Bethesda hopes that Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will bring a totally new feel to combat, eliminating repetitive chopping.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is going to make us change all of the tactics we used in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. New details on the RPG's combat system make it out to be more engaging, threatening, and realistic.
Bethesda is not only adding powerful dragon shout abilities, but says it's crucially altering every aspect of combat in Elder Scrolls as we know it. Combat in Oblivion could get quite repetitive, but Bethesda is trying to change that in the areas of melee, spell casting, and stealth alike.
In general, it'll be easier to swap between equipping various spells and weapons through Skyrim's new quick-select menu. This sounds like it'll be quite helpful, as Skyrim will include 85 different spells in 5 schools - destruction, restoration, illusion, alteration, and conjuration - and many different types of weapons, in addition to more than 20 dragon shouts.
Bethesda head Todd Howard told Game Informer that Skyrim adds a "brutality" to the Elder Scrolls melee combat system that makes it feel more dangerous. Striking and defending must be properly timed, as holding down the block button in Skyrim will make the player perform a bash move that knocks opponents off balance. Players can also lose their footing when striking at the wrong time or blocking improperly, which will leave you exposed. Backpedaling won't suffice as a replacement for timing, as the speed of moving backwards has been greatly decreased. Bethesda added special kill animations, staggering effects, and camera shake to make everything feel more hectic.
Bethesda says that the spell casting system implemented in Skyrim was inspired by BioShock. Players can only cast a spell by giving one of their hands the power to do nothing else while it's equipped, which sounds limiting, but spell-casting in Skyrim has been vastly improved. A fireball spell can shoot a flaming ball of magic, but can also be held to emit a jet of flame, or cast in a rune on the ground as a flame trap. Dual-wielding a fireball will enable the player to cast an even more powerful version, though Bethesda didn't reveal if it plans to enable the combination of unrelated spells.
Each type of spell will have a specific side effect on an enemy, such as how electricity drains magic power or ice drains stamina. Wizards can put a ward spell in their hand to allow for magical blocking, enabling wizard-on-wizard duels that don't become a slap fight. Also cool is the reveal that certain spells will affect the environment, perhaps catching a bush on fire, which then catches anything on fire that touches the burning bush.
Thieves have new archery and stealth improvements to look forward to that will make their lives much easier too. Using a bow becomes more powerful depending on how long the player keeps his arrow drawn. Keep it held long enough, and you'll kill certain enemies in one shot. To balance this, arrows may no longer be as plentiful in the world.
The dagger may also become much stronger when sneaking up behind a foe, with Howard revealing that backstabs will increase dagger damage by a factor of 10 (though this may change in the final version). An alteration to stealth will make it easier to remain hidden, with AI-controlled characters now going into an "alert" state when they notice something instead of immediately going after the player. This state will give players a chance to get back into the shadows.
After hearing about these changes, it almost seems like Bethesda was watching me play and decided to take away all of my key strategies. In Oblivion, I raised my blocking skill by holding a shield up in front of weak, dagger-wielding enemies, and once fought a gaggle of trolls by slashing them and running backwards around a rock. Apparently, this won't be possible anymore, but with all of the other improvements I don't think I'll care.
Source: Game Informer