So I'm torn on Skyrim.
On the one, it may rank among the "best of" categories for anything Bethesda has ever done. Performance, visuals, story-telling, expansiveness. They're probably going to be able to license the engine out to tons of people based solely on how great it shows an open world and the level of fidelity it keeps.
On the other, I can't see how anyone thinks this isn't a dumbed down version of TES. The shouts don't replace stats, it doesn't replace the flexibility of spell creation, it doesn't replace the fact enchanting has been nerfed down to a poor man's version of even Oblivion enchanting. Mechanically, Skyrim is at or below what Oblivion offered us. In terms of mechanics its actually completely forgettable. All of the "fun" things have been put under the hood.
The game is Jekyll and Hyde to me. One part of it clearly feels like it was designed by the best Beth has to offer....and the other half feels like it was designed by people whose job it was to simplify the systems so they fit on a nice, neat console package.
That said I think I'm up to 40 hours and am pretty sure I will play more of it than Oblivion when it's all said and done. It's really a matter of when I become so OP that there's nothing left to find, make or level up to. I'm enjoying experiencing the world, I'm just sad that gameplay was demystified to me within an hour. I can already see the Daedric Gear I'm eventually going to be wearing because Bethesda made sure to chart the whole expanse of game play, sans the shouts, before our very eyes. Jesus I wish developers would quit doing that. How sad is it that I got truly excited about the Silent Moon enchantment because it wasn't a "Restore/Damage/Ravage/Fortify blah blah blah" effect. Never mind the fact the enchant is just an elemental-less damage attack.
I'd gush more but I've done most of my gushing on other forums. I will say that when modders are done with it, god and the Creation Engine willing, Skyrim will be a masterpiece.
I think the console vs. PC argument drowns out the very real issue that RPGs have to deal with: their accessibility to new players. There's a reason that Skyrim is crushing the sales records of not only Bethesda's other highly regarded (and awarded) games but is beating the snot out of games like BF3. They put some compromises in place to increase their audience.
I desperately miss the spell creation system and have, without thinking, headed to the Winterhold to create a new spell on a few occasions because that's just something YOU CAN DO in a TES game. As for the skills, I think the perk system is a fair trade off for the lack of stat customization. If anything I think the perk system needs to be stronger to balance out the lack of major/minor skills in order to create better differentiation between play styles (more like talent trees than small nice benefits). My bad ass fire mage should not be able to easily pick any lock in the game just as well as a rogue character I play.
However, overall, I've enjoyed the game tremendously despite a few thing I'd consider flaws. If the loss of ability to greatly min/max my character by learning and exploiting the minutia of stats is the price I have to pay for Skyrim, and more importantly, for the NEXT TES game then I'm willing to pay it. The biggest thing here, I think, is the retail success of Skyrim. It proves that this sort of game is a viable big budget title on par with any other genre. The only game outselling it this over its first week this year is MW3. Other studios will notice this.
I'd rather a slew of big budget RPGs with more accessible mechanics than the once every five years TES game.
Two other things:
I've never understood the love for Oblivion. I played it and enjoyed it well enough, but meh. I joined the franchise at Daggerfall and Oblivion is the worst of the four big TES games since (Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skryim). Oblivion's level-with-you system was awful. Skyrim is still too closely tied to the character's level for my liking, but its certainly a giant step in the right direction (towards Morrowind, away from Oblivion). Oblivion tried to make the game systems more accessible than Morrowind but I think largely did what you're complaining about Skyrim for. It removed the fun parts of Morrowind's systems without actually replacing them with anything. It felt dumbed down and unimaginative. At least Skyrim gives you a trade off for the over-simplification.
Lasty, I agree, 12 to 18 months of modder attention has the potential to make Skyrim the best RPG game ever seen. Understanding the power of a good modding community is one thing that Bethesda gets and other studios should take notice of. Many of my favorable memories of Morrowind or (especially) Oblivion are actually mod based, but I still attribute those memories to the game and Bethesda.