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Understanding the Differences Between the Various Races of Skyrim and Why it Matters
One of the best and sometimes most challenging aspects of playing the Elder Scrolls games is the selection of your main character, and Skyrim is no exception.
This article details the different skill sets and overall moral outlook of each of the various races in Skyrim.
The Dark Elf Race of Skyrim
The Dark Elf is great for stealth mages, as perks in Destruction, Illusion, and Sneak are the cornerstone skills for a character that throws fireballs while hidden in the shadows.
The racial power of Ancestor’s Wrath covers your body in a cloak of flames for 60 seconds for free once a day, a medium level spell that can save your butt when you get caught.
Resistance to fire is probably the most advantageous of the resistance abilities, as many enemies (and dragons) in the game use fire as main attacks.
Take the race of Dark Elf if you want to look cool, but you don’t really want anyone to see you.
Dark Elf Skills and Abilities
+10 Destruction, +5 Alteration, +5 Illusion, +5 Sneak, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alchemy
Flames, Sparks, Healing
50% Fire Resistance
Video of Skyrim Dark Elf Mage in Action
The High Elf Race of Skyrim
The High Elf class is what any offensive mage needs to take. If you want to skip the sneaking around and rely on your powerful spells to take down your enemies, take this class before all others.
The natural +50 to Magicka that comes with the racial ability Highborn Magicka is a huge advantage early in the game, as well as later when you are required to have large amounts of Magicka for powerful Destruction and Conjuration spells.
The power of Highborn also adds 25% to your Magicka regeneration, which can make a huge difference in long battles when you find yourself drinking all your potions away.
This is the first race you should choose if you want to spit high powered fireballs or strong Daedra lords at your enemies.
High Elf Skills and Abilities
+10 Illusion, +5 Alteration, +5 Conjuration, +5 Destruction, +5 Restoration, +5 Enchanting
Flames, Fury, Healing
Video of Skyrim High Elf Mage in Action
The Wood Elf Race of Skyrim
Different than the Dark Elf and the High Elf, the Wood Elf is more suited for thievery and sneaking.
Instead of relying heavily on magic, the Wood Elf uses archery and stealth to make deadly, long-range attacks your enemy only notices after it is too late.
The Command Animal power can be very good while wandering around the wilderness since wild animals are very large in numbers and can be used to your advantage.
The 50% Disease and Poison Resistance is a step up from the Redguard ability, and it can be useful when coming face-to-face with vampires and other plagued animals in your travels.
This is the number one race for stealth archers and those who want to take to the darker side of Skyrim through thievery.
Wood Elf Skills and Abilities
+10 Archery, +5 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Alteration, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alchemy
50% Disease and Poison Resistance
Video of Skyrim Wood Elf Thief in Action
The Breton Race of Skyrim
Bretons are ideal for players who want to play mage-type characters but are not sure what subfields they would like to go into.
The Conjure Familiar spell can be very advantageous early in the game when you go up against enemies stronger than you.
Both the permanent abilities and powers of the race related to spell type defenses, give Bretons a foot up against other mages.
Use this class if you want to play a mage, especially if you want to start with conjuration early in your journey.
Breton Skills and Abilities
+10 Conjuration, +5 Alchemy, +5 Alteration, +5 Speech, +5 Restoration, +5 Illusion
Flames, Healing, Conjure Familiar
25% Magic Resistance
Video of Female Skyrim Breton in Action
The Imperial Race of Skyrim
Imperials are known for their ferocity and stamina in battle, so choose this class if you like to run into battle like a warlord hellbent on destruction.
Not only do you get a slight upgrade of gold in chests all over the game (Imperial Luck), you also have the ability to calm people nearby for 60 seconds once a day (Voice of the Emperor).
Use this class if you would like to be a hardy warrior with an emphasis in crowd control and healing spells.
Imperial Skills and Abilities
+10 Restoration, +5 Destruction, +5 Enchanting, +5 Block, +5 Heavy Armor, +5 One-Handed
Voice of the Emperor
Video of Skyrim Imperial in Action
The Nord Race of Skyrim
Nords are the true tanks of the game. They are generally very sturdy and use heavy armor and heavy weapons to take down their opponents fiercely.
