Bones, go out and pick this shit up and kiss the Wastelands goodbye.
I started playing yesterday after getting home from work and got a good hour or so in before I had to go back to work. I had just enough time to get through the tutorial level, but I might have rushed it a little. I didn't get to explore every nook and cranny; but I think there is a sense of urgency in the tutorial that doesn't really encourage exploration, plus there wasn't anything worth finding. I spent the majority of the time trying to decide if I was going to be a man-cat, a lizard man or just a man-man. Ever since my halloween costume, I've wanted to be a rapping wizard. So I went with the man - Nord, I think. He's got a shaved head and a full beard (ever wizard has to have a beard). He's also got an milky eye like the guy in the curio shop in Gremlins.
I was AMAZED at the level of customization for the characters, especially with the lizardmen and mancats. The graphics are incredibly improved and the various character models are insane! I hated how everyone in Oblivion looked like a mongloid, no matter the race. The lizards and cats were the only decent looking ones, and they still looked like shit. In Skyrim, I was able to create a human character that didn't look like he was retarded. Instead, he's a badass fucking wizard. Or he will be.
By the time I completed the tutorial, I had to go to work - so I climbed to a small peak and saved. I didn't get to play again last night after I got home, too tired - but I did wake up at 3AM and just decided to stay up and pick my game back up. I had about four hours to play before I had to get ready to go back to work again. I played through the first few quests, go here, see this person, get some more missions. I'm trying to pay more attention this time around to the locations and names so I don't feel so lost.
I guess feeling lost is part of the game, like stepping into the Wasteland for the first time - only this isn't DC or Vegas where you can look for familiar sights - it's only mountains, trees and snow! I tried to stick to the first few missions to gain some experience, weaponry and gold - but it wasn't long before I was swimming up and down the river collecting salmon. Later on, I came to a farm where this lady will pay you to harvest her crops. So I did that for a while. I tried hunting the few stags that I came across, but I kept getting too impatient and chasing them off. Right now, I am a much better butterfly hunter. I have like 20 pairs of butterfly wings. Hopefully when I get a better bow, things will change.
The menus are so much easier to navigate as well, even better than the Pip Boy 3000. I like being able to cue up my favorite weapons, spells, etc. and just pull them up in game - without having to navigate the menu. This will be huge later on. It's like hot-keying, only you can select from a list and it pauses the action for you. I have my healing spells, bow and arrow, fire spells and battle axe all ready to go. The menus are pretty easy to navigate otherwise, the map is two button presses away, same as items, upgrades and magic. Buying and selling is a lot like Fallout, but again - a lot cleaner and not on a Pip-Boy.
The upgrade system is pretty crazy too. I like it much better than Oblivion - whatever you do, you upgrade that skill set. Upgrading your skill sets levels you up. I was walking around in crouch and I was upgrading my sneak ability. Using bows and arrows increases your archery. Using magic increases your penis size. When you level up, you can assign a "point" to one of the 15-something branches of character customization. There are branches for destructive magic, healing magic, sword play, stamina - basically everything you would use to develop your character and basically lets you "control their stars" by customizing what perks or abilities they have. I'm going to try and focus on magic, some light sword play and archery.
Crafting seems to be pretty well orchestrated too - you can make a ton of shit. In the blacksmith shop, you can sharpen your weapons, craft weapons, tan leather and make leather strips. Over the fire, you can make meals based on the foods you find. I've found a ton of vegetables in the game so far and have cooked a ton of stuff. I could open a Salmon Steak and Cabbage Soup restaurant. I like the cooking better than in Fallout. Real world ingredients make more sense to me than using all the chemicals and shit. There are also tables for alchemy and enchanting weapons. I only got a brief introduction to those, but I am sure I will become better versed in the time to come.
I really like it so far. Very addicting, very in depth. Everything is laid out very well. The action is great and once you get a hang of the combat system, it's a lot of fun. I like the ability to dual wield a weapon and magic.
I'm only getting started, I know there are people WAY ahead of me - just wanted to share my experiences and tell bones to just go get the fucking game. You'll love it.