Experienced Points: Bethesda Hates Mages:
12 Reasons Magic in Skyrim Sucks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 25, 2014

Filed under: Column 158 comments

After I write a column I often find myself thinking, “What bits are people most likely to argue with?” To a certain extent this is healthy. You want to make sure you make your point clearly and persuasively. On the other hand, hardening against every possible objection can bloat the essay. You’ll spend half the piece making your point and the other half making the point of the opposition in order to build your case against it. And in doing so, you’ll introduce more points that also need to be hardened, and so on. And pretty soon you’ve got 10,000 words that nobody has time to read.

I’m sure lots of people played Skyrim as a mage and had a good time anyway. They’re likely going to point out how the impact park lets you juggle foes forever. That’s true, but while you’re slowly chipping away at enemy health and stun-locking them with fireballs, the guy with a massive hammer has cleared the room out, run into the next room, and killed all those guys too. There’s just no contest. Magic in Skyrim sucks.

I think rather than measuring balance by DPS, it’s much more useful to measure by expediency. Measure how long it takes a player to plow through a given section of content using various builds. This measurement should include out-of-game costs like time spent navigating menus to chug potions and such.

Stealth is an interesting third way that I didn’t discuss in the article. It’s not as powerful as melee, but it’s way better than magic. If you’re doing it right, you should never get hit in combat. Which means you can dump all your points into stamina and turn yourself into an ambulatory warehouse of loot. It’s pretty low risk and the armor looks okay. But it’s an acquired taste. Fighting bosses can mean either five minutes of goofy hide-and-seek, or a bladder-busting potion binge, depending on how you approach it.

I’ve tried a few of the “better magic” mods. They help with the balance, but they don’t help with the lack of fun. (Drab gear, boring kill animations, etc.) I keep adding mods, but I still haven’t managed to find anything as satisfying as running into a room and killing everyone with an axe the size of a stop sign.


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158 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Bethesda Hates Mages:
12 Reasons Magic in Skyrim Sucks

  1. WILL says:

    I keep downloading mods to make the combat better but eventually I realised I was just trying to turn it into Dark Souls’ excellent combat system. Gotta be honest, I want to make a mod for it, but I don’t know how easy it would be. Every attack would have to drain stamina, but stamina would have to go up much faster. There’d be a whole ‘nother knockdown mechanic needed (Poise statistic, knockdown damage of weapons) plus you’d need to combine it with the Sweeping Weapons mod so every weapon has an AoE.

    But it would finally be FUN.

    1. TMTVL says:

      Well, the rarity of boss fights in DS makes them fun, but in Skyrim you run into so many dragons, I think it’d get boring after a while.

      1. Vipermagi says:

        Boss fights in DaS, a rarity? If you finish the game in 13 hours, you run into a boss once every 30 minutes, on average. 26 bosses is a fair bunch all in all, and on top of those there’s a handful of minibosses such as the Hydras, Havel, and Gough.

        With shopping and talking being largely dragon-free, I feel dragons are the less common ones. Plus, you can make sure they never appear in the first place.

        Don’t think rarity has much to do with the difference between samey dragon fights and bosses in Dark Souls.

    2. StashAugustine says:

      I was actually coming to post about Dark Souls considering the comment about how magic requires resources but melee doesn’t. Dark Souls makes attacking cost stamina, leading to a much slower and more deliberate style of melee combat.

      Also, how did you beat DaS in 13 hours? It took me north of 60.

      1. Adalore says:

        Beating darksouls is mostly a act of “Knowing where to go” with a healthy side of “Not dying”. Most of the time taken up to beat darks souls on the first play through is condensed into climbing the learning curve, after you get over that and grab the lord vessel the game ends fairly expediently.

        1. Vipermagi says:

          Exactly. The first time takes a while, but the time to completion decreases drastically. If you’re good enough to murder Artorias and Gwyn, you’ll be tearing through the Undead Burg real quick on a new character. Enemies there fight similarly, but are far slower, and deal very little damage. Instead of it taking an hour just to reach the first bonfire, it’ll be ten minutes until you’re facing the Taurus demon.

          Two weeks ago, give or take, a friend asked me how quickly I could complete Dark Souls without going crazy speedrun mode. Went for a +15 Great Scythe, Master key, the works. Seventeen bosses, four hours and 45 minutes. Could pretty easily make it quicker – there were still a couple stupid deaths, and a fair chunk of needless monster murdering.

          900 hours of experience does a lot of good for a skill and knowledge based game.

      2. Kana says:

        You can actually skip an absurd amount of content once you memorize the layout. Master Key lets you skip pretty much straight from the first Bell of Awakening to the second, and you can run the whole of Sen’s Fortress in under 10 minutes once you know the traps. Puts you in Anor Londo, which is pretty much the half way point of the game in just a few hours.

    3. Volfram says:

      I just finished a 4-hour run in Monster Hunter, and what I’ve heard about Dark Souls suggests it’s got a lot of my favorite bits of MH in it, possibly even improved. It sounds like a good piece of ludology study, at very least.

      But it’s also got the cancer that is GFWL stuck in it, and that apparently hasn’t been removed. I just can’t bring myself to buy it.

      1. Moddington says:

        Good news, then. GFWL is on its deathbed, and games including Dark Souls are slated to have GFWL patched out so that they’ll still be playable once Microsoft finally swings the axe. Just keep an ear out for when this finally happens, and grab DS during a Steam sale.

      2. StashAugustine says:

        A friend who was huge into Monster Hunter compared it to Dark Souls, so you’re right on. Just get Dark Souls 2 when it comes out!

        (which is to say the day before spring break… if I had a console.)

      3. Volfram says:

        That pretty much settles it. Thanks, Moddington and StashAugustine, I’ll be sure to pick it up at an opportune time in the future.

        Monster Hunter is BRUTALLY difficult at times, but so much of it just feels right, and the challenge makes victory that much more satisfying.(I soloed the Cephadrome and Congalala back-to-back for the first time during that 4-hour run.)

    4. Kana says:

      I wonder if the magic system in Skyrim could be improved by implementing a similar mechanic to the Pyromancy Flame of Dark Souls.

      Quick Recap (For anyone not familiar): Pyromancy spells do not scale to any stat you have, only the equipment to cast them called Pyromancy Flame. The Flame can be upgraded for a price from any Pyromancer trainer (3 in total if I remember right).

      What if they added a Catalyst of sorts to Skyrim that functioned as a magical-booster. You can do magic without, but using the Catalyst bumps the damage up a little bit.

      You can upgrade it for more damage elsewhere in the world, such as the Mage College, or other trainers for smaller boosts. Could be a neat reason to want to join and raise up the ranks, unlock the doom spells and power to use them.

      (Alternatively, you could just put some freakin’ damage amps in the relevant trees.)

      1. acronix says:

        What most mods do is make the magical damage actually scale with the relevant trees and change the equipment enchantments from “Makes magic cheaper” to “Makes magic more damaging”. It still makes magic weaker compared to melee fighters, but it moves them from “boring” to “okay”.

    5. Abnaxis says:

      It could be done, but it would be really hard.

      The stamina part is easy. Stamina regen rate is a stat stored for every character, and it would be fairly trivial to attach an effect that drains stamina, sets regen to 0 for a time, then cranks up regen after X seconds of not swinging or blocking. Even poise wouldn’t be that hard, as stagger mechanics also already exist as part of the base game.

      The main problem I see, is that I don’t know if Skyrim has the precision to manage the timing and animations required for the parrying and blocking system (you don’t just have to have a sweeping weapon, you have to figure out some way to add collision detection to see if the arc intersects a parry, all in fractions of a second). Plus, most weapons in Skyrim share animations, in contrast with the weapons in DkS which all differ, albeit only slightly in some cases.

      You would have to make so many assets for the mod as to practically write a full game, without even knowing if it will work decently. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s coming any time soon.

      1. acronix says:

        The Skyrim Redone mod has an optional addon that changes combat to do something like that. And even without it, it changes blocking so you if you time it correctly you stagger the enemy. Combat’s much less forgiving and it forces you to approach combat situations differently. Until you become an overpowered mass of enchantments as usual, of course.

        It also changes things in magic, though I haven’t made a mage yet.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          What do you refer to when you say “that”? Individual animations for every weapon, tracking the arc a weapon follows, or just stunning opponents with shields?

          One of the interesting mechanics in DkS, is that parrying isn’t just about timing–you literally have to hit their sword with your shield to pull of a successful parry.

          That’s where much of the depth of the system stems from, because it’s much easier to parry if you get right up in your opponent’s face than if you hang back, but it will be harder to dodge if they swing for the fences and elemental damage largely ignores shields. Further, whether they swing overhand or thrust makes a difference in just how hard parrying and how you time it.

          It’s trivial to make a script that checks to see if you hit block within .25 seconds before a hit connects, and that will give you the foundations for a parry/counter system, but that doesn’t replicate the same responsiveness, depth, or visceral experience that you get if you do it right. You might be able to make the system more interesting by replicating elements as best you can, but you aren’t going to be able to reproduce DkS in Skyrim without a lot of work.

          EDIT: Boy, my tone reads severe. What I get for posting with a headache…

          1. acronix says:

            I meant making stamina more meaningful in combat rather than being the resource for power attacks only. And I don’t think SkyRe seeks to replicate Dark Souls. For that you can go play Dark Souls. It’s just a bunch of nice tweaks to make combat more interesting.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Yeah, I was replying to WILL originally, who was interested in modding Skyrim into the DkS combat system.

              Basically, I’m trying to say that all of the factors WILL points out are the–including modding stamina regen–are the easy part. The hard-bordering-on-impossible part is nailing the handling–which to me is what really distinguishes DkS from others.

              I would agree that if you want Dark Souls, play Dark Souls, but on the other hand it wouldn’t hurt to have more Dark Souls in Skyrim.

        2. kdansky says:

          I am currently playing with SkyRe. It does in fact address some of the issues Shamus mentions. Annoyingly, that still leaves you with a sub-par result. At least your DPS is up to snuff, and if you add a mod that gives you double skill points, you have enough of those too.

