How does the difficulty level affect the gameplay in Skyrim?

  • There are six difficulty settings in Skyrim:

    1. Novice
    2. Apprentice
    3. Adept
    4. Expert
    5. Master
    6. Legendary

    How do these affect the gameplay?

    I've noticed quest rewards differing from those posted online - I suspect the difficulty affects those as well.

  • Correct answer

    9 years ago

    According to the UESP, the difficulty level affects the damage you deal and the damage you receive:

    Difficulty | Damage Dealt | Damage Taken
    -----------------------------------------
    Novice     | x2           | x0.5
    Apprentice | x1.5         | x0.75
    Adept      | x1           | x1
    Expert     | x0.75        | x1.5
    Master     | x0.5         | x2
    Legendary  | x0.25        | x3
    

    Based on this, there are a few things you can extrapolate as the difficulty level increases:

    • Skills based on damage increase more slowly, and in turn, the slower you level up (thanks yx.)
    • Followers can be knocked out, and in turn, killed, more easily
    • Your effective health decreases
    • Enemies' effective health increases

    Possible note: Weapon Skills aren't based on final damage; they are based on base damage of the weapon, which is unaffected by difficulty. Increasing the difficulty means that you have to hit each enemy more times, which speeds up skill growth. This is very noticeable when you increase the difficulty as my one-handed increased about 6 levels after 2 dungeons.

    Wouldn't your last point imply that the level cap is different depending on the difficulty?

    @StrixVaria I don't follow. It would just mean lower difficulties would hit the level and skill caps faster.

    @MarkTrapp yes practically higher difficulties make you level slower (cause of more dying) but theoretically they level at the same speed.

    @PatrickStalder No, I mean skills take less to level up, which subsequently means you level up faster. I didn't mean it to be perceived leveling speed. But looking around, there are people saying that it does and people saying that it doesn't affect skill level speed, so I removed it.

    @MarkTrapp: Your first two points are correct, could it be the last one is just that the follower/companion is more weak in general? Like that he has lower health and does less damage so that you have to do more?

    @TomWijsman If the enemy is stronger your companion gets "weaker" automatically compared to your foes.

    @PatrickStalder: Yes, but when talking in the case of what modifiers are applied; "friendly fire damage done" might not be affeceted (it just doesn't make sense of a programming perspective) but rather the "hitpoints (and damage done) of the companion" would be negatively affected.

    @TomWijsman Not sure on what you're basing that modifying friendly fire damage doesn't make programming sense: it's a pretty common tactic in RPGs, particularly in BioWare games like Dragon Age.

    @MarkTrapp: It's how you see it; but it's quite possible that hey didn't actually lower the damage but rather changed the follower/companion instead. It feels like FF damage has been changed, but it might not be how they have implemented the modifier.

    @MarkTrapp I mistakenly thought you meant the speed at which leveling your skills levels your character. If you mean that it modifies the speed that the skills themselves level, that makes much more sense.

    I'm kind of disappointed at the poor AI in this game, I hoped that turning up the difficulty would improve it, its a shame it won't

    Well the slower leveling speed point is still correct since a lot of skill improvements are damage based. If you deal less damage, you will gain skills at a slower rate.

    @yx. true: added some other extrapolations based on damage modifiers as well.

    As far as slowing damage based skills...I agree you would have to hit an opponent more times to kill it...but you'd still be doing the same amount of damage...since the target had the same amount of health regardless of difficulty setting. Therefore, easy or master you still get credit for dealing say 100 damage points....Technically this would result in you fighting for a bit longer but other then that I dont see a huge reason why skills would level slower.

    Indeed, as @corv notes, the difference in levelling speed for *offensive* abilities will primarily only be noticed in raw time - in terms of number of mobs killed, it will be comparable if not identical. By contrast, at higher difficulty levels, **defensive** skills will rise *much faster*, as you will take more damage, and be in combat for longer. If anything, you'll probably level up faster at higher difficulty levels.

    @yx I've done some measurements with archery and I think leveling speed is faster for master because the damage you put out is not modified with difficulty level for the calculation of experience. Only the damage that the enemy takes is modified with changing difficulty level. That means since you need to deal out more damage to kill an enemy, you get more experience for each enemy killed.

    by anonymous: `"Skills aren't based on damage, they are based on hits. Increasing the difficulty means that you have to hit each enemy more times, which speeds up skill growth. This is very noticeable when you increase the difficulty as my one-handed increased about 6 levels after 2 dungeons"`

    @Nelson, with the amount of extra information you provide, I feel I am forced to reject the edit as conflicting. I can't help but wonder why you do not simply post your own answer to the question, due to the substantial improvement I believe it would be

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM