Elder Scroll Overview: Combat and Customisation

unnnh Time for the series of Elder Scrolls Online posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. There is actually a lot of information about ESO out there but unfortunately it’s spread across various sites, posts and interviews and as such has been rather hard for many potential players to understand the mechanics of the game.

It has also spawned a ridiculous amount of uniformed opinions in regards to what ESO is and isn’t which seems to be driving much of the negative criticism for the title. Of course some of that hate is legitimate but I just aim to Inform a little more over the next few days with a few guides relating to the various aspects of the upcoming title.

and awaaaaay we go


The Basics

Elder Scrolls is going with the modern mmo combat style of having minimal available hot bar skills and to have an action focus. You will be required to stay active and aware during combat, moving around to avoid attacks, being aware of your and your teams positioning and a certain amount of aiming towards your target.

We have a return to the holy trinity type system with a Tank, Healer and DPS roles available but it seems to be flexible around this with certain encounters. There is an amount of flexibility to the system with a skill slot customisation and weapon swapping available to allow switching between roles that are needed or maintaining a hybrid type skill set in order to face a variety of situations.

eso bow

While there will be set classes for the player to choose from these each have 3 skill lines to progress through and choose from, each having a certain gameplay focus, there will still be a lot of customisation available. Apart from this one restriction everything is available for any player to use: any armour type can be worn, or even a combination of pieces; any weapon can be picked up which will give access to the same skills and then there are the guild and PvP skill lines.

The classes are there to provide a certain sense of guidance and stability to players but it is flexible enough to allow a lot of customisation options.


The combat has designed to be more action orientated and reward players for utilising their skills and level of awareness. In a modern Elder Scrolls style there will be a light and heavy attack which will be activated by the left mouse button. The strength of heavy attacks is determined by how long you hold down the mouse button.

For other skills there will be a small skill bar that will have 5 slottable skill slots and one ultimate ability. These are free to be changed with whatever skill the player wants as long as they are out of combat. There will also be a weapon swap ability accessed from level 15 that enables a second skill bar with space for another 5 skills. Weapon swapping in combat won’t be instantaneous but will have a small animation, this then changes one weapons action bar for the next.

While you can put in any skill you may want you will need to have the required weapon being held or amour piece worn in order to use them.

Most attacks used will have a certain area based zone attached to them; melee will have an arc, many aoe attack patterns around the caster or in front of them and other focused attacks. Based on the quakecon footage I believe there will be options for making these aoe patterns visible for your own and enemy attacks

Certain other attacks will be single target ranged aimed attacks. There is no inherent tab target lock on system but instead a soft-lock targeting system wherein you will need to be aiming towards the target in order for the skill to lock on the enemy. Once locked on the skill will hit regardless of movement. A lot of the aiming will be made easier by the mouselock system where you will have a targeting reticule in the middle of the screen that moves with mouse movement. As such you won’t be able to click skills, instead relying on their keybinds.

eso targeting

Lastly, in terms of Skills the character will have many Passive abilities to choose from. These will be attained in the same way as regular skills, progressing through their respective skill lines but, instead of having a certain number you can have active, all abilities and bonuses, once attained will be permanent. I’m not sure but the effects of these passives could be related to what weapons and armour you are currently using.

Special Abilities

There will also be a block mechanic activated and held by the right button that uses up endurance and will stun enemies if done correctly. Anyone is able to block as well regardless of skills or weapon types however the damage avoided will depend on the armour level of the item used to block and the level of mitigation it has.

ESO shield

Going on with the current mmo’s there will also be a dodge mechanic, this will use a certain amount of stamina and allow you to avoid any incoming damage. Double tapping the movement key will dodge you in that direction.

They are bringing in sneaking once more as well and will involve using the crouch skill to avoid the attention of enemies. You technically remain invisible but it isn’t the standard stealth, get too close or within their field of view and it will reveal you. Sneaking will also use your stamina as well so you will not be able to stay “stealthed” indefinitely. Using all of the stamina like this will also leave you susceptible to more damage due to the restricted use of dodge and block. Attacking from sneak will give a bonus to damage so you might finish the fight much quicker.

Lastly every character will have access to a revive type skill. This will use a resource know as a soul shard. As long as you have one charged and in your inventory then you should be able to revive a player character in any circumstance. This won’t be an instant revive though and will take you out of combat.

Player Skill

While the combat system does seem like it could be intuitive and easy to understand it does have a certain amount of complexity for players to learn and perfect.

During combat there is a Finesse system that will reward players based on how well they are able to use their skills, avoid damage, and maximise their abilities.

Using skill combos and taking advantage of certain weaknesses and conditions will reward the player with Finesse. There will also be skill synergies, some skills will work in tandem with each other to create something more powerful. One example given was the tar skill which can be set on fire, if you’ve heard much about Guild Wars 2 then it might be familiar.

Getting more Finesse is when your character will get access to their Ultimate ability, devastating skills that are much more powerful than the standard ones. Also, completing an encounter with high finesse will reward the player with extra gold, experience or other random items.