Battle Cry causes all foes to flee for 30 seconds, causing complete chaos while you chase down your prey or get ready for the next onslaught.
The 50% Frost Resistance can help against some mages, but be careful against other strong spells as your magic resistance is tied to your degree of leveling of Magicka.
Choose this race if you want to play your game as an aggressive warrior with no regard for others.
Nord Skills and Abilities
+10 Two-Handed, +5 One-Handed, +5 Block, +5 Smithing, +5 Speech, +5 Light Armor
50% Frost Resistance
Video of Skyrim Nord Sword Mage in Action
The Redguard Race of Skyrim
Redguards are probably the most well rounded of the races, getting perks in all three skill types. However, this can be a disadvantage for those looking to excel in one area.
The Permanent Ability of Poison Resistance can help in some cases, but often it is much less effective than other racial abilities.
Adrenaline Rush can be a great asset for long, stamina-draining battles or when running away quickly is the best option in serious encounters.
Use this class if you want a well-rounded character who will use stamina as his primary attack method.
|Redguard Skills and Abilities|
+10 One-Handed, +5 Archery, +5 Block, +5 Smithing, +5 Destruction, +5 Alteration
50% Poison Resistance
Video of Skyrim Redguard Swordmaster in Action
The Argonian Race of Skyrim
The reptile race of Argonian is the less offensive version of Wood Elf, lacking the initial skill perk in Archery that Wood Elves start with.
However, the Argonian has one very distinct additional ability: Underwater Breathing. This can be extremely useful in many cases both in dungeons and on the over map when you need to get to hard-to-reach places underwater.
While it is not a necessity to breathe underwater because of water breathing potions and few places to use them, Underwater Breathing can help at times when you decide to take the river as an escape route.
Argonians also have a 50% Disease Resistance, making it easier to fight vampires and creatures with diseases without contracting anything.
Argonians also have perks in Lockpicking, Pickpocket, and Sneak, giving you a head-start on thievery at the beginning of the game where money is so precious.
Argonians are slightly less effective offensively than the Wood Elf, but if you have a huge desire to swim around Skyrim instead of walking, pick this class.
Argonian Skills and Abilities
+10 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Sneak, +5 Light Armor, +5 Alteration, +5 Restoration
50% Disease Resistance, Underwater Breathing
Video of Skyrim Argonian Mage in Action
The Khajiit Race of Skyrim
The Khajiit is a cat race that relies on stealth and thievery to make a living in Tamriel.
While this race is similar to the Wood Elf for stealth classes, they also possess the ability to use Night Eye to see in the dark and Claws, which ups damage in unarmed combat.
If you decide to drop the heavy weapons for your claws, be warned: there is no unarmed skill tree in this game, so you will not level up if you do use unarmed.
The Khajiit gets a huge bonus to Sneak and Archery to start, so if you want to walk on the wild side and be a cat, by all means.
Choose this class if you prefer to be a more offensive thief and like the idea of being a cat.
Khajiit Skills and Abilities
+10 Sneak, +5 Lockpicking, +5 Pickpocket, +5 Alchemy, +5 One-Handed, +5 Archery
Video of Skyrim Khajiit Assassin Mage in Action
The Orc Race of Skyrim
Orcs are the barbarian class of Skyrim since they are proficient in Heavy Armor and have the Berserk ability, which grants a huge jump in damage reduction and melee combat.
What you get with the Orc race is the ability to take out huge groups of enemies or strong opponents with the free ability Berserk.
One extra perk of being an Orc is the access you have with the Orc towns around the map, something that you have to work for as any other clan.
If you want to take a race that has automatic access to the Orc villages in Skyrim and is also a strong berserker, take this class.
Orc Skills and Abilities
+10 Heavy Armor, +5 Smithing, +5 One-Handed, +5 Two-Handed, +5 Block, +5 Enchanting
Video of Skyrim Orc Beserker in Action
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