There are two big adventure games out this year: Skyward Sword and Skyrim in particular. They came out around the same time, were highly anticipated, have similar critic ratings, etc. Aside from reception however, there is virtually nothing those two have in common other than the genre of adventure.
Let's start with the new Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword. Just looking at the picture, we can immediately tell that game bleeds color and probably invented a few for the sake of saturation. The enemies look exotic and mystical, though nothing new to the LoZ series. The interesting thing is that Skyward Sword looks good despite it's low resolution. While not as evident in this picture, it's very obvious in game. It makes up for the Wii's lacking graphical capabilities by creating a diverse and aesthetically appealing world.
When it comes to combat, some things are very “swing wildly, hope it dies” in nature, but harder enemies are more technical in nature. The Moblins here have the ability to block your sword if you attack from the side they hold their guard on. If you want to hit one, you need to switch directions really quick, or wait for them to attack and open guard. There are quite a few bosses, and all of them are fun. From fencing with the demon lord himself to skydiving onto a large bosses back, there isn't a boss that feels boring.
Then finally, we have the story. The other LoZ games have been honestly lacking in story since Majora's Mask. There was enough motivation for you to get to the next dungeon and beat the game. Skyward Sword does it's best to change that. The main characters are really interesting, Ghirahim (the new antagonist) is rather sinister and interesting, and the main story shows real advancement as you progress through the game (as opposed to the old policy of before the last boss and after.)
Now we can move on to Skyrim. By now, most all of you know about Skyrim. That being said, I'll focus on it's features relative to LoZ. The first thing you'll notice is how realistic it looks. The shaft of the arrow has texture, hand has veins on it, grass is not nearly as green, the wolf is... well, a wolf. The reason this game looks good is because it's so detailed and flushed out. The weather and atmosphere changes with location, everything just works. Rather than looking good at surface value to enjoy as a whole, it looks good down to the details.
Combat is rather varied due to class differences. You can choose to be a crafty thief who strikes unsuspecting targets, a heavily armored knight, a magic wielding mage, or some combination of skills that you choose. Combat can be difficult, but it's more about management then what you are doing. The ability to manage spells, heal yourself, keep an eye on other enemies. If you keep attacking, enemies generally die and you just accept the damage as you receive it. Difficulty is similar in magnitude, but completely different in cause.
Then we come back to the story. Most people can't really tell you what happens when you beat the main story, because nobody bothers with the main story until the end. It's more fun to do your own thing, and there are so many things to do. Become a paid assassin, an imperial knight, a student at the mage's college. You could say that there is a main quest, but that's not really true. The game is a large span of possibilities and options, with no real motivated direction. The characters are relatively dull, serve little purpose beyond giving you quests.
So which would I recommend? Both, but none either the other. Legend of Zelda is like a book with the plot already written in, while you flush out the details. Skyrim is a story with the details written out, while you add in the plot. They are vastly different, but both are vastly fun.
So to turn this into a conversation topic, which do you prefer in an adventure game? Realism, or fantasy? Skill based or progress based? Linear or non-linear?