OK, so the inevitable has happened, we're all obsessed with Skyrim, well at least that seems to be the case amongst the Dealspwn team and the majority of my friends, and rightly so because it's very close to being a perfect game. Now whilst I'm a huge Elder Scrolls fan and Oblivion used to be my favourite game ever, it did have one or two little problems, particularly in the magic department, which annoyed me seeing as I like to play as a mage. Luckily Bethesda appear to have taken note of this because the creases have largely been ironed out in Skyrim and you really feel like a force to be reckoned with as you toss spells around that can send even the sturdiest of enemies flying across the map.
Right from the start, magic seems like a viable route to go down, rather than picking up an expertly crafted sword, or dispatching enemies at a distance using a graceful bow. Yes, there are times when you have to revert back to the way you'd play Oblivion as a Mage, keeping as much distance as possible between you and your attacker and then summoning a creature to distract them if they get too close for comfort, but that only really happens when you're still getting to grips with things and your attacker is a ridiculously high level. However, once you start to wield magic proficiently, you feel almost unstoppable and there shouldn't be any need for you to carry weapons around.
Now we come to the three schools of magic that I've found are the most useful so far: Destruction, Restoration, and Conjuration. I use Destruction spells almost all the time I'm crawling around the various dungeons and enemy encampments I find myself in, and not only are they fun to use, they look amazing, especially when you unleash a dual casted Fireball on a group of enemies and their corpses go flying across the map. One of the most amusing things I've seen so far in the game was when a friend of mine hit a Dragon's skeleton with a Fireball and it flew clear over the rooftops of the village we were running around in. Of course the School Of Destruction isn't limited to fire spells, you've also got ice and shock spells, which come in handy depending on the enemy you're currently facing. You can also set traps for unsuspecting enemies using runes, which can be cast onto walls and floors where they'll remain until somebody walks over them and receives a rather big shock, just make sure you set them in the best place possible, like a choke point for example, before you unleash the fury! Eventually you'll unlock the Wall spells, allowing you to surround your enemies with fire, ice, or lightning, which gives you yet another tactical edge in combat.
There aren't many surprises when it comes to Restoration spells, but you'll have to use them at regular intervals to heal yourself when you spring an ancient trap, or you run into an enemy's mace. The only other note worthy addition to this School are the Ward spells, which act like a shield from magical and physical damage, but keep an eye on your Magicka bar because they'll drain it fairly quickly.
Conjuration's always worth exploring because it can be extremely useful to pull an ally in the form of an atronach, or an undead creature, out of thin air, then again you could always reanimate your enemies' corpses to take care of their friends for you! It's also possible for hostile mages to conjure up creatures that'll fight for them, but luckily you'll also receive spells to send these nasty critters back to where they came from. Last but not least, you can summon up weapons to fight with if you want a bit of space in your inventory for all that expensive loot you'll be picking up.
That leaves us with Alteration and Illusion spells. I rarely use Illusion spells, but they can come in handy to trick people into liking you, or allowing you to move silently through a difficult area. Alteration spells'll help you to better navigate through the environment and I have to admit that the Magelight spell has become invaluable to me, seeing as it can highlight hidden containers bearing some amazing items, which I never would have been able to find without it. You can also wrap yourself in magical armour using the Oakflesh, Stoneflesh, and Ironflesh spells, which'll once again increase your carrying capacity seeing as you won't need to haul heavy armour around with you once you purchase them.
Moving away from spell casting takes us to two areas that should be in the repertoires of any good wizard. Alchemy hasn't really changed a great deal, but boiling up potions and poisons is always handy if you're running short on gold. Now near to most Alchemy stations, you'll find the wonderfully useful Enchanting stations, which you should definitely spend time getting to know seeing as a Master Of Enchanting can construct items that'll allow you to reduce the casting cost of your spells by about 100%.
There are plenty of magical perks to take your pick from, but which ones'll benefit you the most? First of all, in my opinion, the only type of spells worth dual casting are Destruction spells, so you should grab that one fairly early on, and it's also worth investing in the Augmented Fire, Augmented Frost, and Augmented Shock perks in order to maximise your damage output. If you're summoning creatures then you want them to last as long as possible and pack a punch, therefore the only logical course of action is picking up the perks that allow you to increase the amount of time they last and how powerful they are, plus if you get good enough you'll be able to improve yourself to the point where you can summon two atronachs, or two zombies at a time. It's worth climbing the ladder in Illusion to get hold of the Quiet Casting perk, which is extremely useful if/when you get round to joining The Thieves Guild and The Dark Brotherhood. The best Restoration perks are probably Regeneration and Recovery, which increase the amount of damage your spells heal and how fast your Magicka regenerates respectively. When it comes to Alteration, your best bets come in the forms of the Magic Resistance, Mage Armour, and Atronach perks. Finally, to get the most out of your Enchanted items, you'll need to throw away some of your perks in order to get to the Extra Effect perk, which'll allow you to put two enchantments on the same item.
The point I'm trying to get across here is that Oblivion made you feel like a stage performer, or worse yet a magician at a kid's party, but luckily Bethesda seem to have noticed this and have corrected that mistake, which has payed off dividends for those of us who like to use magic, and in Skyrim you'll eventually have access to God like powers that'll allow you to handle even the hardest of situations with ease without having to resort to any sort of backup whatsoever.