I've put in about 2 week's worth of gaming into Skyrim on the PC. I gave it a fair chance.
However given the massive amount of hype from both the media and fans; I found the game a huge letdown.
Skyrim is a step up from oblivion in a number of ways; the graphics are clearly better; and there are a number of places where exploration is quite charming. Some of the quests' dungeons are also beautiful - misty grove, sheogorath's realm, inside azura's star, the final hagraven cave; most of the spriggan caves; the icy grotto type dungeons and blackreach. The weather effects are superb and some of the vistas from mountaintops are truly gorgeous. Shortcomings with the graphics engine are often remedied with heavy use of particle effects like fog; which actually works out quite well usually.
But that's where it ends for me.
On to the criticisms:
1) UI & Inventory problems.
Bethesda traditionally favors aesthetics instead of functionality. Skyrim takes this approach to extremes.
The skill-tree UI goes for looks above all else, but navigating it often results in going to the wrong branch or the wrong tree. A static system would have been much easier to navigate.
Dialogue options use a list and nested sub-list based system where it's common to click on 1 thing and have something totally different activate. Additionally when opening the trade UI it's easy to close everything by just trying to choose a different category.
Player inventory doesn't have good sorting (by weight, for example); but the biggest gripe is that containers in your "house" have no categorization or sorting whatsoever. So a chest can have 200 items in 1 gigantic list.
Inventory weight is a huge problem in this game. I never had more than 40-50 lbs free in my bags.
What this meant was: 1st dragon kill ---> messy trade with companion; 2nd dragon kill ---> go back home and dump dragon scales/bones.
Inventory systems are supposed to just be limitations on how versatile your character is; or limits on how many consumables you can carry; or a realistic weight simulation. In skyrim it's none of these. It serves only to add a pointless tedium to run to and fro with items to vendor trash them for money. Why not just have extra gold drop off enemies instead of adding infinite junk items?
2) Combat & AI
Combat in skyrim is just too simplistic for a 2011 game. I played a dual wield 1h melee character.
Combat involved the following: Run up to enemy; double power attack (hold down both mouse buttons), nudge back; repeat.
Occasionally early on in the game if an enemy hit me hard; add in the step of navigating through the painful UI and clicking 15 minor health potions.
If you want to do anything else to switch up your play style to add variety : let's say cast a few destruction spells or shoot arrows from ranged; or heal mid-combat?
Well this involves yet again pausing mid-combat and navigating through the favorite menu or spell/item menu.
This greatly hinders the flow of combat and breaks the immersion.
AI - enemies see you, run up to you and flail away. That's it. They don't run away when low on health; find cover; or attack strategically in coordination with there buddies. Nor do they heal themselves.
Companion AI is similarly bad and frequently steps in front of you to take friendly fire and just die : remember that companions do not scale with your level.
Town Guard AI does the same thing and if a dragon attacks, they take fire from you and immediately become hostile.
With sensible perk selection after about level 30 everything seems to just fall over in 1-2 double power attack hits. Ramping up the difficulty just means the same attack strategy; but with more potion spamming.
Also: why are horses immortal tanks?
3) Level Scaling
As you level you are presented with enemies from a growing set of types. Basically the same enemies; but with more health and attack damage. [Draugr - vanilla, restless, wight, scourge, overlord, deathlord; for example]. Each of these subtypes however has a mostly static level. What this means is that difficulty increases erratically; and then just drops off. Since there are no ultimate villains to challenge higher level players.
Since difficulty in skyrim is just health and attack damage bloat; and potions can be chain used without restriction; all that "difficulty" scaling does is increase potion usage at these erratic transitional cusps in the leveling process.
4) OP perks, UP perks, the grind of leveling them and a clear flaw with usage based leveling systems.
As a 1h melee non-stealth character; there really aren't that many logical and useful perks to choose from. Smithing, Enchanting, One-handed, Alchemy, Heavy armor.
The problem is that choosing any 3 of these makes your character incredibly overpowered. You literally kill everything in the game in the span of 1-2 power double attacks.
A lot of perks are completely underpowered and almost useless : lock picking, speech, pickpocketing.
The game in fact actively penalizes choosing non-combat perks since enemies scale and become more powerful; but you do not.
Some perks are inherently "easy" to level : basically any crafting profession; just make 100 daggers and enchant them.
Your core combat mechanic perk is tied to the combat; so that's not so bad.
However anything else feels very artificial and incredibly grindy. This includes sneak, armor and any other combat perk you wouldn't normally use.
