I went through the entire game using Power attack, Power attack, Restoration, Power attack etc. Perhaps there are other strategies, but they didn't jump out. Certainly distance isn't one of them, as you start backing off, but the strike hits you anyway despite being about 4 metres away.
lvl 40+ something, with (still unenchanted) best handcrafted gear available, playing on adept (standard) difficulty.
I rarely use power attacks. Restoration almost exclusively after a fight, only in particularly long fights while kiting, as I haven't put one perkpoint into resto yet.
Can't confirm distance not being a viable option. It's what keeps me alive. For me and my setup: fighting a troll in early game means flames, kiting, maybe shieldbash, distance - everything else = suicide. Now late game a Chaurus Reaper will eat me alive toe to toe - distance makes the difference.
No indication as to how visible or noisy you are being, and I really couldn't see any strategy towards staying hidden. Most encounters involved crossing a huge highly lit area, and if you did manage to creep up on one person, the act of 'taking them out' would alert every one else.
Yes, there is an indication on your ingame cursor / target if enemies getting aware of you. No it isn't done as good as in Thief. But which other game achieved that? None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Agreeing on almost all of your points, except the taking ages to train part. My alteration is around lvl 50 with exclusively using the transmute spell on ores, nothing else. I know of a way to push conjuration up to 100 in about 1 and 1/2 hour.
You can claim imbalance about how much a spell pushes your skill bar up, but there are ways to push almost all magic schools.
...but I think I found as much mood in Terraria as Skyrim. There are randomly placed wolves, bears and cats that will attack you, the odd bandit, perhaps a spriggan. That's about it, you walk around in bad weather, with people saying the same things to you. It's not bad, in fact in this respect I'd say it was above average, but after a few hours you just walk past all those people before they've finished speaking.
Wow. That's... just wow.
I take my time to listen to people. Granted, a lot is just repeated standard chatter, but then again I dare to claim that no other game did that part better then Skyrim. Ever.
On the other hand, my map is full with locations I haven't visited, that a guard dropped a hint about bandits / hags / whatever having taken over or just a general warning about several people gone missing near place X.
I also wouldn't wanted to have missed this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYgOBvavpO0
Walking around in bad weather huh? Well I've seen the same place being a lush spring like view as well as being thick covered with snow.
Yes, these aren't new features never done before. But done better? More immersive? Sorry, you lost me completely here.
There are only fetch quests. Nothing else. No big decisions, no investigation, it is simply go to this place, kill the people there, collect item, return it. It is less sophisticated than World of Warcraft. Way below average.
Going the blades way and kill a certain NPC or not, is a rather big decision. Joining the Dark Brotherhood may be cool, but the ability to actually fight, even to obliterate them.... yes, I'd call that a rather big decision.
No idea how others feel, but World of Warcraft was it for me, that defined the term "fetch quest". Less sophisticated then WoW quests? I think we played two different games here...
Fetch quests.... a term wildly abused way beyond it's actual meaning.... taking a world as huge as Skyrim is, you can't avoid putting "collect item to progress beyond point / door X" quests into it - however, those do not qualify as fetch quests (at least for me). If they do so for you, I could boil almost all quests from every game down to being a fetch quest. It's just how much story has been wrapped around it, to not show it off blatantly.... and yes, I see Skyrim doing an above average job here.
A fetch quest is for example, to collect 10 wolf pelts for the wounded hunter or milking 20 cows for the too-busy-to-do-on-his-own-farmer, to get a meager exp / item reward... and I haven't encoutered many "collect [x amount] of [y item]" quests and those I did found, you can skip / ignore anytime without losing anything or not being able to progress further.
For you final words / question.... I think you're trying to harness the horse the wrong way here. It's not about what part Skyrim did better then game X. It's about what Skyrim offers all together where game X just did 1 or 2 pieces.
The Thief series was all about stealth, AC series about assassination, Severance / Die By The Sword about combat. Did they had so many crafting options in it as Skyrim has? Such a huge world to explore? So many different enemies / dungeons / locations to visit / experience? So many weapons / items to pick up and interact? No? Well, that doesn't make them a lesser game experience, doesn't it?
If you're approaching Skyrim with expectations that stealth works like in Thief, assassination attempts like in AC, combat like in Die By The Sword, mounted combat like in Mount & Blade, crafting like in Vanguard.... and so on, yes, it WILL disappoint. But which games wouldn't? They all would.
I would like that the very same measuring tape being used to determine Skyrims quality, would be used on other games. Not just comparing the one part the other game was designed around and should be top notch if the game wants any chance of success. But that doesn't happen with critics about Skyrim. Or at least I haven't see it. Anywhere.