Today, Bethesda is releasing their excellent role-playing adventure Skyrim for Nintendo Switch and VR. It’s a massive game, with hundreds of hours of exploration, magic and mayhem.
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Before you can get to all of that, you’ve got to start the game and make a bunch of decisions about how, exactly, all those hours are going to play out. No big plot spoilers in here, because while most of you know the story events of Skyrim, there really are people out there who haven’t yet played. Here we go.
Don’t worry if you haven’t played earlier Elder Scrolls games.
Skyrim picks up 200 years after the events of the last game, Oblivion, and while it still takes place on the continent of Tamriel, it tells its own unconnected story. There are references to the stories of past Elder Scrolls games, but any important plot points are laid out by other characters and by text during loading screens.
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Don’t lower the difficulty—some fights are supposed to be hard.
The game defaults to “Adept” difficulty, which I’d say is just about right. The enemies don’t level according to your character in Skyrim, so often, especially in the early goings, you’ll stumble into an area that’s out of your league difficulty-wise. A few of these even happen on the road to major story quests. That’s okay! The game is supposed to be hard, and it will force you to level your character and improve your skills until you can take on the challenge before you.
Don’t worry which ancestral stone you choose at first.
Right near the beginning of the game, you’re given a choice between three ancestral stones: Thief, Mage, and Warrior. Whichever one you choose causes skills associated with that class to improve faster than other skills. Keep in mind, however, that there are 13 ancestral stones like these lying around Skyrim, and while you can only have one active at a time, you can change whenever you want. They’re not permanent. You’ll have time to decide which style of play suits you over the course of the game. There’s no need to agonize over the decision at the beginning, since you can always change your mind.
On PC, there’s a quicksave button, but on console, you’re going to have to remember to save your game often. The gameautosaves whenever you rest, sleep, or go through a door into a new area (basically anytime the game shows a loading screen), but it doesn’t ever save anytime in between. It’s possible to wander Skyrim for an hour, find some good stuff, and then be killed by a mammoth and lose all your progress. Which reminds me…
Don’t piss off the mammoths.
Don’t piss off the giants, either.
Well, unless you want this to happen to you.
Travel with a friend.
Hirable companions have been an option in several of Bethesda’s games, but they feel more usable in Skyrim than ever. When you get your first companion (likely in Whiterun), take her with you on difficult quests. It’ll make your life a lot easier. You also may notice that in the five years since this game came out, she’s become something of a meme. Enjoy it.
Try using a shield.
One of the best things about Skyrim is that you can play it however you want—magic, melee, ranged, or some combination. That said, I’m finding the physical combat to be more enjoyable and a touch deeper than ranged combat. I’ve always played Bethesda games as a sneaky archer, creeping into a room and using my stealth damage-bonus to give people the old one-hit-kill. But in Skyrim, it finally feels too unsatisfying. Bethesda veterans know what I’m talking about, the old “backpedal and fire arrows while getting your face eaten off” strategy. Given Skyrim’s improved melee combat, it’s worth giving shield combat a try. Also shield-bashing is really fun.