”Let me guess, somebody stole your sweet roll?”
Adventuring hasn’t evolved much since Oblivion
; most of the quests are more than interesting enough to keep your attention, but they don’t exactly push the envelope in terms of mission scripting or compelling writing for the most part. However, there are just so many things of such a wide variety to do in Skyrim
that that’s really not a big deal. With five major quest lines dealing with the main story, Nordic civil war, Companions (fighters guild), College of Winterhold (mages guild), Thieves Guild, and the Dark Brotherhood, as well as dozens of other side quests and scores of miscellaneous objectives (fetch quests, etc.), you’ll be kept busy for a good long while. Let’s not forget about the Daedric lords, either! Among their demands are some of the most unique and entertaining quests in the whole game, not to mention the really cool artifacts you can receive as rewards.
After all of that, you’ll still have an infinite number of randomly-generated quests to keep you busy, such rescuing kidnapped NPCs for the Companions, various robbery and other mischievous deeds for the Thieves Guild, plain assassination contracts for the Brotherhood, and bounties for bandit leaders, giants, or dragons issued by Jarls in each hold. Not that you necessarily need the direction of a quest objective to enjoy your time in Skyrim anyway… The Elder Scrolls
is all about getting lost in the exploration of an immense open world, and part V is no exception.
Just wandering the countryside and taking in the sights will put you in a wide-eyed, dropped-jaw stupor, particularly during the first several hours. I remember I took a two-hour detour through the forest and a sizeable bandit stronghold before meandering my way over to the first village of Riverwood (at least, that’s where it’s suggested you go after the tutorial). They say that it’s the journey, not the destination, and that is exactly the philosophy you should have when you set out to play this game, for it will serve you well. Although whoever came up with that probably wasn’t expecting dragons to ambush them on the road…
For all the ‘streamlining’ Bethesda has done to the set of skills we’ve come to know from TES games, there is one pursuit whose role has been quite awesomely expanded in Skyrim: Smithing (formerly known as Armorer). Since items no longer degrade, you won’t be repairing anything, but you will be doing something much more interesting. If you remember, the concept of creating usable equipment from raw materials you collect was touched on in the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion (and the Tribunal expansion for Morrowind before that), and that’s something I really enjoyed. This time around, though, you don’t have to bring the materials to an NPC to craft things for you -- you can do it yourself!
All standard weapons and armors can be created from scratch, provided you have the sufficient skill and can get your hands on the materials. That goes for iron, leather, and steel items, all the way up through elven, dwarven, and orcish, even glass, ebony, daedric, and the new dragon variety. Each has their own type of ore that can be bought, found, or mined from rock deposits and smelted into ingots, but you must have the corresponding perk to be able to work the more advanced materials. (On a somewhat related note, there are now only 4 pieces of armor: helmet, gauntlets, boots, and “armor,” a combination of cuirass and greaves.)
Conveniently, the Smithing perk tree is split between light and heavy armor types, converging at the top with dragon armor, which can be made for either class. Every major city has a blacksmith that won’t mind if you use his equipment, but you’ll also find the proper implements in various other locations throughout the world. Along with the forge used for creating new items, there are grinding wheels and workbenches for improving weapons and armor, respectively. As you might expect, upgrading a weapon will increase its damage, while armors can be made to offer more protection from damage.
As it is now, maxing out your Smithing skill and boosting your ability to improve items with potions and enchantments is a pretty easy way to fashion some very powerful equipment, almost excessively so. I imagine this might be a potential target for nerfing in future updates, at least in regard to how relatively quick and cheap it is to train the skill to 100 by churning out iron daggers; despite being the simplest and most inexpensive recipe, it will contribute as much to increasing your Smithing proficiency as crafting any other item, even the highest quality stuff like dragon armor and daedric weapons. At least there’s a trade-off in that crappy daggers don’t sell for much afterward... Fashioning jewelry from silver or gold and optional gemstones, on the other hand, is quite lucrative.