The problem is after 100 smith/ench/one-handed; your character just stops leveling. If you want to level you have to start out leveling something you never used; which sucks (since it's at 0 skill).
Heavy/ Light Armor/Block/Sneak are inherently grindy because they level up very slow to begin with; and can be automated by autorunning stealthed to a wall; or engaging a mudcrab and going afk.
Making gold in the game is just too easy. It's never a constraint. You can buy anything whenever you want.
An iron dagger which costs a pittance to make (~10g?) sells for 2000-3000g with dual enchants.
If you want to powerlevel a profession - no worries; npc inventories restock every 48 hours. So fast travel and then wait for 2 minutes at each vendor pitstop. This completely trivializes leveling things like smithing, enchanting and alchemy.
Soul gems were also probably a type of currency; but again trivialized by the above and soul tap enchants; or just going to the mages in winterhold that seem to have an infinite supply.
Another thing I could never quite understand is the reasoning behind gold limits on npc's themselves. Does it add to the fun in any way?
6) How Smithing & Encanting makes loot irrelevant - leads to lack of incentive
Smithing and Enchanting let you make ultimate weapons; with the stats and bonuses better than even the best artifacts available from the game. You choose your weapon type, upgrade it to the fullest and the enchants. The randomness of loot is gone. And with that the incentive to kill bigger and badder enemies goes too.
Typically RPGs use loot as a form of character progression; but in skyrim loot becomes irrelevant with the most obvious 2 perks.
7) Bugs, constant saving/loading/reloading
I probably don't need to elaborate on this it's quite well documented. Personally I've had my fair share of CTDs; rages because of lost saves or having to redo a dungeon.
Dragons flying backwards and every item in rooms going flying when i open doors are probably highlights.
8) Voice Acting and the lifelessness of npc's
Just like every other bethesda game there are a few great voice actors that do a couple of lines and then the vast majority is done by cheaper VA's that sounds tired and lazy. Accents are almost universally terrible and un-scandinavian; and the arnold austrian accent is also quite common (austrian=/=scandinavian).
Some notable examples:
Farengar saying "Have you come to Dragonsreach to discuss the ongoing hos(h)tilities like the rest of the rest of the great warriors?"
Erandur the dunmer mage companion frequently changes accents abruptly between a normal British accent and then heavy fake cockney.
Combined with the lack of facial expressions and rigidity of npc models; and lazy VA; most npc's seem very drab and lifeless. Also the fish-eye stare is quite unnerving.
9) Character animations and finishers
Bethesda still uses an upgraded version of Gamebryo and bizarre ragdoll death physics are very common. NPCs are still expressionless. It's absurd to have an RPG without facial expressions in 2011.
Running up mountains/inclines still is incredibly awkwardly done.
10) This is the first game where dragons become a pest
Dragons are supposed to be powerful, epic creatures; that instill fear in the hearts of people that see them. In skyrim dragons just fall over if you hide behind a rock and then allow them to land. They are easier to kill than city guards....
For me they actually die in 2 hits; and even the guards can whittle their health down.
Why are dragons a threat again ?
11) Disappointing and cliched questlines, fedex radiant quests and lack of clear C&C.
The main quest is so bad in most bethesda games; fans "brag" about spending 150 hours or more in the game "without even touching the mq". Bethesda uses the "if it's not broken don't fix it" rule so they don't care to make the MQ more interesting. So it still is the same old hero saves the world from dragons (which die in 2 hits btw and aren't even a threat to anyone).
There are tons and tons of filler quests that involve fast traveling from point A to point B to deliver an item or murder/steal something.
Finishing the main quest or any of the guild quest doesn't really have a noticeable impact on the game; you just get a bunch of radiant fetch quests or pest control jobs (companions). Choosing a faction doesn't really change anything. There are many choices in skyrim; but little in the way of consequences.
Puzzles consist of a claw which tells you the order in which to move 3 rotating disks to a door; or where you spin 4 pillars with animal carvings. However the right selection is on a picture right behind them. And it's this same thing every other dungeon. Not only is it boring; there is no challenge since the answer is just handed to you. Why bother implementing this ?
Anyway that's that. Bethesda excels at creating vast open and mostly beautiful worlds for a player to mess around in for weeks together. Skyrim does this very well.
But to me Skyrim is just a hiking and junk collecting simulator; something that would appeal to LARPers or people looking for an aimless single player mmorpg experience.
But as a video game; Skyrim is a huge disappointment.