Posted on Friday, November 11 @ 09:09:32 PST by Nicholas Tan
Welcome to the Old Kingdom of Skyrim, the snowy heartland of the Nords, tall and hearty folk who delight in brawling, drinking, and calling weaklings "milk drinkers". Now you may be a fledgling in this strange land, but you're no "milk drinker", at least after you read this series of tips. Whether you're a newbie or a veteran of the Elder Scrolls series, this mini-guide will give you direction on how to succeed within the first 20 hours of Skyrim. Besides, I'm level 32 (at the time of this writing) after about 60 hours of play, so I'm glad to help you all out. Don't worry, you'll be level 32 soon enough. You can also check out our Skyrim cheats to help out.
1) Stick more or less to the main story until you "understand what Shouting means"
Was that vague enough for you? We're not into spoilers.
If you're not used to an Elder Scrolls title or any of Bethesda's open-world titles, stick to the main quest line until you get a handle on it. For veterans, it's still important to stay on track so that you earn all of the powerful rewards from learning what Shouting is about, especially before you pick a random direction and start exploring. Of course, you'll free to do what you want since that's what the game design is all about, but Shouting is the coolest thing in the game apart from the dragons (who aren't that hard to kill, really).
Also, just a friendly note: There's a mountain pass southeast of the initial city of Helgen that can serve as a shortcut when you need it.
2) Choose a guardian stone as early as possible.
I wish I knew this earlier... Scattered throughout Skyrim are ritual stones that you can activate for additional boosts or even additional powers. The earliest guardian stones you can find are directly northwest of the initial city of Helgen, around the mouth of the river as it proceeds into the lake. You'll know you're nearby once you see a pillar icon with a black diamond in it.
This particular spot has a trio of guardian stones, each representing the three archetypes: warrior (red), thief (green), and mage (blue). By choosing one of the guardian stones, all of the skills associated with that archetype accelerate in skill building by 20%. If you're unsure which skills refer to which archetype, go to the constellation skills menu and you'll see skills grouped by the red, green, and blue nebulas. See how ingenious it all is?
3) Pick Restoration and at least one or two additional schools of magic.
Restoration is key for any build, as healing yourself (or others) quickly on the fly is dictated by this school of magic. The Apprentice spell Fast Healing will get you out of a bind in combat more than once. Many of the perks in the Restoration skill tree are premium choices, like upgrading all restoration healing by 50%, restoring stamina whenever you heal, and most importantly, improving magicka regeneration by 25% (twice!). That said, Restoration is also extremely difficult to upgrade, as the developers expect you to get damaged a lot. Even after 60 hours of play, my Restoration skill is only at 39 out of the full 100. So heal as much as you can.
Any of the other schools of magic, be it Alteration, Conjuration, Illusion, or Destruction, provide welcome support. Destruction magic is probably the most practical choice as a way to deal long-range elemental damage and lay rune traps on the floor that take advantage of the idiocy of most enemies in narrow corridors. Warriors will no doubt be attracted to the Oakflesh and Stoneflesh armor rating boosts in the Alteration school and tactical sneak-thiefs will be attracted to the noise-cancelling and mood-altering spells in the Illusion school. Conjuration will likely be favored by the battlemage who wants the ability to call weaponry for close quarters and summon creatures to serve as battle aids and distractors.
While it's recommended to learn every school of magic through the various spellbooks, easily purchased by any court wizard, focus on several schools of magic instead of all five. It's far better to be a master of several skills than a master of none.
4) Cast spells constantly. (Particularly, Muffle.)
Since mana regenerates and skill in any school of magic improves by casting spells, cast spells whenever it counts. The developers of course have designed the game to reduce spam spellcasting as much as they can; spells like Stoneflesh only improve the Alteration skill if you're actually casting it during combat. Still, it's important to cast Restoration spells, at the very least, to improve your proficieny at healing.
The one exception I've been able to find is Muffle in the Illusion school. I've been casting it whenever my mana gets full and I currently have an Illusion stat of 79. Once I have access to Invisibility, my ninja skills shall not be challenged.
5) Use the save system to your advantage
Both lockpicking and pickpocketing are luck-based. Lockpicking works exactly like it does in Fallout 3, except that in Skyrim, you can pick any lock no matter your skill level. That means a Master lock can be picked successfully with a certain degree of luck, though it might waste a lot of precious lockpicks. Pickpocketing, perhaps the most difficult skill to improve at the beginning of the game, uses percentages as a chance to steal, but early on you'll get caught a lot. So use the save system to, well, save your ass from having city guards chase you down, throw you in jail, and take back all your stolen goods.
Buf if you're a master at the lockpicking mini-game, you won't even need to put in a single perk into the Lockpicking skill tree. I haven't done so yet, and I currently have a lockpicking skill of 70 and so many purchased lockpicks that it's 99+. That's after picking and opening every locked chest I've encountered in the last 64 hours.
Also, take off the autosaving on wait, rest, and travel in the options menu if you want to cut down on loading times. Auto-saving adds about 15 seconds to every loading screen, and with the amount of doors in Skyrim, that's... a lot... of time... wasted. It's your call, of course. I would just get in the habit of manually saving yourself and having an auto-save set once every 30 minutes or so.