Wow. I'm reading some of the responses and I can't help but get the feeling that not a single person on the internet knows how to play skyrim at all. I'm beginning to think that they purposefully catered to idiot gamers when bethesda made this game because on countless forums after forums, not a single person knows what the fuck their talking about.
First of all, don't waste a single level-up on magicka. Why? because you can enchant gear to have at least 2 schools completely free. There is no point whatsoever in putting points into magicka, as well as no point whatsoever in using cast-reduction perks.
If you plan on ever playing on master or legendary, you NEED to invest every level up with health. NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF CHARACTER U PICK!
Don't waste your time with mage armor either. It makes a million times more sense to just go for light or heavy armor, as they will eventually reach that 567 armor cap that mage armor will never achieve. Not to mention you don't have to cast anything either, it's just there permanently.
Destruction is an obvious must, but let me spare you the trouble of wasting perks. Don't waste your time with anything that isn't fire. It's the cheapest magicka cost (before you get 100% cast reduction), it does the most damage especially with aspect of terror perk from illusion granting an extra 10 damage to all fire spells. Im pretty sure this is a bug but whatever it ain't game breaking. And besides, destruction is incredibly weak at higher levels anyway (im dead serious). There is virtually nothing that is immune to fire accept atronachs (lets face it, there aint many of them in skyrim!), and there is only a few things that are resistant to fire. Not to mention fire has the best AOE spell in the game, fireball ( it's also virtually impossible to miss, I might add).
Illusion is your best friend, period. Sneak+ frenzy on a group is really awesome to just sit there at watch the enemies kill each other meanwhile your just picking up loot in the other room! Pacify is also really sweet if your in a tight spot, it's your "get out of jail free card". Every god damned perk is useful (except the cost reduction ones)
Only train in alteration up to the point where you can have 3X magic resistant perks, or spam spells to level it up, whatever. Paralyze is overrated since illusion pretty much takes care of crowd control anyway.
Conjuration is a must as well. The atronachs are great against dragons or anything with magic, since you cast the one that is immune to the damage in question. Dremora Lords are overall the best because they dish out more damage than any other summon.
Some people swear by raised undead, but I find it kinda impractical. First of all, you need a corpse, second of all, most arent very impressive anyway, and there is no perk to raise the damage unlike the atronachs. With atronachs you simply cast them at will and there may be situations where there arent any corpses around.
Restoration is completely useless past level 10. Alchemy is your friend, and is 10x more efficient and affective at healing yourself, especially since there is no magicka cost burden. I only train in restoration up to the point where I can get the perk that makes "all spells better against undead". i forgot the name off the top of my head.
And don't forget, before you get 100% cost reduction from enchantments, pick a high elf, equip as much fortify magicka or reduce destruction or whatever as much as you can (shit you find, quest rewards etc). I know it's hard in the beginning to resist the temptation to put points into magicka as you level up, but trust me, in the long run you will thank yourself when your playing on legendary and a dragr deathlord hits you once for over 200 damage. I put every level up into health, have the 567 armor cap, as well as 85% magic resistance (capped), and I STILL get my ass handed to me on legendary if I'm careless.
And for all those "roleplaying" addicts, tell me why it's unfeasible for a mage to wear armor? I've seen countless RPG's where the spellcaster had some kind of armor on. Just because your a mage you insist on wearing no armor but then use "mage armor"? Do you not see how hypocritical and stupid that is? Both are "armor", while one is clearly superior in every way. I will NEVER understand why people put on these needless restrictions all in the name of "roleplaying". It's nothing more than a free pass to play like an idiot.
REMEMBER: the single most important thing you can do for ANY character build, is max out alchemy, enchanting, and smithing. They are simply a must have, and they also compliment each other. Just don't use the fortify restoration potion glitch, please don't. It will create some SERIOUSLY broken shit! I'm talking about doing trillions of damage with any weapon or having trillions of health. Just don't do it, it will ruin any and all enjoyment.
Im all about min-maxing and crunching numbers, but fortify restoration potions is where I draw the line. Even without that, you can still be quite overpowered, since this game is tailor made for stupid people who don't understand the first thing about micromanaging and number crunching. I am not exaggerating when I say that over 95% of the players don't have a clue how to play RPGS.
Back when I was young, RPGS REQUIRED you to max out the numbers as much as you could, JUST TO GET THROUGH THE DAMN GAME! Even Oblivion had a much higher skill ceiling than this idiot-proof game. Im not saying Oblivion was better at all, in fact it was much worse in almost every aspect, except difficulty. Morrowind was also much more challenging.
This clever manipulation of the game's mechanics to achieve the maximum power, is an art that pretty much died the minute game developers stopped making games for the hardcore gamer. When are they gonna figure out that RPG's and "casual gamers" don't mix?
I'm saying all this because Skyrim had the potential to be a true masterpiece. It had all the right elements: good story, good immersion, dynamic character building. The sad truth is, none of this matters at all if the game itself is too easy. Combat eventually becomes repetitive and tedious, simply because all your doing it rinse and repeat over and over again. It doesn't help that the AI is completely laughable for a 2011 game anyway.
Despite all this, Skyrim is still a great game. It just pisses me off that game developers think that graphics are more important than, say, BALANCE and CHALLENGE! Aren't those 2 things characteristic of ALL great games?
If bethesda spent half as much time refining the mechanics, perks, balance, and combat as they did with graphics, then we might have had the masterpiece that I'm talking about.
I've pretty much done everything there is to do in this game, including both expansions.
The other big problem I have with this game is the fact that ALL quests boil down to this:
"go here to this place and kill everyone"
"go here and fetch this item"
"go here and talk to several people scattered all around the map and sit through 20 loading screens"
"go collect a bunch of the same item for my research"
I mean, they could have been a little more creative there. At least in Oblivion there were some interesting quests that had you doing something unique to that quest (sometimes, as most were still just the same as above).
Someone once said that Skyrim is an inch deep and a mile wide. That's a pretty accurate description.