It should go without saying that Skyrim is a beautiful game. The visuals are highly detailed and fantastic. However, a game can be pretty and boring too.
The gameplay in Skyrim is very good. My favorite new feature is that you can “dual-cast” a spell by assigning it to both hands. This makes the spell more powerful. You can also augment your character with “perks,” which are similar to Feats in 3rd and 4th edition D&D. The crafting system seems richer than in previous games at first glance. For example, you can cure the pelts from animals you kill into leather. Leather can be cut into strips. Leather strips can be used as components are arms and armor you create.
The UI in Skyrim could be a little better in my opinion. First, the tutorial doesn’t really tell you how important the Tab key is. It basically gets you into and out of your character. Gone is the grid image of your backpack (which is fine). Instead you just have a long list of items. You can click on item categories to get sublists, but the items are just sorted alphabetically. It’s hard to see everything your character has equipped. It would be nice to be able to sort items by weight or value. You still have to play the game of deciding which loot to keep and sell and which gear to drop. It’s harder when you can’t sort by weight and value.
You can select gear, skills, and spells and add them to a “favorites” menu. Pressing ‘Q’ at any time during the game brings up the favorites menu allowing you to use potions or switch out weapons or spells. This is pretty cool, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to hotkey certain items. I know I’ve wished for a healing potion hotkey during combat. On the other hand, entering the favorites menu does pause the action, so there’s no penalty for having to search through your favorites for the healing potion.
Another thing that’s new is the ability to hire followers. I asked an archer to accompany me and he’s helped me through some difficult combat scenarios. The only drawback to the followers is that they are sometimes in the way. Much of the interaction with NPC’s is scripted, and if the follower is standing in the NPC’s path the NPC isn’t usually smart enough to go around. Instead I have to move around a bit to get my follower to move out of the NPC’s way.
The story is interesting so far. I’ve got about 4 hours in the game at this point. There are other gameplay elements that I haven’t mentioned for fear of giving spoilers. In the entire 4 hours I played, I had no game crashes or obvious bugs of any kind. I purchased a copy of the game through Steam.