OP was spot on. I played Oblivion but none of the other Elder Scrolls games. Oblivion was probably my all time favorite game... Skyrim has now replaced it and I'm only a few hours in.
I've had super high expectations for Skyrim - was looking forward to it since the beginning of the year. My expectations have been far exceeded!
The leveling system is definitely improved. The simplicity is great while still giving you a sense that you're getting 'better' at something.
The simplified crafting is nice as well. I don't want it to be complicated like an mmorpg. It's nice to make yourself a killer sword, sharpen it and then enchant it.
I'm going slow on the main quest line and really enjoying all the side quests I can find. The Companions questline is AWESOME. I didn't realize vamps were back but I found out the other character OP referred to.
Just amazed each time I play how deep and well thought out the game is. I've never played a game where I actually have fun doing the little side things. They usually seem like work.