The Elder Scrolls series is renowned for its immersive worlds that let players live another life. Dungeon delving, dragon hunting, or trading hundreds of items to vendors are all part of the Skyrim experience. None of those activities would be near as fun, however, if it wasn't for Skyrim's impeccable world design.
The world is just as much of a character as the NPCs that inhabit it. Just like NPCs, the world has areas that can be equal part inspiring and dreadful. It is time to reflect on the best and worst areas present in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
10 Best: Bloated Man's Grotto
Daedric quests are some of the best content available, and Hircine's quest is no exception. Tasked to hunt a lycanthrope, players eventually make their way into Bloated Man's Grotto. The player can either help the hunters fight the marked werewolf, or help the werewolf fend off the hunters.
Besides a riveting quest, the dungeon itself contains one of the best skyboxes Bethesda has ever made. The layout is short but intuitive, allowing players to focus on the quest at hand. Plenty of chests dot the area to reward perceptive players as well. Oh, and the Daedric artifacts are a plus.
9 Worst: Bleak Falls Barrow
One of the first dungeons in the game, Bleak Falls Barrow contains an early-game quest item most players will need to get. The dungeon includes a beautiful view both at its entrance and exit. Bandits set camp in the first room, setting tension for the rest of the dungeon.
Unfortunately, Bleak Falls Barrow suffers from a lack of interesting enemies and tedious length. Players will spend upwards of twenty minutes fighting Draugr in this dungeon, which may not be bad in-of itself, but repeated playthroughs will quickly make even the most avid Skyrim fan groan.
8 Best: Windhelm
One of the major Cities, Windhelm boasts an impressive number of stores and defenses. The walls that enthrone the city are intimidating to look at, and the Jarl of the hold resides in a massive palace. Simply looking at the architecture, it's clear this hold was made before the other cities that frequent Skyrim's landscape.
Looks aren't everything, however. The quests present in Windhelm live up to the enchanting city they reside in. From finding a Dark Brotherhood summoning to investigating murders, Windhelm is a treat to explore time and time again. If only there were more quests in this city compared to its contemporaries.
7 Worst: Forgotten Vale
The Dawnguard DLC includes plenty of interesting locations for players to explore. Unfortunately, it also includes some of the worst dungeons in the game, with the Forgotten Vale being one of them. While breathtaking both visual and in terms of scope, the size of it is also the zone's biggest downfall.
Players spend their time here collecting water from wayshrines on their quest for Auriel's Bow. They serve as checkpoints to a massive dungeon but serve little purpose, as they are not marked on your map and are often distant from important areas. The enemy variety is lacking as well, fighting Falmer and frost-themed enemies for hours on end. At least Serana, one of the best companions in the game, makes the ordeal slightly more interesting.
6 Best: Apocrypha
Hermaeus Mora's plane of Oblivion is arguably one of the most interesting zones in Elder Scrolls history, with stretches of hallways swaying side to side and mountains of books to collect. The zone is only accessible through Black Books, special Tombs players find throughout their adventures in Solstheim. While these books are sometimes hard to find, the reward is absolutely worth it.
Entering Apocrypha is a reward in-of itself, containing some of the most inspired enemies seen in recent memory. Black, viscous tentacles reach out for the Dragonborn as Seekers–best described as tentacle mages–absorb the Dragonborn's attributes with ease. Overcoming these obstacles rewards players with some of the most unique perks Skyrim has to offer.
5 Worst: High Hrothgar
The Jarl of Whiterun may look at this mountain with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, but many Skyrim fans agree this mountain is a bore to climb. Lacking many enemies, puzzles, or any interesting mechanics, the 7,000 step climb (which is closer to 800) quickly turns into a mad dash to meet the Greybeards.
Once the Dragonborn does, they are met with a mountainside monastery filled with... nothing. NPCs meditate or sit inside, as the outside of the building is surrounded by an unrelenting blizzard. Reaching the summit, players are rewarded with a special pickaxe. While the vista here is one of the best, High Hrothgar does not make up for the tedious climb and lackluster reward.
4 Best: Soul Cairn
Ever wondered where the souls in your soul gems go? They go to the Soul Cairn, a place devoid of life. Skeletons man the watchtowers overlooking the realm while dead trees scatter the barren landscape. The lack of anything here contrasts with the rest of the game to great effect.
Dawnguard's questline eventually takes the player here, requiring them to soul trap themself or turn undead to enter. An epic duel with giant skeletons and an undead dragon caps off one of the best quests in the Dawnguard DLC, arguably in the entirety of Skyrim.
3 Worst: Winterhold
Unlike the Soul Cairn, Winterhold uses its lack of life to terrible effect. The city itself has 4 buildings and the ruins of many more. Excluding the College of Winterhold, the city houses shockingly few quests to complete.
Including the College, however, does help Winterhold from being the worst area. Master spells and an interesting guild quest make the College worth visiting, but the lack of a spell creation station from previous Elder Scrolls games leaves mages wanting more. It also has the lowest barrier to entry in the series' history, requiring the player to cast a novice spell or shout to become a member.
2 Best: Solstheim
This might be cheating since it is such a large area, but the entirety of Solstheim is a sight to behold. Blending the mountainous terrain from Skyrim with the ashen fungal wasteland Morrowind had, Solstheim blends the best of both games into a single package. Not only does it include some of the best quests in franchise history, but it includes many unique items and enemies to boot.
Nostalgia plays a big factor as well, being remastered and tweaked from Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion. Fans of that game will immediately recognize "Blessing of Vivec" playing as they explore this familiar yet alien land, recognizing changes made to their favorite locations over the many years that have passed since Morrowind. It is a treat for Morrowind fans, well created for newcomers, and shows the Elder Scrolls at its very best.
1 Worst: Darkfall Cave
Opposite of that is Darkfall Cave, Dawnguard's longest dungeon–including Darkfall Passage and Grotto as part of it. After hours of build-up from previous quests, the Dragonborn enters Darkfall Cave to hopefully uncover Auriel's Bow. Instead, players find the start of a multi-hour long dungeon romp to open a passage.
Along the way, players encounter dozens of Falmer, annoying Chaurus, and battle the dim lighting within. Winding turns above pools of water while battling dozens of humanoid enemies proves to be a chore. The reward? An ewer to collect water scattered around the Forgotten Vale. Instead of an interesting quest, the Dragonborn is tasked with collecting shrine water five times. Only those with plentiful patience will finish this chain of dungeons without falling asleep.