A shining star, but why not a sun?
Welcome to the best RPG released in the last few years. What makes it so great? The prime factor is the freedom of choice. At the end of the tutorial you are left to a world that you are free to do as you will. You can explore the magnificent and extremely huge world of elder scrolls. You can be a fighter in the dreaded Arena. You can join one of the many guilds for the adventurers and be a part of Tamriel's history. You can delve in to deep dungeons and uncover riches you can hardly imagine. Or maybe you should just climb to the next hill and watch the sun rise. The point is the game lets you do anything and everything that you want, any time you want. And of course it lets you breath the atmosphere of Tamriel, a detailed RPG world, in a graphic quality that will not be matched in years to come. These two traits make this game a real classic and a worth game to play. Actually they make it a star in the night sky.
Still there are things, in my opinion, diminishes this game. The game on the surface is detailed and beautiful. But that stays in the surface. One of the most important parts of RPGs, the character system is a serious mistake. While it is usage based (To improve a skill you need to use it, The more you use it, the better you become doing it.), the system and the game world does not leave room for flexibility. The only way to gold is through dungeons. The shops does not allow trade opportunities. They are only places to sell your loot. Also thieving is worthless, simply because you would mostly be finding worthless junk inside other NPCs houses. Some NPCs do have a daily routine. Some don't. It is easy to find tavern keepers who stand on the same spot 7/24. One other point is the difficulty level, that is for lack of a better word. The game world (and I mean world) advances in levels according to your progress. The city watch is always a few levels higher than you, thus your character who can beat the proverbial dragon is beaten down by mere town watch. The same is true for the bandits on the roads. While they start with fur armor, in no time they will be wearing mithril or even elven armor and weapons and skills to match. But this has another down side. The loot, the monsters in the world outside, inside the dungeons. They are all leveled according to you. So a first level character can go to any place on Tamriel, enter any dungeon he wishes, and he could finish it. And when he returns there after, say... 10 levels, he will be facing real monsters, but still he will be able to finish the dungeon. Simply said the difficulty is linear at best.
The failure that comes with this linearity is the skill system. In this kind of setting you "must" get the best from each level up. Which forces you to power gaming, keeping papers around to write needless stat changes, or for others simply cheat.
Still most of these things are design decisions and not flaws. While I prefer a deep RPG environment, maybe other would like to see more action.
The Bottom Line
To sum up this game is a star that shines brightly through all those games in the shelves. However it is a real classic, it is far from sating the thirst of a hardcore RPG fan.