Archive for July, 2021

While working on explaining the ESO crafting system, I needed to make a chart for some bits of it. I’m posing it here so that I can find it again if I need it. The information is as current as I can produce, but do not take it as the final word beyond this week. Feel free to use it if you find it useful.

Crafting Materials by Level Chart

The first column is your level when the appropriate material starts appearing in the world for harvest from resource nodes. The skill level unlock is the skill level at which you may spend a skill point to unlock the next higher material type. The rest is fairly self-explanatory.

If you have the Blackwood expansion installed, you will be dumped into the tutorial after you finish creating your character. If you have already completed the tutorial, you will have the option of skipping it and just starting the game. If you choose this option, you will be started in the most recent expansion. If you have no expansions, you should start in either Stros M’kai (Daggerfall Covenant), Khenarthi’s Roost (Aldmeri Dominion), or Bleakrock Isle (Ebonheart Pact). I’m going to assume you have Blackwood and will be starting with the new tutorial.

So, young adventurer, you’re on the Isle of Balfiera and you’re in a prison cell. Where have we come across this before? Oh, yeah, just about every Elder Scrolls game begins this way. Not to worry, move up to the door and the pretty elf lady (Norianwe, but I like “pretty elf lady”) will let you out. You will get a quest marker to talk to her, but ignore that for now. Your first job is going to be to run around that starting room and loot every container (and chuckle at the Dark Souls easter egg in one of the cells directly across from you). You have 60 inventory slots, plus the dozen or so for the gear you have equipped. At the moment, that’s just the three slots for your clothes, but we are going to change that shortly.

If you do not have the ESO Plus subscription, I’d recommend destroying any food or alchemy ingredients you pick up but keep lockpicks and gear for now. Ashes and gnawed bones are your call. They can be sold for about a gold piece each and you currently have no gold, but they stack, so you’re sacrificing two slots in the hope of turning a quick buck when you get out into the real world. If you should happen to pick up a recipe, just open your inventory and use it to learn it and free up the slot.

If you have an ESO Plus subscription, then don’t worry about it. Food and crafting ingredients will go into your crafting bag rather than your regular inventory, so you’re mostly going to be worried about the quantity of gear items you pick up. You are definitely going to want to keep anything that’s green quality, but we’ll be sacrificing a lot of the other stuff as we go.

The white quality stuff isn’t worth anything, and it will only give you a tiny bit of crafting XP when you deconstruct it later, so it’s pretty much up to you as to whether to hang onto it or not, but a few XP are better than no XP. As a starting player with no crafting skill, it’s unlikely you’ll even get style materials from deconstructing, so I’m spilling a lot of digital ink over something that’s really inconsequential.

In that first room you will find one of each type of weapon, so there will be a bow, an Inferno Staff, a Restoration Staff, two Daggers (for dual wield), a Battle Axe, and a Sword and Shield. Take all of them and equip whichever suits your fancy at the moment. The pretty elf lady will approve of your choice. Now that I think about it, she’s pretty supportive of whatever you do, but we’ll try to keep you from doing anything truly boneheaded. You will use all of these weapons in the next room and they weapons will give you some decent crafting XP when deconstructed, so do not toss them.

Once you have looted everything that can be looted, talk to the pretty elf lady and follow her to the next room. This is where you are going to learn the basics of combat: how to light attack, how to heavy attack, how to block, how to escape a status effect, and how to interrupt a special attack. Before doing that, do the same thing as the last room and loot everything that can be looted. Keep lockpicks and definitely keep any green-quality gear that might drop, but do whatever works best for your inventory with the rest. After you are done, make sure you have a weapon equipped and talk to the pretty elf lady. She will animate your sparring partner and get you started on your combat training.

