Balancing Skyrim – A Quest, Part #1

The Gameplay section in its essence is complete. Now comes the fine-tuning.


The Original Intention

An unleveled Skyrim where valuable loot is rare and strong enemies kick your ass - that is what Morrowloot Ultimate and True Unleveled Skyrim as the backbone of the GAMEPLAY section are meant ot achieve. Adding Wildcat for spiced-up combat, Advanced Adversary Encounters for new perks and abilities, and Know Your Enemy for resistances, really turns hack'n slash Skyrim into a world where you don't want to have your back against the wall. Now despite all this, it was never my intention to make the game itself a great deal harder and I'm most definitely not looking for Dark Souls - Tamriel Edition.

No, combat is supposed to be interesting, diverse and fast-paced, customizable enough so that people like me can have their god-among-mere-mortals-experience, while others have the challenge they deem worthy. To be able to adjust difficulty across the board, it must first be balanced out - and this is where things get really complicated.

First Impressions

So I finally went ahead and started a new playthrough. As a young khajiit that narrowly escaped being beheaded and then roasted, I faced off against level 25+ imperial soldiers. No problem, I had Ralof's back to hide behind. Next up were a bunch of spiders that I sniped with my new bow. That was much easier - probably because they were level 1. After getting multiple reports of people who got their asses handed to them in Bleakfalls Barrow, I don't exactly look forward to making that particular trip.

So I ventured forth into the world of Skyrim, slaughtering some wolves and a giant on my way to Whiterun. Aforementioned giant is no other than the scripted one on the farm land, a level 45 beast. That gives me enough time to get a hit on him and it makes the battle versus the companions seem much more serious. Nice!

In Whiterun I pick up all kinds of quests, kill three level 5 skeletons in the Hall of Dead - one at a time - and narrowly escape with my life. My attempt to join to Companions is thwarted when Farkas sends me to kill Falmer in Shimmermist Cave for my initiation mission. Fine. I don't want to become a stupid werewolf anyway.

Now level 3 and with Uthgerd as follower, I make my way across the plains to visit Halted Stream Camp and Silent Moons Camp. Uthgerd happily smashes bandits with her new fire-enchanted steel hammer - a lucky drop - and I loot myself through lots of potions. Soon I have full leather armor and a decent supply of arrows and my level 5 ass thinks we're ready for Bleakfalls Barrow.

The Ascent

On our way up the slope to the Barrow we meet the deadliest enemies so far. There are two of them and they are level 6 Novice Necromancers. They fire barrages of green poison balls that two-shot me. After dying to them about 5 times, I hide over at the Western Watchtower and snipe them from cover. That works out at least.

After that, the level 12 ice wolf and a handful of level 4 bandits are hardly a threat. And so, having forgotten about the level 6 Necros already, we confidently step inside Bleakfalls Burrow.

Welcome To Your Nightmare

I died once, and that is only because I spent the entire dungeon hiding behind Uthgerd's back who - thank god - regenerates automatically. So there we go, she's smacking draugr left and right with her enchanted warhammer and things are pretty decent.

Then we arrive at the troll. Thank god (again) for Uthgerd and her fire hammer. Its burning effect combined with a Frost Atronarch I cast with a staff (another lucky drop) bring down the beast. Its only level 17 but with it's stupid regeneration I barely make a dent on my own. But no matter. Onward!

That's where I die by the way. He's a level 38 draugr wight, guarding the final gate and I'm getting my ass handed to me when Uthgerd takes a knee unexpectedly early. On the second attempt I whip out a Conjure Storm Atronarch scroll and that goes better.

Finally the boss is a level 44 wight commander that on my own I'm absolutely worthless against. Fortunately, Uthgerd and yet another Frost Atronarch can take him on fairly easily and I get to collect the Dragonstone at level 8. Yeah that was definitely an interesting experience.

Conclusion

Having a starter dungeon like BFB kick my ass this hard was definitely not intended. Essentially deleveling Skyrim (like TUS does) results in making draugr dungeons extremely difficult - and that makes sense only after you got through the early game.I'm not interested in replicating Requiem where you farm wolves and skeevers.

Being a zEdit patcher, TUS is fortunately already optional. It can stay for everyone who likes this kind of gameplay.The other two options are playing with Morrowloot Ultimate and its inbuilt Encounter Zones or running MLU with the Vanilla EZs plugin to revert completely back to a leveled world.

Regarding the Necros, I will add the optional balance patch that is offered on the AAE mod page. The Dark Flare spam was too ridiculous.

As for the troll - I might tone down the Know Your Enemy resistances even further (they are at 80% currently).


All my respect for those game devs (and mod authors) that need to do the balancing for massive games like this one from scratch.
- Phoenix

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