None of the people we brought on board had any unique dialogue or associated quests, and there's zero emotional connection with them: they just silently follow you around, attack enemies and eventually die. And once they do, the only thing you can do is strip them of their armour and leave them there to rot. That's how we roll.
So, you have the world, but what about the quests? As expected, there are hundreds, all offering something different. Some are brief, some span hours. You might join the Thieves Guild and make a name for yourself as a notorious criminal. You might swear an oath to the returning Dark Brotherhood and become a ruthless assassin, killing in cold blood for gold. Or perhaps you want to get involved in the civil war that's tearing Skyrim apart, siding with the invading Imperials, or the rebel Stormcloaks.
There's so many more - like forming an uneasy alliance with a Daedric Prince and leading an army in the invasion of a city - but one of our favourites saw us leading the hunt for a serial killer. This is a game full of stories, of ways in which you can directly affect the lives of its citizens, and even the politics of its world, and the variety is astonishing and, at times, overwhelming.
If you're looking for more focus, there's a main quest. Like everything else in the game, it can be ignored entirely, but - with a story focused on the dragons of Skyrim, thought to be dead for centuries - you'd be missing out on some of the game's best moments.
Something has awoken them from their eternal slumber, and only you can defeat them thanks to the fact - as outlined, over and over, in Skyrim's pre-release demos - you're Dragonborn: as the name suggests, a man born with the soul of a dragon, and the ability to use the dragon's own magic against them.
This magic comes in the form of Shouts. There are two steps to unlocking these special abilities. First you need to learn the Words of Power, which can be found inscribed on stones deep inside temples, caves and the like. You'll normally find one at the end of every major dungeon. Then, to activate the Shout, you have to kill a dragon and absorb its soul. Shouts come in many forms, and each one can be upgraded by learning two additional Words of Power.
Whirlwind Sprint sends you rushing forwards at high speeds, allowing you to charge distant enemies; Frost Breath freezes enemies solid; Unrelenting Force can knock enemies off their feet with a powerful surge of energy; Become Etheral lets you turn invisible for a brief period of time; Marked For Death reduces an enemy's armour and stamina.
Much has been made of Skyrim's dragon battles, and they are, for the most part, thrilling. They're a good mix of 'boss' dragons, who you'll encounter as you progress through the story, and less powered, and more randomly generated, versions who will appear as you travel.
Their colour dictates their strength; if you see a brown one, you can probably take it down easily. If it's white, you may want to wait until you reach a higher level. Again, Skyrim demonstrates its strength through choice: how you defeat them depends entirely on your playing style. You can get up close and hack away at them with your sword, circle-strafing to avoid their breath, or you can hang back, flinging spells and arrows.
At first, hearing their tell-tale screech and seeing one circling overhead is a moment of pure terror. But as you get stronger, you begin to welcome their presence. They drop valuable loot (you can sell their scales and bones for a pretty penny), as well as giving you more souls with which to unlock Shouts.
Sadly, there's a downside: dragons aren't as smart as you might think, and you can defeat most of them by exploiting the AI. One trick is to lure them near wildlife like bears or wolves. They'll almost always switch their attention to them, letting you pepper them with arrows while they're distracted.