The Adventures of San-daro; Chapter 4


    You’re not going to get far into Elder Scrolls Online without being forced to fight. Yes, you can get around in Tamriel without getting into too many scrapes – but there is no way to avoid combat altogether. I know people have done pacifist playthroughs in Skyrim, but I wouldn't bother trying in ESO...


    Life in ESO becomes a whole lot more pleasurable when you understand HOW combat works in the game. Coming from Skyrim, there are some fundamental differences that you will absolutely need to get to grips with if you are going to survive for more than a few minutes after you step off the boat in Seyda Neen (or get dumped into Coldharbour for all you pre-Morrowind types). 


    At the most basic level combat in ESO involves two types damage-dealing:

    • Weapon Damage: the physical damage from swords, bows, daggers etc. Or the magic damage from staves.
    • Ability Damage: damage caused by triggering abilities that are slotted onto your ability bar.


    The main fundamental difference between combat in Skyrim and combat in ESO is that you won’t be dealing all your damage from physical attacks. Failure to understand this point leads to inevitable frustration with combat in ESO, indeed my complete failure to grasp this was the main reason I quit playing ESO quite quickly after the game first launched. 


    Let me explain..

    Ziss! That really hurt...

    Look at the screenshot above. I’m engaging in combat with a Maormer pirate. This is a low-level enemy on Khenarthi’s Roost – nothing particularly challenging. But it’s got a starting health of 31400. At this early stage (I’m about Level 5 in this screenshot) my main weapon is packing under 2000 damage. See the problem? Combat is going to become incredibly boring if I’m going to need to hit a bog-standard enemy 16 or 17 times to kill it!


    Now I can hold down the attack button for a bit longer and fire off a heavy attack – and rain down about 3000 damage onto the hapless Alit. Even so, that’s still going to make combat too prolonged to be fun.


    That’s the problem. And the solution is to understand the awesome damage-dealing capabilities that you can get from investing skill points in your abilities. With the right abilities tooled up and slotted, you can deal crippling damage with the press of a button.


    OK so you might read that and think that you can just keep triggering abilities in combat without ever needing to whip out a weapon at all. But that isn’t going to work on anything bar the very weakest of enemies. That’s because every time you use an ability you drain the relevant resource pool. For the most part that will be the Magicka pool (although you can morph some skills to use Stamina as you build your character).


    If you just spam the ability buttons, you’ll quickly find your resource pool becoming drier than the Alik’r desert. Inevitably that happens just at the worst possible moment – often leaving you effectively defenceless as well as unable to attack.


    So the trick with ESO combat is to learn the art of what is sometimes called ‘weaving’. This means the interspersing of abilities and weapons. Once you master this skill, through practice in the game itself, you can ensure that you can be constantly dealing damage in combat whilst never running out of your main resource.


    Here are a few things to keep in mind with combat 

    • Light attacks are the default type of attack in the game – a quick tap on the attack button will deal a light attack. Whilst they don’t deal huge amounts of damage they do gradually chip away health, and also raise ‘Ultimate’ (another resource that we’ll talk about in a later episode of this guide) 
    • Heavy Attacks do considerably more damage than Light Attacks, but have to be ‘wound up’ by holding down the attack button. You can be ‘interrupted’ during this period, meaning that your attack never even happens. On the plus side dishing out a Heavy Attack restores some of your resource (Magicka for spells, Stamina for Melee and Bow attacks).

    This one will take advantage of this opportunity

    • Not only can you be interrupted, you can interrupt enemy attacks! If you see an enemy suddenly giving off ‘red sparkles’ then they are casting a spell. Interrupt them with your bash (L2+R2 on PS4) and they’ll be ‘stunned’. As soon as they are stunned let fly with a heavy attack and they’ll be knocked flat out. Use this momentary advantage to trigger another heavy attack or an ability.

    San-daro thinks that getting my block in place would be a good idea

    • Similarly, if you see ‘white sparkles’ around an enemy then a heavy attack is incoming. They can’t be interrupted, but they can be blocked. Get your shield up – it doesn’t have to be an actually shield, you can block with a weapon. Just press L2 on the PS4. Your block will stun the enemy, meaning you can smash them to the floor with a heavy attack. 

    This one knows that sometimes defence is the best form of attack

    • Effective blocking, interrupting and roll dodging are an essential part of learning the combat system in ESO, as most enemies have more health than you and will often be in groups. You can’t simply go wading in with nothing but attacks! Knowing when to attack and when to defend is something you’ll need to learn. 
    • Keep in mind that blocking, sneaking interrupting and roll dodging – as well as any stamina abilities – all consume stamina. You can’t constantly block without leaving yourself stamina drained! Use blocking when you really need it, not just for showboating…


    In the next guide we’ll discuss how to choose the correct balance of abilities to complement your weapon attacks. 






3 Comments   |   Tenebrous and 2 others like this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  June 28, 2018
    Didn't know about the 'sparkles'. The story is coming along nicely too.
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  November 3, 2017
    Sound advice, and as always engagingly presented. The ability to chain ability combos is what tickles me and makes ESO combat stay fresh for a long time. It gets almost too technical for me, but simply stacking DoT effects or stun-locking mooks with abili...  more
  • Tenebrous
    Tenebrous   ·  October 26, 2017
    A great entry! Your tips on combat are all solid, so kudos for that. And San-daro continues to be an interesting character.