First off, Skyrim is really fun:
- NPCs have their own lives and waltz around more like actual humans instead of being unrealistically confined to their stores or homes 24 hours a day.
- The world is massive and there's tons to explore.
- The quests are surprisingly quite creative, something I normally don't expect from modern RPGs. On top of that, you can beat the game fairly quickly, but there's simultaneously enough content to have you playing for hundreds of hours. This is one of the most impressive things about Skyrim to me.
- There are many different choices and roads open to you throughout Skyrim. You can join one of the two factions or ignore them equally. You can be really nice, really mean, and anything in-between. Murdering a whole town will affect whether you can get quests from that town, and little yet detail-oriented things like that feel pretty unique in video games. It's pretty rad.
- Your relationships with people and towns actually improve rather than having people forget you immediately after you've done a quest for them.
- There's a good amount of difficulty levels to choose from (which can also be changed at anytime in-game). Master is a fairly comfortable level for me; definitely not easy, but not impossible, either.
- The setting is very Scandinavian, something I like as a frequent traveler to Scandinavia. Heck, one of the main races are even called the Nords, and you can see many viking ships throughout the game.
- The customization gives you a fair amount of choices for hair, eye color, face shape, etc.
- Fus-ro-dah. And dragons.
That said, as an indie developer myself, the programming in this game is unbelievably frustrating on quite a few counts:
- I get the appeal of sandbox games, but in a game where creatures don't always level up with you, and certain areas are clearly supposed to be harder than others, more direction than what is given is needed to keep the player sane through getting oneshotted half a dozen times after being given a quest that's way above their current abilities. There's no way to tell whether the area your next quest is in is something you can reasonably do at your level until you go there and see how often you die. It seems very few quests have a level cap, but more than that, there's not even an indication next to the area's name on the map that lets you know how hard the dungeon will be. This is simply a huge oversight.
- Any follower is often a complete moron and stands in your way all the time (especially Lydia). It's not impossible, or even hard, to make people able to be walked through, and if that wasn't coded in in order to make things more "realistic", then why can't you at least push them out of the way, especially since dog followers can push you? (I'm looking at you, Barbas.) This makes absolutely no sense.
- More on followers: I took a liking to Faendal, but most of the available followers have their level set upon the first time you meet them, and thus Faendal became fairly weak after awhile instead of leveling with me. This is irritating because you can't even get close to one specific follower (because they might be next to useless after awhile) unless you edit the game using the console, and I try to do that as little as possible the first run through so I can enjoy the vanilla game.
- Continuing even more with followers, the dog companions, esPECially Barbas, are maddening. For some nonsensical reason, Skyrim's developers thought it smart to have Barbas try to be on the exact same tile you are, causing the dog to push you at every chance he gets and often causing you to fall off cliffs or miss perfect shots. He also barks too much, but that part isn't as bad as I thought it would be. The pathfinding for both dog and human companions is also pretty bad sometimes.
- Your followers often disappear, and sometimes fast-traveling or entering a new area does not fix this problem. This can be fixed in the console by using your followers' reference IDs, but it's not fun to have this happen multiple times per hour of gameplay. The pathfinding for followers can also occasionally be pretty bad.
- You often have to be pointing at exactly the right few pixels to pick up items, and combined with your followers sometimes pushing you, this becomes very frustrating very fast.
- Saving takes a fair amount of time, but you're immediately thrown back into the action after a save, even though the amount of time required for the game to save is variable.
- When it gets dark at night, it gets really dark. This is fine if you're always in caves, but moving between areas gets to be quite irritating. Having to recast Candlelight every 60 seconds to be able to see where I'm going is the major issue; if the game's trying to tell me I need to sleep during this time, I can only say that my werewolf blood disagrees.
- It'd be nice to have hotkeys instead of needing to go into your Favorites menu to change spells, weapons, and the like.
- There are only a handful of voice actors, and a fair amount of NPCs (especially shopkeepers and guards) say the exact same things, leading to an annoying degree of monotony at times. Even the NPCs that you can marry often flirt with you using the exact same line; ugh! A lot of the faces, and especially hairstyles, of NPCs also are very similar and ununique.
- Your marriage choices tend to be very bland-looking characters, or uninteresting ones. Some of the most attractive people I found in the game were the ones who weren't courtable.
- There's no real tutorial for the game.
Overall, Skyrim as a whole is pretty fun, and has many, many hours worth of content to keep players entertained for a long while. The extremely common follower bugs definitely make this game frustrating, though.