The Elder Scrolls Online: Combat Review

TESO - Article - EN

We recently got the chance to check out The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) from Bethesda in a closed beta access where we could play up to level 15 and show you what we've got. There's a lot of videos and articles, and walkthroughs and character creation articles out there, and there's a lot of content to explore in 15 levels, so we thought we'd focus on one primary aspect for the purposes of this article: combat. Let's face it, the games are as much about smashing in skulls and setting people on fire with fireballs as they are trying to chat up busty wenches in a tavern or talking to every NPC in a city to leech every inch of lore that you can get.

No, the game is built on combat in some form or another, so much so that you're opening tutorial mode is pretty much combat focused with a baptism of fire. When you start the game you get to choose your class; for our test we tried out both the Sorcerer and the Nightblade (a rogue type class) to get a contrast between melee and ranged combat.

TESO screenshot (2)

We started as our Sorcerer and in the opening scenes of TESO your character is trying to escape some sort of inter-dimensional prison, assisted with some hulking woman as you flee through the prison dungeons you come across an armory with weapons and told to equip yourself filled. On the racks there are lots of different weapons; two handed, sword and shield, bow, dual weapons, etc. with absolutely no restriction of which weapon you pick up and use. As demonstrated in the offline Elder Scrolls titles the game is far too sandboxy to pigeonhole your class with item restrictions and so both ranged "magic users" can use swords and armor as much as a Nightblade melee class can pick up a ranged "destructive staff" that shoots fireballs. There is of course a detriment to magic used using heavy armor and getting in the midst of battle with a sword, just like there would be a melee tank using cloth armor, but you’re not restricted, which opens up a lot of build ideas.

That said, we stuck with ranged for our Sorcerer and grabbed a bow. There are unlimited arrows with the bow and, similar to the melee weapons, you use left click for an instant strike or hold it down to charge the shot/strike to do more power. Right mouse click will do a block if you end up in melee range, which you can even do with a bow, which mitigates your health loss but quickly saps your stamina when hit. One of the great things about using the bow at range is the ability to crouch and go into hide mode; once hidden a charged shot on an enemy mob was pretty much dropping them in one hit like some sneaky sniper. On our second playthrough with the Nightblad we went with dual wielding axes, but in all honesty we didn’t notice much difference between the weapons or how the classes handled them; simply by using a weapon we gained XP when we fought with it and it ranked up so theoretically you can level up every weapon and switch between them as you see fit.

One extra move with the melee weapons (that may have been available with the bow, but we didn't notice) was the ability to hit both mouse keys as you head at an enemy charging to do a strike and thereby disrupting them. Similarly, if you time your block just right against a melee attack when they hit it stuns them for a moment leaving them open to a counter attack.

As you level up you gain skill points with each level which are used to unlock your class skills, and it's only at this point that the classes are really differentiated. Each class has three different sub-classes they can focus on, such as with our Summoner we had "Dark Magic", "Daedric Summoning" and "Storm Calling" each of which had a number of active abilities that we could unlock with a point and use in battle to perform various actions, or passive abilities and even "ultimate abilities". Outside of the class skills we could also level up "Weapon", "Armor", "World", "Racial" and "Craft" skills as well.

TESO screenshot (15) TESO screenshot (17)

All the skills have an initial pre-requisite, so to learn particular weapon skills you must have already have had that weapon type equipped and used it to level it up, similarly with the class active abilities, which essentially work like a weapon and will level up the more you use them. With class skills you need to level the sub-class (which is done automatically by gaining XP and using spells from that pool) to unlock more powerful abilities.

One of the larger issues we had with combat was targeting. On the one hand with ranged attacks you don't have to be super precise to throw a fireball at your target; hovering around them and it will highlight their name and health bar automatically (but you still need to be relatively close). Once you attack with a spell you don't actually have to keep the target centred on your screen and so you can cast and move as you like, but if you start casting and turn around so they are no longer visible then the spell will stop. The biggest problem came to being in melee combat.

TESO screenshot (19)

There's no collision with you and other mobs/players and so they have a habit of running through you, and you through them, when engaging in melee combat. Also, if they are smaller creatures and they get you from behind, it's very easy to turn around and not be able to find them because it's like they're literally underneath you (prompting us to scroll out into the less desirable 3rd person view). With a quick hit of the tab button you can instantly track a mob, making it easier not to lose target of them when they're in a group, but it was a little awkward and would definitely take some getting used to.


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