ESO Beginner Guide - All You Need to Know in Tamriel!
ESO Beginner Guide
If you’re interested in picking up Elder Scrolls Online, but you don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’re going to talk about the most important mechanics and aspects of the game, as well as everything that you need to know about building and developing your character. Withour further ado, let's jump straight into this Beginners Guide!
Elder Scrolls Online features a level-scaling mechanic. It means that if your character is too weak to compete in a specific zone, they will get scaled up with extra base stats. You will still be a bit weaker than a fully-geared, experienced player, but the differences will come mainly from equipment and skills.
This feature allows the low-level character to travel the whole world of Tamriel from the day one, without having to grind or go through the game in a predefined order. It also means, that you can play together with a higher level friend and still be useful in combat.
During character creation, you’re going to have multiple choices to make, but the most important ones are race and class. The race is going to affect your appearance and it also determines a set of useful passive skills - you're going to have to select one out of the list of ten. Different races will synergize better with different setups. A lot of players have a general idea about their final build when they’re picking race and class.
Don’t worry about this too much as you create your first character, though. The differences aren’t that massive. Every race can be combined with each class and build. It only starts to matter if you want to optimize your build to the limit. We recommend focusing more on looks and design, for your first character.
Resources and attributes
The three basic resources in Elder Scrolls Online are reflected in your character’s attributes. When you level up, you can put your attribute points into Health, Magicka, and Stamina.
Health – increases your maximum amount of Health. Most DPS builds usually don’t put any points into this since they care more about increasing their damage output and offensive resource sustain. However, you can put some points here on your first character, to be a bit safer. That said, if you’re min-maxing, you’ll probably only invest in it on tanks - more Health obviously lets you absorb more enemy attacks.
Stamina – putting points into this attribute increases your maximum Stamina pool. It lets you use more basic actions and Stamina-based abilities. Those skills also become more effective. Most Stamina DPS builds invest all points into this attribute.
Magicka – increases the amount of maximum Magicka, while also giving more power to your spells. In other RPGs, it would be like getting a larger mana pool and stronger magic damage at the same time. Of course, it’s an essential attribute for Magicka DPS builds and healers.
Stamina and Magicka are the basic offensive resources. Not running out of them in long fights is extremely important in order to be able to use your abilities continuously. This aspect of ESO is usually referred to as sustain.
There’s also a fourth resource, that’s not represented in attributes.
Ultimate – ESO features ultimate skills. You can only have one of them on your bar. These abilities have a completely separate resource, simply called Ultimate. You can get it through combat and basic ability usage. There are also some passives and item set effects that provide some Ultimate generation.
Most important mechanics
Most build guides will often talk about light and heavy attacks, dodge rolls, blocks, attack weaving, and some other ESO-specific terms. If you understand them all, feel free to skip this chapter. If you’re utterly new to Elder Scrolls Online, you might want to take a look.
Light Attack – the most basic attack in ESO. They’re essential, since weaving them in-between your abilities will significantly increase your DPS. The game is designed in a way that you can cancel a portion of animations with light attacks, while the skill effect will still go off. It takes a while to master, but it’s crucial to enforce the habit of attack-weaving in ESO.
Heavy Attack – they are stronger but slower than the light attacks. Currently, you will mostly use them to restore resources. A fully-charged heavy attack will grant you some Stamina or Magicka. The frequency with which you’re going to use this move depends on the inherent amount of sustain that your build has. If you’re never running out of resources, you might actually never use them. It can also be used to knock down an off-balance target.
Dodge Roll – this action allows you to mitigate the damage from most single-target attacks and some AoE ones. Performing a dodge roll costs Stamina, and doing it multiple times in a quick succession, gradually increases the cost. You’ll have to use it wisely, since spamming it will make you run out of Stamina really quickly.
Block – it reduces incoming damage by at least 50%. This action also has a Stamina cost, and it stops your Stamina regeneration (to make sure that players can’t perma-block). Blocking is the primary and most consistent way of damage mitigation in ESO.
Bash – when you try to use a light attack while blocking, you will perform a bash attack. It deals some damage, but more importantly, it can interrupt your target’s ability usage. If you successfully disrupt them, bash will deal extra damage. This action also costs Stamina.
Sprint – spend some Stamina to run faster. There’s not much more to it.
