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‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ tips and tricks

Nick Hastings
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Bethesda

Adventuring into the wilds of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim can be a dangerous, daunting undertaking. After just a few hours exploring the world of Skyrim, your quest log will be brimming with dungeon dives and missives to faraway locales. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially with so much freedom.

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Luckily, we’ve put together a list of handy tips and tricks to help you make the most of your Skyrim experience. Even seasoned Skyrim veterans returning for the recent remaster can learn a thing or two about the game’s massive world. Don’t let a few thousand draugr get you down!

Save early and often

Anyone who’s spent time in one of Bethesda’s games knows that an untimely demise or unforeseen glitch can cause controller-smashing frustration when you realize you haven’t saved your game in three hours. Don’t be that person. This is especially important if you’re wandering the wilds, about to begin a tough boss battle, or trying to pickpocket someone you wouldn’t want to deal with when things go wrong.

Forge your own path

Skyrim‘s has several engrossing storylines to play through, but don’t feel shoehorned into following the game’s pre-set paths. Most of Skyrim‘s sandbox world is immediately accessible after completing the tutorial section, so follow your heart!

Use those talent points wisely

Be careful when allocating talent points within the game’s many skill trees. You won’t get another chance to reset these points if you decide that you’ve made a mistake. Take a moment to think about which playstyle best suits you (or your character) and invest carefully.

Note: The “Dragonborn” expansion allows players to reset individual skill trees and refund points at the cost of dragon souls. This ability requires completion of the DLC.

Don’t be a hoarder

In a game like Skyrim, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the massive amounts of loot you can pick up. Don’t worry too much about “saving” all your potions and soul gems for difficult boss battles. The game becomes far more cumbersome and frustrating when you’re playing the “what do I drop now?” inventory game each time you pick up a new item, so using or selling your loot often keeps the game moving.

Don’t be afraid to mix things up

The first few times you encounter a dragon in Skyrim are epic. The monsters’ shouts will rend the sky, and you’ll probably be sent scurrying for cover a few times. Unfortunately, the novelty wears off as your character gets stronger, and these fights can become mundane — especially if you’re playing a melee warrior, and the dragon doesn’t want to land and fight.

Similarly, the zombie-like draugr can inspire fear when you first see them rising from their tombs, but the game’s many dungeons are lined with these suckers, so you’ll inevitably get bored of battling them. Keep the fights fresh by finding new ways to defeat your enemies, using a combination of weapons, magic, and shouts.

Enchant, craft, and brew with caution

The most powerful skill trees in Skyrim are the ones that govern enchanting, blacksmithing, and alchemy. If you’re playing on Adept difficulty or below, abusing these skills can lead to your character becoming incredibly powerful. For example, enchanting gear to increase your alchemy level can get out of control if you also use potions that temporarily increase your enchanting skill. These exploits can basically go back and forth forever, allowing your gear to grow ridiculously strong over time.

Reading is fundamental

Tamriel’s northernmost province is home to more than 200 unique books and scrolls, each with pages of text that are a fun and informative look into the lore and culture of the Elder Scrolls series. If you’re not the reading-is-fun type, you’ll still want to open every book you see, as many of them grant skill increases. Besides, The Lusty Argonian Maid isn’t going to read itself.

Patience is a virtue

As in past Elder Scrolls games, the best way to heal yourself after a big fight is just hanging out. “Waiting” a few hours will replenish your health, magicka, and stamina bars. As long as you aren’t too close to an enemy (or in the middle of some specific quests), you can… meditate, or something. This may break your immersion if you’re a role-playing type of gamer, but it’s certainly a useful trick.

Interrupt enemies with Unrelenting Force

“Unrelenting Force,” the first dragon shout you’ll unlock in Skyrim, is more useful than you might think. In addition to staggering enemies and knocking them back at higher levels, you can use it to interrupt enemy casters who are channeling spells.

Listen to the people of Skyrim

Keep an ear out while traveling through Skyrim‘s more populated locales. Citizens and guards will often have useful information for you, and sometimes overhearing a conversation is enough to add an objective to your quest log. Sometimes, though, they just want to talk about arrows and knees. If your character is infected with a disease, for instance, NPCs will simply ask you how you’re doing.

