Skyrim gives players the chance to choose from a plethora of races to choose from, but only some are skilled in archery.
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The key to the Skyrim experience has always been the ‘play it your way’ philosophy. This is exactly why the game consumes hundreds of hours of fans’ lives and demands so many playthroughs. When it comes to routes through the game, builds, questlines to prioritize and so on, the possibilities are endless.
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Having said that, as the old joke goes, there’s one playstyle that many gamers just seem to keep coming back to: stealthy archery. While all races in the game can fulfil any role with enough work, this sneaky, long-ranged style (sneakiness optional) doesn’t come naturally to all of them. To get the best start possible as an archer in Skyrim, here are all the races ranked from least ideal to most ideal for archery in Skyrim.
Updated on August 14th, 2021 by Anastasia Maillot: Stealth archers being as popular as they are, the importance of picking the right race at the beginning of Skyrim is vital in order to maximize the benefits of the character build. Luckily, the choice isn”t too difficult, since every race in Skyrim is naturally good at a specific class or role.
While there”s a few flexible races like Redguards and Dunmer, the rest can easily be ranked by how good they are for a classic archery build, based on their starting skills and special race powers. Here”s what race to play as an archer in Skyrim.
10 Worst: Nord
Starting Bonuses: Smithing, Block, One-Handed, Two-Handed, Light Armor, Speech Race Power: Battle Cry (enemies become frightened for 30 seconds) Skyrim’s default playable race, the Nords, are seriously lacking in the archery department. As is clear from their tall stature and fearsome appearance, they’re popular picks for those who want to take a more conventional warrior role.
In that regard, their starting bonuses give the player some flexibility to switch weapons while doing a lot of close-quarters damage. Their unique skill Battle Cry causes opponents to run from them, allowing the player to stand their ground or turn the tables in fights, while their Frost resistance keeps them agile against mages. They”re a very effective all-around warrior race, but Archery is not among their strengths.
9 Orsimer (Orc)
Starting Bonuses: Block, Two-Handed, Heavy Armor, Smithing, One-Handed Race Power: Berserker Rage (inflict double damage, take half the damage for 60 seconds) Orcs are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the Skyrim world, charging into combat with a proud battle cry and mowing down their unfortunate foes in droves. These heavily armed and armored warriors have starting bonuses in Block, Two-Handed, Heavy Armor and more, emphasizing their suitability for protracted front-line combat.
Their excellent race power, Berserker Rage, doubles the damage they deal and halves the damage they take for one minute, highlighting this fact further. While it’s more than viable to carry a bow as a secondary ranged option, Orsimer shouldn’t really be a player’s first choice for an archer.
Starting Bonuses: Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Illusion, Alchemy, Speech Race Power: Dragonskin (absorbs 50% of Magicka from enemy spells) As much freedom to customize characters as Skyrim offers, players will get the very best from their builds only by playing to their race’s unique strengths. Just a quick glance at an overview of the Breton race shows that archery isn’t their strong point.
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With beginning bonuses to Restoration, Alteration, Conjuration and Illusion, plus Magic Resistance and Dragonskin as well as a slightly wider selection of starting spells, they’re magically inclined first and foremost. Archery isn”t their strong suit.
7 Altmer (High Elf)
Starting Bonuses: Illusion, Enchanting, Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Restoration Race Power: Highborn (increased Magicka regeneration for 60 seconds, 25% of maximum Magicka pool per second) The next race is the Altmer, better known as High Elf. If players want to take one of these noble, intelligent beings on a trip through Skyrim’s stunning world, the archery route might be doing them a bit of a disservice.
As with the Bretons, the High Elves have a natural inclination towards magic. Altmers are the most magically adept of all races, boasting starting bonuses to each school of magic. This gives them huge early-game advantages for anyone wanting to play as a mage. Their unique perks, Fortify Magicka and Highborn, leave no doubt as to how they’re ‘supposed’ to be played.
Starting Bonuses: Restoration, Enchanting, Destruction, One-handed, Block, Heavy Armor Race Power: Voice of the Emperor (applies Calm status on surrounding targets for 30 seconds) The Imperial race is another that allows the player a lot of freedom to experiment. For less narrow-focused character builds, Imperials are a great pick. After all, archers aren’t limited to fighting only from a distance with their bows, with Archery being an incredibly useful sideline for a wide range of classes and builds.