          SkyRe’s designer has no real clue about the real issues with the magic system and how to actually fix them, he just bandaged over the most obvious problem: Lack of DPS.

          Shamus made a great list, by the way. To me, the basic problem comes down to three major points:

          First, the DPS is insufficient, because the spells don’t scale and are unbelievably badly balanced on the number side (e.g. wards burn your mana in five seconds and don’t do anything that a shield wouldn’t for free, except the shield can also bash). This is why the spell-crafting system was a saving grace, because you could fix the numbers.

          Secondly, the spells do not interact in an interesting way. You pick one, and you spam it. On top of that, they go against each other all the time: You wade through menus to switch them, you spread your points and experience and enchantments around.

          Thirdly, the perks are absolutely awful. Four out of five perks are either “50% cost reduction on three specific spells” or “+10% power on three specific spells” or “Dual Casting for ten specific spells”, and the rest are either broken OP (Impact) or broken useless. I have a hard time coming up with even a single great Perk.

  2. gresman says:

    I know it is not the point of this article but I have a question:
    How big is an american Stop sign?
    Are they as big as the ones in Austria or bigger? And on a sidenote are stop signs in Europe standardised?

    Just for reference austrian stop sign are about 30 cm high and 30 cm wide. That would be about 12 inches if I am not mistaken.

    1. cavalier says:

      The internet delivers

      Never realized there were international standards for such things.

      1. Volfram says:

        If there’s one thing having a civil engineer for an uncle has taught me, it’s that road signs are larger than they appear.

        I thought stoplights in the US were about 6 inches tall until I was 11.

        1. gresman says:

          Now the important question.
          If stop lights in the US are not 6 inches (approx. 15cm), how big are they?

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Alright, so for reference I’m talking about the fairly standard 3-color light, which is a rectangle with the long dimension vertical.

            For that particular hardware, it’s about 3ft (1m) tall, and 1ft (33cm) wide, roughly speaking.

  3. burningdragoon says:

    One way that I think Oblivion did better in this than both Skyrim and Morrowind (in my minimal experience with Morrowind anyway) was having a magic button/key. Dual wield spells is neat and all, but it makes switching between magic and melee (even just for healing) a real pain.

    From my experience, I feel like this is a problem with most games on the more actiony RPG side of things. Being a mage should be super(duper even!) rad, but it rarely feels that way for me. The Souls games do pretty alright once you get the late game spells, but I am very biased towards the Souls games.

    1. Kilt'd says:

      The magic in Fable 3 has no mana pool and a satisfying mechanic for charging and directing spells – especially because spells can be used as directional blasts or AoE attacks depending on how you cast them – but I’m not sure how effective it is compared to melee.

      The animations are pretty sweet too. Playing with the fireball spell feels a little bit like being a fantasy version of Tony Stark.

      1. Kalil says:

        The problem with magic in Fable III was that it was pretty much an I-win button. I mean, combat difficulty was low in that game to start with, and the massive AOE stunning spells kinda drained it of what little potency it might have had…

        It was also a little frustrating in that there was a complete lack of magic-boosting weaponry. Like, wasn’t there a single magically-inclined blacksmith in the whole bloody world?

    2. guy says:

      I definitely miss the cast button. My first playthrough I tried going for a self-buffing dual wielder, but it was just such a pain to keep swapping between my weapons and my buff spells prior to every fight.

    3. Darren says:

      Kingdoms of Amalur had one of the most fun mage skill sets I’ve ever seen. Mages got their own melee weapons that were functionally similar to warrior weapons, but with an emphasis on elemental damage and AoE. The skills were also ludicrously powerful and covered (at high levels) huge areas.

      1. kdansky says:

        Amalur did a few things right (looks, attack animations, weapon switching), and just fell flat completely on the density side. So much boring repetitive crap with horrible story prinkled over it.

  4. Eldiran says:

    You hit the nail on the head … with a Daedric Warhammer. Speaking of, I’d guess that weapons are the truly imbalanced element in Skyrim. Being able, but not forced to, take perks to do up to 200% more damage (Barbarian, etc) makes the system impossible for designers to balance. And naturally smithing’s incredible potency just throws the system out of whack even more.

    Frankly I can’t recall a time I ever saw a single well balanced system in any Elder Scrolls game : P

    1. Tizzy says:

      I don’t think a single-player game needs to be overly well-balanced. After all, you’re running one character at a time, and it’s about giving you options adapted to your tastes. But magic in Skyrim is boring, especially if you’re trying to play and all-around mage (my blandest playthrough, surely). Shamus explained well why it’s so hard to be good at every school of magic. One of the things Shamus didn’t mention is the chore that is the huge number of spells that you have to juggle, meaning stopping and switching spells way too often.

      Which wouldn’t be a real problem, except that the spells are bland and boring. Destruction is the worst, followed closely by Alteration. I am having a pretty good time running an Illusion-fighter type right now, might also try a Conjurer one of these days, though it doesn’t sound *that* much fun.

      OTOH, I ran a pure sword-and-shield fighter in the high levels. Then, on a lark, switched to 2-handed weapons and even as a beginner it was still perfectly viable build against high-level foes.

      Eventually, though, I don’t care that much about power. I just wish magic was more creative. For all that I regret that Shouts are mostly content with duplicating magic, shouts somehow managed to get the few creative things that are not spells.

      1. Eldiran says:

        True. It says something that a game so abysmally imbalanced as Skyrim is still extremely fun to play. It just could be much more fun if it actually were balanced (I’ve tried modding away most of the crap, and I can say it’s much better that way).

        Oh, and to bring up another bad thing about mages; you actually have less armor pieces to enchant; robes take up both leg and body slot, and sometimes even the head slot!

        1. acronix says:

          In Skyrim there is no such thing as leg slots: the body covers that. What you have is: hands, feet, body, helmet and face. It is true that some robes take the body and the head slot, though. But I think those don’t cover the face slot like all helmets do.

          1. Eldiran says:

            Woops, you’re right. I think I’m getting my RPGs mixed up. Either way, wearing a robe is bad for enchantments.

      2. Destrustor says:

        As someone currently playing a pure conjurer (where my only offensive options are summoned creatures and weapons), I can tell you right now that it mostly consists of standing around while watching monsters fight for you, and occasionally running for a while when they fail to keep aggro.

        It’s kinda like pokemon, but with less variety. On the speed scale, it’s pretty much to destruction what destruction is to two-handed.

        You really need a good deal of innate patience to enjoy it.

        1. Zagzag says:

          My “current” character started as pure conjuration, but became a great deal more fun when I learned the bound bow spell. I typically throw down a Wrathman then pull out the bow and start shooting, and I’ve actually been enjoying it a great deal more than conventional melee.

          The speed with which my archery caught up with my conjuration was rather worrying though.

          1. Destrustor says:

            Oh, that would be better than the bound sword, wouldn’t it? I imagine you are shooting actual real arrows, and that said arrows do their own damage, added to the base damage of the bow itself.

            The sword is good for instant-killing enemy summoned daedra though. Which I guess is a relatively rare occurrence, I’ll admit.
            I’ll really have to try the bow one of these days…

            1. Khizan says:

              No, the Bound Bow uses Bound Arrows.

              The thing about the Bound Bow, though, is that it’s a Daedric bow. Bound Arrows are Daedric Arrows. This means that you can do a surprising amount of damage with the Bound Bow, especially if you get it at a point in the game where weapons of that quality are hard to get.

              Also, I actually found Conjuration to be really, really good. Once you can summon atronachs, they can basically win fights for you, and you don’t have to worry about AOEing your follower down, since you can just summon a new one.

              The big thing about conjuration is that you only level when you cast the spells in combat, so it’s usually a slow leveler. The best way to solve this is to find a dog in a cage or a wolf or something and let it beat on you while you summon and dismiss the bound swords repeatedly.

              1. Mephane says:

                This game mechanic just screams fail. I have had my share of similar experiences in a number of games, and I always think “how couldn’t the game designers see how atrocious this is?” Armor that levels only by getting hit (find mob that does little damage and let it beat on you for hours), healing magic that only levels by healing actual damage (find a source of reliable controllable damage, for example by jumping down a height, or standing in a static fire, heal, rinse, repeat), or utility abilities that are meant to use sparsely but require as many uses as regular attacks (stun every mob you engage, or low level critters over and over), and so on. Le sigh.

                I am very glad that ESO managed to find a much better solution. Any equipment-based skill gains experience if you have at least one piece of that equipment equipped when you fight, all class, guild etc. skills gain experience for each ability of that skill type you have slotted. I’ve played a mostly pure archer in the one beta weekend I had access to, and even when taking out foes at long range without getting hit at all my medium armor did gain a good amount of experience.

                1. Ateius says:

                  Or you could just, like, play the game, and not spend hours letting a peasant tickle you with a butter-knife so you can min-max your heavy armour at level 1. I can tell you, from personal experience, that it is entirely possible to do this.

                  But then, I guess I’m just weird, because I found myself having more fun and an easier time when I decided to go from pure melee to a character that primaries destruction magic. Dual-casting rapid-fire flame bolts let me drop the chaff and weaken the tougher enemies before they even reached me, allowing for easy finishers with flames or a one-handed weapon (faster to draw than a two-hander). It also made fights more dynamic as I moved around for the best angles to snipe another low-level enemy, rather than standing in the middle of the room and tanking.

                  Also, on all characters, it’s the high-level NPC mages that kill me the most often, and rarely ever melee guys. I can’t say I’ve ever felt magic was underpowered, whether giving or receiving. If anything, I find the most disappointing system is (and has been since Morrowind) archery.

                  1. Mephane says:

                    “Or you could just, like, play the game, and not spend hours letting a peasant tickle you with a butter-knife so you can min-max your heavy armour at level 1. I can tell you, from personal experience, that it is entirely possible to do this.”

