The Dragonborn. Born with the soul of a dragon and the body of a mortal. Gifted from birth with the ability to command the power of the Thu'um just as the dragons can.
Only he's really kind of bad at it.
Shouts were an added feature in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that gave one the ability to use special powers that could be activated on time release. The time recharge was likely to distance them from common magic, as many shouts duplicate the effects of the spells in game. However for balance purposes these times were made to be reasonably long. But are they really that reasonable?
Typically most shouts are hardly worth the time to wait for them, especially when they block using any other type of power. Most first word shouts have a 20-30 second recharge...What? Most fights will really even last for 30 seconds, unless your are fairly outnumbered, and these are keep in mind on the first word, thus the weakest version of the shout. This makes them very impracticable to use in combat, as it is a fairly weak attack that can can only be used once, maybe twice, in a fight. Well one might say that, "Well since I can only use a shout once in a fight anyway I might as well use all three words to cause as much damage as I can". Only that doesn't work either. High level shouts don't do much more damage than the weakest single word versions. For example Fire Breath and Frost Breath, the most basic of offensive shouts, have at level-1 50 points damage with 30 seconds recharge, but at level-3 have only 90 points damage with 100 seconds recharge. That is only a 40 point increase in damage for a 70 second increase in recharge time. Hardly worth the trade in my opinion.
Overall the shouts seem to all fall into the same level of usefulness regardless of how many words are used, not very. The weak shouts take too long and the long shouts are too weak. I would propose this could have been fixed by widening the gap between shouts. Have a lower damage output for low level shouts, but with a much shorter recharge rate. High level shouts could have a much higher damage output, but for a long recharge time. Mid-level shouts would have to fall somewhere between power and recharge, and might be a difficult ratio to find. This would make offensive shouts layer as such; low level shouts are used often and more as a distraction than a legitimate attack, mid-level shouts are used infrequently as legitimate attacks meant to weaken your enemy or hopefully kill them, high level shouts are maybe only able to be used once in a fight but are cannons that kill or cripple anything caught in their path (so don't miss ;D). The level of versatility in this sort of structure would make shouts useful and add a level of strategy in combat as to which level shout should be used at what times. A fairly good example of, at least part of, my idea is the shout Clear Skies. It has the same effect as Unrelenting Force at low levels, but with only a 5 second recharge. This can make the shout into a key part of combat by using it to basically get near stunlocks on enemies. It actually feels like a valuable part of combat rather than just a once off ability with little affect that I barely remember I have anyway.
This all has to do with my opinion on offensive shouts, but the utilitarian shouts are actually handled much better (just in case you don't know the difference, offensive shouts are the ones the affect others while utilitarian shouts are the ones that affect yourself). Since utilitarian shouts all have the same affect at any level, with varying duration and/or distance, it comes down to the duration-recharge ratio. This effectiveness ratio actually decreases with higher level shouts as opposed to examples above of offensive shouts where the ratio increases (In this case I mean numbers not effectiveness. So low is good, high is bad). High level shouts are timed so that the duration is almost equal to the recharge, with the recharge always being slightly longer. This makes a real benfiet to using the high level shout opposed to trying to spam the lower level one.
As a side note, I felt like adding that my suggestions are based on keeping shouts a side addition to combat. But what if you were able to use shouts as your primary weapon? The Greybeards seem to be able to do it fine. It could be like an entirly new class to what we have seen historicly (although it miight be kind of close to standard mage). However with the current way that shouts work it would likely not fair well. So although i'm not sure how well the lore would tolerate this, but there could be a shouts perk system, such as done with werewolves and the vampire lord. Ideally perks could be bought with dragon souls (already considered shout currency) and add things such as increased damage, distance, radius, and decrease recharge times. That is just basic though, so if you have any interesting ideas for hypothetical perks for shouting, I would love to hear them.
So how do you feel the shouting mechanic was handled in Skyrim? Do you think it was fine as is, that shouts are too weak/strong, times too long/short, were they too close to existing spells, or did you feel you should have been able to build your class around shouting?