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Release Date: November 11, 2011

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EGM Quickguide
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Posted on November 11, 2011 AT 05:18pm

Make the most of your initial hours in Bethesda’s epic RPG

Calling The Elder Scrolls V massive is kinda like calling Kim Kardashian’s respect for the sanctity of marriage a bit suspect. Simply put, this game is huge, and while the its instruction manual seems OK with throwing you to the werewolves, we’ve decided to share some lessons learned from our first 40 hours in the world of Tamriel to make sure you guys get as buff as possible in no time fast.

So, without further ado, we present to you 5 quick tips that’ll help you hit the ground running in this awe-inspiring RPG:

1. Do Your Due Diligence in Dabbling

One of Skyrim’s key tenets is that your character learns by doing. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really go into great detail about what you should put time into to improve, as most of the tutorials are subtly integrated as miniquests given out by random merchants—and some are even less specific than that, granting you boosts to your abilities when you make use of them.

As such, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind as you get started. Basic skills like armor, weapons, magic, and random acts of thievery will all level up as you use them, so try to make sure to mix up your arsenal early to improve these elements until you find your favorite skillset. Doing things like sneaking any time an enemy’s nearby, attempting to pick every lock you come across, and using ranged spells and weapons before mixing things up in hand-to-hand combat will go a long way toward upping your XP and unlocking new perks. Other elements, like alchemy, smithing, and enchanting require you to go to specific workbenches to get things cooking.

Alchemy’s pretty simple , as you essentially need to remember two things:  1) Craft every available potion. 2) Eat every ingredient at least once, as this will grant you access to more craftable potions, upping your Alchemy skill and XP in one fell swoop.

You can get the jump on smithing by helping the blacksmith in Whiterun with three simple tasks. From there, you’ll have the basics down and start upping your Smithing skills and XP in a big way by looting your enemies, improving their weapons, enchanting them, and then selling these souped-up goods at a premium.

Speaking of enchanting, this element’s a key path to big bucks in the Skyrim economy, so be sure to focus on two things early: 1) Disenchant every new type of magic weapon you get your mitts on. This will grant you access to new enchantments, which you can then apply to any similar item of your choosing. 2) Enchant every normal weapon you can, even if you’re using a petty Soul Gem. Both actions will increase your skills and up your XP, and they’ll help you make a ton of loot off those random daggers and rings you keep finding.

Follow these basic steps, and you’ll pad your pockets and strengthen your character in no time flat.

2. Up Your Inventory Storage As Soon As Possible

To help with this endeavor, you’ll need to aggressively combat one of Skyrim’s most crippling limitations: carrying capacity. Unlike older entries in the series, ESV’s focus on the new perks system keeps you from manually increase your strength attribute, which means you’ll have a tough time holding on to the endless flood of loot you stumble upon. As a result, you’ll leave valuable goods just lying around, which will really hurt your ability to level up efficiently.

Luckily, Skyrim offers some easy ways to handle this. One is leveling up, which will gradually increase your character’s carrying capacity—but, considering this process is slower than a one-legged Troll, we recommend adding a companion to the mix, who you’ll come to do discover is reluctantly “sworn to carry your burdens.” You can nab one by becoming the Jarl of Whiterun’s favorite errand boy after completing a few key quests in the early going, so hit up his sidequests as soon as you can.  This will essentially double your carrying capacity early on, which will really help your money-grubbing goals as you get started.

That said, the best way to solve this issue is to suck it up and buy a house, as owning real estate gives you the ability to store untold volumes of random junk—which, despite the initial hit of 5,000 gold pieces, will earn you 100 times that over the first 10 to 20 hours of the game, as you’re now able to loot every last piece of armor, weaponry, and equipment you come upon.

Sure, it mean you’ll have to sink some time into traveling back to your home base to hit up the various crafting stations, but once you get in a groove here, you’ll find that you’ll not only be able to afford anything you see in the shops, but you’ll also be able to create even better items on your own, making the game’s vendors less and less important in your day-to-day duties.

3. Get Schooled Early and Often

One of the key reasons this divorce from local shopkeeps is so important is that there’s a better way to spend your hard-earned gold: namely, specialized training. You’ll encounter tons of random folks in your travels, and many of them offer the ability to raise skills outside of standard usage, allowing you to pay gold for training that provides increases to things like one-handed combat, sneaking, and magical disciplines up to five times each level.

What’s more, this training also gives you experience, helping you level up faster and earn ever-important perks in the process. You can make use of these trainers until you hit a skill level of 50, so it’s important to talk to every new person you come across in Skyrim’s various ports of call, as you never know who can help you.

Now, this boost doesn’t exactly come cheap, and it’ll get increasingly expensive as you get closer to the max, which means you may drop as much as 2,000 gold at higher levels to make things happen. But the advantages here are huge, reducing the grind while empowering your character and helping you get bonuses in things you might not really want to spend a ton of time on early on.

There’s at least a few of these folks in Whiterun, but for high concentrations of these hidden teachers, be sure to take up sidequests involving guilds, as they tend to gravitate toward these houses of specialization.

4. The Power of Perks

Another way to make an impact on your abilities? The newly introduced perks system. As we mentioned before, attribute boosting’s a thing of the past, but perks offer vast hikes for every skill in Skyrim, and they’re all bigger upgrades than simple increases.

For example, smithing perks allow you to build items from stronger materials or improve magic items, while destruction perks offer a variety of abilities, such as reducing the magicka required to cast or inducing stumbles on impact.

There’s a host of trees to choose from, so it’s crucial to take a full look at every one of them before you start spending perk points; it’s a progressive system that often requires you to unlock items further down the tree to gain access to the best perks, meaning you’ll probably want to set some goals for your character early on and work your way toward the perks that matter the most to your playstyle.

This focus will also have an added benefit, as lower costs means more uses, more damage, and higher prices for goods you craft—all of which will help you level even faster, earning even more perks in the process. It’s a vicious cycle that you’ll quickly get addicted to, giving you the added freedom of branching out into the mastery of even more disciplines.

5. Go Forth and Explore

Last, but not least, you’ve got to pound the pavement, people. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the crew at Bethesda put together a massive world full of nooks and crannies containing various creepy crawlies, all of which spit out nifty loot when vanquished.

This will earn you a pretty penny at the markets, but more than this, it’ll also help you complete core quests and side missions, as the more places you’ve discovered, the quicker you can fast-travel between locations, saving valuable time as you work your way through the game’s beefy story.

And while it may be tempting to use fast-travel for early quests, we can’t say enough about avoiding this in favor of walking, as you’ll constantly stumble upon new places, many of which are key components to the missions you’ll start to uncover.

It’s a bit of a pain early on, but once you’ve given every major section of the map a good once-over, you’ll have dozens of new dungeons to plunder, allowing you to make the most of the tips above and maximize your skill-unlocking, gold-grubbing powers.

Obviously, these tips only scratch the surface of techniques you can use to build a better medieval badass, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? Now that you’ve got some basic tips, strap on your sword (or staff) and start dishing out the pain!

Got other handy tips for your fellow adventurers? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below!

Brandon Justice, Executive Editor
Brandon Justice spent the last 17 years in the game industry wearing hats as an annoying retail weasel, an overly opinionated journalist, and game-development ninja—until he got tired of the all the caviar and groupies, returning to the ring as a rowdy, rambling writer in 2010 for EGM Media. Follow him on Twitter @jokeontheworldMeet the rest of the crew.

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