                    Not all people can just let go and play like that. Call it OCD if you wish, but some people just won’t work like that and can’t ignore the fact that there is a skill that is not levelling up as much as it could. I am not even talking about min-maxing or other forms of powergaming, as those are usually based on strategic grounds. I am talking about the feeling of that armor skill sitting there, always lagging behind, always teasing with the possibility to intentionally raise it, too.

                    A recent* episode of The Big Bang Theory explained the situation quite well:

                    Sheldon had made an elaborate plan to show Leonard how he feels with all these tiny things nagging on his mind. Eventually, he manages to convince Leonard to wear an ugly and very uncomfortable sweater (it makes him itch heavily and his skin go red) until he manages to return an old loaned DVD to the owner (Leonard agrees in order to prove the point that Sheldon is exxagerating). But the shop has closed down, the former owner has died, and Leonard even fails to track down any relatives to give the DVD to. Finally, Sheldon explains that he had paid all fees years ago, and that the DVD would not even have had to be returned at all, and he had just waited for a chance to use it to demonstrate Leonard how it feels when there is something itching all the time in Sheldon’s mind, something he can’t let go and has to take care off or it won’t ever go away.

                    Personally, I have always been able to empathise with Sheldon because I am often in similar – albeit less hilarious – situations where I need to set some detail right not because it matters, but because it is there and giving me the itch.

                    *Recent as in aired in Germany recently for the first time, which means it’s been aired in USA weeks or months ago, I suppose.

                    1. Yeah, that’s probably bordering on OCD.

                      However, the idea that you don’t get XP except in combat is an old, OLD RPG trope going back to the early days of tabletop gaming, since combat was how you actually used your abilities. This is at odds, of course, with real life where you can study hard and practice to learn a skill rather than just jumping in and trying it out. This is further at odds with the idea of, say, a person in the military having actual combat experience vs. only having done military exercises or a surgeon not being able to improve unless they’re cutting on a real, live patient.

                      Magic is probably the worst for these setups because it’s seen as being based on practice and mental acuity or talent. Hitting your target with a fireball is probably less impressive overall than being able to conjure and launch the thing in the first place, and one presumes that comes from long hours of study and work under a master wizard… but that’s boring or a cheat. If you were playing a game where you could just click a button and/or pay some gold and get levels in magic, that would kind of defeat the purpose of the game. Of course, in games that allow multiclassing, you can sometimes just decide, “I’m going to take a level in wizard” and instantly get the benefits of years of study as an apprentice.

                      There’s really no good answer without a much more complex and nuanced system, which is why no XP system is perfect, unless you really like the way your flesh-n-blood DM doles it out for combat, role-play, etc.

              2. Kalil says:

                Even easier/weirder way to level conjuration:
                Cast ‘soul trap’ repeatedly on a corpse.

      3. Humanoid says:

        I don’t feel that melee is any less boring than magic in Skyrim, other than it taking longer (which admittedly is a large part of being bored). Spells don’t have much variety, sure, but still more than choosing between overhead swing and sideways swing. So in this case, power balance is a key factor in the relative enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the respective systems.

        Melee is like throwing clothes in the washing machine, magic is hanging the clothes out to dry afterwards.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Melee is more visceral, probably in any game that doesn’t mess up. It’s in your face, and, yes, has cool animations.

        2. Hydralysk says:

          In vanilla skyrim that’s definitely true, but that’s much easier to solve through modding. I’ve started a new skyrim game (haven’t played it since it came out) and used the Requiem mod to create a light armored skirmisher. Enemy power attacks (especially 2h) can smoke you in one hit pretty easily and so fights rely more on dodging in and out of range of their weapons and using timed blocks on power attacks to survive. Even without an overhaul like Requiem you can easily download a standalone combat mod like Duel or Deadly Combat to increase the challenge and enemy AI.

          Meanwhile a mage character I’ve made in Requiem (plus Fogotten Magic Redone) takes a third of his magicka to kill a wolf with fire when I can accomplish the same feat with 2 arrows from a bow I have a skill of 05/100 in. Playing anything magic focused in any mod I’ve seen either requires you to chug tons of potions or level up enchanting to give yourself tons magicka regen, whereas melee/archery just requires you to slap on the armor and weapons you want and go to town.

  5. swimon says:

    I largely agree with the arguments but not really with the framing. Destruction magic sucks in the elder scrolls series for all the reasons you mentioned but that’s not the same as magic. It’s very viable to give a melee fighter magic powers. In Skyrim this is mostly for flavour, healing is really the only spell that’s all that powerful (very powerful if you take the perk that also heals stamina) but some of the others are great fun.

    In Morrowind though magic is way more powerful than any sort of fighting. Sneaking/running past everything is a pain in the butt, but not having levitate, mark & recall, almsivi intervention, water walk or water breathing that is truly crippling.

    Also small nitpick but you’re remembering that encounter in Morrowind wrong since magic doesn’t regenerate over time in Morrowind (unless you chose atronach as birthsign and your enemy cast spells at you which you absorbed) another example why destruction magics is terrible in that game.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Unless he drank a potion, which in Morrowind restored whatever attribute like Hardcore Mode in New Vegas: X points over time, depending on quality of potion.

      Or installed that nifty little mod that made magic restore based on willpower, like Oblivion.

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      Mumbles said of Thu’ums in the most recent Spoiler Warning that “it’s the weird ones” that are and remain useful- which is to say, powers that offer some sort of peculiar utility rather than the ones that deal direct damage. I think this is true of magic as well, at least back as far as Morrowind.

      It’s exactly as you say in Morrowind. I’ve never used magic for combat in Morrowind and the idea of doing so seems entirely unpleasant. However, I’d feel foolish leaving Balmora without having all the spells you mentioned and more: levitation and jump, water walking and breathing, Mark/Recall and both Intervention spells, a way to restore attributes, a way to heal disease or blight, and a mortar & pestle in my back pocket as well.

      Magic is most useful when it is giving you options you otherwise would not have. My character does not have the option to fly or teleport or create potions without magical disciplines. But I already have the option of defeating enemies. It’s called “Goldbrand,” and it suits me just fine.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think the lack of default magicka regeneration (unless you mod it in), other than rest which is not too handy mid-dungeon and breaks the flow of the game, combined with the different effects and spellcrafting shows that Morrowind/Oblivion/Daggerfall? magic was always meant to play a supportive role. Something to be used in emergencies or for various miscelanneous functions (such as transportation, damage boost, buffs, debuffs or short term burst damage).

        1. Nidokoenig says:

          That, or you’re supposed to use magic as an alpha strike, chug enough sujamma to reduce your intelligence to 0, then smack stuff with your staff until you sober up and 0/0 mana becomes 100/100. Great fun for Altmer Atronachs.

          But yeah, Elder Scrolls games are intended for Omnigods who use a little of everything.

          1. Ysen says:

            Ah, the 0 intelligence exploit. Forget sujamma, just cast Drain Intelligence 100 pts / 1 second on yourself. Instant mana refill.

            Mind you it wasn’t actually that powerful, since you’re still limited by your magic skill and enchanted items were generally better than actually casting spells anyway. Or just shamelessly abusing alchemy to insta-kill everything.

  6. TMTVL says:

    I’m currently trying out everything at the same time with my character (which sucks, ’cause specialization is king in these games), but I’m finding magic is basically only useful for blasting away mooks, and for ranged combat after I’ve been discovered (archery without the 3* multiplier doesn’t really do it for me.)

    On the plus side, I can handle most any situation, and am even tackling dungeons before I’m at a good level for them.
    On the down side, I have to carry my Dark Brotherhood robe AND my Dwarfen armour with me so I can switch when I get detected.

  7. Janus says:

    All of the points in the article are true, but even aside from the gameplay/-mechanics standpoint Magic in Skyrim is just boring (to me, ymmv).

    Playing an offensive Mage, all you can do is throw variations fire, ice and lightning at people – like in, well, any_game_ever with a magic system. The magic in Morrowind or Oblivion was just as broken in different ways, but it had so much more to offer.
    Drain Life in Skyrim? Nope. Cause Sickness/Disease? Nope.
    Crush enemies under the weight of their own armor? Make them more susceptible to various kinds of damage? Poison them magically? Rust their armor/weapons away? Nope to all of the above and many more.
    I liked to go for a sort of Fallen Cleric Character or a fighter who uses magic indirectly to weaken enemies. All gone.

    The equivalent would be to cut all melee-weapons except onehanded swords and axes. Not that Skyrim offers a huge variety of melee-weapons anyway.

    1. ET says:

      Skyrim doesn’t have a huge amount of weapon variety, but it’s not too small.
      I mean, there’s two-handed, and one-handed of swords, axes, and clubs/maces/hammers, plus staves.
      So, it’s at least seven types of melee weapons, by my count.
      I think the bigger problem is that there’s only two melee weapon skills, and one ranged skill.
      I think that melee would have been easier to balance with magic (and ranged) if there were more skills to spread yourself between, and more actual differences between the weapons.
      As far as I can tell, the only difference is the swing-speed between swords (fast), axes(medium), and maces/clubs/hammers (slow).

      So, my skills would have been:
      Two-handed, one-handed, thrusting (spears, some attacks with swords), slashing (most sword attacks, some axes), hacking (axes, some swords, mining picks), bashing (hammers/clubs/staves/etc), ranged.
      I’d also make it so that you need multiple skills for each weapon.
      So, a hatchet would be hacking, plus one-handed.
      Crossbow would be two-handed plus ranged.
      Some kind of “war pick” (axe on one side of the head, pointy thing on the other) would be hacking on both sides, and one-handed.
      Would be hard to indicate to the player how they choose which types of attack, but IIRC, Morrowind let you pick attacks by the direction-key you were pressing before each attack.
      Back-pedal+attack or standing still+attack was a short swipe, sidestep+attack was maybe a riposte, and forward+attack was a heavy charging attack.

