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Skyrim: lessons learnt on the way to level 25

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is one of those titles that makes no excuse for not holding your hand through the learning experience.  It is all about tough love, what doesn’t destroy you will make you stronger and anything that’s worth having is worth working hard to own.  I, on the other hand, am a bit of a soft touch.  And while I make no claims at being particularly adept, I do think that if this is your first time entering the world of The Elder Scrolls, then you may find a few titbits, really rather helpful.  So coming up are a few pointers, and only pointers, as I don’t want to ruin the satisfaction of discovery for anyone.  I’ll be extra careful not to give away any spoilers, but at the end of this post, I encourage you all to share some of the finer points of what you have learnt through your travails in Skyrim.


The Ten Races of Skyrim

One of the first things you’ll do upon starting your life in Skyrim, is pick the appearance of your character.  There is no obvious indication that you are doing much else other than this, when in fact, you are choosing the base characteristics of your character.  While appearance may be the most obvious difference, and as such shouldn’t be discounted as unimportant, each race does have its own unique abilities.  These skills and abilities will lend themselves to enhancing your own preferred playing style.  For example, if you enjoy playing the role of stealthy phantom of the shadows, then a Khajiit will facilitate this choice as they have initial bonuses of +10 for Sneak and +5 for Alchemy, Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocket and One-handed weapon wielding.  All pretty useful, I think you’ll agree, if you’re not one for direct confrontation.  I chose a Khajiit myself, but as I began to progress through the game, it turned out that I much preferred close combat with broad swings and limb smashing weapons.  It’s funny the things you learn about yourself in these games.  This isn’t a problem, while choosing an Orc may have been a better option, given what I’ve become, Archery is very useful and lockpicking always comes in handy, so it’s no real loss.  And perhaps I’ll choose to explore the nature of an Orc during a different session of Skyrim.


The arrow on the compass

Yes Skyrim, like almost every game of this genre, is about questing.  You complete one, you feel happy for a moment and then you move onto the next challenge.  That’s all well and good, but actually, Skyrim is big and better than that.  It is one of the biggest worlds in gaming.  Explore it, I implore you, for it is a beautiful world, and the best part about it, is that it is so rich and vibrant, that quests pretty much come sprinting towards you.  The main quest is great and without doubt should be played all the way through, as it is the spine to the whole story.  But it will wait for you, do not feel like you’re being chased or harassed (unless that’s the sort of thing you enjoy), own the game, don’t let it own you.

As you speak to various NPCs, you’ll invariably have small quests added to your inventory.  Go through these and toggle between active and inactive, view the locations on the world map, and decide what you want to do, if anything at all.



This is a tough one for me to revisit… Oh Lydia, sweet Lydia, why did it have to end like this?  I’m aware that I will have to tread carefully so as not to reveal any spoilers.  But, I would be remiss not to speak about, perhaps the closest companion you’ll have in Skyrim.  As I have already mentioned, Skyrim is a vast and beautiful place, but it can get lonely.  When I first had the option to have Lydia tag along with me in support of my endeavours, I declined, mainly due to a mixture of bravado and foolhardiness.  I didn’t want anyone else taking credit for my victories, nor would I give time of day to the idea that a little help may actually be quite nice.   So it wasn’t until I had progressed some way through the game that I came across the glitch that meant Lydia was able to pick up an unlimited number of items without become encumbered by the load.  Awesome!  I went and got myself a walking, living, personal treasure chest to hoard all my goods in and I would never have to worry about being weighed down to the point where I would be unable to run.

The catch is this; Lydia is mortal.  Once she is dead, you can’t bring her back to life.  Yes, it is true that the game will inherently avoid trying to apply the finishing blow but a stray swing of a Dwarven Battleaxe, an ill aimed shout or a rouge arrow to the knee is all it takes.  Then you have to weigh up, whether it is worth loading the last save point and battling again ensuring she stays alive or just leaving her in the dust once you have collected your most valuable items.

Rather cruelly, I was unable to find Lydia in the aftermath of our last battle.  I did search for her for quite some time, arguably too long given that you she isn’t actually real, but eventually I realised that I couldn’t keep putting myself through the torment of losing her and that I just had to move on and go it alone, after all, I could always come back to fight (a bit like Highlander) while she could not.  Now I have a horse, I’m reluctant to name my horse because, like Lydia it too is mortal.