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Besides defining your racial passives, the race choice will also assign you to one of the three main factions in Tamriel. The alliances are Daggerfall Covenant, Aldmeri Dominion, and Ebonheart Pact. It’s not World of Warcraft though, the factions only matter in some PvP content. If you want to play together with a friend that belongs to another faction, you can still do all the PvE stuff and even team up for Battlegrounds. Each faction consists of three ESO races. There’s also the tenth race – Imperial. They have the possibility of joining any alliance that they want. If you change your mind, you can either create a brand new character or buy a Race Change Token in the Crown Store.
Breton – Bretons are great Magicka users. Their passives are focused around increasing the maximum amount of that resource as well as its recovery. They also get a bit of extra spell resistance and experience with light armor. Breton is a safe bet for almost any Magicka-focused build.
Redguard – Redguards also have excellent resource management and sustain, but in their case, it’s Stamina. They also have an extra +15 minutes duration of food buffs that they get. That being said, they’re not that often used as the first choice for Stamina DPS classes, since they don’t get any damage buffs. You can use them for tank builds, or setups that really need a lot of Stamina sustain.
Orc – Orcs can work as Stamina DPS or tanks. They get additional maximum Stamina, max Health, and some survivability. They synergize with heavy armors. As an Orc, you’re also going to have some bonuses to sprint. Their biggest drawback is the lack of any Stamina sustain.
High Elf (Altmer) – High Elves get increased max Magicka and Spell Damage. They have bonuses to leveling Destruction Staff passives and a 1% extra received experience. They also get some resource sustain. This race is a great choice for most Magicka DPS builds.
Wood Elf (Bosmer) – Wood Elves get handy bonuses to dodging. They can detect hidden enemies better than other characters, and they get extra movement speed. Furthermore, they get extra Stamina and Stamina recovery, as well as increased resistance to poison. This race is a perfect option for Stamina-based builds that dodge roll a lot. It works exceptionally well with some specific Nightblade setups.
Khajiit – Khajiits are very versatile, as they get bonuses to all three base resources. They’re mostly used as damage dealers, due to their 10% increase of critical effects. Khajiits are also proficient at pickpocketing and remaining in stealth undetected. They can level medium armor skills faster.
Nord – Nords get increased maximum Health, Stamina, and resistances. They also have additional ultimate generation and even more defense against Cold. Furthermore, this race can level skills in the Two-Handed line quicker and get an extra 15-minute duration of consumed drinks. All the defensive stats make Nords a fantastic choice for tanks.
Dark Elf (Dunmer) – Dark Elves have bonuses to both offensive resources. They are great for setups that utilize a lot of Magicka and Stamina at the same time. You can also consider them if you want to swap between multiple different builds. This race gets extra maximum Stamina and Magicka, as well as additional Weapon and Spell damage. They’re also resistant to fire. There are not that many true hybrid builds, and lack of sustain can be annoying at times. Currently, Dark Elves are rarely the first choice for any setup.
Argonian – Argonian passives provide maximum Health and Magicka, as well as some sustain. This race also has access to additional +6% healing power, which makes them an outstanding choice for any healer build. Moreover, they get extra resistance to disease. They synergize with the Restoration Staff line, and they can swim quicker. As we mentioned, Argonians are mostly played in supportive, healing roles.
Finally, we reached the only race, in which every character can choose any faction to join.
Imperial – Imperials are another great tank race. They get maximum Health and Stamina, as well as a significant amount of sustain and reduced cost of abilities. They level their One Hand and Shield skills faster and gain 1% extra gold, on top of that.
There are six playable classes in Elder Scrolls Online. They are Dragonknight, Nightblade, Sorcerer, Templar, Warden, and Necromancer. Each one of them has multiple viable builds and playstyles. For more information on this topic, read our Classes Guide.
Elder Scrolls Online features an interesting skill system. A lot of the abilities can be learned by all the characters, no matter what race and class. Of course, there are racial passives as well as class-specific passive and active abilities, but they're just a part.
The game also utilizes a weapon-swapping system. At all times, you have access to two weapon sets. When you swap from one to the other, your whole skill bar will also swap. For instance, you can have Dual-wield abilities on your primary skill bar and Bow skills on your back bar. Optimally, you want to design you build in a way that every slot has its uses during combat.
Each bar has five slots for basic abilities and one for the ultimate. You can place some of your skills on both bars, but it’s pretty rare in the finalized setups. Some of the advanced rotations require swapping between weapons in specific moments.
All the weapon and armor categories have their own skill trees with passives and actives to unlock. They’re available to all the ESO characters. If you want to play a Magicka Dragonknight who wears robes and casts spells with destruction staves, you’re free to do so. The same goes for Stamina-based, medium armor Sorcerer builds. Just remember to pay attention to big patches. The game is being constantly updated, and some skills are getting changed.
