Back in May we reported that patch 1.6 for Skyrim would include a new feature allowing the player to engage in mounted combat. Today I can confirm that this update is now available for Xbox 360. Having played about with the feature for an hour or so, here are my first impressions.
- Only bows, two-handed and one-handed weapons can be used from horseback. Two-handed weapons are wielded one-handed, your character holding the weapon mid-way along its haft.
- Shields and off-hand weapons cannot be used, only the weapon equipped to your right hand will be usable when mounted.
- The right trigger swings the weapon on the horse’s right side, the left trigger swings it to the horse’s left side (rather than blocking with a shield or swinging your off-hand weapon).
- Holding and then releasing either trigger performs a power attack on the respective side.
- Bows work as normal. You have a 180-degree field of fire from the saddle and the ‘zoom’ skill will also work while you are mounted.
Mounted combat requires different techniques to fighting on foot. Riding still takes place in third-person view. With melee weapons you can only attack enemies that are beside you, not in front, so a considerable amount of turning and hit-and-run is involved. Compared to other kinds of video game combat it is most like trying to attack a ground target with an aircraft.
The combat animations are smooth and look believable, and I didn’t experience any glitches. However there are some problems with the system. Firstly your horse still has no health bar and is not invulnerable, making it difficult to tell when your horse is about to be cut from under you. Secondly the lack of a first-person mounted view reduces the angle at which you can aim your bow upwards, making it more difficult to fend off marauding dragons whilst mounted. Thirdly (and strangely considering it is a core game mechanic) it is impossible to use your Thu’um shout whilst mounted.
Whilst this new feature does need some tweaks before it is up to the same standard as Skyrim’s melee combat system, overall it is a welcome and worthy addition to the game and a feature which I hope will be continued in the next instalment of the franchise.