I’m only maybe 5 or 6 hours into Skyrim, but I feel like I’ve seen and experienced enough to give you my first impressions. It’s a downright beautiful game, it set my detail level to ‘High’ based on my specs and it was just ridiculous how good it looks. I think there’s been an emphasis on the Elder Scrolls games after Morrowind to try and get you into some action right away, and Skyrim does not disappoint. You start the game as a prisoner (as per usual with these games) and being taken to your death. You escape when, as they shove your head down on the block for the headsman’s axe…well, you’ll see. A member of a rebelling group of Nords (the Stormcloaks) helps you, and depending on how you want to play it you can join them if you like.
Let me pause right there and explain how The Elder Scrolls games are different than some other popular computer RPGs. In The Elder Scrolls, your character is intentionally a blank slate. You start in prison or under arrest in some way – did you actually commit a crime? Are you wrongfully accused? Maybe you stole to feed your family, or you killed someone who was attacking your wife. You decide, and role play it that way. Let that color your decisions for the rest of the game. It’s freeing, especially if you’ve been playing linear RPGs for a while, but for some folks it can feel a bit directionless. You are helping to create your own story, which for some people is not as much fun as starring in their own interactive movie. I love it, though. Similar to that is the fact that Bethesda doesn’t like to limit what you can do, and you can often find quirks in the game which you can exploit to your benefit. It’s up to you not to game the system too much and ruin your experience. If you’ve ever had a DM who had to house-rule something particularly gamebreaking out of a DnD session, same idea.
Below, I will talk about my early game experiences, and there are some minor spoilers.
The first town you reach is a solid spot to act as a tutorial – the opening is a bit action packed to teach you anything but run here/click this to fight and so on. You can learn the new (cool) crafting and weapon/armor improvent skills, and get a few quests. Being a goody-goody as I usually am, I accept the one to go get troops from the Jarl (sort of a regional governor) for the modest town you start in. After wandering a bit, I went to Whiterun and met the Jarl, who agreed that sending a detachment was a good idea…but before they leave, a dragon attacks Whiterun. You join the assault, and once the dragon dies, you seem to absorb it’s power. This causes some old dude to declare you ‘Dragonborn’, and it’s up to you to determine what all that means. There’s some cool powers that come with it, but also people who want to kill you. That’s kind of how this stuff works. But really, you can kind of do what you want here. Ignore all that stuff for a while and do other quests. Explore. Hunt. Cook. Craft. Mine. It’s all fun to varying degrees which is impressive. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the skies while you do all that.
As you can tell, I like Skyrim a lot so far. The interface, as played on the PC, is bothersome. Definitely designed for consoles, I don’t want to use a game controller but may try it. I have a tendency to not be able to see my targets in combat but that might just be me swinging around wildly. More thoughts after more playtime.