I’ve put together a few little tips I’ve picked up from my first *checks* OMG 28 hours, on Skyrim. The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you’d like to drop any of your own tips in the comments section I’d be much obliged!
1) If you are playing a character that uses a shield, utilise the Shield Bash attack. Hold down the block button and then hold the attack button to smash your shield in the face of the enemy. It interrupts attacks and spells – even on larger enemies such as dragons. At later stages, you can unlock a perk which slows time if you are blocking when an enemy power attacks – allowing you to smash them in the face, causing them to stagger and putting you on the front foot to unleash a barrage of power attacks and quick slices. Once you reach a rhythm you can cycle attacks, shouts and bashes to keep your foe constantly reeling.
2) Bind weapons and spells to your number keys. This is a feature which I feared hadn’t made the trip from Oblivion to Skyrim, until @KingStGreibach educated me. Oddly, you can only bind weapons from the favourites menu. So, hit F over an item in your inventory to add it to your favourites, then in your favourites menu, hit the number you wish to bind it to. It is useful for easily switching between spells, bows and melee weapons if you have a large and unwieldy favourites list like I do. Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to juggle which items are going into which hand and it would be so much simpler if we could hit 1 on two different weapons to create a weapon set (waiting eagerly for the mod). I believe you can bind weapons to your D-pad on the consoles too.
3) Listen to your locks. Just as in Fallout 3, when you are playing the little lockpicking minigame the clunking and shifting sounds of the bolts isn’t random – there is a specific sound which is made when you hit the sweet spot. It sounds like all of the bolts shifting up at once, but not falling down again. That’s when you should turn. It takes time to learn, and it can be very frustrating, but eventually you’ll find that you can identify the correct spot pretty quickly and save yourself a lot of picks and time (and torn out hair).
4) Read the expensive books. There is several novels’ worth of literature in Skyrim, however, you can identify which tomes will rank up your skills by looking at their prices. Usually anything above about 20 gold will contain a nice little bump to one of your skills. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read the other, more budget-priced, books: some will start quest lines, others add map markers or give clues to the whereabouts of hidden treasure.
5) Use your Clairvoyance. I’ve found that one of the most useful spells to use is the Illusion spell “Clairvoyance” – especially in dark and winding caves where you can see the exit is somewhere west, but you’ve got 3 different paths you could potentially take. Cast this spell and a magical aura spreads out in front of you and snakes its way towards your destination. Even for a non-magical character this can be extremely useful especially in the early stages of the game. It may eat your magicka but you can cast it for just a couple of seconds to give yourself an idea of where to head next.
6) Stay rested. Resting in a bed before adventuring will give you the “Well rested” bonus and give you a boost to your exp gain. Plus, who likes adventuring in the dark - get to bed, fool!
7) Elemental magics have different effects. Fire magic deals the most base damage, and tends to cause the foe to burn for longer after the spell is cast. Ice drains stamina, and is good for stopping your enemy from unleashing power attacks. Lightning drains magicka, so is good for taking down mages. The same goes for elemental enchantments on weapons.
8) Finally, DO NOT shoot the chickens. You’ll have to pay a fine. Seriously.