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Here is a new article about skyrim from IGN,
After three hours in The Elder Scrolls : Skyrim I haven't talked to a single non-player character. I've accepted no quests, engaged in no conversations and learned nothing about what's going on in the world. I know I'm missing out on what could very well be a lot of interesting content – the guild quests, the main storyline, the rewards that come with completing tasks handed out by those in town – but at the moment I don't care. Exploring the world on my own proves to be more than enough to keep me entertained.
As much as I enjoy following along with a story written by others, the ability to carve my own path is just as alluring. In Elder Scrolls games this option is far more viable than in role-playing games like Dragon Age II that hustle you down narrow corridors between choice nodes. The world of Skyrim is open. I can follow the road to the first town, or I can break from the path and head into the wilderness, which is exactly what I did.
While chasing a deer near a river bank, I noticed dragonflies buzzing around my head. I tried to snatch them out of the air, failed, and realized the deer had sprinted entirely out of view. In a nearby waterfall fish jumped from bottom to top, and by standing on a rock in the midst of the rapids I was able to pluck one out. I let the moving water carry me downstream, where I found the deer again, killed it, and watched its corpse float along with the current, bumping into rocks along the way.
You may think this type of thing is pointless, but for me it's the perfect example of why I'm so drawn to Elder Scrolls games. Skyrim feels like a real place, from the way the wind kicks up snow from the edges of rocky cliffs to the way the surface of ponds ripples under a light rain. It's packed with structured content, but also filled with plenty more reasons to explore.
Take the alchemy system, for instance. Fish plucked from the stream give you salmon meat, defeated skeletons drop bone meal, and mountain passes, open fields and rocky hillocks are bristling with harvestable patches of plants. Attached to all the gathered ingredients are various properties. Some inflict damage when consumed, some fortify statistics. What's the best way to discover all the attached attributes? Munching on unknown grasses and chewing strange substances will reveal their properties, though you'll also suffer from the ill effects should any exist.
I happened across an alchemy table while in the depths of a necromancer lair. This underground warren I discovered randomly after swimming through the black waters of a lonely lake. I bypassed a wooden ship that lay broken beneath the water's surface and curious standing stone situated on a small patch of land in the lake's center to investigate a broken rock ruin along one of the shores. In the ruins was a hatch, and below the hatch was the waterlogged lair of some especially aggressive magicians.
With no associated quests I had no explicit reason to move beyond the ruin's entrance. The skeleton strapped to a post on the other side of the hatch was a strong indicator that friendly things did not await. But I moved beyond the ghoulish scarecrow anyway and into the lair flooded with ankle-deep water from the adjacent lake. This didn't feel like some dull cave or random dungeon, but was designed and decorated to look like a believable, liveable and unique space. I surprised two necromancers as they presided over a long dinner table in a cavernous hall. I trudged down basement stairs and discovered their sleeping quarters, and despite their enthusiastic use of ice magic I was able to take them down.
This gave me free access to their alchemical and enchanting setups. At the alchemy table I could choose from the list of all the ingredients in my inventory. If items with similar properties were combined, potions were produced. The formula for the potion then appeared in the alchemy window, serving as an easy way to make more potions provided the proper ingredients are available. If the properties of the ingredients are not known, you can still combine items, though you do so blindly. If the items are incompatible they'll form nothing and be consumed in the process. If the items match, then surprise, you get a new potion.
Enchanting, which also requires a special table, is a little less unpredictable. To create an enchantment you first need to break down an existing magical item. I'd looted a bunch of magic robes from the necromancers with bonuses to Destruction spells, so using the table I destroyed them to produce an enchant. With a soul gem, an appropriate item and the enchant, it was then possible to apply the bonuses to a new piece of equipment, which was helpful because for this play session I was focusing on Destruction magic.
Though it's possible to use sword and shield, mace, axe or a conjured magical sword, I stuck mostly with the Flames spell. If equipped in one hand, it shoots out a concentrated stream of fire a short distance forward, setting the ground and targets alight where it hits and doing decent damage. If equipped in both hands, the Flames spell fires a stream from each hand. And if you invest in your Destruction perk tree properly, you can achieve a combined effect for greater damage.
Perk trees exist for every skill category in the game, including the various magic types, one-handed weapons, armor types and more. Because I focused on Destruction instead of spreading points across multiple trees, I was able to unlock a few nice upgrades even though I only reached level five. Many actions in Skyrim will result in some kind of skill category leveling up. If you pick a bunch of locks, you'll increase your lockpicking. If you get hit a lot, your armor skill goes up. When enough skills level, your overall character level increases. This affords you the opportunity to bump up one of three categories: Magicka, Health or Stamina. Stamina governs how long you can sprint and how much energy you have to pull off powerful melee moves, and you draw on Magicka to power spells. If you want to cast spells, enhancing Magicka is a good idea, which I did every time I leveled.
Increasing your overall character level also gives you a point that can be invested on one of the many perk trees. You can't just place these points anywhere, but need to meet a perk's requirements. For example, in the Destruction tree, I couldn't activate a 25 percent bonus fire damage perk until my Destruction skill was raised to a high enough level, which is done through repeated use. If I was playing a warrior and chopping everything to bits with a two-handed sword and never bothered to use the Flames spell or any other Destruction magic, that skill category's rating would be so low that hardly any of the tree could be unlocked.
Follow the quests, or explore on your own.
As a result, it makes sense to specialize. I invested in the Destruction line, earning bonuses to Magicka efficiency and damage output. I also unlocked the ability to gain bonuses by dual-casting the same spell. The changes weren't simply statistical; I could see the effect onscreen. Instead of extending both arms with palms raised to shoot out two separate Flame spells, my character moved his arms inward in a Street Fighter-like fireball fashion, combining both fire streams into one. I can't wait to experiment to see how other Destruction magic types are affected by this mechanic, as there are plenty of other spells in the game of the fire, frost and shock variety that are included in the Destruction type of magic.
At this point during my play session, I was lost. I didn't even want to bring up the incredibly detailed and useful world map to reveal my position and mark waypoints to get to a populated area. I was happy to wander and deal with things as I discovered them. In the middle of a field I found rotatable stones inscribed with glyphs and a switch situated in the center. Clearly there was some ideal configuration to the stones that would unlock a nearby grate, but after a few minutes of experimentation, I couldn't find the solution. The sun then set and I spied a large bonfire raging in the distance. When I arrived on the scene I found two mammoths and a giant striding around, and I quickly sprinted away.
Skyrim is a beautiful game. I found dungeons populated by draugr that hid all kinds of cool gear and items, an alchemist's shack that I plundered for valuable soul gems and other magical supplies, and a mystical tree guarded by a fierce spriggan that killed me almost instantly. Eventually I was drawn a nearby high, snowy peak, and as I picked through the ominous black stone ruins near the slope's crest I found a word wall on which was etched the language of dragons. Too bad it was guarded by three frost trolls, each strong enough to kill me in a single slap.
Clearly I'd wandered a little further than I should have, but the thrill of knowing at any moment I could stumble upon a fantastic treasure, mysterious puzzle or deadly creature made every step away from the structured content feel worthwhile. I'll get to the main story content eventually, but when I'm using a fantasy world like Skyrim to escape from reality, sometimes I just want to create my own adventure instead of follow the orders of others.