Skyrim: A Guide to Archery
Archery in Skyrim
Archery in Skyrim is probably the hardest combat type in the beginning of the game, being far less rewarding than close quarters combat and magic. This is because without the right perks, archery can be slow and weak, with the further disadvantage of requiring a constant supply of arrows. Also, you can’t dual wield, so restoring health or using a shield is out of the picture. Because of all this, many people give up on making a primarily bow-and-arrow-using character, though it’s actually one of the most satisfying ways to play the game.
Some of the most important skills for creating an archer in Skyrim are light armor, sneak, and of course, archery. There are a multitude of ways to build your character—you can be a pure archer, a tank archer, a sneak archer that also specializes in dual daggers—whatever you want. Here are some perks you may want to use.
- All of the Archery perks: get them as soon as possible. Damage increase is self-explanatory. Eagle Eye allows you to zoom. Critical hits, as well as staggering and paralyzing enemies are some of the most fun things to do with an archer (usually, in the beginning of the game, archery isn’t as fun because the enemies just sprint at you and kill you. These perks stop that).
- Light Armor is usually the better choice over heavy armor for archers because it facilitates speed and stealth. You need speed as an archer, to strafe, and light armor is always better than heavy sets for stealth purposes. You can walk just as quickly in Heavy Armor, but only after you get the Conditioning perk (Heavy Armor 70), which takes quite a while to get. Deft movement is also extremely useful (what level 100 perk isn’t useful?), letting you avoid 10% of all melee damage. For some info on armor, check out my article on Light Armor vs. Heavy Armor.
- Sneak is important because once you level up your archery and get stronger bows and arrows, you can kill people in one or two hits. This avoids a complete brawl, which will save you potions and arrows. Needless to say, close quarter combat with a bow and arrow is less than optimal. Deadly aim, a level 40 sneak skill, multiplies sneak attack damage by three. Coupling that with a critical hit is extremely damaging.
- Conjuration is a fun skill to couple with archery because of the Bound Bow skill (Level 50 Conjuration needed). With it, you get infinite arrows, and it overlaps with all your archery perks. At full potential, with everything unlocked, the Bound Bow is as strong as a Daedric Bow. Also, it doesn't hurt that it looks really cool!
- Check out Skyrim's Most Useful and Useless Perks for more information on which perks are useful and which aren't.
- Wood Elves start off with +10 archery levels, and Khajiits and Redguards have +5. However, Bretons, Nords, and Dark Elves, with 25% magic resistance, 50% frost resistance, and 50% fire resistance, respectively, are probably the better choices. You can level archery up to 100 with anyone, so the initial +5 or +10 isn’t much of an advantage.
- You can shoot a decoy arrow, and your targets will look at where the arrow hit (like a wall or the ground). Then, as your enemies turn their backs, you can sneak-shot them for the x3 extra damage.
- Use Faendal as a companion, and have him train you in archery. Since he’s your companion, you can pay him for the training and just take back all the money from his inventory without penalty.
- Go to Falkreath, to Angi’s house. It's south-ish of the town. She’ll let you shoot at targets for free archery experience.
- Give your companion close quarter combat weapons, so they can tank. Also, if you give them a staff that can conjure a familiar, they’ll automatically do it when they sense that enemies are nearby.
- Even better, if you've invested into the conjuration tree yourself, you can summon atronachs and zombies. With skills like Flame/Frost/Storm Thrall, you can permanently summon them (until they die), and power them up with perks like Twin Souls (summon two at a time). These are some of the best tanks in the game, diverting most of the damage while you sit back and snipe your enemies from afar.