Animate dead is a great spell, but it has a high cost, and there are some nagging issues, bordering on bugs, that limit its intended usefulness.
One major one is being worked on as we speak, and that one is how critter cast group spells interact with the sorcerer, this is being worked on so I will not mention it further.
A major problem exists with magical or semi-magical animates. Namely their CS is balanced for hurting players, not other monsters, which overall makes their magical attacks relatively harmless and a waste of time. Some of advocated a CS bonus for animated creatures, I do not endorse this, rather, I merely ask for more control.
Currently if you animate a magical or semi-magical creature they’ll attack in a random fashion, rarely doing what you want them to do. Physical animates on the other hand just swing, swing, swing, making them consistently reliable. For instance a magical animate might repeatedly cast a stun spell over and over at a target instead of finishing it off.
What I would then propose is a simple toggle giving the sorcerer more control over their animate’s abilities.
tell animate attack <target> <physical|magical|special> (spell number)
So, one would tell their animate to attack a target using a physical attack, a magical attack (with optional spell number) or with a special attack. Special attacks being those that are not spells, but are not physical attacks (weird manuevers and/or arcane-list spells, etc).
Additionally, the other use of magical animates is spelling up, you can ask an animate to spell you up, but it does so dumbly and might repeatedly cast the same spell over and over and over again. So here as well I would request the ability to specify which spell number I would like an animate to cast on me.
Another niggling bug/issue is the fact that you cannot reanimate a corpse that has been animated once. This is an extreme inconvenience to many sorcerers who do not hunt in an area with reliable animate-fodder. So they have to travel to another area to get an animate, then bring it back to their hunting area, and if the duration ends, tough luck, gotta go back and get a whole new creature.
Furthermore this creates problems with player rescues. If a player is animated and is being rescued and logs out quickly then logs back in, the spell ends but now you cannot animate them because they were already animated once.
I think a reasonable requirement is that for re-animation another gem is needed, or even another gem and more crystals. So the cost for reanimation would be the exact same cost as animation in the first place. I think that is very fair.
Away from just weird bugs and annoyances, I think it would be nice if animates could learn while hunting. BCS critters are already coded so that if they kill a player, they can level up, I would like animates to be tweaked so that if they kill a critter (or x number of critters) they too can level up.
I would also like to see a few more commands. I would like to be able to tell PC animates to pick up things (if not drop, since drop could be abused) and I would to be able to tell all animates to eat and drink things. The uses for this are obvious, you could feed alchemy potions to your critter animates and white flasks and herbs to your PC animates. I would also like to be able to tell critter animates to wear things, and to put things into a container. So I could command my animate to put on a backpack, then pick up a coffer and put that coffer in the backpack (assuming it is humanoid of course).