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100 Hours in Skyrim: Part 1

Hours 0 to 10: Andy Kelly explores character creation, conquers his first dragon and attracts the attention of the Dark Brotherhood...

Meet Andras. He's a Nord and his hobbies include killing people with axes, setting people on fire, and killing people with axes then setting them on fire. He's fiercely loyal to his homeland, scarred from a thousand battles and clad in the finest Daedric armour.

But he wasn't always like this. A hundred hours ago he was just confused - bewildered by the enormity of the world stretching out before him, fleeing in terror every time a dragon flew by and wearing some deeply unfashionable iron armour.

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That's why I love Skyrim - that sense of journey. Loading up old saves, I sniggered at my low-level gear and paltry novice level spells. Now, at level 46, dragons are sport. Their screech no longer heralds imminent death, rather the chance to score some easy loot.

First steps

Playing as a Nord was a no-brainer the instant I saw those beards. In the rugged mountains of Skyrim, being a viking with a knot of mighty facial hair just felt right. Their 50% frost resistance bonus isn't as exotic as the Argonians' underwater breathing or the Bretons' magicka resistance, but it didn't feel important - and it turns out it wasn't. The choices you make at the beginning of Skyrim don't really matter; it's how you shape your character through playing that has the most lasting effect.

After I fled Helgan, I essentially did what the game told me to. I had sided with Ralof, so I walked to Riverwood, talked to Gerdur and agreed to deliver a message to Whiterun. At this point I was equipped with a full set of Imperial armour, stolen from an officer in Helgan's dungeon, so I didn't have to worry about buying better equipment.

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Before I left for Whiterun, I completed the mini-quest that sees you getting involved in a love triangle between local bard Sven, an elf called Faendal and the co-owner of the general goods store, Camilla Valerius. I'd sided with Faendal, and could now recruit him as a follower. Having him firing arrows from afar as I attacked enemies was really useful, especially at this early stage.

Another thing I realised is that after paying a few hundred gold to get him to train me in archery, I could actually access his inventory and take my money back. Free training! Sorry, Faendal.

I had already decided before I started the game that I would be a 'battle mage' of sorts - mixing one-handed combat with destruction magic. It's a combination a lot of players have used, because it offers the best of both worlds.

Initially, not being able to block was a problem, but every hit would actually increase my heavy armour stats, so it worked out quite well. There's something satisfying about setting an enemy ablaze with a fire spell, then finishing them off with a powerful swing of your axe.

To Whiterun

One of the first things I did in Whiterun was join the Companions, a group of warriors with a base in the city. One of the first quests they gave me was to clear out a dungeon called Shimmermist Cave. "Pfft, easy." I thought. "This is one of the first quests people will pick up when they're starting out - how hard could it be?"

Really hard, as it turns out. I'm not sure if it was because the dungeon was a higher level than I could handle, or I was just shit, but I couldn't finish the quest, no matter how hard I tried. The place is full of Falmer, whose poison attacks would reduce my health in seconds. After a lot of saving, dying and reloading, I eventually made it to the boss, but he had a massive bloody robot helping him. I tried and tried, but it was impossible. I fled the cave.

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My life as an adventurer was off to a bad start.

I went back to Whiterun and delivered the message from Riverwood, which led to the first major dragon battle, and Andras' discovery that he was the legendary Dragonborn. The dragon was intimidating, but the fight was fairly easy thanks to the Whiterun guards helping out - and since it's an early story mission, I imagined Bethesda would make this one a little easier to ease in new players.

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