Skyrim is a spectacular landscape: a mountainous wilderness like nothing we've explored before. The basics aren't dramatically different to its predecessor, Oblivion, but the world is a generation ahead.
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It's not just the gorgeous frosty slopes, but the caverns, hollows, tombs and dungeons that lurk in their shadows. You can't walk for five minutes without stumbling on something interesting. But if you walk longer - a lot longer - than that, what do you find?
I set off to explore the land of the Nords with no particular goal: just a general wanderlust, and a healthy curiosity in every curious cave, shack and traveller in need. Along the way I stumbled on some of the most stunning sights Skyrim has to offer, some of the strangest quests - and some of its best-kept secrets.
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Picking my way through an ancient ruin patrolled by steampunk spiderbots, I find the chamber: a huge and ancient device, all spinning rings and levers. My elf companion Faendal watches silently as I fiddle with it for at least fifteen minutes, swinging curved arms round and aimlessly redirecting beams of light. Then, at last, it opens. A few more steps, and a door. Blackreach.
It opens into an unthinkably vast cavern, lit with dazzling purple phosphorescent shapes, ancient dwarven structures built on its rocky ground like cities on an alien world. It takes me a while to grasp what I'm seeing. Jellyfish? Vast umbrellas of translucent flesh float near the ceiling, dangling bright tendrils. Are these the friendly Netch that wafted around Morrowind? When I get closer, I realise they're not. They have stalks. These are mushrooms.
It's an hour before I'm done gawping, stumbling around its rocky basin picking strange roots and fungus, steering clear of the angry blind creatures that live here, slipping down waterfalls and breaking into old buildings. By the time I surface, I've almost forgotten what country I'm in.