08 December 2011

Skyrim: Useless Skills

Just in case anyone is curious, here's a few important points about skills to keep in mind when planning out a build:
  • Weapons have roughly the same DPS, the difference is speed/damage per swing. Because there are per-hit effects which become important later, you want to go with the fastest: Swords. Also, if you are using a broken tactic like run to enemy, hit, run back before he can hit you, a fast weapon helps. By the way, daggers are even faster, but not all one handed weapon perks apply to them. (But daggers do use one-handed weapons)
  • Sneak is broken. Yes, you can sneak around stationary enemies. However, once you take that first shot, hiding is ridiculously difficult, so sneak contributes little. Also, a lot of enemies pop-up behind you or attack you due to a script or whatever, so you get no chance to sneak. Bosses, being the strongest enemies and the target where sneak attacks would be most useful, can't usually be sneak attacked because of the level design (an arena where the boss makes an entrance by charging you). The only exception is if your sneak is 100: Then you get the hide in plain sight perk- it's a bit buggy and you can abuse it by sneaking right in front of an enemy, which will force him to be unaware of you for a second (which is what the perk does) and then you can sneak attack him before he "sees" you again.
  • Alchemy is fun, but ultimately not worth the training or the higher level mobs you will get due to extra levels- all you need to make is health and maybe mana potions, both are very easy. Enchanting is fun but you can get magic items easily anyway. Smithing is, again, fun and lucrative, and I'm not sure if you can get dragon armor (best in the game) without it, but for other things it's not hard to find powerful items anyway.
  • Speech is useless. Persuade/intimidate attempts are rare, do not have interesting dialogue paths, and the rewards you get are shit. Speech itself affects your merchant prices, but even with 100 speech you still get ripped off (they sell at double price and buy at half) and with crap speech it's not that bad (sell at triple buy at third) so yeah. Money is very easy to get in this game, anyhow.
  • Pickpocket is pointless, you can simply quicksave and quickload until you get the item. There is also a bug where having too high a pickpocket score can make you success go from say 13% to 0%.
  • Lockpicking is useless. Lockpicks are common, cheap and light. The minigame is very easy, even for hard locks. There are very few doors you actually have to pick.
Basically all you need is a weapon skill, an armor skill, and the relevant magic skills. If you enjoy crafting, get crafting, but only after level 20-30 or monsters will become impossibly hard.

The best weapon is sword. The best spell schools are destruction and alteration (+ to armor spells like oakflesh). Illusion is nice because it has invisibility and light spells, but they are not useful in combat. Restoration is nice for healing, but those spells are too expensive and you will not have mana left for offense, or really anything besides occasional bursts of healing. Conjuration has bound weapons, which are nice, but the summons require obscene amounts of mana.

So yeah. Keep in mind that I'm far from finishing the game.


  1. whilst i agree with a lot of your opinions on skyrim (it's a great game [in potentia], but is held back due to strange design decisions... even accepting the fact it was aimed at consoles), i have to disagree a little about what you consider the required skill sets are.
    i've played much of the game as a sneak+marksman character, and have never needed to rely on magic, as the AI just cannot handle players attacking at long range (and/or abusing the whole investigate-noise-of-arrow trick to distract them away from the player)

    also I feel you've missed something out from your useless skills list: cooking
    - it gives meager bonuses compared to alchemy, and isn't even a listed skill. I've nothing against allowing people to roleplay, but when most of the 'loot' you find is potatoes, apples and lettuce, it'd be nice if you could actually get something out of it (also cooking is broken since most recipes require salt as an ingredient, and that's not too common AND is an alchemy ingredient too)