      So, that would hopefully balance magic a bit, by bringing melee and ranged into the same level of number-of-skills-needed.
      As for making magic less boring, I think it ought to have more utility spells.
      Stuff like binding vines, or freezing enemies feet in place while their hands are free to shoot you with a bow or magic.
      Heck, even most of the stuff you listed above would work well;
      Armor-rust was a favorite of mine conceptually, even if I can’t recall ever actually using it in Morrowind.

      1. hborrgg says:

        There are different perks to the melee weapons and I think different ranges (swords are longest and hammers are shortest, if I remember right).

        Really though, I don’t think that just tossing in more skills and demanding more specialization is really the right way to go about things. It’s one of the things I really hated about fallout 3/new vegas: “Woah! check out this awesome gatling-laser! Oh wait, all my skill points are in regular pistols. Guess I’ll just toss it then”.

        In a 100+ hour game it’s really nice to have some weapon variety available to you without feeling like you are being punished.

        The ideal of course would probably be a game where different weapons like swords/axes/daggers actually felt like they had different uses instead of simply being slightly different means of delivering dps. But I mean, come on, like any RPG is ever going to do that. . .

      2. aldowyn says:

        TES has been consistently moving towards *less* melee skills, not more, as part of their ongoing attempts to make it more accessible (which they’ve succeeded at, regardless of the other consequences).

        Morrowind had long blade, short blade, axe, blunt, and spear, IIRC, and it was kind of annoying because if you focused on one, anything you got for the others was essentially useless :/

        As for some of the overlapping skills, I think that might be a little overboard. A two-handed sword and a crossbow using the same skill (2-handed) seems a bit silly. Maybe a separate crossbow and bow skills…

        Personally, what I’d like to see is a synergy system. Getting better at certain skills makes you a little bit better at similar skills, or at least makes them easier to learn.

        1. ET says:

          Something like the skill-defaults in GURPS?
          Wait…somebody just needs to make a port of the GURPS system to a computer game.
          I’d love a friggin’ game with that system! XD

          1. Actually Fallout was supposed to be based on the GURPS 3e rule-set. but about halfway throw development they had some… creative differences so Black Isle made the SPECIAL system. thats why sometimes they feel a bit alike.

        2. Abnaxis says:

          Personally, what I'd like to see is a synergy system. Getting better at certain skills makes you a little bit better at similar skills, or at least makes them easier to learn.

          That’s the idea that drove me to work on the mod I’m working on right now.

          I’m trying to bring back attributes, but have them based off skills instead of the nonsense system from Oblivion/Morrowind. So levels in one-handed will increase strength, which will benefits damage with all melee weapons (including two-handed) and so on.

          I’m about 40% done with the coding on my first pass (though I need to do some major rewriting because I don’t want my code to break other race mods). It will only add attributes to the player to begin with, but I hope to expand it to NPCs and add spells as well to make the world feel more varied.

          If you want, I can let you know when it gets done.

          1. aldowyn says:

            So a bit more directly influenced by skills than morrowind/oblivion? That could be interesting, it was always a little weird to me how you had to choose which ones went up instead of it just happening.

            Sure, I wouldn’t mind taking a look when you’re done. Good luck :D

            1. Abnaxis says:

              If you’re interested in a mod that does a similar sort of thing for Oblivion, there’s nGCD, which I have been closely picking apart in making my own mod since I liked it so much. I think the corresponding mod for Morrowind is GCD (I didn’t get so much into modding Morrowind).

              nGCD is my super favorite mod for Oblivion because it corrected the fundamental problems in the class/attribute system, such that it encourages picking the skills you want to specialize in for class skills (imagine that!) and made the game register your power level from your actual combat-useful instead making it so you screwed yourself by leveling social skills.

  8. TheHokeyPokey says:

    I actually enjoyed my first play through as a mage a lot. This was before I knew how underpowered it was, of course. I remember when I finally enchanted a 100% off destruction set and I thought I was so OP. My go-to strategy was to kite dudes to a hallway corner and lay trap runes. As an added bonus, it encourages intelligent use of the shout mechanic. For example, I found myself using the ice form shout a lot because it gave me a way to deal with dudes one at a time. Once I started playing melee characters, combat was so easy it stopped being interesting.

  9. Disc says:

    I don’t see stamina as really THAT essential for a pure mage, but it definitely helps. Skipping on it, you’ll just have be to a bit more choosy on what to loot and where to spend your money.

    Mods that add backpack items can make the whole need for raising stamina practically go away. If you still need more, you can try downloading mods with gear you can equip in other extra slots and enchant them with extra carry weight. May be a bit cheaty, but it can be worth it in the long run.

    1. Ciennas says:

      I don’t feel it’s cheating, to mod in something as basic as a backpack.

      If you really want to, make the backpack have a drawback for being equipped while in battle, but the whole point is to keep the player from accessing the console and ‘cheating’ your way to holding all your gear to cut down on the pointless busywork needed to sell unused gear.

      Or whatever. But I realized rather quickly that making me go through at least two load screens a shopping trip turned it into a hassle quickly. I’m glad Skyrim had workarounds, but it still was a timesink in some form or the other to sell unwanted knickknacks.

  10. Wulfgar says:

    Can you even make good magic mechanics for first person perspective game that needs to be gamepad friendly without turning it into a shooter? I would really love to see Portal like imaginative approach to this subject someday.

    1. Kalil says:

      Related question:
      Has there been a good mage-centric first-person ‘shooter’ since Hexen?

  11. swenson says:

    Honestly my only complaint with the article is that you linked to the Elder Scrolls Wikia instead of the UESP. :)

    1. ET says:

      I know that Wikia has a bad history of copying other wikis, and other skeezy practices, but I actually like the Wikia-hosted Elder Scrolls wiki.
      Everything’s just a lot better organized (links, categories, etc), and the default typeface/stylesheets at Wikia look better than what they’re using on the UESP.

  12. Jexter says:

    I’ve played through Skyrim as a mage, and you’re right- magic just doesn’t scale the way smacking things with swords does. I’ve had to install a number of mods to make it work, the most important probably being Balanced Magic.

    The main thing the mod does is alter the alteration tree so the armor increasing spells last longer (around 10 minutes at duel cast), and make it so destruction magic damage scales with level. Furthermore, mana regenerates twice as fast while in combat, so running out isn’t as big of an issue.

    The effect is rather pronounced. The mage starts relatively weak, but by the end of the game you’re paralyzing enemies with those green insta-stun spells and blasting dragons out of the sky with lightning bolts. In fact, against Deadly Dragons, a mage is might even be easier. While a warrior would have to wait for the dragon to land to dish out damage, and still be vulnerable the dramatically boosted breath damage, my mage can just hang back from a safe distance and blast the dragon as it flies around with armor-ignoring destruction spells. It makes dragons with even 500% the standard health seem easy.

    Still, even with mods, magic is without a doubt higher maintenance. A fighter can just hit things with a simple button press. A mage, meanwhile, needs to constantly pause combat to switch between spells, down the occasional potion to keep mana up, recast their mage armor, summon their elemental minion… the list goes on and on. Adding a mod to include hot keys for magic helps, but then you still have to memorize them. (And woe be to you if you prefer playing with a controller.)

  13. Tizzy says:

    Small factual point: “mana” as a term for magical fuel was used in Magic: the Gathering; that was in 1993 or so, and I cannot imagine that they were first, either.

    1. According to Wikipedia, the word has been in use in Proto-Oceanic languages for about 4,000 years or so. The first use of it as a name for magical energies was in a Larry Niven story from 1969.

      1. syal says:

        Any idea about how old the word Magicka is? I tried looking it up and the wiki article is entirely about the Paradox game.

        Anyway, the idea was that the term for magical energy wasn’t standardized. Final Fantasy used Magic Points, for instance.

        1. I seem to recall a Final Fantasy game on the old monochrome Game Boy called ‘The Secret of Mana.’ Was that non-canon (insofar as anything is canon in the FF series)?

          As for ‘Magicka,’ that’s only existed since the video game of the same name, but the root word ‘Magick’ was popularized by Aleister Crowley in a book he published in 1912.

          1. guy says:

            That was a different series entirely.

          2. burningdragoon says:

            Fun fact: There were 4 games for the original Game Boy with the Final Fantasy name, but none of them were technically “Final Fantasy” games.

            Final Fantasy: Adventure (the game you’re thinking of) was the first entry in the Mana series, called Seiken Densetsu in Japan. Secret of Mana on the SNES was #2.

            The other three, Final Fantasy: Legend 1-3, were the first three games in the SaGa series, SaGa Frontier for PS1 was actually the seventh game in the series.

          3. syal says:

            I find the wiki link for Magic Points, though it isn’t chronological. From anecdotal evidence it looks like games were starting to consolidate toward calling it mana in 1994 but there was still precedent for calling it something else from earlier games.

            (The word ‘magicka’ has to be older than the 2011 game because the Elder Scrolls games use it before that. Was there an older game?)

          4. False Prophet says:

            “Magicka” has to be older than that. I first encountered it as a term of address for wizards in a 1990 fantasy novel.

  14. Nonesuch says:

    I really only ever used conjuration magic and scrolls in skyrim. But I’m always the sneaky guy with a bow. It’s ground level for me in games like that. But when you do go all loud and noisy nothing say “screw you” like dropping a massive AOE in front of the door the bad guys are about to try to chase you through.
    When doing the one hammerfell-related quest you get in Whiterun, I wound up outmanned and out-gunned by the alakir guys, so I doubled back into a larger room with a narrow exit and dropped a blizzard spell in front of the corridor. When running into the giant skeletal dragon in Labyrinthian I had a scroll of chain lightning on me. It dropped every little mook skeleton in that room in such a satisfying way. And then I got to murder the boss.
    But I don’t think I ever actually tried playing with magic just because of how boring it was to level. I couldn’t sneak up on dudes and deal extra damage with spells.

  15. Just Passing Through says:

    So any recommendations for magic mods? I’ve shied away from the big ones that add hundreds of spells since they sounded potentially broken and/or stupid.

