Forums » Elder Scrolls

Skyrim difficulty: What is the best?

    • 180 posts
    December 10, 2014 1:31 PM EST

    I consider myself to be a completionist when it comes to gaming, and as such, I play all my games on the hardest difficulty almost exclusively. I'm sure many others on the site feel the same and have played Skyrim exclusively on Master and Legendary difficulty.

    But as time went on I found that these difficulties often get very boring. I mean, all it does is increase enemy damage while cutting the players in half. I just stand there knowing I'm going to win a fight, but knowing it is going to take five minutes because the enemy has so much health. 

    So my questions to you are this:

    What difficulty do you play the game on and why?

    What do you think of player induced difficulty restrictions such as Dead is Dead or Adept+ (playing the game on adept difficulty but with no investment in the health stat)?

    Do you like the way Skyrim's difficulty settings work and if not, what would you change?

    • 179 posts
    December 10, 2014 1:42 PM EST

    With Skyrim, a lot of the difficulty is set by the player, and I'm not just talking about the difficulty setting in the options menu. The choices you make for your character will greatly influence how difficult your playthrough will be. For example, a character that uses all three crafting skills will have an easier time on Legendary than one that doesn't. Therefore, there is no set in stone "ideal" difficulty; it depends on how strong the character you make is.

    I don't like playing on Master/Legendary for its own sake; enemies can absorb way too much damage on those difficulties unless you have a high damage output yourself. That's what makes restrictions like Adept+ interesting; they get around the "damage sponge" problem while still providing a challenge in their own right. I prefer 0 AR builds for that kind of thing though.

    • 100 posts
    December 10, 2014 1:54 PM EST
    The AI should be smarter, deadlier, and act quicker with higher difficulty. Making them stronger while making you weaker is kinda lazy. They should hit harder, sure. But an increase in aggro and tactical teamwork would make things more fun.

    I play on adept normally, but melee characters I play on expert nowadays. It makes gathering equipment a bit more hazardous, and smithing isn't immediately taking enemies out. I also can't stand against a bear lvl 1-10 or so.

    DiD is not for me. Master difficulty never appealed just because of how much longer everything would take, without adding perceptible fun value. I have played on Novice before, mostly on my 'joke' or gag build playthroughs.
    • 100 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:13 PM EST
    It still just seems like a war of attrition to me. You whittle down his health while avoiding/negating his taking chunks from yours if possible. What new combat approach did you find and utilize? I really should give Master a chance, just to force innovation on myself.
    A side note, I pretend healing potions don't exist lol. I only use regen potions :p (we lesser beings on the Adept plane have that luxury)
    • 179 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:15 PM EST

    Isn't that how all battles in pretty much all fantasy games work? You whittle down your opponent's health while avoiding having the same done to yours?

    • 1217 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:21 PM EST

    I prefer a playstyle where a mistake is equally deadly to both sides. Skyrim's weakness there is mostly in defense, and partly in detection. The game allows you to be a tank because it doesn't provide you with a lot of ways to avoid incoming damage. You can't outright block an attack, only some of the damage. You can rarely dodge a close ranged attack (particularly if you want to be in range to counter). So to make up for it, they let you be able to take a few hits that you can't dodge. Master and Legendary generally just drag things out, for me. Being vulnerable enough to die in one hit is only one part of making an interesting combat experience. Being in an immersive fight is more interesting, so I tend to stick with Adept.

    • 100 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:27 PM EST
    If high difficulty just extends the length of the battles, the gameplay needs to be flashy enough to look good. A lengthy battle in Skyrim just highlights the lackluster animation in combat.
    But yeah, the health ratio in all games is usually a hard won player=full life/ baddie=gonzo. The visuals you endure getting there is best shortened in my experience/preference when it comes to ES games.
    • 100 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:35 PM EST
    Your preference in play style has shown in your recent builds the Gaunt Robe and The Fog. I had the distinct feeling these were balanced for adept, especially the Gaunt.
    • 1217 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:45 PM EST


    • 1217 posts
    December 10, 2014 2:45 PM EST

    Pretty much 

    • 4 posts
    December 10, 2014 3:48 PM EST
    It depends how strong the build is, but I almost always stick to Adept. I'll occasionally bump it up to Expert if things start getting too easy.
    • 490 posts
    December 10, 2014 4:14 PM EST

    Legendary. I just feel, even though it may feel tedious at first, it sets a challenge knowing it is the hardest setting.

    Dead is dead is great, have done it multiple times. Adept+ I have never heard of, but sounds fun!

    NO. It would obviously mean more work on Bethesda's part, but make some enemies exclusive to difficulties or at least make some qualifiers different. I would also not necessarily use the damage out/in as the gauge of difficulty but rather quantity of enemies and added dangers such as traps are more frequent, bandits show up more to rob you, bosses are trickier with more help, etc.