The other skill lines are:
World: Legerdemain, Soul Magic, Vampire and Werewolf
Guild: Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Psijic Order and Undaunted
Alliance War: Assault and Support
In order to get all the abilities that you want, you’re going to need Skill Points. There are multiple ways that you can get them. Most important ones are leveling your character, completing specific quest chains (main storyline and the faction quest chains) as well as collecting Skyshards that can be found all over Tamriel.
Crafting professions also require Skill Points to be advanced, but you can get a ton of them. If you collect most of the available points in the game, you will be able to fully max out multiple builds (a lot of passives will overlap between almost all setups), and you will still have room for a few crafting professions to use the materials that you find. You can easily have your main PvE, PvP, and crafting character all in one.
You don’t have to be too cautious about spending the points. You’ll be able to refund them for some gold later on. All you have to do is visit a Rededication Shrine.
Items are essential in creating ESO builds. First of all, the flat stats, as well as item traits and enchantments, will significantly improve the power of your character. Moreover, some builds are designed to take advantage of specific item set bonuses. Like we mentioned before - all armor and weapon categories are available to each class. You can wear a heavy plate armor on a Necromancer and make them look like a knight.
A fully-itemized character has 12 items on them - the weapon set that you’re not currently using doesn’t count into the set bonuses. That’s why some builds use weapons from the same sets on both bars. It provides them access to all the bonuses at all times. The whole gear consists of a helmet, shoulders, belt, gloves, boots, chest, legs, two rings, a necklace, and two weapon sets (only one of them is active). One-handed weapons and shields count as a single set piece, two-handed weapons count as two parts.
As we mentioned, builds are often based on particular sets. They can sometimes provide some powerful shielding or damage effects that can be procced in certain situations. In other cases, people go with the best bonuses to max resources, sustain, or damage.
Different item sets can be obtained in different ways. You can get some of them relatively quickly, while others might require a bit more effort. The craftable ones are the easiest to get. Pieces of overland sets can be looted from mobs in the open world. Dungeon ones might be a little bit more challenging, while Arena and Trail sets are considered the most difficult to acquire. There are also special two-piece Monster Sets that consist of a helmet and shoulder armor. They only drop from Undaunted Chests and specific bosses. The ESO builds usually utilize two full five-piece sets and a single Monster Set.
Craftable gear provides a lot of freedom in terms of visual style. During your ESO adventures, you will find special items called motifs. Using them lets your character learn a specific item design for crafting. It means that, with the right motifs, you'll be able to create a craftable set that brings the same stats, but looks differently. Only one motif of each type is required to learn the craft. It will get consumed, but your character will be able to craft as many items in that style, as you want.
Consumables are quite improtant too. You can get strong temporary buffs from food and drinks. Potions and poisons are really useful too. Moreover, you can also buy yourself a mount. They can be purchased in stables that are located in all biggest cities of Tamriel. However, there are no dragon mounts, so don't get excited for that.
Champion Points are another crucial element of a build. You don’t have to worry about them from the first level, but you’re going to hit level 50 relatively soon, and this is when you’ll start getting Champion Points. Level 50 is, in theory, the maximum level that you can get in ESO, but the Champion Points system provides a lot of room for further progression. You’re going to need 160 Champion Points to gain access to the strongest ESO gear. You can read more about it and the best ways to gain experience, in our Leveling Guide. It can help you reach high level in a fast and efficient way - good and methodical approach to this process is really important.
This system includes three main constellations called The Mage, The Thief, and The Warrior. Every one of them consists of three trees that include four passives each. That provides 36 total options to allocate your Champion Points. The bonuses are not gigantic, but they are useful. Your character keeps getting stronger, even though you're not getting to higher levels. You can use up to 810 points. If you unlock more, they won’t further provide any power. There’s also a diminishing returns factor that makes the points that you earn and allocate earlier, more valuable than the later ones.
ESO PvE Content
We already covered all the most critical things in terms of creating and developing your character. Now, let’s talk about the things to do in Elder Scrolls Online. Just remember to increase your inventory and bank space before you embark on really long adventures!
They will be extremely crucial for your character progression. You can get plenty of valuable rewards for completing them – we’re especially interested in experience and Skill Points. Remember, Elder Scrolls Online is not about grinding! Progressing through quests is more interesting, lets you get to know the world, and offers better rewards.
Aside from the most crucial main quest chain, you’ll have much more to explore. Each zone has its own storyline and multiple side-quests to complete. There are also tasks that you can do for alliances and guilds.
The quests you complete and some decisions you make while doing it will have a meaning for the way that NPCs perceive your character. It’s going to be visible in dialogue options and even deaths of some side-characters. There are also a few examples of quests that provide different rewards, depending on the decisions that you made.
Quests are a type of content suitable for solo players. Of course, you can explore various storylines and the main quest while playing together with your friends. However, if you want to go through the whole main story without ever entering a group, you definitely can. Elder Scrolls Online can serve as a single-player RPG if you’re not interested in the multiplayer stuff.
There are a few kinds of dungeon-like locations in Elder Scrolls Online. They will vary in difficulty level and the rewards that they can offer. Some of them are designed for single players, and others require some small or larger groups to complete.
Delves are the simplest type of dungeon in ESO. There are solo Delves for single players and group Delves, which a party of two-three players can effortlessly complete that. They feature some elite monsters and can provide Skyshards.
In general, they will often require a small group of players to complete, but they can be entered even by single players. These locations aren’t instanced, so you might see other players running around when you’re clearing it with your group. Public Dungeons feature their quests and can challenge you with multiple boss encounters. Defeating the final group event boss provides a reward in the form of a Skill Point.
These dungeons are actual instances designed for groups of four players. They’re likely to be your first real PvE challenges, as you may struggle in some of them if you don’t have a decent team composition. They are an excellent place for learning different roles, improving your resource management, and overall efficiency. Each group dungeon involves a quest that can reward you with a Skill Point.
Dungeons can be completed either in normal or veteran mode. The latter provides higher difficulty, but better rewards and loot. It’s especially useful if you’re trying to collect a specific dungeon set.
Trails are the most challenging PvE content in ESO. They are an equivalent of raids from other MMORPGs, as they’re designed for larger (12 people) groups of players. They also include specific mechanics and require some knowledge, cooperation, and tactical thinking from the group that tries to complete them. Besides powerful trial sets, they can reward players with a unique currency called Transmutation Crystals, as well as various rare collectibles and cosmetics.
Arenas are another type of PvE content. They consist of multiple encounters that take place one after another in a single location (hence the name – arena). Blackrose Prison and Dragonstar Arena are the two designed for groups. Maelstrom Arena is a single-player challenge. They all provide some precious loot. Numerous builds use some arena weapons or sets as their first choice.
PvP in ESO
There are two forms of PvP activities in ESO. You can either go for the organized 4v4v4 Battlegrounds or try your luck in the open-world PvP zone – Cyrodiil.
It’s a fast-paced mode for small groups of players. The fights might get a bit chaotic with three teams fighting each other at the same time, but it’s still much fairer and organized than Cyrodiil. There are a few types of Battlegrounds matches. During Team Deathmatch you should focus solely on getting as many kills as possible. Capture the Flag requires some more strategic cooperation. Domination relies on capturing specific points on the map and keeping a hold of them for as long as possible.
Cyrodiil is the only open-world PvP zone in Elder Scrolls Online. It’s the theater of Alliance War that’s going on between the members of all three main ESO factions. It also is the only place where your faction has a significant meaning to your gameplay.
Capturing the keeps located around Imperial City is the main objective in Cyrodiil. Doing that requires special siege equipment that can be bought from vendors in this zone. In general, you’re likely going to have to team up with some groups of players from your faction to succeed out there. Running around all by yourself makes you an easy target.
At the same time, the Cyrodiil zone contains some PvE content, but even if you’re relatively far away from the keeps, you can still get attacked. A lot of ganking takes place in this zone. Groups of players often look for targets from opposite factions. Trying to do anything in Cyrodiil is often very frustrating for the players who don’t like PvP.
Elder Scrolls Online is a beginner-friendly MMORPG that’s quite easy to pick up and get started with. That being said, there’s a lot to learn if you want to truly master the game. We hope that this guide helped you get a basic understanding of how ESO works and what to do to get a strong build for your character. Good luck with your Tamriel adventures! Even though there are things like ESO+ subscription and the Crown Store where you can buy some stuff for real money, they are not necessary to play and enjoy the game.
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Elder Scrolls Online has been developed by ZeniMax Online and published by Bethesda. The game keeps receiving more and more updates and DLCs. Some of the most iconic ones are: Imperial City, Morrowind, Summerset and recently Elsweyr. There's a lot of content that's enough for countless hours of adventuring in Tamriel. The game created a huge community of players, composed of both the MMORPG veterans and people who are completely new to the genre.