I’ve been playing this for a good 20-30 hours now and It feels like I have barely touched the surface of the world. I’ve just arrived in my third city and I still have about 20 unfinished side quests from the first two! I’ve been to quite a few locations but am trying to control task overload by clearing as many quests as I can per city before moving on to another. I’m working my way through the main quest but doing so in between everything else deliberately taking breaks so as to draw it out. Here’s my experience….

So far I have killed dragons, gone on an epic bender for a deadric lord, made apple & cabbage soup, stolen a naked lady statue from a priest temple, been chased away by giants after wandering too close to their Mammoth herd, crafted armour and weapons, disenchanted magical items, chopped wood and gathered wheat for money, used a sawmill for the hell of it, bought some houses and decorated them, mounted my weapon and armour trophies on the walls, skinned saber cats, had some fist fights, explored with companions, become a werewolf, learned to “shout” fools away with my voice,  killed vampires, rescued prisoners, helped a persecuted king escape, joined the rebellion, jumped from cliff waterfall and survived then met the ghost of a man who didn’t.

The visual and audio quality of the world is breathtaking, from the moment you are free to explore there seems simply too much to do, too many places to see and not enough time to kill everyone. I haven’t even visited half the cities in the game and every city has about 4 major quests and countless secondary quests. Some are easy to finish but most involve traveling to new, unexplored lands. The clever thing about the game is that it knows where you haven’t been yet and puts quests in those unexplored areas constantly giving you new tasks, enemies to kill, treasure to loot and people to talk to.

The new skills and combat mechanics are great changes from Oblivion and give you plenty of options to build your character without ever feeling complicated or shallow. Skyrim improves on many aspects of Oblivion most notably, getting the monster vs level scaling right, Oblivion was much criticised for leveling all monsters or enemies with you leading to the infamous Ebony armoured bandits who had gear so expensive it made you wonder why they were still camping roads trying to ambush you.

In Skyrim, there seems a good blend of weak and dangerous enemies, although the difficulty is dependent on your character build and resources in some encounters. I never felt something was impossible, occasionally needing to reload or try a different strategy during a fight a few times, I always managed to overcome my foe eventually.

Despite the changes and improvements, some old flaws from past Bethesda games still feature, the voice work is hit and miss, some of it is epic, some of it is repetitive or in some cases, makes no sense at all. Even with the larger selection of voices you will still hear some familiar comments as you walk past the same npc’s, what I don’t understand is why they would make it a requirement for npc’s to keep speaking to you as you pass them, surely they could make it less frequent and thus slightly less irritating.

The other issue is corpses, as I said I helped rescue an imprisoned king, well after freeing him he makes a break for it slaughtering the guards with his allies on his way out of the city, well, a week later, those guard corpses are still littering the streets, which is just poor, considering its a feature quest. Because the game relies on AI to do its own thing there are lots of potentials for things to glitch up, path finding, sitting, random combat encounters etc. Most of the time they work but with such a huge world and so many npc’s they can do the strangest of things sometimes.

On the PC the ui doesn’t quite work as well as it no doubt does on console, it is much cleaner than Oblivion and that is a good thing but at no point does it tell you pressing 1-0 on your favourites list will allow you to hotkey items from there. It also has a strange habit of relying on the Enter key to accept quantities of items which seems unintuitive when your hands are on mouse and WSAD.

Despite these minor niggles Skyrim is so grand in scale and impressive in execution that they pale in comparison. You find yourself so immersed in the world and so keen to explore, quest and defeat your foes that it just doesn’t matter. If you own a PC or console capable of playing this game, you should, there simply isn’t a better game in the genre.

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