    After playing for a while (and avoiding the UI as much as possible because of it's clunkiness) I actually found another problem with the gameplay itself.
    The rewards tail off too quickly, or more specifically, it's too easy to get hold of strong/powerful items from simply playing the game. This means that it's easy to get a sense of power early on with minimum effort, but leads to an empty feeling in the long run as the game can't provide a feeling of personal growth at such a rate for very long. This is so much so that all the items (and even the gold coins, since with no durability on items, you haven't got anything to spend it on) you bring back from a dungeon becomes just more junk. - even unique items feel junky when they are basically just a named sword of fire or similar, (and the unnamed one you got off a random unnamed bandit leader has better stats anyway). Junk that can’t even be sold due to woefully inadequate pocket money for all traders.
    I actually had to take a break from the game after I realised that my dungeon-delving was not giving me the same buzz anymore because I was unlikely to find anything interesting in the last room/boss chamber.
    A case in point for this I think would be looking at the way the game starts – in morrowind you start with nothing (well a dagger and a ring of healing if you're not playing as an ultra good guy), oblivion and skyrim let you out with a couple of full suits of armour, and a lot of weapons.
    true that it can be argued that this was to allow for the tutorial, but fallout3 had a tutorial that didn't kit you out too strongly at the end (and was more entertaining too for that matter).
    Perhaps it's part of the design mentality used when approaching the console market - consoles are seen as quick-thrills devices whereas PCs lend a feeling of deep investment, ergo the inclination is to give players everything as soon as possible so that they can dive in for quick-thrills whenever they wish to.

    another thing that vexes me in the same vein is the way items are ranked:
    the more damage it does, the heavier it is, regardless of if it makes sense. (personally i feel that elven hammers/maces should weigh less and do less damage than an iron one, whereas the elven blades should trump the iron blades in damage and weight. They certainly shouldn’t be in the same weight bracket as dwemer weapons)

  2. Yes, you are right about cooking. I didn't include it since you don't factor it into character progress considerations, but I agree that the endless piles of potatoes are annoying. I wouldn't mind if every other meal, and certainly the vegetable ones, didn't require salt- a valuable alchemical ingredient which can be far better utilized by making and selling random potions.

    As for sneak, again I agree that it's a viable option, but it has a lot of potential to be irritating because many boss fights force you into a closed, small space and automatically make the boss aware of you right away. At that point, it seems you need to use some really awful exploits to beat the boss and thus the dungeon.

    As for the inventory, I'm really not sure why they did what they did. I don't see how you could be wrong about it having to do with the console release, but then while I did talk before about how consoles make certain complex features impossible, it doesn't seem that a more interesting item system would be hard to do. It's almost like the designers are obsessed with this notion that console games must be really simple, not because of the limitations of consoles, but simply because they must be. I really don't understand it.

    Honestly, the available games aside, people don't buy consoles because they are stupid, they buy them because they prefer a couch and gamepad to a keyboard and desk. That doesn't really say anything about your intelligence, and I don't know why much of the games industry seems to act like it does.

    1. I think it comes down to the old interpretation of what console players want: cheap frills that can be quickly accessed. (also remember that the focus testing would have revolved around gathering people they felt represented console gamers, but in all likelihood comprised of what I consider to be the "louder" and more visible portion of the games community).

      one thing I can offer though in forms of relief is that I've come across a really decent UI mod called SkyUI - it's not the morrowind item UI, but it's better than the skyrim one, and the oblivion one. (of course PC version only)

    2. While it's a pretty good explanation, I dunno. Personally I never liked assuming console games are literally dumb. It's a big reason why my other post about console ports may seem roundabout- I sort of "know" that console players want simpler stuff, but I'm just not seeing why that would be necessarily true. I don't think it makes sense to casually dismiss the whole things, especially given that my experience with modern consoles is not comprehensive (the endless torrents of bad ports aside). Personally, I still think high-level decision makers in big game developers (or distributors) are delusional, and wrongly believe that only dumb games can possibly turn a profit, whereas this is clearly not true to anyone with a clue.

      And, yeah, I know about SkyUI (see my most recent Skyrim post). If I ever go back to Skyrim, that will be one of the biggest reasons why.

    3. well perhaps i can shed some light there - back when I was trying to get into game design, I had quite a few designers look at me clueless when I referenced certain games as examples of various mechanics I was using as examples of good/bad execution or similar. The truth is that many people in the industry just simply don't have time for games any more and have to instead work off of past experience instead of observation either from 1st hand or from listening to feedback

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