I've had Skyrim about a week now, and though there's undoubtedly a ton of blogs, articles and reviews out there already that probably go into a lot more depth than I ever could about Skyrim I thought I'd write down a few of my impressions of the PC version of the game from my first 20 hours of gameplay.
I say 'first 20 hours', as if it's an everyday thing for a game to last 20 hours and not feel completed, when really I don't think I've ever encountered a mainstream game with as much first-time investable potential as Skyrim has, it seems, in short, an incredibly immense game.
A perfect illustration of this is the dragons. Dragons form a huge part of the game, afterall you're the Dovahkiin (the dragon born) and the focus of the narrative is pretty much: 'Hey, thems some dragons don com and attacker us! Help Dovelking!'
For some people the encounter with the dragons comes pretty quickly – you can be fighting dragons within about an hour or two of the game beginning (give or take some time out to train.)
For me I didn't even meet a dragon till I'd invested a little over 16 hours into the game, it wasn't so much that I'd been avoiding the story but rather that everything – from the random encounters, to the training and pastimes you can engage in, to the sidequests you can take on, to the mainquests seems to have been given an equal amount of weight, care and attention, when it comes to how they feel that I didn't even realise I hadn't made any progress with the story till I got to the 16 hour mark and wondered why I hadn't seen any dragons.
The thing about Skyrim is that whatever you're doing it feels proper, whether you're fighting in hand-to-hand with swords, throwing magic at guys, or picking crops to sell, everything feels as though it's an equally good use of your time so you're free to play as you want, and do as little or as much as you like. Even creating your character is as simple or as complex as you want it, you can use a pre-defined face or make your own by altering a couple of dozen different aspects.
You can, for example, just run around finishing quests and then taking the rewards from those quests, or you can (as I do) painstakingly go through every dungeon picking up everything that isn't nailed to sell on later... ok, so I'm something of a magpie, but both are equally good uses of your time. I must have spent atleast an hour or two by now investigating barrels for fruit and veg... most of which I don't eat (sorry mum.)
When I wasn't hauling crap half-way across Skyrim over and over again I was running around the landscape getting attacked by various kinds of animals, bandits and weird magic dudes who attack you for no reason, and shooting said individuals in the face with arrows. Which works pretty well. Early on it's possible to get overwhelmed quite easily, especially with multiple foes, but as you work up the levels and improve your skills your ability to dish out damage, and to take it, increases by leaps and bounds, making the game even more enjoyable.
The main problems I found with Skyrim were bugs/glitches rather than design flaws - clipping (where objects/people) pass through one another can happen sometimes, especially during 'finishing moves' when the screen's crowded; there are also texture glitches where some textures will become transparent; the game also has a habit of crashing intermittently for no apparent reason. None of these glitches are game-breakers – they're potentially 'make you paranoid enough to press F5 every 5 seconds' problems but they're bearable given how massive the game is, how much there is to do, and how much love has obviously been put into everything about the Skyrim world.
I imagine that for the Elder Scrolls devotee the potential for enjoyment from the game may be almost unlimited, the amount of time you can drop into quests is immense, but the amount you can drop into fiddling with equipment, mining, enchanting, improving gear and all the other side-activites is absolutely epic. Add to that a ton of short books that can be read and the amount of game you get is staggering.
Even for the casual gamer though Skyrim is something else, it's immense, it's staggering and despite whatever problem it may have an incredibly enjoyable game; it's also a game in which you can put in as much as you like and take out as much as you like. You can for example spend absolutely hours reading all the in-game lore or exploring the townships and listening to everything people say, or you could 'complete' the game in a few hours just focusing on the main quest.