    1. Amnestic says:

      Apocalypse Spells is a spellmod I like because the spells aren’t really overpowered (and there’s lots of adjustable options if you utilise SkyUI). Rather, they add a lot of variety and options where there was none before. Mixing up your spell list with varied effects is crucial to making magic interesting and giving you a feeling of being a proper mage.

      I do still wonder if Skyrim might not’ve been stronger if magic were removed entirely and instead the effort that went into magic had been instead devoted to expanding the Shout system.

    2. Supervans says:

      You could try skyrim redone. It rebalances all kinds of things, and it made magic feel really good in my experience. If you try it, however, you might be surprised by how much more difficult it makes the game. Also, the audio overhaul mod helps make magic feel more impactful; it also makes the game sounds better overall, so I’d recommend that even if you don’t want to try skyrim redone.

    3. Ysen says:

      I have shied away from those mods for exactly the same reason – it seems like a lot of magic mods are more interested in including every random thing someone thought was cool than creating a coherent or balanced game system.

      If you want some relatively minor changes which reduce the frustration of playing a mage, you might want to try Simple Skyrim Spell Scaling Solution combined with Minimalist Magic Overhaul. It doesn’t change the way you play drastically, but it allows magic to scale a better, makes playing an unarmoured “pure” mage much more viable, and includes a bunch of convenience changes like extended duration for armour spells.

  16. Gahrer says:

    Magic are indeed really weak in Skyrim, with one important exception: Late game Illusion magic.
    Illusion magic makes a strange transition (in my experience) in Skyrim along the lines of useless-> useless-> nearly useless-> utterly gamebreaking. When you have complete control over when an NPC will be agressive combined with the ability to become invisble at will nothing poses a challenge anymore. A Draugr Deathlord? Dual-cast Pacify and calmly walk around him and slit his throat with a dagger. If he survives just repeat. The Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild got really strange when I could just kill or steal in plain view and make everyone ignore it. :P

    1. Tizzy says:

      Another problem with Skyrim is, given the reliance on perks, how difficult it is to figure out what is a viable path.

      Let’s look at the illusion tree: you need a 90 in illusion to be able to affect everyone with illusions. Then, the spells all come with a max level of NPCs you can affect. Which would be great if we knew who is what level, but that’s not information that you can access in the game.

      Then, there are five perks that make your various illusions more effective (3 by illusion type and 2 for humans and animals), but they are absolutely not specific as to the boost n max level that you get,

      So someone who is thinking abou nvesting in that tree has no idea whether they will be able to affect anyone at all, or for how long, That’s a big problem: compare to melee or ranged where your weapon, however inappropriate for the challenge, will always do SOME damage.

      Actually, that may be a feature that Skyrim could have used: enemies with immunities to certain metals… Switch it up a bit…

      1. Bubble181 says:

        You mean like in Daggerfall and Morrowind, with cold iron and silver both beign necessary to be able to complete certain tombs? And some enemies immune to non-magical blades?

        It sure helped in my mind, but a *lot* of people complained *very* bitterly over it – having to carry 3 or 4 swords. In some ways similar to The Witcher in that regard, too.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Well, I never played Morrowind, and I am on the record as hating every minute of Daggerfall. Well, not quite, since I played it some back in the days, but not a lot of hours.

          3 or 4 different metals is a bit much. But also, you don’t have to have enemies immune to each metal in the same dungeon. As a matter of fact, it would make a lot of sense for the immunities to be regional. It’s would be a trivial change, but it would add an extra planning dimension to a trip: either I carry a large collection of everything, or I need to think ahead about who I am likely to encounter.

          Anything to break the monotony, anyway!

          1. syal says:

            Morrowind isn’t nearly that bad. Enemy immunity only applies to nonmagical weapons; anything with any kind of enchantment will hurt everything. You can enchant a chitin dagger with “resist common disease 1% on use” and it will suddenly be able to injure ghosts and daedra. And anything dwarven or stronger won’t be resisted, which is, like, the third tier of weaponry and up.

            Basically, it’s entirely a low-level mechanic.

            Never played Daggerfall, so maybe it was more prominent there.

  17. Vipermagi says:

    “I've tried a few of the “better magic” mods. They help with the balance, but they don't help with the lack of fun.”

    Plugging BotherLaz’ work, the Apocalypse spell pack; have you had a go at that one yet?
    I’ve been meaning to bum around with Apocalypse myself when I next fire up Skyrim, but there’s plenty kindling for Dark Souls in my heart so I never get to it. Can’t guarantee anything as such, but Laz also created the Diablo II mod Median XL, which was beyond fantastic. Works for me.

  18. rofltehcat says:

    I think this is not really limited to Elder Scrolls games:
    Many games are doing magic “wrong”.
    It is often clunky (cast times, spell interrupt), overly limited (mana), gets tons of other constraining factors (e.g. insane magic resists on most Morrowind enemies) and then again turns into a complete game breaker from time to time (Fable 1’s end boss 2-hit, ridiculous custom magic in Morrowind/Oblivion).

    Even (and possibly “especially) in many Pen&Paper systems it seems like it is simply overregulated, ending in it being clunky, constrained, possibly underpowered etc. except for 1-5 gamebreaking spells.

    How can they get magic balancing so wrong in so many games?!?

    1. Ciennas says:

      Easy. Because magic has to be, or there’d be no ‘balance’ or ‘plot’.

      Look at Green Lantern. The most common complaint for him is he doesn’t use his power properly. That’s on purpose- otherwise, who could fight him and have a chance?

      Consequently, it’s way easier to balance weapon mechanics- we know if it feels ‘right’ intrinsically.

      Come up with a magic system that doesn’t turn into ‘you lose because I said so!’. Most of the challenge of designing magic is making it distinguishable from godhood or Mary Sueism.

      1. Nimas says:

        Ars Magica has a really nice magic system. Of course they basically acknowledge as a base that mages are overpowered and assume that from the start. It also requires a good DM to moderate properly (i.e no magic spot or machine gun crossbow)

      2. syal says:

        I wonder how well a cumulative system for magic would work. Like, you only get a small flame your first shot, but if it connects the next one hits twice as hard, and it starts getting extravagant around the seventh or eighth attack. But if you miss with your attack or get hit then the spell de-levels slightly, and if you don’t use it it’ll eventually de-level on its own.

        1. Ciennas says:

          You just described the Arkham Whatever combat system. Except with magic instead of face punches.

          If you haven’t played it, in short: Your hits get stronger and faster as you work your way through a crowd of dudes. Get hit or punch air and the whole thing resets, and you have to build it up again. In City, getting x12 and above triggered adreneline rushes, which made the screen all heat blurry and you went from regular combat to ninja death mode, zipping across the field as a blur.

          It was an intriguing system. I agree that this sounds interesting to implement it to a mage instead of a brawler.

          It would be a very fluent combat system then. The problem would be to not have too many spells then, or to let you choose two or three like Fable 3 did.

  19. hborrgg says:

    Just hearing all the discussions about this sort of thing makes me really gald in retrospect that I played Skyrim on easy and didn’t have to worry so much about min-maxing. (For the record, I played a fighter who didn’t really touch alchemy or enchanting and generally stuck with the lower-level weapons and armor that didn’t look like complete arse.)

    It’s sort of interesting though. It seems like most works of fiction tend to end up making magic incredibly powerful compared to anything else. (Swords and such generally need to be somewhat grounded in reality, while magic is limited only by the writers imagination)

  20. hborrgg says:

    Also, at the risk of sounding too picky or pretentious. I just couldn’t enjoy the “axes the size of stop signs” very much.


    1. ET says:

      Good watch, that video.
      On a related topic, there’s actually a mod to make the swords and axes look more realistic, and less like foam/cardboard weapons from a LARP session. :P

  21. Octapode says:

    I wonder if part of the problem with magic (destruction anyway) is that it doesn’t really feel like it interacts with the enemies. Like, when you are using weapons you can block and power attack and so can your enemies and you actually have to react to them, but magic doesn’t have any of that. You have one objectively right spell for the situation, and you cast that over and over until one of you falls over, with the occasional potion break. I wonder if some sort of ability to deflect spells or counter them or just some sort of interaction would make it all feel a lot better.

    1. ET says:

      That’s one thing I noticed too.
      I mean, you can use your shield to block melee a bit, and ranmged gets blocked even less (unless you get a perk), but I think that ranged magic should have been blockable, with your shield.
      I think there’s even a semi-famous painting of a knight blocking the fire of a dragon with his shield, but for all I know, I’m just mis-remembering TV cartoons from my childhood.
      …but still, that means it’s at least reasonable to imagine blocking magic with a shield!
      I mean, as a melee user in Skyrim, as you pointed out, I have to react to my enemies’ attacks and shield-raises.
      I think it’d be pretty cool if you had to watch the same things as a magic user! :)

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        Personally I find stealth to be the most satisying playstyle in the game, and I think the reason is that when you’re a stealth character, the entire environment becomes part of the gameplay. You consider what the best angle of approach is, the timing of enemy movements, et cetera. And, since a stealth character won’t usually be as tough as a melee character, they’re more likely to have to consider escape routes and utilize ambient traps.

      2. syal says:

        I think iron in general is classically the antithesis of magic and magical creatures. An iron shield blocking magic would work well.

        But weakening magic is only something you can really get away with when it’s powerful. The last thing you want is for your opponent to be able to negate the damage of your 5 damage Irritating Gust spell.

        1. ET says:

          Well, obviously they’d have to boost it to 10 points of very-annoying damage. :P

      3. aldowyn says:

        There’s an early block perk that reduces elemental damage (i.e. destruction spells) by 50%. I’m not sure if NPCs have perks, though…

        Also, as far as I can tell by the wiki, Skyrim doesn’t distinguish between different types of damage, so magic damage should be affected by blocking with a shield, just the same as a normal attack.

