I did write a blog not so long ago which provoked an interesting debate on this issue, and it got me thinking. I personally like the combat in Skyrim, but I haven't played many open-world games and almost no other medieval based open-worlds. It does look slightly silly when your pummeling a mage or whoever with massive swings of a steel warhammer, but the killcam things when you smash in their skull are satisfying.
Either way, this does not seem to be the heart of the issue. When we speak of combat, we speak of damage, velocity, fluidity, enemies, upgrading combat skills, physical/projecticle (i.e. using weaponry) and indeed magical. Do the swords swing fast enough? Are the axes sharp enough to shave with? Do the maces cause enough damage to rip apart the space/time continuum while simultaneously resurrecting, Lorkhan, Trinimac and Talos? (he's alive as a god, but not in his human form o/c)
Edit 3: Spellsword, Barbarian, Tanker, One-handed, call classes what you want, but at the end of the day even these classes have core similarities, such as same type of attacks, apart from Magic i.e. the Spellsword. This has its positives: To express one, you always have a realistic shot of gueessing what type of attacks an enemy will flurry at you. On the downside however, it means you can use whatever class for a majority of enemies, so you don't always have to change. This can be a downside, but also a positive.
Edit 2: The enemies
While enemies are nice and varied in strength etc., many have similar attacks. Fighting those like the Forsworn is fun, because if you go in there complacently they will kill you. They have the numbers and ferocity to bring you down, but not always the teamwork. In a way, this is the opposite of bandits, who have a decent team structure, ganging up on you and firing arrows while you are engaged, but not the same weaponry and force your character has. Mages are ultimately the least fun to fight because they are too predictable. Occaisionly I will come across an Arch-Mage who will really keep me on my toes, but ultimately these enemies are boring and weak. Draugr are a middle ground: predictable, tough and have a sense of teamwork and mix things up a bit, but catch them on their own and an inexperienced player will have few problems.
Edit 2: WeaponryA lot of the time, one's concept of weaponry often seems to be based upon what one uses what weapons on. If you use an iron sword on a dragon of course it will take no easy time to kill it. If you use a steel warhammer (I love this thing) on a frost troll of course it will unrealistically kill it in only two hits or more. Two-handed and One-handed, to some (I would call them cynics) seem to be dogged by the same problems of this concept of 'whack-a-mole combat'. (nota bene: I did not coin that term. Look on my blog "Two gameplay faults with Skyrim") By that, I mean you simplistically hit the enemy until they fall to the ground. I never actually had much of a problem with combat until I started looking for faults. I always thought it was a little bit hit slash bludgeon, but with the advent of spears in Dragonborn, I'll be able to stab once I get the DLC. More or less though, armed combat seems good to me. It can be improved, like anything, but for now I'm not complaining.
Magic combat is a little bit different. I don't really use a whole lot of magic, so I'm the last person who should be commenting on this, but I've suffered my fair share of irritating mages. They seemed adamant on using frost atronachs, fire, lighting, ice, and many other routine magical attacks, but every once in a while I'll come across and Arch-Mage or whoever who forces out of my comfort zone of combat.
Edit 2: Ultimately, the problems of combat seem to be that progression is relatively limited in terms of attacks; one-handed and two-handed are ultimately similar. Perhaps a problem would be that Bethesda looked at progressing combat as a whole, and on a less specific level.
Edit 3: I'd like a different range of attacks for each class of weapon. The fact that a dagger has approximately the same types of attack as a sword is folly. Each weapon should have a different way of attacking, if you catch my meaning. For example, daggers should be more about stabbing and swords slashing. Unfortunately, the differences are expressed more fundamentally in the more general weapon differences, ie. one handed and two handed. This is good, but I shouldn't be using similar attacks for each weapon, as you wouldn't do this in real combat. This includes even fighting stances.
Edit 3: This slipped my mind, but as Sgt. S.S. pointed out, some sort of combo system would be very much welcome next time round, or even in an update like with the horseback combat, Bethesda! Which brings me to my next point...
Edit 4: My trusty steed
We all were over the moon when horseback combat was integrated with the game, but the system does have it's flaws. While it is fun to run down a vampire/bandit/enemy/whoever on an open Whiterun Hold plain beneath a full moon, if you're taking on multiple enemies in a tightly packed forest it will be less enjoyable. While this comes down to circumstances of use, the system could be changed in a more complex way to allow easier integration of controlling your horse and controlling you weapon/magic. For now, however, I am happy with horseback combat.
Edit 2: Sometimes defence is the best form of attack. Wait...
That's (the sentence above) not right. But it was intended. Anyhow, it stands. Shielding is good, and armour comes under this too. A shield is fun to add to the mix, and is nice to unsettle groups such as forsworn or bandits. I will add to this section later.
Edit 3: Shielding is effective and ineffective. Obviously they are effective for the most part beecause they block a hit, and this is useful against an enemy with more power than you. Some even absorb magic too. When you get to a high enough level/rank however, sometimes you don't need a shield, because you get to a point when your fighting speed is so much faster and stronger than the enemy... WARNING: RELATIVELY MINOR SPOILER FROM THE DARK KNIGHT RISES FILM AHEAD. VIEW AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
...that it becomes like that part of The Dark Knight Rises when Batman and Bane are fighting for the second time and in the latter part of the fight, no matter how fast or powerful Bane's attacks are they are useless, because Batman has reached the point where he is just faster, in everything he does in the fight, and he dodges everything. Odd comparison, but a worthy one, I find.
But as one commentator pointed out, once you reach the armor cap of 567, shields are in a way useless (unless of course shields are part of your armour rating) because by this point only 20% of an enemies hit has an effect, kind of like the comparison I used before. Also, shields slow you down unless you get a particular perk on the heavy armour tree. Or is it the shield tree? I can't remember, most likely the latter.
In conclusion, I am happy with Skyrim's combat, but there is some for improvement. In carrying out fighting it does well, but more specific differences between weapon attacks are needed, and the fighting pattern should be changed slightly to allow room for combos etc.
What do you think of Skyrim's combat functionality? Is there for debate, or are you in the 'If it's not broken don't fix it' camp? Is the combat system vexing, or are you more or less covered by Skyrim's combat plans? Let me know in the comments section below.
I may add to this blog in the coming days/weeks/months/years, but for now this is off the top of my mind. Consider this edit 1.