I guess my actual point here is this, find a chest to store you weapons, armour, tools and implements in.  Visit it often, using fast travel, so that you don’t end up having to leave or drop items you find.  Save regularly, save frequently and save often.   I can’t stress the final point enough.  Don’t worry about having too many saves because you can always delete stuff later or load an older version if you save, at what turns out to be, an inappropriate spot.  There is nothing worse than have to redo something that has taken you the best part of an hour to complete.


So there you have it.  There’s a whole heap I could say about this immense game.  It is one of the most well balanced, challenging and rewarding games I have played in years and fully deserves all the recognition it gets.  As you will have guess from the title, I’m currently little more than level 25 and I’m pretty certain I have barely scratched the surface.  This is a fantastic feeling.

Let me know what tips you have in the comments.  And please keep them spoiler free.


Skyrim: Life After Alduin (Spoilers lol)

There I was, the Dragonborn, kitted out in armour forged from remains of my former flying foe, my Amulet of Talos around my neck, shouting into the skies of Tamriel, screaming the news – Alduin was defeated. It was over. Tamriel was safe once more!

And so ended Skyrim, one of the most immersive games of the year by no small measure. I had become head of the Thieves Guild, become a Werewolf and subsequently healed myself of the dreadful curse, was enrolled in the College of Winterhold, fought and won a Civil War, and I had finally rid the land of the World Eater. But there was still so much left to do…

…But I put the controller down, got myself a drink, sat down, and thought about my life choices, mulling over the 48 hours I’d played this game. Over three weeks, that’s a pretty horrible amount of time to have put into a game, all for the anti-climax of a pat on the back, and not even a single Septim! What meaning was there in the game now that the threat to its very existence had been eliminated?

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m a procrastinator of the highest order. When I was at Uni and had an essay to write, even my dissertation, having not started and with three weeks to go I always decided that the best course of action was to buy a new video game, or start recording an album, or whatever else I could think of that would distract me from my impending doom, and then night before BOOM, 3000 words. When it comes to The Elder Scrolls series, I’m exactly the same. How am I meant to waste time when I have nothing telling me I’m wasting it – other than my social life IRL of course, but who needs that, right?

Don’t get me wrong, there is so much left to do on my save game. I’ve still got to become Archmage, infiltrate the Dark Brotherhood, solve various mysteries and explore so many more dungeons, but all the impetus, the urgency, it’s all gone without the joy of bunking off something more important!

Any of you guys ‘finished’ the game? What are your plans for Tamriel?

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Component Advice: GPU Checklist

Here’s part two of our component advice checklist, that has once again been brought together with the help of our friends at ASUS. Part one, looking at Motherboards, can be found here. This week, it’s the Graphics Processing Unit or GPU.

Continuing with the previous format, we have condensed down the major information into several key points.


The GPU interface must match your motherboard interface, the latest is PCI-Ex16 2.0.  The PCI Express Base 2.0 specification, introduced in 2007, doubles the previous bus standard’s bandwidth from 2.5 Gbit/s to 5 Gbit/s.  This means a x32 connector can transfer data at up to 16 GB/s in each direction.

Feature set

There are various add ons available that are intended to enhance your overall set up.  For example Cuda, only available on Nvidia cards, provides faster data encoding and PhysX gives unseen realism to games.

Display Output quantity and type

How many screens do you want to run and do you need DVI, DSUB, HDMI, DP?  The answer to these questions will depend on how serious you want to take your gaming and in some instances will only be necessary for those that want to play at the highest level. Other than gaming, another major use for multiple screens is workstations. Having two or more screens can greatly increase your productivity.

3D Focus

Onboard Memory size and Bit

Larger memory and higher bit provides greater bandwidth in games which allows more 3D rendering at once and at higher resolutions.

GPU Speed

Faster GPU means better 3D performance.  This is the sort of specification that is particular important for games such as the forthcoming, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  The design of this game means that there will be long draw distances and a high density of items on screen.

Memory Speed

Faster memory means better 3D performance.  It is as simple as that so well worth due consideration.

Display Technology

Typically display technologies refers to DirectX 9, 10 or11.  DirectX is a collection of APIs for handling tasks related to multimedia.  Support for the latest DirectX provides greater 3D detail in games.

Graphics card

The final piece to the 3D puzzle is the graphics card.  Ensure this is given a postion of prominence within your budget as you’ll want to make sure the whatever you go for is powerful enough to run 3D smoothly.

So there it is, the key considerations in ensuring that your rig will meet your requirements and most importantly, your expectations.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or require more detail on any area covered.