You’re hours or maybe entire days into Bethesda’s roleplaying opus, probably bleary-eyed, a little edgy, coming out of the weekend like you chugged a case of Honningbrew Mead and fell into a phantasmagoric stupor. Maybe it’s time to step back, take a break and give things a second look, just to be sure everything’s running smoothly.
Like with this list of 10 things that have, so far, greatly improved my quality time with The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
Fiddle the difficulty setting
You didn’t know there was one? There is. It defaults to “Adept,” which translates as “middle-of-the-road.” I’m nothing special, gaming-skill-wise, but I have found Skyrim’s battles a trifle simplistic at that setting (with exceptions, mind you, those exceptions being “frost trolls”). You can bump things up two notches, to either “Expert” or “Master.” I’ve been playing on the latter, and while it’s still no Dark Souls, it does force you to think tactically instead of charging in, gamepad triggers-a-blazin’, resulting in much more satisfying wins.
Use your housecarl
By housecarl, I don’t mean some manservant with a setting-inappropriate moniker. No, this is the person assigned to you by the Jarl of Whiterun once you’re to the point where, well, you just might need a little help getting things done. Fear not, you gain skill experience by using skills, not killing stuff, so letting your housecarl tank while you help from the flank or nuke away with ranged damaged can be a great way to get past difficult encounters.
Adjust your TV’s black levels
Skyrim employs a brand new custom graphics engine (dubbed “Creation”), which includes more realistic lighting, though on the LCDs and LED TVs I’ve tested, that can manifest as too much blackness in low-lit, inside areas or when the sun’s out and triggering high dynamic range effects. If your character’s back side looks blacked out in third-person mode when facing toward bright sunlight, for instance, you’ll definitely want to tinker with your TV’s (or game system’s) black level settings.
Don’t grab everything in sight
No really, don’t. Most of it’s worthless junk anyway and just bogs you down. When I’m rummaging, I use what I call the “200 rule.” The 200 rule just means I ignore anything with an estimated value of less than 200 gold. And remember, the value you’re seeing’s only estimated—what you actually get for it depends on where and to whom you sell it as well as your Speech skill rating.
Pay Attention to “Active Effects”
Skyrim’s interface hides a lot. There’s no “diseased” status screen, for instance, though the game’s done a nice job getting people to react to you if you’re sick, e.g. “You don’t look so good,” and so forth. If you want to know whether you’re sick, how it’s affecting your abilities, or anything else about your overall well being, be sure to keep an eye on “Active Effects,” located at the bottom of the Magic menu.
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