There is only one thing you need to know about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: You've never experienced anything like it.
The latest in the long-running series of open-world role-playing games is what I've wanted to play since I was a child. There are so many times while playing that I say to myself, "Wow, I can actually do that now." Skyrim makes any other game that has ever boasted of an "open world" seem like a child's toy. It also sets the standard for developers who would even think about calling their games "immersive" in the future.
Sure, its predecessor Oblivion let you do kind of what you wanted and Morrowind, another series entry, did the same but a little less so. They let you roam around and complete quests as you wished. And while Skyrim is like that, it's so much better. This is the first game ever to make you honestly and truly feel free.
You're free to go follow around giants or buy a house and start a garden and then promptly burn it down because that's boring. You're also free to collect all the brooms in town and scare the crap out of the shopkeeper by continually placing one in his doorstep every morning for a month. And all the while, this world is a living and breathing place. People talk about things that happened just days earlier, and people who die stay dead and their passing affects the town in which they lived.
Never miss a local story.
It shows that the one thing so amazing about Skyrim isn't what it offers but what it lacks: requirements. Sure, there's a main quest, as well as a dozen or so secondary quests. And, of course, there are countless side quests, but for the first time ever, you really are free to do whatever you want.
The only shortcoming of the game is its rather clunky interface for managing your character. Perhaps I'm used to the complex user interfaces of older role-playing games, but I find the ultra-simplistic interface of Skyrim's character manager to be frustrating. It almost seems tacked on at the very last moment instead of being built in from scratch. But this is a minor complaint and doesn't detract from the gameplay, which is really what counts.
So who is the ideal audience for Skyrim? Hardcore role-playing gamers? Casual gamers looking for a quick escape? Action lovers? How about any person alive? This is even the type of game that can convert people who claim to have played The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros., ages ago, but haven't gamed since. Give them a taste of Skyrim and watch the layers of adulthood peel off and their inner child escape.
This game is simply amazing, and if you don't already have it, put it on your wish list for the holidays.