Like most games, Skyrim has several difficulties, the way you approach them and how challenging they are is a matter for discussion. The main aspects of the game that difficulty in Skyrim affects are damage received and damage dealt, having said that since leveling skills in Skyrim is mostly influenced by damage, a lot of players are wondering, does difficulty affects leveling in Skyrim?
Difficulty does not affect leveling in Skyrim in a direct way, meaning that you will not get more exp just because you’re playing on a higher difficulty. It does have an effect on raising your skills however especially offensive and defensive skills that raise depending on the amount of damage you receive and deal to your enemies. This, in turn, affects how fast your skills will level up and as a consequence, you might level up faster. The best difficulty for leveling in Skyrim however is Adept.
Now that we’ve handled the short answer it’s time to discuss in more detail how exactly skill leveling works in Skyrim, and how higher difficulties can affect the amount of XP you will receive, if you’re interested, stay with us and keep reading!
How many difficulties are there in Skyrim?
There are six difficulties in total in Skyrim those are: novice, apprentice, adept, expert, master, and legendary. Difficulty does not affect enemies in terms of mechanics meaning that your enemies do not use any special movies or tactics the higher the difficulty gets. It means only that enemies deal more damage and you deal less damage.
On the lowest difficulty (novice) you will deal 2x the damage and receive only 0.5x damage. The highest difficulty (Legendary) has the opposite effect, you will deal 0.25x damage and receive 3x damage.
So in short, the enemies get tankier when compared to you and you get squishier when compared to them.
Does difficulty increase XP?
Difficulty does not affect XP directly meaning that you will not receive more XP if you’re playing on legendary difficulty just because the difficulty is higher. But it does affect how much XP you can receive when leveling up individual skills and thus you can in theory level up faster. But to explain this, first, we need to see how leveling skills in Skyrim works.
Some skills (primarily magic skills) level up based on the base cost of the spell cast, this means that the higher the cost of the spell the faster you will level up skills. Destruction, on the other hand, is influenced by both damage output and the base cost of the spell in magicka.
Offensive skills like block, light, and heavy armor are leveled up based on how much damage you received. This means that in theory, on the legendary difficulty you should be able to level up those skills relatively fast since enemies will deal more damage.
Offensive skills like one-handed and two-handed weapons use the same logic. Those skills are leveled up based on the base weapon damage. The more you need to hit your enemies means that the more damage you will output and in turn level up those skills quickly. The best approach to fast leveling of one-handed and two-handed weapons is to find the fastest weapon with the highest base damage in order to output the highest amount in the shortest amount of time.
Some skills like smithing and enchanting are affected by the base price of the item modified. This means that the more expensive the item is the highest XP received will be.
What does all of this mean? Well in the simplest possible terms it means that you will in theory level two-handed and one-handed weapons faster, as well as some offensive skills like for example block, light, and heavy armor. The rest of the skills like destruction, alteration, smithing, enchanting, and so on will remain unaffected by your difficulty since the XP you will receive is not reliant on damage but on other factors.
At the end of the day, you can, like in a regular playthrough expect to level fastest during the early game and then expect the leveling to slow down drastically in the late game.
What difficulty is best for leveling in Skyrim?
The best difficulty to level seems to be an adept difficulty. You still get the slight benefits of increased damage received / decreased damage output but it’s not too challenging. It’s the most balanced of all difficulties and shouldn’t be too hard even for novices. The adept difficulty is the best difficulty to level destruction due to the imposed XP cap. XP gain is reduced at difficulty settings higher than Adept, but not increased at lower ones.
What is the fastest way to get XP in Skyrim?
This really depends on the skill that you are trying to level since some skills require active components and damage output, while some require only magicka expense or calculate skill level-ups based on the base worth of an item used.
For magic skills that require active components like alteration and conjuration, for example, the best approach to leveling fast is to repeatedly cast high-cost long-duration spells near enemies that can’t reach you. The enemy should be close enough to trigger combat but far enough so that he can’t hurt you.
When it comes to crafting skills enchanting and smithing the best approach to fast leveling is to simply craft the items since it results in the most XP. One-handed and two-handed skills are leveled the fastest when you choose a weapon with the highest possible damage output and the fastest swing rate giving you the maximum DPS and thus the highest possible XP gain.
As you can see it’s highly individual and based on skills. While there are some tricks to abuse the leveling mechanics, those can often be tedious, leveling skills naturally as you use them provides you with the most fun.