Since last November, Skyrim has become a decade-old game.
For a single-player RPG to hold out this long is very rare. Fans could argue that Skyrim owes its long-standing relevance in gaming culture to mods. Yet, vanilla Skyrim still holds up today because of its sheer scale and the amount of content packed into it.
The perks and equipment variety in Skyrim allows for a good range of personalized builds. Unfortunately, its openness tends to push characters into the infamous lure of sneak archery. However, a proper build plan tied to character roleplaying roots may keep the game fun while giving players the power fantasy they want.
Ten mighty Skyrim builds to try in 2022
1) The Elemental Fury Orc Berserker
For dragonborns whose only strategy of preference in the war room is to go gung-ho, a true Orc Berserk is the way to go. In the fashion of a true berserker, this build is all about outputting massive melee damage with little regard for sustainability and protection.
- Main skills: One-handed, Heavy Armor, Enchanting
- Secondary skills: Smithing, Alteration, Alchemy
The centerpiece to this idea is the 'Elemental Fury' shout, which imbues users with great attack speed for a small window. Adding the orc buff from the racial active ability transforms the dragonborn into an unhinged rampage machine temporarily.
For maximum bonkage, the berserker dual-wields maces with the 'Bonebreaker' perk. Other than the innate damage negation from the Orcish active ability, other means to sustain come from potions, and to utilize magicka in this build, alteration works as a no-brainer addition.
2) The Spellsiphon
A Breton paladin is likely one of the most utilized class-race combinations in all three Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind. The 'spellsiphon' build is about literally turning the tides of battle. Primarily, it uses destruction, alteration, and restoration magic, despite the Breton race's natural affinity to conjuration.
- Main skills: Destruction, Restoration, Block
- Secondary skills: Heavy Armor, Alteration, Enchantment
The idea behind this is to use the Breton active skill, Dragonskin, in the middle of the battle to soak up magic damage and replenish magicka, which will then be used to cast expert-level destruction magic at the opponent. In a sense, it makes for a way to 'reflect' the opponent's spells, a fun strategy to play around with.
The recommended set-up for this build is magic on the right hand and the Spellbreaker unique shield on the left. Coupled with the block perk that grants additional magic resistance, Breton's innate magic resistance, and that of Spellbreaker, this build is near-immune to magic even when the racial active is on cooldown.
3) The Arcane Archer
The 'Arcane Archer' creation club mod, already integrated within Skyrim Anniversary Edition, adds a swathe of elemental arrows to Skyrim. While they are fun to play around with, this build stands on a much simpler pillar: Bound Bow.
- Major skills: Conjuration, Archery, Sneak
- Minor skills: Alteration, Speech, Enchantment
The playstyle is very simple:
- Pop the bound bow
- Keep the targets a good length apart
- Shoot away with infinite ammunition
The Arcane Archer does not need investment in magicka, having only one spell to cast. The only other magicka sink will be some alteration spells like Muffle that can help you.
Another great thing about this playstyle is its natural progression, as the bound bow itself gives gamers enough archery experience to stay on top of the scaling.
4) The Death Knight
The 'Death Knight' moniker is inspired by Divinity: Original Sins 2, where the combination of necromancy spells and two-handed, which both deal physical damage, have enabled it to become a community favorite. In Skyrim, the same principle applies because it utilizes both magicka and stamina resources.
- Main skills: Two-handed, Conjuration
- Secondary skills: Smithing, Heavy Armor, Enchanting
Fighting strategy requires to first down an opponent to be reanimated thrall, who will usually last long enough to aid players throughout the battle. The magicka is mostly depleted on casting conjuration spells. Thus, the build heavily leans towards natural tankiness through the health pool.
Smithing and Enchanting help build the best protective gear in the game, and intelligent usage of thralls as decoys gives users enough window to whittle down the enemy with a mighty Volendrung.
5) The Vampire Nightblade
There is arguably no other Skyrim class that the traits of vampirism fit better than a nightblade. A vampire nightblade is not fundamentally eccentric, innovative, or anything new for long-time Skyrim users, but it is nevertheless a playstyle that always keeps things fun.
- Main skills: One-handed, Illusion, Destruction
- Secondary skills: Sneak, Light Armor, Pickpocket
The apparent synergy here also translates into roleplay purposes: the vampire, much like the nighblade, is a nocturnal lurker. However, the playstyle evenly splits between rogue and mage, thanks to the handful of abilities and spells the final level of vampirism unlocks.