ESO nova ultimate

The AI will not make this very easy though as the developers have claimed to have developed some advanced tactics for the enemies. Firstly the enemies will often have access to the huge range of skills that the players do allowing for much more diversity during combat.

Groups of enemies will also tend to work together during combat doing things like buffing each other and keeping within certain roles healers and ranged damage dealers trying to keep to the background with heavy enemies trying to defend them. The will also use certain advanced tactics during combat like fanning out if they are ranged, trying to flank damage dealers and using the terrain. Lastly they will also use many of the same combo skills in order to maximise damage.


Now all this has me pretty excited so far. It seems like it is going to be a more refined version of the modern mmo combat we have been getting but the extra polish in areas and the focus on more active skills like blocking and aiming that are going to make it feel really fun to play. But I’m also excited for the Level of customisation available within the system

Many aspects of the player will have their own form of progression as well. Gear, guilds, weapons and such can be levelled up with use. Classes will have 3 skill lines, PvP 2, and each weapon, armor type, fighter and mage guilds will have 1. The more skills or armor you’re using of that particular skill line determines how quickly it will level. Killing higher level enemies will also give more experience.

eso skill level

As you level these you will gain access to skills within these skill lines which can then be unlocked with the use of a skill point, attained through levelling and exploration. While you can theoretically purchase all the available skills eventually, during levelling it will create a lot of choices for the player on how they want to build their character.

The more you use certain skill lines and skills the more they will progress, unlocking new options, one such thing is called skill morphing. This will allow you to change the base ability into on of two other options that give a greater focus although while these might not be more powerful they change what the skill can do; a single target heal might become a weaker aoe, a pull skill might also stun.

There are three main attributes for the character: Health, Stamina and Mana and as you gain levels you will gain a certain amount of points to spend within these. Each have their obvious benefits but there are also certain hidden bonuses to them such as mana increase the potency of magical skills. While you can spend all these points on an attribute their will be diminishing returns at a certain point.

While every character can wear any sort of gear, certain types will give specific bonuses, and set bonus’s. You can mix and match these or being more focus towards a single purpose. Crafting  will also add a certain amount of customisation. Recipes, while having one base item will allow additives that change it in new ways. There is also enchantments and runes available to add more customisation into your build

Overall combat has to be the part of Elder Scrolls Online that I’m most excited for

Ok, I think that pretty much wraps it up for now and I’ll try and update with more information as it becomes available. Also If you can think of something I got wrong them please comment below.

#ESO #Combat #Guide

8 thoughts on “Elder Scroll Overview: Combat and Customisation

  1. The combat looks exciting, but combat was not Skyrim/other ElderScroll main appeal for me.
    What I loved was the simulation of a world : few “zone”, no invisible wall, the possibility to interact with everything, the physics model, the realism, the freedom to chose *your* way to solve quest (thief, fighter, speaker, etc..), the fact that NPC are moving and changing location, etc… All of these have created the impression that the ES world was real and not a game. From what you know, do you have the impression that TESO will bring the same feeling ?
    That is one of my main grip with MMO : MMO are a fix and static setup where monster are put randomly, and where player can move freely. MMO are virtual Board Game.

    Sometime, I feel the urge to create my own blog 😉 And one subject would be : how interactivity create the feeling of a world. Interaction suppress the feeling of abstraction I have when playing a game. Do not put a door if I cannot open it. Do not put a window if I cannot look through it. Do not put a house If I cannot enter it. Do not put room If there is nothing in it. Do not put an object in a room if you cannot interact (= take it in my ‘hands’ at least, and if possible break it and use it.) with it, etc… etc…
    Your opiniion

    • I actually think the combat looks better than skyrim in parts but the, I didn’t like the combat in skyrim at all.

      As got that worldly feeling it won’t compare at all. There is a certain amount of freedom and exploration… Technically you shouldn’t even have to do the main storyline if you don’t want to. There is a lot of the world to discover; points if interest, quests, chests to pick, ruins to explore, public dungeons (adventure zones) to delve into but it won’t be as much.. Not even close. This is something that’s probably going to get better over time though.

      The problem is that there will still be level restrictions to content. Play well and you can go above your own but zones, areas and dungeons will be level based. The main story will unlock at certain levels as well.

      From what I’ve seen the level of interaction seems good; houses can be explored, lots of chests and things to steal (with a morality and criminal system coming), and it should feel like a decent world. Probably not as much as you want though (being able to look through windows is black desert).

      I think in terms of exploration and interactivity it will be better than most mmo’s, probably better than wildstar too as that one feels far more traditional.

      • I just realise that your previous post was about the same subject (= immersion). I am trying to catch up my three weeks of RSS !
        Good to know about TESO – I will be waiting for the F2P / PayOnce to try it !

      • lol, actually I just finished that immersion post… you reminded me about a half baked idea I had in drafts

        BOOOOOO! paying for an mmo isn’t a cardinal sin.

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