switch to my bow and arrow when appropriate and to use my healing spell instead of draining my potions.
In addition to the shouts and action voice commands, there are also a variety of ridiculously useful menu commands. For example, when buying or selling items, you are now able to sort items by weight or value. You can also verbally guide your Skills, Character, and Magic menus. There are also quick commands that are shortcuts to commonly used controls, such as ‘quick save,’ ‘quick map,’ and ‘quest,’ the later of which will direct you on the map to the locations of your active quests. You can also use voice commands to control your ally, including telling her when to stay, attack, and carry your burdens.
One of the most useful features of this update is the ability to “hot key” weapons, spells and items. PC versions of Skyrim have always had this feature, but now console players can ditch the sequence of menus and lists and assign a verbal hot key to commonly used commands. For example, you could assign the word ‘Light’ to your Candlelight spell, or the word ‘bound weapon’ for your conjured sword.
Overall, the use of voice commands in Skyrim has made a great game even better. Being able to circumvent menus that interrupt the flow of the game definitely makes the environment feel more immersive. I was amazed at how quickly the voice commands become integrated and integral to my play (once I figured out the difference between assign and equip!). While shouting is fun and sorting my menus very useful, I find the greatest thing about this update is that I find myself using a greater variety of weapons and spells. Where in the past I sidelined a specific tool because of the inconvenience, I am now able to take advantage of a variety of tools with ease and certainly have a fuller and diverse experience for it.
Written by PMS Goosechecka. Goosechecka is a member of the PMS|H2O Editorial Team and the Content and Community Manager at GrifballHub.com. You can follow her on Twitter!