As I roll up my umpteenth character in Skyrim—this time as a war-painted orc on a no-magic, survival mode, fur-armor-only run—I'm continually stunned by the game world, and how Skyrim's map creates three biome corridors running east and west.
There's the southern corridor, with roads running from the pine forests of Falkreath to the deciduous forests of Riften. There's Skyrim's tundra beltline, taking you on the long stretch between Markarth's stone-carved halls, to Whiterun rising like a lonely mountain in the plains, to the volcanic tundra of Eastmarch.
But then yes, there's the the northern corridor, with the cities of Windhelm and Solitude facing off across miles of snow and marshland. For good measure, Bethesda saw fit to snowcap the entire ring of mountains surrounding Skyrim, but that's cheap and easy border building. Aside from your alleged border crossing before the opening credits even start rolling, just how much time do you legit spend along the rim of Skyrim? Once you strip away the incidental precipitation, the layer of permafrost covers maybe, what, 25 percent of the map? Thirty percent?
When looking up at the icy mountains it's easy to write off Skyrim as a snowy, harsh land. The truth of the matter is that Skyrim a wildly diverse, harsh land. I've walked left and right along the southern corridor with my new character a dozen hours already—and haven't seen a single snowflake, except on the neck holding up the Throat of the World. Sure, Falkreath's forecasters accurately predict there's a 100% chance of rain, and Riften's meteorologists have a 10-day forecast of nothing but god rays shining through golden leaves.
But Skyrim's reputation as a winter wonderland can seem rather overstated if you're doing shuttle runs in the southern two-thirds of the map (the home of the Graybeards notwithstanding). I love Skyrim's various biospheres. Sorry, Khajiit, my roads won't lead me to warm sands, but maybe you'll enjoy the hot springs those hunters found off in Eastmarch among the sabre cats.
In the meantime, I've taken to taking snapshots of items that don't show up on the map. Like the bevy of ancient, collapsed Nordic ruins dotting the landscape. Or, case in point below, a couple necromancers who've crossed on through to the other side, set up for a candlelit dinner on an altar somewhere in the central plains. At least they died doing what they love.