Keep a few “cure disease” potions handy

Nobody wants to get an STD, aka a “Skyrim Transmitted Disease.” Sometimes, however, it’s unavoidable. If you get infected with one of the game’s several debuffs — be it Brain Rot or Sanguinare Vampiris — you should always have one of these digital Emergen-C packets ready to restore your character to a healthy state. Activating any of the game’s shrines will also have the same effect.

Hang on to magical gear for disenchanting

In Skyrim, you can only learn a weapon or armor enchantment by disenchanting a piece of gear with that enchantment on it. If you find some loot with a cool enchantment, consider heading to the enchanting table to learn its secrets.

Discover new shouts with Arngeir’s help

If you’ve got a huge backlog of dragon souls and no idea what to spend them on, speaking to Arngeir (the leader of the Greybeards) will add side quests to your log that will lead you to word walls. It’s possible to stumble upon these walls on your own, sure, but a little direction never hurt.

Experiment with different playstyles

Though your talent points are essentially permanent (see our third tip), Skyrim‘s skill system automatically levels up your different skill trees as you use them. Wearing heavy armor will increase your Heavy Armor skill over time, just as casting Destruction spells will increase your Destruction skill over time.

If you hang on to your skill points, you can experiment with different approaches to the game, and tailor your skills to fit your preferences. That said, don’t stretch your character too thin. Talents at the upper end of skill trees (above skill 70 or so) are more powerful, and allocating points to several different trees might mean you never reach the top of any.

Eat everything

No, seriously. Skyrim is filled with alchemy ingredients, from flowers to troll fat, and each has four different traits that determine the effects of potions made with the reagents. For example, combining ectoplasm and deathbell flowers — both of which have “damage health” as a trait — at an alchemy station will result in a Damage Health poison that can be applied to weapons.

Eating an alchemy ingredient for the first time will automatically reveal one of its traits, which will greatly increase your knowledge of alchemy and your potential catalogue of potions. Brewing potions and investing talent points into your Alchemy tree will unlock more traits per ingredient, and improve the potency of your creations.

Keep a pickaxe handy

Skyrim’s mines, caves, dungeons, and quarries are replete with ore deposits just waiting to be excavated. Without a pickaxe, though, you won’t be able to acquire ore to smelt into ingots, which can then be used to craft weapons, armor, and jewelry. Mining deposits also has a chance to reward you with rare gems, which can be sold or used to craft more valuable jewelry.

Seek out Tamriel’s Daedric princes

The Daedric Prince quests provide some of the most enjoyable and unique content in the entire Elder Scrolls universe, and Skyrim is no exception. Completing these quests for the different Princes, especially Azura, can net you some unique and extremely powerful items. These quests also offer some creative scenarios and humorous dialogue, which can be refreshing after slogging through Skyrim‘s more serious storylines.

Use companions to your advantage

In Skyrim, the companions are a group of warriors based in the city of Whiterun that offer a long, unique questline that you won’t want to miss out on. That’s not what we’re talking about here, though. Many of Skyrim’s NPC characters are willing to accompany you on your travels, and each of them will act as support in combat while providing you with a few hundred pounds’ worth of extra storage space.

There’s little reason to explore the province’s icy tundra and lush forests alone once you’ve acquired the services of a companion. If you can’t find some help (or if your last companion met an untimely demise at your side), there are usually thugs for hire at the inns and taverns that pepper the game’s major cities.

Manage your “favorites” menu carefully

At the beginning of the game, you’ll use your “favorites” menu for just about everything. This makes switching between spells, shouts, and weapons a cinch, and allows for quick use of potions (especially on consoles). The list can become cumbersome, however, so make sure to delete stuff you don’t often use. You should also create custom names for enchanted or crafted items — after all, you don’t want three different “Iron Greatswords of Burning” to choose from.

Invest in a horse

Skyrim’s vast landscape can be daunting to explore, especially when powerful enemies lie between you and your destination, but acquiring a horse can alleviate many of the world’s annoyances. In addition to faster movement speed, spending 1,000 gold on an equine buddy allows you to quickly climb mountains. You can even fast travel while overencumbered, as long as you’re mounted.