    I just feel difficulty should not be number swaps with game data. Having difficulty drastically change what you experience and see would be so cool. Even MORE replayability.

  • December 10, 2014 4:26 PM EST

    Skyrim difficulty doesn't really make it "more difficult", it just makes the game more unfair to the player with health and damage handicaps. It would be more difficult if it increased the number of enemies, or gave them more spells, or increased their line of sight (against stealth), or gave them potions.

    I still play the game on expert though, just because enemies can only use 1% of the spells and items that are in the game. Have you ever seen a mage cast an alteration spell besides oakflesh or any of the illusion spells? Or any of the thief-archetype abilities? They can't even use any poisons except for falmer and spiders who use the same poison. Playing this game on Adept is just way too easy, but on Master it's way too annoying. For me, Expert difficulty all the way.

  • December 10, 2014 4:32 PM EST

    Also, about DiD, I play the game as if I were playing DiD, keeping my character alive for as long as possible. But if I happen to die, I keep playing. It doesn't make sense to me to start all over again. I did get into DiD once, and I realized it just became a loophole similar to playing Flappy Bird: you get atticted to trying over and over again and see how far you can go each time. Don't wanna be anywhere near that stuff.

    This is a video game, and each character I play is like a story I write. Dying once doesn't mean I have to erase all the story and start from scratch, it's just like deleting a paragraph and rewriting it from there. Also, a game in which I don't die at all is a game that is too easy for me.

  • December 10, 2014 4:56 PM EST

    In those situations I think shield / mace works great. The shield allows you to fend off some of the enemy's massive damage and interrupt him, and because rushing the enemy with several, quick blows tends to leave you defenceless, you might as well just bash him with a few mace hits and even stagger him more than with a sword.

    • 88 posts
    December 10, 2014 6:10 PM EST

    I play on Adept with my mods, as even on adept getting killed by 2-3 blows happens quite a lot .. or happened, now that I've gotten heavy armor up I can take ~twice the damage, more if they are low level npcs.

    Without mods I played on expert, seemed like a nice balance to me.

    • 75 posts
    December 11, 2014 7:55 PM EST

    I bumped my original character up to Legendary difficulty right when I got the patch for it. It just seemed necessary, seeing as how I'd beaten every major questline at the time. After that I started off on Master for every new character build I've tried, just because it makes the game a lot more challenging and fun. Dead is Dead is enjoyable to play as well. I've tried it out on some occasions, but I always end up arguing with myself about how my latest death was just "a glitch" or "unfair" . I've never done Adept+ or heard of it, but it does seem like a fun way to play for those who don't want the damage dealt reduction/damage taken increase to change.

    • 253 posts
    December 11, 2014 11:14 PM EST

    Simple fix. Difficulty should change the number of enemies that spawn, that would be awesome. On legendary you would feel so epic, plowing through hordes of enemies, like a true hero against an insurmountable evil.

    Personally I generally roll on expert, it keeps enemy damage low enough to not be exceptionally frustrating/constant healing potions and hard enough to really require some thought, though I do change it around depending on the build.

    • 108 posts
    December 12, 2014 7:07 AM EST

    I always play on Expert for the aforementioned scaling problems. If foes would get smarter by going to master, I would change but alas. I use a lot of mods from Frostfall to Deadly Dragons etc to make the game harder without going the normal difficulty slider route and making the game much more enjoyable at the same time. I also always roleplay my characters without intentionally gimping them. So expert is alright for me.

    • 88 posts
    December 13, 2014 7:59 PM EST

    @ Ben, mods do it quite well already. Some places might need fine tuning, but it'd be a simple task of marking places with keywords.

    Fort Exterior would maybe get 4x the enemies on master, while Bandit Camp would maybe be higher levelled, maybe with a dog or two etc.

    • 1217 posts
    December 13, 2014 9:13 PM EST

    Unless it's such a well oiled machine that they don't all sleep at once...

    • 88 posts
    December 14, 2014 5:55 AM EST

    That was just an example, but if you look at bleak falls barrow they have what, 2-3 sleeping bags and how many bandits? The problem is already in the game.

  • December 15, 2014 3:24 PM EST

    Honestly, I didn't enjoy Skyrim's warrior archtype with melee combat until I installed mods for enemy AI and better enemy scaling. I uninstalled them all the other day and was stunned that so many enemies just seem to stand there, waiting for a beating. They don't block or go at you aggressively. They don't flank or surround you, unless by accident, and they all turn into massive damage sponges if you just notch it up to Master/Legendary. The difficulty needs to be smarter and more tactical, not simply adding another three hundred AR to all the enemies while making your own basically worthless.