Skyrim has been out for about a year and a half now. Every conceivable build has been played into the ground. I still enjoy it once in a while. Looking back on it now I think it's overrated compared to, say, Fallout: New Vegas. FONV gave you a sense of real freedom. You felt like it was a living breathing world because your decisions had enormous influence on the other characters and on the game's ending. Skyrim is frustrating on that subject. You have the illusion of freedom but each factional questline railroads you to its inevitable conclusion. For example, in the Thieves Guild questline, the Guild is being undermined from within and your job is to identify the snitch and kill him. FONV would have given you the option of teaming up with the snitch and destroying the Guild all together, before stabbing your partner in the back to keep it all for yourself. The snitch even mocks you for pursuing him so far and your only dialogue option is to say "I still have honor." Writing has never been Bethesda's strong suit. They created a gorgeous world that is exhilarating to explore for the first time. After that, you need a lot of imagination to fill out the plot holes.
For the record, my Traditional Nord Barbarian build: two-handed, light armor, block, archery, smithing. There are enough perks left over for you to branch out into one or two other skill trees before the soft level cap of fifty.
One major plot point in Skyrim is the civil war that is dividing the land. The Stormcloaks want Skyrim to secede from the Empire of Tamriel, while the Imperial Legion fights to put down the rebellion. The Empire is recovering from a devastating war with the elven Aldmeri Dominion. The price of peace was a treaty which banned the worship of Talos, the hero-god of mankind and the object of great love and devotion in Skyrim. Legion vs. Stormcloaks was once the most heated debate on the internet. Even a year and a half later feelings can still run strong. Whatever its other flaws, Bethesda did a good job of painting a grey vs. grey morality conflict. But I think people who argue over Legion vs. Stormcloaks are not actually arguing about a video game.
The Stormcloaks, and especially their leader Ulfric, are portrayed as racists both in universe and by players. "I can't join Ulfric, he's a racist," comes up so often in these online debates that one could make a drinking game of it. It's fascinating to me that these players have no moral qualms about joining the game's thieves guild or assassins league. Stealing and murdering your way across the land is morally acceptable but a few ethnic slurs puts you beyond the pale I guess.
I have to join the Stormcloaks because I'm a Nord in real life and I've got Nord privilege. If you've ever played Morrowind, I think you'd agree that those greyskins got what they had coming.
EDIT, 7/26: I see that my Skyrim builds tend to be my most popular posts. If you're new here, welcome. Come for the video games and stay for the crimethink.