The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preview

I pan beyond the mountain I'm climbing now and look for the nearest city in this direction. Off to the east, the snowy slopes give way to milder forests running along a meandering river, and a few miles later the river leads to a city. I'm going to Riften.

You can't fast-travel to cities you haven't visited already, but I want to walk it anyway. I haven't gone far up the slopes when it starts to snow – lightly, then heavily, then a full-on blizzard. A cold haze creeps over everything, and I can barely see where I'm going. I stumble on some carefully piled rocks, and follow a trail of these as best I can. Until I come to one that's splattered with blood and decorated with human bones. Ah.

My compass indicates some kind of thing nearby, so I head to it. I could use a thing about now.

The thing turns out to be Orphan Rock, a huge mass of stone jutting out from the mountainside. Scrambling through the snow, I find a way to the top and peer out into the storm. All I can make out is what looks like a huge carcass to the east. I jump down to investigate, and realise it's a horse: dead and twisted next to an upturned cart. I 'search' its 'inventory' and 'collect' some horse meat, then freeze at the sound of steel. I scan the wreckage for movement, and realise there's a large, shaggily dressed warrior making his way around it, battleaxe drawn.

So about the new dual-wielding system. In your inventory, you equip an item or spell by pressing the button you want to assign it to: left or right. There are virtually no restrictions on what you can mix, so I'd mixed a flame spell in my left hand with the new lightning one in my right. And in the heat of the moment, it's pretty natural to just hold down both.

The crackling torrent of fire and electricity takes even me by surprise. A separate stream shoots from each hand, but they're so thick and chaotic that it often looks like one vast beam of lightning and flame. I can barely see the warrior through the dazzling blaze, but when my magicka bar runs dry there's only a corpse. At which point, a long sharp object zips past my head.

Archers. Two of them, and I have no magicka. I will solve this by standing exactly behind a tree until I do. This is what they did for a cover system in fantasy times.

Unfortunately, the warrior has a friend with a sword and shield, and he knows his way around a tree. I need something else to attack with, so I bring up my Favourites menu. Your inventory in Skyrim is like a web browser, in that you can bookmark items and bring that shortlist up in-game. Time is paused while you choose, so it's not like a hotkey system – a difference I was glad of in this tight spot. I'd bookmarked my best onehanded sword, and I had two of them, so I hit the left and right buttons to put one in each hand.

Melee combat is slightly more satisfying than in Oblivion, but light blows still feel a little unconvincing, and heavy ones still a little clumsy. My enemy was excellent at blocking, but I had a crucial advantage: I wasn't going to ever stop attacking for any reason. Eventually he just couldn't block all the blows from both my swords all the time, and he fell to his cuts. At which point, I had a full bar of magicka and my fire and lightning spells re-equipped. Charge!

I am not a skilful man, so it took my whole magicka supply to keep my dual streams on the first archer long enough to burn him to the ground. Back to the favourites menu: two axes! Against a man with a bow, this fight goes better – it ends when I bring both axes crashing into either side of his head with a special dual power attack.

Suddenly I'm alone in the blizzard, among the corpses of both the attackers and the travellers they evidently ambushed. I put my axes away and set off towards Riften.

The blizzard doesn't let up, and it's getting dark. I start looking for another thing. My compass suggests there's a boxy thing with lines in it to the north and a triangular thing to the west – I'm not yet familiar with what these icons represent. I head for the boxy thing, and by the time I arrive it's night.