Fighting against the same enemy, for example, can provide completely different results - something that likely won't be appreciated without a thorough playthrough.
My first attempt at chasing down an NPC inside the mountain encampment ended in a wipeout: he made a left turn into a burial chamber of skeletal zombies, which began a fight-within-a-fight. His attention turned from an instinct to run away to combating enemies by my side - something I briefly found interesting before he tripped a pressure button that triggered the armoured door behind us to burst shut on us like an upright mousetrap.
My second attempt involved the more aggressive strategy of hitting him with a fire spell as he ran away. While he kept running regardless, this time he waited for me at the end of the corridor with weapon drawn, bypassing our earlier team-up against the skeletons.
The environment provides an additional strategic partner. The pressure button on the floor of the burial chamber, in particular, provided a one-hit manoeuvre to ridding the room of an entire collective of zombies. The result is ragdoll carnage as they fling across the room in pieces, but it's the simple pleasures that make the game.
Back in town, the dialogue system has mercifully been re-worked. In the past, triggering conversations would zoom awkwardly into the face of an NPC, while users were lumbered with having to earn their trust. Skyrim has a more natural twang - walking into town immediately triggers comments from passers-by, and full conversations can be carried on while the city life continues to go about business in the background.
Despite featuring the standard RPG cast of enemies and NPCs, Skyrim is about taking fantasy to a realistic conclusion by developing an environment that makes the fantastical seem actual. The franchise has always prided itself on its open world tendencies, but this is easily working up to have the most vivid depiction of a fantasy setting in an RPG.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be released for 360, PS3, and PC on November 11.