Skyrim is a land filled with plenty of dungeons, caves, crypts and all sorts of deep, dark and shadowy places full of danger and treasures. And whether you are fulfilling a quest, satisfying a curious urge to explore, or are simply looking for new enemies to kill, indoor locations often prove to be great places to go to. Of course, you cannot expect to just venture in without knowing what to expect. So for those of you who want to go cave-diving, here is our guide to spelunking in Skyrim.
It Starts at the Entrance
Entrances are not always empty little spots, so be careful when approaching one for the first time. Occasionally, you might encounter wolf or a bear passing by. There are also times when you will find a Necromancer perched high atop a cave entrance looking for unwary victims. Or a small group of bandits making camp (this is particularly true of caves that are inhabited by bandit groups). Expect to get into a small scuffle before you actually get to venture in. This could even work to your advantage especially if you have a low carrying capacity.
Switch the Map View
In case your map is not making any sense, then you should switch the map settings from world view to local view. This will allow you to check your immediate surroundings for any possible pathways and exits that you may miss while exploring. Also, try to keep note of your bearings on the map, this will come in handy if you need to get out of the dungeon fast.
Two Ways to Attack
Depending on your character type, you can either siege a location by attacking everything hostile inside; or you can sneak about and carefully eliminate each threat one at a time. The key is to stick to doing what you do best (a fully armored knight type character has no business sneaking around while a rogue type character will not survive relying on spells).
How you attack also determines how you get to explore the dungeons. Sneaking allows you to pick paths carefully and also study the layout of the dungeon as you take care of enemies. Fighting enemies toe to toe (either melee or with magic) means having to deal with a bit of battle before focusing on looking for loot and directions.
When sneaking, abilities that allow you to detect enemies from afar or disable traps is important (triggering traps often alerts enemies to your location). Also, be careful when letting loose of dragon shouts as these will often attract enemies. Lastly, try to pick off enemies one at a time, this helps ensure that you are able to stay hidden.
When choosing to fight off enemies openly, look for small passageways and chokepoints if you are outnumbered. This is particularly important for mage type characters (forcing enemies to a chokepoint also allows you to throw spells without worrying about accuracy). The same technique holds true for melee fighters, though you might want a combination of a small doorway and a slightly larger hallway to swing your sword or axe in.
Regardless of how you decide to fight enemies along the way, you must also conquer the dungeon itself. As with any strange new location, on easy tip to remember is to stick to one general direction, reach all possible dead ends and then backtrack to the next forking path. It is not the fastest way to get around, but it certainly is the most efficient.
Always look around when passing through hallways and caverns, there are plenty of side routes such as small passages and access holes that are often hidden from view. This may often lead to areas that have treasure and other valuable loot.
Treasure boxes and enemy corpses often yield plenty of loot –and more often than not, a dungeon will have so much loot that it will be impossible to carry everything out in a single run. One good thing to do is to make your companion carry some of the items (particularly the heavy ones), they will only keep carrying until they reach a specific limit however. You may choose to increase your own weight limit by using items that increase your carrying capacity.
If you find yourself overloaded, look for barrels and other containers near the entrance of a dungeon. This allows you to leave some junk, go to town and unload your goods, then go back to the dungeon and claim the rest of the spoils you earned. If you do not have any storage options available, the body of an enemy will suffice.
Traps are plenty in locations that have been visited by humans and by the draugr, so observe the pathways for tripwires and floor panels that may bring some unexpected danger towards you. If you can afford to, try to disarm the traps (also, some chests may have traps, inspect the lower front corners of a chest before opening it –if you see a small wire, then the chest has a trap).
Dungeon Specific Tips:
When exploring dwemer ruins, you will often run into various dwemer articfacts –such as mechanical parts, to large metal pieces, and small cutlery. These may be expensive and also valuable (since you can melt these for dwemer ingots), but some of them can also be very heavy to carry. Manage your inventory before heading off to a Dwemer ruin to maximize the amount you can take.
Draugr crypts serve as massive burial chambers, so be careful when going around the hallways with the standing corpses or the ones lying on niches on the walls –some will rise from the dead to attack you. However, it is also possible to attack them before they even rise –a single well placed arrow can kill a Draugr before it even becomes a threat.
Dragon claws will be found all over Skyrim and each has a specific dungeon related to it. These claws are important for opening special locked doors –without these claws, some of the dungeons will not be accessible. There are 10 known dragon claws: coral, diamond, emerald, golden, ebony, glass, iron, ruby, ivory, ruby and sapphire. They weigh little so you can keep them in your inventory without much trouble.
When visiting vampire dens, expect to fight against necromancer magic –which means you are up against projectiles and the undead that the vampires summon. Also, when you see a "thrall" in an NPC’s name box, be wary of a nearby vampire.
Most gangs will have a small base of operations, if you clear them you it is possible for you to find crafting areas such as a forge for weapons or a cooking stove for food. This is a great way of reorganizing your inventory by using your raw materials for creating something useful in case you are nearing your weight limit. With that said, lairs of magic casters often have an enchanting or an alchemy table.
Skryim has such depth in it’s Dungeon’s alone that we’d like to think of it as one of the top dungeon crawling games across all platforms.