Taking on Tamriel: A Beginners Guide to ESO
After years of wishing I could have a buddy by my side as I went spelunking in bandit-riddled caves or risked the booby-trapped Dwemer ruins, my wish has finally been granted. Bethesda Softworks and ZeniMax Studios have come together to bring us The Elder Scrolls Online (“ESO”), the first MMORPG to take place in the Elder Scrolls universe. As anyone with previous MMO experience will tell you, getting into a new game can be overwhelming. This is even truer in ESO, because the game already has quite a few updates and expansions under its belt. For everyone like me who was a little late to the ESO party, let this Beginners Guide to ESO help get you over some of the first, and most important choices: Class, Race, and Faction.
Like most MMOs, the first thing you’re going to have to do in ESO is to create your character. Also similar to other MMOs, one of the most important decisions you will make during character creation is which class you want to play.
ESO roughly conforms to the MMO HolyTrinity (Tank, Healer, DPS), but with some interesting twists. Unlike other games in this genre, the class you choose does not really restrict the types of weapons and armor you can use, but it does dictate the types of skills you can acquire. This means that if you want to be a tank who carries a healing staff to add to the group’s sustainability, then you can, but you still probably want to start with a tanking archetype in order to have the greatest success.
When first starting out, you get to choose between four classes: The Dragon Knight, which is akin to a warrior from WoW and makes a good tank; Templars are reminiscent of paladins from WoW and are adept at healing; Nightblades conform to the traditional rogue/DPS archetype; and Sorcerers are your standard-issue DPS spellcasters.
In addition to picking your base class at the beginning, you can pick a specialization at a later level, which further cements you into a particular role. For example, a Dragon Knight has the potential to serve well as a tank or a DPSn but, depending on the specialization you choose, you will become more adept at tanking and less useful at DPS, or vice versa.
Still, compared to games like WoW, you are free to do essentially whatever you want, but keeping in mind the basic archetypes of ESO’s classes, as described above, will make you the most successful in your desired role. A more complex discussion of class-speccing, skill usage, and min/maxxing in ESO will be covered in a later edition of the Beginner’s Guide to ESO.
A Race to the Top
In keeping with the tradition of other Elder Scrolls games, players are free to select a race for their character. In the single-player installments of the franchise, race didn’t really matter a whole lot – racial bonuses and skills were icing on the cake, but you could eventually turn any race into any type of character you wanted after enough time and leveling up.
Conversely, in ESO, race matters a great deal more, since each one comes with attributes that complement particular classes more than others. As was the case with the class you choose, you are technically free to play however you want, and can create a functional character out of any race and class combination, but you are going to reduce your effectiveness considerably by picking a race that doesn’t mesh with your desired class.
So, without further ado, the races available to choose from in ESO are:
- Altmer, or High Elves, are adept at destruction magic and therefore lend themselves nicely to the Sorcerer class.
- Bosmer, or Wood Elves, are peerless archers and are also exceedingly sneaky, which makes them perfect Nightblades, but can also function well as Dragon Knight or Templar DPS.
- Khajiits, a race of humanoid cats, come with bonuses to medium armor and sneak, making them another good match for the Nightblade class.
- Bretons are a human race that boasts bonuses to their magical abilities, resistance to the magic of their enemies, and considerable skill with swords as well. This versatility makes them excellent Sorcerers, healing or spell-casting Templars, or DPS Dragon Knights.
- Orsimer, or Orcs, get big boosts to health and stamina, and also receive a bonus to heavy armor experience gain, making them natural Dragon Knight tanks.
- Redguards are another strong race choice if you want to play a tank. They get buffs to the old sword and board (one-handed sword and shield), and they also have a deep stamina pool.
- Argonians are a race of lizard men who come with a lot of buffs to their healing abilities, making them a solid choice for a healing Templar, although they are also a safe bet for Nightblade
- Dunmer, or Dark Elves, are probably the ideal choice for players who want to make a DPS Dragon Knight, thanks to their bonuses to dual wielding and fire magic – both of which are staples of the Dragon Knight class.
- Nords, who borrow thematically from real-world Vikings, are as tough as you’d expect, and come with bonuses to damage mitigation and health regeneration that make them excellent tanks.
- Imperials are a class that was obtainable by purchasing the imperial edition of the game. They get buffs to max stamina and health and get a one-handed sword bonus, so they are typically played as tanks, though they are no slouch when it comes to DPS, either. For what it is worth, players who are able to make Imperials could choose any faction they wanted, while other races are limited to particular factions.
Whose Side are You On, Anyway?
The last step to character creation in ESO is picking your faction. This is less critical than your class and race because it really only affects the game in two noticeable areas: Your character’s starting area, and your team in PvP.
Unlike in the early days of WoW, picking a faction different from that of your friends won’t forever bar you from tackling content together in ESO (which is good, since I’ve still barely forgiven my one friend for picking Alliance when I went Horde back in the day). Although faction dictates your starting area, you can group up with your friends pretty early in the game.
As already mentioned, the factions also make up the teams in PvP, so also keep that in mind if you plan to play PvP with friends and want to be on the same side. There are no restrictions on participating in non-PvP content with your friends in other factions, though.
Very briefly, the factions in ESO are:
- The Aldmeri Dominion, which includes the following races:
- The Daggerfall Covenant, which includes the following races:
- The Ebonheart Pact, which includes the following races:
And keep in mind that, if you have access to the Imperial Race, then you can choose any faction.
That’s a lot of information to absorb, and it is truly just the tip of the iceberg. It really is important to start an expansive game like ESO with a properly made character, though, so understanding how the different classes, races, and factions work are going to start you off on a much better footing than if you tried to guess at these options on your own as a new player. I hope this first chapter of the Beginner’s Guide to ESO was helpful to you, and next time we’ll take your newly created character out and teach you how to actually start playing!