Illusion helps grant additional crowd control and windows of opportunity to slip back into the shadows.
6) The Ebony Rogue
Weaving through the shadows of the battlefield, tactically taking out targets one by one, and yet a force to be reckoned with when swarmed by enemies, the Ebony Rogue is as close as fans get to playing Batman in Skyrim.
- Main skills: Two-handed, Heavy Armor, Sneak
- Secondary skills: Conjuration, Enchanting, Alchemy
The central equipment here is Ebony Mail and Ebony Blade. The former offers good protection and muffles players and gives them a raw sneak bonus. This is offset by the fact that this class uses heavy armor, making them less effective than a pure thief.
When the going gets tough, the Ebony Rogue can rely on their conjured Dremora Churls and slash their way out with Ebony Blade, which alone gives enough sustain, thanks to its passive health leech.
7) The Occam's Razor
The Occam's Razor is the quintessential method of relying on random chance, in line with the genuinely chaotic nature that Skyrim can take up sometimes. Interestingly, this also has a natural rite of roleplay passage with the recommended equipment, as gamers become worshippers of Mehurnes Dagon, chaos itself.
- Main skills: One-handed, Alchemy
- Secondary skills: Light Armor, Speech, Enchantment
The central gimmick for this build is to use the daedric artifact granted by Mehrunes Dagon, 'Mehrunes' Razor.' This dagger has an innate 1.98% chance of instantly killing its target.
With the Slow Time shout, the idea of this build is to spam attacks until the numbers roll in the player's favor. In practice, this turns each battle into an unpredictable challenge of fate. To aid users, paralysis potions or enchantments and the Serpent Standing Stone can be used to keep the target in place.
If balance is not a concern, the 'critical charge' perk in the one-handed skill tree along with Vladr's dagger on the off-hand reportedly makes the insta-kill much likelier.
8) The Killswitch Prophet
The concept of this Skyrim build stands on a duality between restraint and rage. A classic play on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario, this duality is achieved by fusing the persona of a monk with the bloodthirst of a werewolf.
- Main skills: Speech, Illusion, One-handed
- Secondary skills: Alteration, Restoration
There is no proper way to play the monk character archetype in vanilla Skyrim, so this build will use Adamant's hand-to-hand addon to add scaling to bare-hand combat. The monk uses non-lethal methods of taking down opponents, choosing to pacify challengers with the Calm spell rather than fight to the bitter end. Adamant's sneak perks also help this idea.
The other side, of course, is the 'shadow self,' i.e., the werewolf form. When the going gets tough, monk morphs into their lycanthropic form to tear their targets to shreds, giving uses a roleplay-friendly avenue to progress some quests.
9) The Trickster
As the name implies, this build is all about wreaking havoc behind enemy lines with utter chaos. Skyrim offers little in the way of a proper trickster, so without resorting to mods, the build will focus on two things: destructive runes and illusion.
- Main skills: Illusion, Destruction, Sneak
- Secondary skills: Speech, Alchemy, One-handed
The stem that holds this build together is the sneak spell, as it is paramount that gamers do not get caught. The idea is to confuse the enemies, after all. The regular course of the average skirmish should go like the following.
Firstly, the preparation phase will involve placing runes at choke points. To implement this, things like bear traps can also be grabbed manually in vanilla Skyrim. The second phase is the actual battle. The simplest tactic is to use the fury spell on the most significant threats, like two-handed warriors.
The trickster can pick off stray outliers, like archers with sneak attacks, as chaos ensues.
10) The Skooma Dealer
The Skooma Dealer taps into the most infamous Skyrim archetype: the sneak archer. The nuances, however, offset it enough to make it feel like a new experience. The Skooma Dealer is the quintessential khajit lowlife in Skyrim: he uses his natural khajiti talent of alchemy and sneaks into opponents' extremities.
- Main skills: Archery, Alchemy, Sneak
- Secondary skills: Light Armor, Speech, Lockpicking
The roleplay reasons restrict this build to the Khajit, but the sneak bonus is an excellent leeway to set up for the initial opportunities of power-leveling sneak. In the heat of the battle, the Skooma Dealer uses two supplements to his archery skills: an enchanted crossbow and lethal doses of homebrew poisons.
On the other hand, the speech skill will ensure the dealer's drug-manufacturing talents are channeled into a proper enterprise.
Note: This article reflects the author's views.