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Bethesda has a history of making huge errors in game balance. In Daggerfall, mages ruled supreme and a well planned battlemage could obliterate anything in the game; while pure warrior and stealth builds struggled.
Magic got nerfed hard in Morrowind (although the were still many powerful spells), spells had failure rates, enemies had high resistances, and magicka could be hard to come by if you did not know what you were doing. This seemed to be over compensation on Beth's part.
In Oblivion magic made a triumphant return. I remember being able to one-shot even high level enemies with the correct combo of spell effects. Melee and stealth builds tended to struggle with high level mobs.
Skyrim seems to fit into this pattern to a lesser extent; destruction magic isn't the powerhouse it once was, but it hasn't suffered as much as it did in Morrowind. In my experience, destruction looks worse on paper than it does in practice. Impact, disintegrate, zero cost spells and AoE spells make it somewhat practical. Of course you won't be rolling around one-shoting Deathlords with it like stealth, but it is able to stunlock crowds and even dragons.
That said it would have been nice if destruction got a little boost, but Beth seemed totally unconcerned with what players thought about it. I think they had a great oppurtunity to fix destruction in the DLC and even bring back some semblance of spell making, but alas that did not happen.
Glorious! Don't be afraid to lead the world with thy sword.
Destruction is bad on higher levels. Or rather, it's not actually weak -- because Impact and Ignite are extremely powerful -- but it's poorly constructed because you shouldn't have to rely on endless stagger and a single spell to do well. It works fine for a while but the problem is that eventually, the enemy stat scaling starts to overtake the cost-damage ratio of the spells. When you're forced to keep using the Apprentice level spell because the Expert spells are stupidly overpriced there's clearly something wrong with the balancing. It doesn't give the sense of progression that it should.
The Expert spells need to be made cheaper, simple as that, they are way too expensive. One shouldn't have to be reliant on heavy cost-reducing gear to get by. The Master spells further ruin the sense of progression because they are so few and weak. Attaining these elite spells only available to the most powerful users of Destruction magic should be a great power-up and accomplishment and feel awesome. Instead you realize after a few attacks how ineffective they are and have to go back to Firebolt spam, unless you grind enchanted cost-reducing items, which should never be a necessity just to make a skill function well. It's a passable skill up until Adept but then it falls apart.
Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes
Destruction is the only balanced skill in the game.
The reason it "sucks" is because smithing and enchanting make melee and archery totally overpowered. If you ever do a no-crafting run, destruction is actually one of the stronger ways to fight.
Also a simple absorb stamina enchantment of any magnitude allows a player to make endless power attacks (which can be activated with 1 point of stamina) so Stamina is completely removed from the equation for point allocations. Melee fighters and archers can invest ALL their points into health, while mages still need to invest in magicka or abuse 100% cost reduction exploits.