        1. ET says:

          Hmm, I’ll have to try blocking spells.
          Even if it does actually block, then magic still has a problem, in that most of the magic attacks (all?) are nearly insta-cast, meaning that enemies don’t really telegraph their attacks, which would mean you can’t block them effectively.
          Well, I guess you could block the constant-type (aka flamethrower-style) magic attacks, until the enemy mages run out of juice. :)

    2. Just Passing Through says:

      That’s what the ward spells were supposed to be. Unfortunately they were hilariously worthless and wastes of mana, even by Skyrim’s standards.

  22. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Similar to what was said during the last spoiler warning: I did like Morrowind’s magic if only because of the variety of spells and the fun ways to use them that the developers may never have intended.

  23. Ira says:

    Maybe it’s just coming from tabletop RPGs, but does anyone else find something weirdly cathartic about magic being inferior to mundane combat for once? Coming from, say, every D&D edition before 4th, or any White Wolf crossover game, there’s something refreshing and wonderful about mages not being overpowered jerks and mundane characters being fifth wheels.

    I don’t know, I just really like it. For once in a lifetime, fighters are back on top! Finally, the mages have to taste a little of what fighters have been suffering for years and years! Mwahahaha!

    I know everyone should be able to have fun and Destruction should be a little more solid, but still… schadenfreude, man. So much schadenfreude.

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      I call it “Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard Syndrome.” The setting is filled with psychics and supersoldiers and aliens and robots and demons and such, but the most badass-seeming army is the Imperial Guard, which consists of completely ordinary human beings(advanced technology notwithstanding). Paradoxically, they’re more badass because they’re less badass. Because you have to have balls of steel to face the sorts of horrors that threaten whole star systems.

    2. aldowyn says:

      Well, D&D mages have always been glass cannons, and at early levels (like, pre 10 or so, maybe?) standard fighters are significantly better than mages. They don’t get all the ridiculous spells until the latter half of the spell tiers.

      1. Nimas says:

        I love a quote I saw on a D&D forum once, think it was someones signature.

        “At low levels the fighter can bully the mage and rogue around with ease. At high levels, the mage can kill with a word and no one has the seen the rogue in a week.”

        1. aldowyn says:

          Literally kill with a word.

          A Power Kill Word, to be exact :D

          But yeah that sounds like a cool sig

  24. Bropocalypse says:

    I never liked magic much in any game, it just lacks the showmanship of melee no matter what game you’re playing. I’m a bit of a pyro, so the only way I find I can alleviate this is if fire-only magic is an option. Even then, it helps a lot of they do more than “fire comes from your hands.”

    Take City of Heroes for example. You could make a character who shoots fire from their hands, but they added some cool poses for your character as well as awesome sounds(that game had fun sound direction in general). You shoot one type of fireball, it makes a bottle rocket sound. You shoot another, it roars and makes a satisfying FWOOSH on impact. Your character raises their hands to the sky and a torrent of firey rain pours over a wide area. Firebreathing is an option too, with plumes pouring out of your mouth. Each fire spell was unique not only in utility, but also in presentation. It helped to keep things interesting even though you were essentially forced to look at fire all the time.
    Another part of that game that helped was that it had NO mana resource. Like every other superpower, it was on a cooldown. Which is logical, really. Why is there a special pool for magical exertion and not physical exertion? Does enforcing your willpower over the laws of nature require a different type of effort? If so, why does it refill more quickly than physical exertion if you’re ostensibly outputting more energy than physical movement would release?

    1. aldowyn says:

      Isn’t the master tier of destruction spells basically an AoE storm ability? Like a meteor swarm or thunder storm? not sure, haven’t played a mage myself.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        I dunno, I never was interested enough to go that far deep.

      2. X2Eliah says:

        There’s a master lightning, master fire & master ice spell. One of them might be a storm-style deal… (Iirc, wasn’t the master lightning spell some sort of electricity beam, though?)

      3. Destrustor says:

        In Skyrim? The master level destruction spells are complete garbage.
        All three of them take both hands to cast, have a charge-up time in which you are defenseless, and are interrupted if you get hit while casting them.
        The biggest problem with that is that two of them are AoE centered on yourself, meaning that you have to let the enemies get close to you and hope that they don’t actually decide to attack during the ten or so seconds where you’re obviously charging up a massive spell.
        The third one, Lightning Storm, is basically the opposite of what its name implies: it’s a freaking single laser beam that you have to hold and aim, while standing perfectly still, rooted in place and completely vulnerable.
        Oh, and they do so little damage that almost anything even half your level will survive them.

    2. ET says:

      I wouldn’t mind having a resource for magic, if:
      1. It was the same stamina bar that special moves for melee used. Stamina currently is already required for carry weight and also quick movement. So mages need to split their points between stamina and mana, but fighters and rogues don’t.
      1.B. Alternately, make the mana stat used for other things, so that non-mages have an incentive to use it, instead of using it as their “dump” stat. (AKA “ignore and don’t put any points into it” stat.)
      2. There were some spells that didn’t need the resource at all. Or maybe they could be fired without the resource, but it would damage you, or go on a longer cooldown. Something. As Shamus pointed out, melee dudes can just use normal attacks when they run out of juice for their specials.

  25. Doomcat says:

    Cannot agree with you more on this, and it is the particular reason I never EVER broke 100 hours on Skyrim.

    I don’t know what it is about me, but I cannot handle an RPG where magic is an option to me, but a poor one. I always want to play a wizard of some type or another, in Oblivion I was the battlemage with sword, shield, and heavy armor. I never played Morrowind, so I cannot comment on that, but in Oblivion, I wasn’t the most powerful thing out there…*glance to the level-scaling system coughcough* but I enjoyed myself.

    Meanwhile here I am piddling around Skyrim, my spells do absolute jack, and I can’t really play a sword/shield battlemage because of magic taking each hand. I will admit, I do think the “Two hands” thing is a great idea, and I like it, however, when your already gimped if you want to be a mage in the first place…well…

    Every time I try Skyrim I get bored within 1 hour. My first character (an attempt to create a decendant of my Oblivion character, armor wearing Khajiit mage, went full mage because of all the spell schools) got to about 15th-20th level, can’t remember which, and from then on just died repeatedly. You have pretty much summed up why, after that the game had very little appeal to me.

    Sorry for my rant, first post on the site, I just feel greatly about this issue for reasons mentioned above. People say how skyrim is so good, or at least has its good traits, but I simply have never seen that side of it, there was a short time when I had my first character I was really into it, maybe not hardcore roleplaying yet, but trying. Around the 20th death to the same 5 bandits in one area, the game was done.

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      An articulate rant’s a perfectly reasonable way to drop in on the DXX community. *grin*

  26. I’m trying to think of a game where I thought magic (and thus being a wizard/sorcerer/magi) was done well.
    But I can’t think of any.

    A proper “mage” will always be overpowered, after all they do wield supernatural powers.

    What is odd is that a single player game like Skyrim did not just allow the player to “unleash” their mage powers.

    I’ve seen this time and again in many games, never understood way, it’s like they are unable to design proper scaling for a magic wielder.

    An “Epic” level mage should be powerful enough to wipe a town off the map.
    If two epic level mages fought then there would be crates in the countryside, a mountain might become a pile of rubble, the water in a lake vaporized.

    Does anyone know of a good mage game? (without a need for mods, I know and have played several games where I’ve used mods or even edited the game files myself to make the character truly as powerful as they “should” be.)

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      I said it in another post, but the only one where I enjoyed being a mage was the now-defunct City of Heroes. Ironic, given it’s not really a magic setting.

      I can’t think of any games of the top of my head where a character of any type has that level of power, magic or not. Destructible environments are hard to do well, it seems. At the current level of technology, anyway.

  27. Phantos says:

    I’m level 87 in Skyrim right now, and I’ve spent the last three days constantly attacking foes with fire Destruction magic to level it up.

    It still hasn’t happened yet. Even with the Mage Stone activated. And it’s always weak and pathetic, even though when enemies use the same magic that I do, it’s suddenly really dangerous and OP.

    I really have to wonder what the point was of even having destruction magic in this game.

  28. MadTinkerer says:

    Well it looks like someone has never tried:

    1) Get as many helpers as possible and Healing Hands the minute it’s available via the Whiterun mage dude. Lydia, horse, war dog, ASAP, let them tank for you. AI has been patched such that the companions will avoid pressure plate traps if you avoid them first. Keep an eye out for the telltale markings on the ground and carefully step around and 99% of the time your companions will pathfind carefully around them too. Keep Healing Hands handy (triple pun intended).

    1a) Dawnguard is optional, but if you want to go from Easy Mode to Insultingly Easy Mode, do the Dawnguard quests until a certain female companion joins you. NEVER finish her quest or she’ll leave, but don’t let on that you’re kidnapping her ;). She doesn’t take up a normal companion slot and she’s good with Conjuration so that’s two extra tanks in every combat encounter.

    2) Focus on Destruction and Conjuration after Restoration. Most of your companions will forgive a little friendly fire, but there’s the odd bug that your extra companion from the expansion will sometimes aggro in cramped fights (I think it’s triggered by friendly fire from your companions) so be careful with Destruction magic and be prepared to sometimes reload from five minutes earlier. (Vanilla companions, as far as I can tell, will never aggro while they are in your party even if you blatantly try to murder them.) Conjuration is required to boost your normal party numbers and let you smuggle a tank character for times where you’re supposed to not have any equipment and/or companions (making prison super fun good times). Vanilla Conjuration has a perk at 100 which allows you to summon two things at once for super casual grandma combat mode.

    3) Doing the College quests right after visiting the Greybeards gives you access to all the trainers and magical resources you need to exploit the fact that you’re low level and will get relatively-easy dragon and boss encounters even if you’re not taking advantage of stocking up on meat shields. There is some level-scaling in the game, but it’s most explicit with the dragons and dungeon boss battles, and it only considers what level you are, not how disproportionately high your magic skills are and how big your mini-army of followers is.

    4) Just avoid aggro until you’re ready to unleash the pain. Longer-range spells and plenty of meat shields will make this easy.

