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I just got Skyrim for Xbox 360. Reading about it online I came across articles saying not to complete the mage quests until after level 25 or you'll waste the items they give you. Now I'm worried this game is going to be work to play.

I just want to play the game naturally, to enjoy the deep story and not think about things like optimising my character, but I don't know if Skyrim will let me do that. Will I be able to play through the game without planning character development and grinding, or will it make me regret ignoring those things if I want to advance enough to finish it?

So specifically:

  • Is it possible to just play the game for the fun of it without paying any attention to things like online skill builders, quest guides, etc.?
  • Do I have to pay careful attention and plan out my gameplay?
  • If I continue playing without looking up any advice/info online will my negligence catch up with me and make me need to do a lot of grinding/buying/etc. to advance past a certain point?
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    This is an.... odd question. This is more of a "opinion" question. But anyway, play how you want. I've actually made it to level 45 and hardly completed the main quest at all. The answer is no, you don't have to follow a guide. No good game would force you to follow a guide or someone's advice in order to have fun. – avestar101 Sep 9 '13 at 22:46
  • Im just worried that one day Id find myself facing a quest and terribly ill prepared for lack of planning and foresight using information not directly available to you in game. – user79950 Sep 9 '13 at 22:50
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    The game might bug out from time to time, but guides and builders definitely aren't needed to play. They just maximize your efficiency in acquiring things. – Frank Sep 9 '13 at 22:52
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    From what I remember, no pat of the game is difficult enough to require an optimized character, that won't stop people from optimizing though. You might find yourself wandering into areas too difficult for your level, but you can always run away and come back later. – Sconibulus Sep 9 '13 at 22:54
  • As I said, you probably won't ever have to use a guide or similar. You can use it if you want some tips on how to pwn the game, but it's not using a guide will surely not hinder you. – avestar101 Sep 9 '13 at 22:54
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Yes, you'll be able to play without paying attention to character build, advancement, or online guides. Skyrim has a diverse community of players, from heavy optimisation to deep-immersion roleplayers, and it can attract such a diversity because it easily supports so many ways of playing the game.

It doesn't require character optimisation at all. The game is partially levelled with you, so the challenges are partly tuned to your level. It's not completely levelled with you though (like Oblivion was), so there will be places that are easier or harder depending on whether you're higher or lower level than the area expects. But since the game is non-linear, all that means is that you retreat and go somewhere else instead, and you'll have a hard time running of of things to do elsewhere since the world is pretty wide and deep.

There are quests which do expect a certain level, but those are the exception and the consequence isn't having to go and grind – it's just that you'll do those quests more slowly, or you'll have to wait longer to start them (as in the example of the Daedric quests which have a minimum level before they'll trigger). You certainly won't be stuck with nothing else to do but collect 200 bear pelts to do the next thing or something like that.

The one place where you might get stuck low on coin, depending on how you play, is when it comes to affording a house. A house is very convenient, but it's by no means required to advance. Once you find that you want a house you just start saving your septims instead of spending them all on potion ingredients or what have you, and you'll have enough before long.

Affording a house is the only time I ever felt like I needed to pay attention to managing my character. Otherwise, I'm like you – I go where I like, fight the fights I can and retreat (or often enough, reload a recent save – save often!) from the ones I can't, explore, get immersed in quests, do some in-my-head roleplaying, get to know my character and their opinions of events in Skyrim, and just... y'know, play the game. I've never had any interest in grinding in RPGs, and that's one of the reasons I've fallen in love with the Elder Scrolls games: they let me play how I like to play, whether that's casual, immersive, optimising, grinding, or whatever.

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    @user79950 Again, save often! I can't stress that enough. There aren't any build choices you'll be made to regret heavily, but there are enough bugs in the game that, if you're unlucky, you can definitely regret not having a recent save to go back to if you get stuck by a quest bug or a necessary/loved item falling through the world. – SevenSidedDie Sep 10 '13 at 17:27
  • And don't only quicksave; it helps to do a "real" save through the menu, so you can rollback if needed. I haven't needed to do so myself yet, but it has definitely been extremely convenient once or twice. And I'm only about level 20. – oKtosiTe Feb 8 '14 at 12:30
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Playing on higher difficulties will require planning, but on adept and lower you can play casually.

Also there are several free houses in the game. Abandoned House in Markarth, Bromjunaar Sanctuary in Labyrinthian, Nepos the Nose's house, etc all have containers which do not reset.

  • +1 for even mentioning the difficulties, which is a pretty important detail left out of Seven's answer. I usually play on Expert, which requires some level of optimization, but doesn't require me to hit a mud crab twenty times when I start the game. If a player feels like they are having to do too much optimization, they can just lower the difficulty. – DCShannon Sep 26 '16 at 18:32

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