The Imperial race starts with similar bonuses to the Orsimer: Heavy Armor, Block, Destruction, One-Handed, Enchanting and Restoration. Sneaky sidelines are offered by their Voice Of The Emperor race skill, which briefly calms humanoid aggressors, while their proficiency in healing is a huge advantage for melee combatants. All in all, they prefer to get in close and personal, though a bow can still pay dividends when distant or evasive foes enter the fray.
Starting Bonuses: Lockpicking, Sneak, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, Alteration Race Power: Histskin (10 times faster health regeneration for 60 seconds) The Argonian race is an average choice for stealth archer builds in Skyrim, due to their natural proficiency in all things stealthy. While Argonians don’t begin with stat bonuses in Archery, true enough, they still get a nice advantage in Light Armor, Lockpicking, Sneak and Pickpocket.
These reptile-like warriors are designed to be silent but deadly, great for stealth archer builds in particular. If you’re role-playing as a rogue and willing to put some time into levelling your skills with a bow, the Argonian race is a fine choice.
4 Dunmer (Dark Elf)
Starting Bonuses: Destruction, Alteration, Illusion, Alchemy, Sneak, Light Armor Race Power: Ancestor”s Wrath (character surrounded by flames for 60 seconds) The Dunmer are in a bit of an interesting position compared to the majority of Skyrim’s races. So far, most races have had clear leanings in their starting skills, but the Dunmer have quite a wide suite of them. Sneak, Illusion, Alteration, Light Armor, Alchemy and Destruction all get starting bonuses with a Dark Elf character. As a result, there’s a lot of freedom here.
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Ancestor’s Wrath also allows them to burn any foe that comes too close for a brief period, adding to the sense that they can serve well at both close and long range, physical and magical combat. While they may not be the very first choice for a player wanting to focus on archery, they’re sneaky and powerful, with a unique back-up plan available when enemies close in on them.
Starting Bonuses: Sneak, Alchemy, One-Handed, Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocket Race Power: Night Eye (better vision at night for 60 seconds) The Khajiit might appear to be more of a melee-focused race at first glance. After all, they’re famous for preferring to use their vicious claws in battle over conventional weapons. Like the Argonians, though, they’re sneaky fighters through and through.
Khajiit characters begin with bonuses to Pickpocket and Lockpicking, as well as a +10 to Sneak and an average increase to Archery (+5). Couple these bonuses with their Night Eye skill, which allows them to see in the dark for brief periods, and you’ve got another excellent candidate for an archer.
Starting Bonuses: One-Handed, Destruction, Alteration, Archery, Block, Smithing Race Power: Adrenaline Rush (10 times higher stamina regeneration for 60 seconds) The Redguards, as series fans will know, have long been formidable warriors. Although they lack the outright strength and melee proficiency of an Orc, they’re a bit more well-rounded as a result. Their starting strengths are Alteration, Smithing, Destruction, Block, One-Handed and Archery.
Once again, it”s a more combat oriented class, though with more versatility when it comes to methods of dealing damage. Redguards are also rather proficient with magic, while the +5 in Archery makes them solid archers too, especially for those who want effective ranged combat options without dedicating themselves to sniping.
1 Best: Bosmer (Wood Elf)
Starting Bonuses: Archery, Alchemy, Pickpocket, Lockpicking, Sneak, Light Armor Race Power: Command Animal (tame nearby animals for 60 seconds) Bosmer are the best race for archery in Skyrim. Naturals with bows and proud wood-dwellers with an affinity for animals, the Bosmer (better known as Wood Elves) are the official rangers of the game.
They’re not built to absorb damage by any means, but these limber, agile and fleet-footed beings are adept at picking off foes from a distance without being detected. If players are wary in enclosed spaces and plan an escape route if foes are alerted, a Bosmer character is a fine choice for an archery build. They have an early advantage right off the bat, with the highest starting Archery bonus in the game (Sneak, Light Armor and Lockpicking among others helps too).