    5) Don’t marry the character you put in charge of your first lodge when you are working on building a second lodge. It seems assigning followers, especially housecarls, multiple responsibilities (with “marriage”, “housecarl”, and “take care of this house” being potentially overlapping responsibilities) can cause glitchiness. Or the glitch may have occured because the kids’ bedroom wasn’t ready yet. Regardless, even if you decide to RP that Lydia should marry you because you’ve totally fallen in love from being battle companions (despite the fact that romance is 100% player-initiated), just make sure you haven’t already given her too many overlapping responsibilities.

    Or just don’t marry your housecarl.

    6) I literally did not know magic was supposed to be underpowered until this current Spoiler Warning series. All this advice is from my first playthrough of pure vanilla (+ official expansions) Skyrim.

    EDIT: 7) Oh, reason #2 why Dawnguard makes being a mage easier is radiant vampires dropping Vampire Armor. Vampire Armor is a kind of Light Armor that’s randomly enhanced with the standard mage robe buffs. That’s right: Vampire Armor drops are literally exactly as good as mage robe drops of the same kind except you also get to wear decent armor. Grab vampire armor and kill Morokei the first chance you get and you’ll never need to make Elsweyr Fondue again.

    (Because vamp armor and the Morokei mask make you look like sexy Darth Vader. (Oh and they crank up your magicka regen to ridiculousness.))

    8) Until you get enough armor, perks, and other gear to boost magicka regen, you’ll want to hoard ingredients for Elsweyr Fondue and other foods that help. Potions are good, but alchemy is a trainable skill and we’re trying to keep the level low until the right skills have been disproportionately trained to the right levels. (Don’t worry about lockpicking and persuasion, the loot you get from lockpicking and the boosts to profit from persuasion offset the leveling up from training those skills. Pour all that money back into training persuasion and magic skills until you can’t train anymore.)

    9) Avoid sneaking. Yes, you read that right. Your main strategy will be to start doing damage to foes who are so far away that sneaking doesn’t matter because you’re going to start dealing damage to them before they would notice you or finishing them off while your tanks keep them occupied. Sneaking will just add unnecessary character levels.

    10) There are Restoration perks which boost your magicka regen. That’s the even-better reason to keep Healing Hands handy.

    11) You are spending points on the perks which give you magicka discounts, right? Because duh.

    1. acronix says:

      For comparison, to play a warrior:

      1) Get your prefered weapon and a bow or crossbow for long range situations.
      2) Level up smithing.
      3) Level up enchanting.
      4) You are done!

      So yeah, magic does need a lot more of setup than melee fighters and even after all the setup your magic isn’t faster at killing than melee unless you get help from followers (and from a glitch, as of your 1a point).

    2. burningdragoon says:

      See, you lost me right at step 1. What if I want to go alone? I tend to not care about the “optimal” way to do thing, and more interesting in just what I find interesting.

      Related, what if I don’t want to level up Conjuration? I don’t find it even a little bit interesting. The two basic types of Conj spells are “summon thing” or “summon gear”. The former I find boring and with the latter, I might as well play a melee character.

      Illusion and Destruction are what I find interesting. Illusion is good as a companion skill, but Destruction sucks without a huge investment.

  29. X2Eliah says:

    Yeeah, Skyrim’s magic was quite a letdown. Destruction is definitely way underpowered, and most people saying that magic is fine are suggesting a) conjuration or other AI meatshields should play the game instead of you, or b) level/grind something to gain a temporary curve gain over your foes (which *still* could be done just as well & better with melee weapons/bow)

    I switched to a sneaky, dagger/sword wielding character archetype pretty fast (and no, shush, I *know* how vanilla magic works, I played two characters that were pure mages for a looong time) – it’s a lot more powerful, and satisfying, and interesting, because you start considering the level design, and npc paths/sightlines.. I dislike the pure warrior, because that’s just a “charge in, roooar hulk smash”, no grace whatsoever.
    (I have to admit, dual-weilding swordsmaster in heavy armour is a really good character to pick. Especially if you spec up the heavy armour tree properly, AND spec up the sneak tree. You can actually end up being a tank with insane damage that’s nearly invisible).

    I do miss the wider magic (and, ofc, how powerful it was) from Oblivion. Especially with a mod that unlocked all in-game spell effects (that you could learn) for spellcrafting. Make a spell that disintegrates opponent’s weapon/armour? Yes, please! An effective paralyze by very briefly overburdening them, making them fall over / get up slowly? YES! Heck, even the illusion-based charm / frenzy spells seemed a lot more effective in Oblivion.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      “conjuration or other AI meatshields should play the game instead of you”

      Does the Knight play Chess for you just because it’s job is to protect the King at all costs? Not every game has to be American Football.

      EDIT: I don’t miss custom spells as much because Skyrim was the first Elder Scrolls I really played. But I did watch my brothers play Morrowind and Oblivion with the awful overpowered broken magic system, and other than the omission of any way to fly, I prefer the challenge of Skyrim magic.

      1. X2Eliah says:

        Don’t pretend that AI meatshields/summons have anywhere near the amount of controlability, compared to a chess figure. And in Skyrim, you are not in a gods-eye overview situation, you are right there, in the game, on the level of all NPCs.

        To fix your analogy, it would be like playing chess, except you are stuck into a giant board playing the King, and you have 0 control over all the other figures (they have their initial conditions (type of move) set, just like skyrim NPCs). Leeeetle bit different.

  30. Primogenitor says:

    Gandalf ruined mages for everyone.

    Lord Of The Rings & Hobbit are THE archetypal fantasy settings, but there is little (no?) magic that isn’t a Deux Ex Machina plot device.

    So unless the writers & designers are particularly good, magic is either:
    A) god-like
    B) gun-like
    C) invented from scratch and overcomplicated

    1. X2Eliah says:

      True. Then again, magic from e.g. Norse mythology is something that could not work as player capability, at all (way too broad, powerful, vague, and narrativistic). Against that, LOTR-style magic is at least immediate and functional.

      That said, there’s a good revival of more interesting, structured magic in fantasy literature, thanks to authors like Sanderson, Weeks, McClellan. I suppose you might call it ‘overcomplicated’, but then again, gravity is overcomplicated too.

      1. Bropocalypse says:

        I always preferred magic where you had a good idea of what it was capable of before it was put to use. Just like any other story element, pulling some skill out of nowhere is cheating. I write a webcomic where the magic can only do specific, basic things. Actually, its utilities are somewhat based on electronics, where things happen due to a flow of energy in specific patterns according to a mechanical diagram.
        Well, to be honest, there is also wild magic, but it’s considered extremely dangerous and unpredictable, like a high-voltage arc of electricity across shorted powerlines. It’s as deadly for those who ‘cast’ it as those who are nearby.

    2. Doomcat says:

      Probably not the best idea, but there is one minecraft mod called “Blood Magic” based around the player sacrificing their life-force to gain the ability to use spells…

      Granted, its still fairly gun-like in some respects (a firing teleport, projectile spells..) but there are some interesting things in there (ice walls, floating platforms that follow you…)

      I think a magic system based around sacrifice and ritual could make an interesting game concept, I’d like to see something like that even, but it’d need to be done right.

    3. What did Gandalf do? His primary purpose is to advise and rally the Free Peoples against Sauron, and as such he has incredibly limited power. It’s not even really “magic” as is commonly understood in our circles.

      Tolkien did far, far less with fireballs and put more emphasis on the power of the spoken word as spells (“spell” actually comes from a Saxon word for… well, “word” or “news”). Gandalf, for example, did not cast out Saruman from King Theoden, like in the movie, but rather freed him from the poisonous perspective and influence of Wormtongue with encouragement and proper council on what needed to be done. This comes from the idea that words are the things that build us up and tear us down. Tolkien takes this concept and amplifies its significance and power. A battle between, say, G and the Balrog has more to do with a contention of wills–and again the spoken word, and the declaration of one’s self and power (“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. You cannot pass.”). Gandalf is actually willing the Balrog to not cross the bridge, and the demon pushes back with its own will to do so.

      Actual magic is described as the arts of the Enemy, and largely has to do with the total domination/enslavement or fear. The One Ring–the most obvious example–was designed to enslave the wills of others to Sauron. Even Theoden was a slave to the counsels of Grima. And the mere presence of a Balrog, or Ringwraith, or even Sauron, drives you mad with fear, and can even make you helpless or subservient in that way.

      There are other little details I could go into, but this is the big stuff. And there are indeed other elements more subtle or vague. There’s not much in the way of spectacle or physical utility like what goes for most fantasy magic (movie-Hobbit and Two Towers magic was… awful). What Gandalf did was 95% charisma and inspiration.

      It’s probably far more akin to what Eliah described in Norse myth (“too broad, powerful, vague or narrativistic”). And if anything, it likely popularized and kickstarted a lot of systems in the genre that have little to no relation, like the ones you might find “more interesting”.

      So I guess I’m not sure what you mean by “Gandalf ruining mages”, and I’d love a clarification.

  31. X2Eliah says:

    Oh. Oh, oh.
    I wanted to mention this:

    Magic Staves.

    Now *there’s* a quantifiably bad magic-related mechanic. I don’t think any recent Elder Scrolls game has managed Staves (‘Staffs’) properly.

    1. Amnestic says:

      How would you change staves in Skyrim/other TES games to “do them properly”?

      Serious question, honestly curious.

      1. RoJ says:

        (If you hold it upside down, then it’s a stave)

        If we combine the thought with Shamus’ thoughts, proper staffing might be one of these:

        Staves as Primary Weapons
        The Gandalf Model, where mages are close to useless without their staves, which would be similar to how effective a two-handed specialist would be without his greatsword. If spellcasting were otherwise altered to bring it in line normal weapon use, I could see this being a very reasonable requirement.

        Staves as Spell Booster
        A more direct approach, holding a staff just plain makes your spells better. There’s lots of interesting ways to do this, so we can probably hit on one most players would consider ‘proper’.

        Now that I’ve typed those out, they’re a LOT more similar then what they seemed like in my head. The gist is: Staves in the games now are crappy weapons that deliver their enchantment as a separate spell effect, rather then a damage add.
        A ‘proper’ staff would almost certainly benefit the mage more then a similarly priced sword and ideally it would benefit a mage more then it did a warrior. Staves in elder scrolls games do neither of these things.

        There are some mods that try, though, that are a boon for playing as a mage. The one I’m thinking of is “Staves of Skyrim”, which adds a lot of defensive capability to staves. Some of the magic mods (I’m thinking of “Better Magic”) make your mages feel more powerful without doing more then tweaking the perks and armor spells slightly.

      2. X2Eliah says:

        Let the staff be a channel for your magic, for instance. You could still do all the spells you know, but by going “through” the staff, they get boosted/altered according to the staff’s properties.

        Also, perhaps let people melee-bash/block with it, seeing as it is a great big stonking rod of petrified wood/metal.

        I would not go so far as to *force* all spells be done through staves; Imo the spell-ball-in-hand approach is good. I just think that a staff should interact with your character’s spells, instead of being an assault rifle loaded with prepackaged single-spell bullets.

        1. syal says:

          I could see staves drastically reducing mana cost for spells; like, 90% cost reduction for using a proper mage staff. Or cutting down on spell casting time. Then all the innate magical enhancements could focus on power increases, as is proper for innate magical ability. It would be possible to play a mage without a staff, but it would be noticeably harder.

          1. X2Eliah says:

            That could also work, sure.

      3. burningdragoon says:

        Don’t know about pre-Oblivion staves, but if it was up to me, I’d probably start with something like:

        – two-handed (or at least not dual-wieldable)
        – you can block with them
        – instead of having charges, gives you a unique or enhanced spell that cost general magicka. Or maybe just a cool down, anything but soulgem charges.
        -Or just make general magic power greater as said above

        1. Actually, since you mentioned blocking you gave me an idea.
          The point of the staff should be to compensate for something the player character lack. So if they do not know (or decide not to learn) casting fire then the player could get a staff that does this instead.

          There is also nothing wrong with carrying a bag with a handful of twigs, each enchanted with a different effect that the player could switch between.

          Myself I do not think the staff or twig whatever should be the source nor the channel of a mage’s power, the mage themselves should be that.

          I also like the idea of such amplifying the effects though.

          Take the movie Sorcerer’s Apprentice for example (with Nicholas Cage) he does not use a staff or anything like it (that I can recall).

    2. Abnaxis says:

      Damnit, I never should have started writing mods. Now every time I see an idea I like, I want to do something with it, and I don’t have the time.

      Like here, for example–it wouldn’t be that hard to write a mod that completely removes spells and spell-books from the game, and make staves/wands that contain spells. Basically, you know the spell and can fire it with the staff/wand equipped, but forget it when you drop the staff and pull out your sword. Add in scaling staff abilities with skills, modify the leveled lists to include random staves in loot, and you have yourself an interesting overhaul…

  32. urs says:

    Because Spoilerwarning, I have just started another round and, yep, this time with a full-on mage. I’m only a few hours in, really, but still, a couple of notes: As a mage, I only need to carry a fraction of all that stuff around. More (relative) room for loot. Why would I need to invest in a lot of stamina? As for the mages’ attire, can you not enchant whatever you think looks nice? I for one hatehatehate the look of the vanilla high lvl armours.

    So, I don’t know. My second character (Yeah, take a look. Makes a point about armor) was quite heavy on magic (on everything, actually. Nothing two-handed and didn’t ever touch a bow, though) and I had tons of fun with her.

  33. Darren says:

    At the risk of sounding cynical, I genuinely believe that the only way there will be an Elder Scrolls VI will be if the Elder Scrolls Online fails spectacularly. If it’s even moderately successful, it will kill the company’s willingness to make a non-MMO title as surely as WoW killed Warcraft or the Old Republic killed KotOR.

    1. Yes and No, it all depends on how much money they made with Skyrim, if Skyrim was a very profitable only a idiot would not ok a new Elder Scroll single player game.
      Then again, there are a lot of idiots in the industry.

  34. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I think rather than measuring balance by DPS, it's much more useful to measure by expediency. Measure how long it takes a player to plow through a given section of content using various builds. This measurement should include out-of-game costs like time spent navigating menus to chug potions and such.

    I get the principle. And I agree.

    But there’s an evil little part of me that says it’s got to be a big, order-of-magnitude difference to be an important difference because the difference between running a chunk in 20 minutes and running it in 15 is within the realm of the random number generator (metaphorically speaking): circumstance (where the critters are standing, how many variable hit points they have, etc, and online, who else is around) plays a big part.

    And there’s an anarchist part of me that says “who cares if it sucks?” There’s probably a non-trivial number of somebodys out there that enjoy nothing more than than 20 minutes of stunlocking a mob of critters and whittling them away, and aren’t interesting in mashing them with a hammer in five. It makes them happy, they’re on the winning side of the “currency per hour of fun” ratio, who am I to tell them they’re playing it wrong? It’s smacks of “Run berzerker or go home”.

    But those are kind of issues that are separate from what makes a good game. A good GAME is one that’s balanced and provides an equitable (not equal) experience for all play styles. It does not favor one class or focus over another through the majority of play, and while the outcome may change, it shouldn’t affect the satisfaction of the outcome.

    1. Actually ideally it should be varied, some parts/areas/caves/missions/whatever should be easier for a mage and others easier for a sword fighter.
      That way it becomes more varied but still fair.

  35. MichaelGC says:

    The relative speed at which the different disciplines level up is pretty crazy. I’m currently doing what is for me a full-on mage run, basically using magic about 70% of the time.

    I occasionally start combat off with an arrow or two, or chuck one at an passing elk. Once every 20 fights or so, I might whip out my Honed Ancient Greatsword of Burning to finish off a tough foe (as long as said tough foe is busy fighting one of my atronachs, of course). But these sorts of thing are definitely the exception.

    Magic, I’ve been actively trying to level. Plenty of Muffle, raising corpses in cleared dungeons and then burning them until they attack – that sort of thing. So, whilst not quite in full min-max mode, I’m certainly going somewhat out of my way to raise my magic numbers.

    Given all this, how are my stats looking?

    Destruction nearly 60
    Conjuration nearly 60
    Illusion nearly 60
    Alteration nearly 60
    Restoration nearly 60
    Archery nearly 60
    Two-handed nearly 60

    1. All my skills was at 300 or was it 3000? I can’t recall. Then again I cheated. I also had 0 cooldown on magic and shouts etc.
      Yelling Fus-Roh-Dah in a tomb was fun, stuff flew around everywhere and was dead the instant they hit the wall, it was like they had been hit with a small mountain.
      And the mage fireball was like a mini pocket napalm nuke.

  36. Confused says:

    I must have been playing Skyrim wrong. I was always disappointed dual-wielding the first flame spell seemed so much more efficient than my bow or my weapons, despite me picking warrior perks exclusively and using Enchanted Dwaemers Warhammers of Setting Things On Fire and such.

    That being said, I played for about 40 hours “only”, on the default difficulty, and I steer clear of spoilers, including game mechanics. If this is some kind of minmax issue at top level play, obviously I wouldn’t know.

  37. Abnaxis says:

    Incidentally, pure warriors still win in the carrying capacity department even if sneaks can lift more weight, because warriors are the only archetype that can have mul- I mean followers. I have had a little luck with followers that primarily use ranged attacks with mages (though friendly fire prompts many a quickload), and sneaking is goddamn IMPOSSIBLE with a follower.

    That extra few hundred pounds my followers schlep more than surpasses the extra room a stealth character gets by focusing stamina.

    1. Personally, I never saw the point of picking up EVERYTHING, anyway. I had more money than I knew what to do with, so I’d just pick up the stuff that was useful and leave the rest.

  38. I actually enjoy playing a mage in Skyrim much more than I enjoy any other character build. The melee combat just feels like a frenzied, disorganized mess to me. I prefer the neat simplicity of mage robes to the hideous, clunky ornate armor.

    Of course, my favorite build in Fallout 3 was a gun build predominately using Lincoln’s Repeater. So maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

  39. Noumenon says:

    Whenever I read one of your articles I’m like “that’s it?” and then I remember there is probably a page 2 but no link to it unless I open up the article in Chrome. I sure wish the Escapist would fix that bug that hides the page numbers. It also hides the Subscribe button, from me and my whole family in other cities, but they didn’t believe it!

  40. Bryan says:

    I played a onehanded/resto heavy armor character. I liked restoration. I also think the mage robes looked cool, but not enough for me to wear them instead of armor. I will agree that there were a lot of problems with the magic though.

  41. kingmob says:

    I always feel like the elder scrolls game have so much potential, but never really live up to it. Magic is definitely a big part of it, the other part being the leveling system. Morrowind was so close to perfect imo, but with each new game they’ve moved further away from that.

    Regarding magic, I think Bethesda needs to rethink what is actually fun. It can still be challenging, but right now most of the challenge in the game is more of a chore.
    Alchemy for instance is a fantastic concept, but in reality you are walking around gathering each plant to finally make a million weak potions you don’t really need. Alchemy potions should be unique and powerful, not just a way to get healing potions for ‘free’. Especially when it is so easy to get gold. Preferably they should give lasting effects. Oh and make poisons awesome please.
    Right now the effort-to-payoff ratio is waaaay off and it has been that way forever. I don’t understand why they never fix this. Don’t they play the game themselves? Am I doing it wrong?

    Just imagine, you could roleplay this bookish mage that is able to create powerful potions and poisons. Maybe make him conjure up illusions to confuse his enemies.
    Instead, like with all the magic schools, you get a cheapened version of the fighting mechanics, because magic is ‘free’ I guess?

    And for god sakes, staves should not have ‘charges’!

    So much wasted potential in such lovingly crafted worlds.

  42. justin says:

    says 13 reasons lists none

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Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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