Skyrim’s combat can seem deceptively easy, but at higher difficulties it becomes immensely punishing. Even those with heavy armor builds might find themselves struggling against powerful magic users, while mage only builds suffer from getting easily demolished by enemies with devastating two-handed power attacks.
The truth is that Skyrim’s combat requires more strategy and planning than many would imagine. The main issue, however, is squishing those bad habits and mistakes that you find yourself making time and time again without even realizing. From not having a plan to not perfecting your character build, here’s a few of the common mistakes you might be making and how to remedy them.
Not Countering Enemies
In true RPG fashion, Skyrim has specific weaknesses that make killing particular enemies ten times easier. Knowing these weaknesses and exploiting them will make combat easier. Books, notes and even some NPC dialogues reveal these weaknesses, and eventually you’ll learn to distinguish types of armor as well.
Trolls are a great example. They’re weak to fire, so switching to a fire spell or even an enchanted weapon that deals fire damage is a good idea. On the other hand, Dwemer creatures like Spheres and Spiders are very resistant to any type of damage, making them almost impossible to counter.
There’s the matter of armor on enemies as well. Light armor wearers and mages will be weak to heavy damage upfront. Meanwhile, heavy armor wearers will suffer when out in the open, pelted by your arrows or spells. The bottom line is to always make things difficult for your enemy by countering their respective character “build”.
Not Leveling The Right Perks And Attributes
A poorly made build will cause you to suffer in combat, and so preparing for victory starts already in the skill tree menu. Don’t spread your perk points too thin. Otherwise, you won’t be able to take advantage of the higher level perks.
Most builds will consists of a main combat style: magic, one-handed, two-handed or archery. After you’ve picked one, you can pick a secondary skill if you want to, but the more you focus on one the better you will be. It’s also recommended you grab one of the three crafty skills: enchanting, alchemy or smithing. Each tree fits a specific build, although this isn’t a strict rule:
- Enchanting: stealthy, ranged, warrior
- Alchemy: stealthy, ranged
- Smithing: warrior
Attributes are also important. If you’re playing a mage, don’t dump half of your points into Stamina. You should heavily prioritize your Magicka, even at the cost of a weak Health pool. If you’re a warrior, don’t level your Magicka for a few spells since you’ll need all the Stamina you can get for combat.
Combining The Wrong Gear And Playstyle
Make sure your playstyle matches the kind of gear you have. It might be tempting to rush in and kill everything by swinging around a dagger, but only a few builds allow for it.
Light armor wearers and mages with robes should play back. Since you won’t be engaging upfront, go for light armor which can enhance your archery and your speed, or powerful robes that increase your Magicka. Avoid heavy armor at all cost, as it will slow you down.
Heavy armor wearers on the other hand deal a lot of damage up close, due to their tankiness. Make sure you have powerful two-handed or one-handed weapons that can do just that. Shields are also a fantastic accessory for one-handed users. When faces with ranged enemies, take advantage of natural cover.
Going In Without Help
This is a mistake often made when playing a squishy character. Beginners should definitely not going in alone, especially early on in the game where a weak mage or archer can spell easy death for you.
Hire a follower that fits your needs, preferably someone with a proficiency in heavy armor and two-handed or one-handed. They’ll tank plenty of damage and distract particularly powerful enemies while you get in position. Although squishy characters benefit from followers the most, heavy armor users struggling with archers and mages might want to hire an archer or spellcaster to be on their side as well.
The second option is mainly for mages. Invest in points within the Conjuration school, or find yourself a staff that conjures atronachs to your aid. These critters can distract and tank damage in fights where you would otherwise be outnumbered.
Many of the Shouts are quite versatile. However, the trick is knowing when to use specific shouts and how they can turn the fight around for you. Here’s a few of the best Shouts and how they can help you:
Whirlwind Sprint is likely the second word you’ll learn. It allows you to jump a long distance. It’s an excellent Shout for squishy builds who need a quick escape from a sticky fight. Heavy armor users will also benefit from it, when wanting to close distance with a powerful ranged enemy.
Slow Time is another fantastic Shout for situations where there’s too many enemies on you. It will let you land some nice attacks of opportunity while enemies are stuck in time.
Become Ethereal works for squishy builds as well, but it’s also great for heavy armor wearers who are getting jumped by a group of enemies. It turns you into a ghostly form unable to take any damage.
Finally, there’s Unrelenting Force. At its highest level, the stagger on this Shout is remarkable, and useful for keeping powerful close range enemies at bay. It can also be used by heavy armor wearers to blast ranged enemies off high ground.
Relying On One Weapon Only
Planning is everything in Skyrim, and if one plan fails it’s a good idea to have some type of back up. The solution is to carry one or two, or even three weapons with you depending on how good your carrying weight is.
Heavy armor wearers can afford to have a one-handed and two-handed with them, as well as a simple bow. Cycle through these weapons depending on what you’re up against, especially if the weapons have specific enchantments that work well against a certain type of enemy, such as fire damage for trolls or Magicka damage to mages.
Mages, archers and assassins should always carry a bow and some type of dagger in case they suddenly need to play close range. Even better if the dagger fills up a soul gem and is used as a finishing move on enemies.
Alchemy and cooking might not sound like compelling activities, but they are incredibly powerful when combined correctly with the right build.
Before a fight, prepare yourself by drinking a few potions. If you know you’ll face an enemy using elemental spells, potions of Resist Shock, Fire or Frost work fantastically. Any big fight can be complemented with a potion that boosts your attributes momentarily, as well as one that boosts regeneration of Health, Magicka or Stamina.
Poisons are more niche and stealth archers will benefit from them the most. Before engaging, use one of your poisons on your bow and the next arrow shot will deal the poison damage. Some poisons affect the Magicka and Stamina pools of enemies as well, so make sure to consider what attribute your enemy relies on.
Most of the food actually boost the regeneration of your main attributes. Vegetable Soup is ideal for heavy armor warriors, as it regenerates 1 point of health and stamina per second for 720 seconds. Homecooked Meal increases the regeneration of all three attributes by 25% for a total of 600 seconds, which is massive before a major fight.
Going Full Aggressive
If you find yourself dying because your strategy is to run at the enemy and swing at them with a sword, the problem just might be too much aggression.
Many enemies are very strategic about when to attack and when to defend. As such, playing defensive and practicing your timing on blocking with a weapon is crucial. Usually, you want the enemy to attack you first, in order to catch them off guard at the end of their animation and lock them into a power attack.
For squishy characters, the trick is obvious: don’t be aggressive. Your arsenal requires you to stay back and be sneaky and elusive. If the enemy is in your face, you’ve already made a major mistake. Make sure to provide distractions for your enemy, and for stealthy characters use your sneak to get around enemies into a better position.
NEXT: Skyrim: The 10 Best Skills, Ranked
Tea lover and video game obsessed writing enthusiast with her very own Overwatch team, Anastasia writes about games that leave an impression on her and make her come back time and time again.
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