I’ve always been a hands-on kind of guy. I’d much rather pick up a bow and arrow, and strap on my sword and shield than stand at the back throwing fireballs and sending undead minions to do my bidding. I suppose I’ve always seen it as a little more honourable – why should I ask this skeleton to do something which I am not willing to do myself? Skeletons have rights too.
However, I have recently discovered the inherent joy in one particular field of magic. One which has always intrigued me, but I’ve never been able to fully grasp. Illusion.
Most of my characters in previous Elder Scrolls games have had illusion somewhere on their major or minor skills list; I always stick it in and go: “yes... yes, I shall be the master of their minds! They shall bend to my will! I will twist them till they break.” And then by the time I come face to face with my opponents it’s all “Ah, hell to it – stick them with the pointy end!”
My latest character has forced me to change my playstyle. I have no armour, no shield, no restoration or alteration to create magical wards – if the enemies could get within swinging distance I’d be on my arse within a few swipes. So, in combat situations I am forced to turn to my bow, my sneak skill and my illusion magic.
I’ll give an example: there is a cave to the west of Solitude – I think it’s called Wolfshead Cave, but I may be wrong – and it is absolutely swarming with necromancers. Now, in previous games necromancers have been fierce magic-users, but in Skyrim they take it to a whole new level. With the ability to raise their fallen comrades to fight alongside them as resurrected thralls, a small party of necromancers can be a difficult prospect, especially if you can’t just wade into the fray and start slicing them in half.
Wolfshead Cave culminates in a battle atop an interior watchtower, one crowned with a gaggle of necromancers working to resurrect a forgotten evil. As you ascend the stairs you can hear them chanting as the arcane energy whirls around them. I knew that I couldn’t face them directly – even if I could bring one or two down, they would quickly be back on their feet fighting alongside the remaining few necromancers. So, I stood back and watched.
One necromancer would occasionally cast a spell on herself – some sort of ward- whereas the others just milled about. I took this as a sign that she was more powerful than her compadres.
I readied my Fury spell and let it loose into the fray – striking the more powerful necromancer in the chest. For a moment my sneak eye flared open and red dots appeared all around me; 5 sets of eyes turned towards my shadowy corner and cried “what was that?! Who’s there?!” for a brief moment I was completely vulnerable.
It didn’t take long for the main necromancer to succumb to my Fury spell (dual casted for more power!). She turned on her crew – hurling fireballs and ice blasts, resurrecting her fallen foes to fight alongside her. 5 red dots quickly became 10 as each necromancer summoned their own undead allies. I threw in a couple more fury spells on the lesser necromancers, for good measure. When the dust settled my original target was almost dead, but she stood amongst a field of mangled corpses. The red mist wore off. “Huh… Must’ve been the wind…” she murmured – I crept out of the shadows, dagger in one hand, Calm spell in the other.