You are in the back of a horsedrawn cart, being pulled along a wooded road, but to where? There are two other men– prisoners, like you– bound at the wrist and seated in the car with you and an armored, helmeted guard. Why? Where are you going? To die for the crime of opposing the empire. Wait, what empire?
The executioner draws his axe… And? What’s that in the sky?
First there’s the breadth of the thing. An unmistakable sense of place, a lush forest, individual sounds, a rolling horizon that draws nearer and further, pickable, ‘edible’ plants, fully open and free. By the time you’ve escaped the execution, having fled the garrison to follow the road up to the mountain vista and hear the rousing strings play as the camera surrounds you, you approach at the summit to
(take it all in)
You’re hooked. This isn’t a game. It’s a world.
And it’s big. If you’re like me, overcome with your newfound freedom, you just tear off and run! You’ll pass through pine forests, birch, swamps, mountains, gorges, barrows, treefalls, snow, sun, moon (an extra planet) all the seasons (newly named), the days of the week. You lose track of time. (Freidas already)? Everything somehow leads to a dramatic waterfall.
It’s also interactive. The plants can be picked. Animals can be hunted, meat extracted. With some of the aforementioned plants, food can be cooked, eaten, even sold. Alternately, the plans can be mixed to create poisons, healing potions, or other items.
Differing types of ore can be mined, and with a smelter found in any large city, converted to metal ingots you can use to hammer into armor and weapons. These can also be sold, or worn. And the act of creating them increases your blacksmith skill, of course.
Weapons, armor, clothing, and jewelry can be enchanted to make flaming swords, electric hammers, rings that help you draw a bow, and boots that help you carry more. The combinations that can be achieved here are amazing, and the reason why you can spend hours just outfitting yourself to your satisfaction.
The depth and breadth of this game beats anything else I’ve ever played. Thematically, my favorite remains the Fallout series, but this has so much of Fallout’s DNA, and has improved on so much of it, that I don’t feel bad making the comparison.
So this is my warning: you will lose days of your life in here. Hopefully this list can make some of that time better spent.
1. Find a companion as soon as you can. Companions are a great advantage in combat, mainly because they provide something else for your enemies to shoot at. Sometimes they are going to get stuck, or killed, or lost, so plan on this, and switch companions regularly. You should also outfit them with homemade armor and weaponry that you smith yourself– this gives you the opportunity to improve your blacksmith and enchanting skills.
2. There is a bug in the game that allows companions to carry items with no weight limit so long as they pick them up off the ground. You have to ask them to do something, and then point to the item you want them to pick up and carry. There is no upward limit using this method, but any other way will hit the weight limit.
3. Collect flowers, roots, mushrooms, etc. Eat everything you find, early in the game; there’s plenty of it to be found later. Eating the items gives you insights to their alchemical effects so there’s less guesswork involved in alchemy.
4. Get into blacksmithing as soon as you can, and build everything available. This will increase your skill. I didn’t get into this until much later, and the benefits of good material (with good enchantments) are immense. Improve weapons and armor at sharpening wheels and workman’s tables, respectively. When you find the Skyforge, do as much work as you can there.
5. Archery and poisons should form the basis of your combat strategy. Remember: stay hidden! Bonuses from sneak attacks can be immense. Also, there are poisons that create vulnerabilities, which can be played off your companion’s strengths. If your companion shoots electricity, and you have the “weakness to shock” poison, shooting your enemy with a poisoned arrow early in combat is a good strategy.
6. By default, you can conjure 1 ally at a time. Conjuring is one of the most effective tactical moves you can make, because while the ally may cause limited damage, they lure enemies away. Likewise, you will often be in the dark or poor visibility. Conjured allies provide an excellent poor man’s radar, as they will charge any nearby enemies, often times illuminating them with fire. Any magic items you find based around conjuring, save.
7. Hoard soul gems and watch the charge on your items. Remember magical weapons run dry and must be recharged. Load the gems with souls for better charge and sale price.
8. Read any book worth more than 50, as that’s a good way to tell if it contains any skill bonuses. Then, sell it. Spend the money to train with anyone that can teach you anything, especially smithing and magic.
9. You don’t have to explore everyplace the second you discover it, but a filled map means you can fast-travel more effectively. So roam as long and far as you can, in order to rack-up fast-travel places.
10. Dragons are wounded and slowed at a distance, but they are killed most effectively with heavy weapons up close. Have your companion carry the scales, and make your way to the nearest store to sell them.
That ought to do it! What are your best tips?