(dragons are a piece of piss if you’ve got a bow, but nothing can prepare you for the clothed orgy that is the Tube during rush hour)
I’ve not completed the main story or side quests of Skyrim by any stretch, but I feel I’ve explored the wintery land to the extent that I can safely say London is a tougher place. Fundamentally, the culture in Skyrim encourages adapting to your environment and perpetually carrying arms, whereas in London, we’re so set in our ways that a train being delayed is enough to throw our carefully-laid plans into turmoil.
There are a multitude of ways to get around each area, but the means of transport in London and Skyrim differ in that we do not control those in the former, but we do control those in the latter; in Skyrim, you could easily hop off your horse or cart to evade danger, but any accident on the Tube in London, and you’re a sitting duck.
This also creates stress and tension when in London, meaning you’re perpetually on edge as a slight issue with the machines that run our city could kill you; it could be argued Skyrim is more stressful as you’re more likely to be jumped by a warrior as you travel, but you always carry weapons in Skyrim. London is far more stressful, as we have no means of protecting ourselves if it all goes tits-up, unlike in Skyrim.
London is also considerably busier than Skyrim, adding to this stress: it’s not enough that you don’t know where you’re going, but you have to get lost in a sea of directionally-astute individuals, whose single-minded focus on getting to their destination makes you look pathetically weak at understanding maps, a feeling of inadequacy not felt in Skyrim, as most of the population are cabbages.
There’s a lot more pressure on you to succeed in London society, as the long life expectancies and excellent methods of communication means our relatives live forever, and can do so easily judging our every action against their unreasonably high expectations of us, based on their own personal failures or a simple lack of information about the reality of our lives. Meanwhile in Skyrim, all your family probably died of dysentery, which you didn’t hear about because it’s so archaic people are still using MySpace, so you’re free to be your own person, failures and all.
Even the sentient population in Skyrim do not offer this level of social inadequacy, as your primary means of interacting with them is not to sheepishly ask for an impartation of their knowledge regarding bus timetables, but to impale them on a sword. This means that Skyrim becomes a much more direct and to the, literal, point area, where social anxiety and awkwardness is replaced with constant combat, a factor already shown to be not as stressful as might be first thought.
Money is also a much bigger problem in London, or indeed any capitalist society; you can only get money in London with a job, which brings with it hours of red tape and planning for the inevitable rejection letter from Tesco, whereas money in Skyrim can be obtained by, you guessed it, slaughtering your enemies, a much less daunting prospect.
The general kerfuffles of London society compound this problem; if you want a house in London, you need a birth certificate, and proof of income, and three decades of a mortgage, whereas you can get a bed in Skyrim for ten gold a night, and be entitled to own a house in a city just by talking to its measly inhabitants. Furthermore, you can’t get on public transport in London without an Oyster card (which gives plus five to societal conformity), but you can journey to any of the nine holds in Skyrim with just a horse, which is incredibly easy to steal.
You’d think on the surface that Skyrim would be the tougher place to live, but that’s clearly false: although that world is much more brutal and simple than that of London, it is a world that prepares its inhabitants for it – life is hard, so the people are hard. Conversely in London, life can become very hard at a moment’s notice, a difficulty that our culture of Oyster card bleeps and higher education spectacularly fails to prepare us for.
Also, the 175 steps at Russell Square station are way tougher than the Throat of the World’s 7,000 steps.