After you have killed your sparring partner, loot the corpse (you should get a set of pants that will give you a small XP bonus) and you will unlock the skill line for your currently equipped weapon (bow, two-handed, sword and shield, dual wield, destruction staff, or restoration staff). You will now have a choice of doing it all again or moving on. My advice is to switch weapons and do it again until you have unlocked all the weapon skills. You will probably hit Level 2 while you are doing this. DO NOT assign your attribute or skill point until you have unlocked all weapon types. The loot from your sparring partner will have the Training trait (you will want to research this) and give some crafting XP when deconstructed, so make sure you hang onto these, too.

At this point, I would recommend switching to the weapon type that you’re planning to use with your build. If you are planning a Magicka build, it is probably best to stick with the staves since that’s what staves use (the rest of the weapon skills use Stamina), but this is another of those “you do you” things. I have a magicka-based Nightblade that dual wields Daggers pretty effectively, and I’ve got a Sorcerer who likes greatswords. Whatever you decide to do, when you claim your first level-up, you will want to unlock one of your class skills. This will add a button to your hotbar in the 1 position (you can move it to 2, 3, 4, or 5 if you like). From here on out, whenever you use that skill, you will increase the effectiveness of that skill (from I to II to III to IV – once you fill the bar at IV, you will need to decide whether and how to morph the skill, but that’s a lesson for a different day). Skill XP (sometimes skill points) are awarded when you turn in quests, but they will only go to skills which are slotted on your hotbar or to armor skills for whatever you have equipped. Just keep in mind that if a skill does not have an ability slotted on your hotbar or does not have an associated piece of gear equipped, it will not increase.

When you are ready, follow the pretty elf lady through the door and let’s get moving. Same MO as before: do not leave containers unlooted. Keep lockpicks and green-quality gear and do whatever works for your inventory with the rest. Eventually you will reach a staircase with a pretty obvious trap on your left and a golem with its back to you pounding on a door. You will be prompted to enter stealth mode, so do that and you will see the trap start to glow. This is kind of your in-game cue that traps are easier to spot when you sneak. You can disarm the trap by moving close to it an interacting with it. Dispose of the golem (remember your combat lessons from a couple of minutes ago), loot whatever can be looted in this little hallway, and then interact with the door to learn how to pick locks. You should have several lockpicks by this point and there are more to come, so don’t worry about breaking them. Once you have picked the lock, go through the door to the armory.

Same as before, loot every container you can find. You will also find complete sets of light, medium, and heavy armor here. Take full sets of each. On a side note, this is the only place on the island where you will be able to get a couple of the light armor pieces, so if you do not loot it now, you will not be able to come back later. The medium and heavy armors have other stands in other parts of the island, but this room is pretty much the sole source for some of the light armor stuff. You can ignore the weapons on the racks. They aren’t worth anything and won’t give up materials or experience for deconstructing them, so just give them a pass since you already have one of each type.

Now for a quick lesson on armors. Each type of armor has seven pieces in its set: head, chest, belt, feet, legs, arms, and shoulders. You need to put on three pieces of the same type (light, medium, and heavy) to unlock that armor skill. You will not gain skills for armor which you are not wearing, so most players will go with 5+1+1 (five pieces of whichever your main armor skill is, plus one piece each of the other two). At this point I’d recommend suiting up with each set to unlock the skill lines, and then either settling on one or going 3+2+2 (you decide which gets the three pieces) until you get off the island.

Try to be consistent about how you spread your armor types so you won’t have to hunt around to figure out what you’re wearing. In a 5+1+1 configuration, I like to keep the off-armor on the head and shoulders since they are right next to each other, but you do you. Wearing light or heavy armors bring some penalties as well as bonuses. For light armor, you’ll suffer small penalties to some of your melee actions (bashing, for example), while heavy armor penalizes stuff like dodging. Medium armor has no penalty passive, but its benefits are slightly nerfed to compensate.

Once you have looted the armory, head out. Loot as you go and don’t worry about encounters as there is nothing else you will need to fight until you get outside. Don’t worry about the Gargoyle you see through the window; you won’t be running into that one, but you will need to fight one later.

You are going to have one more level-up before you get to the final boss-fight, but when it happens will depend on how aggressive you are in the outside area. Again, put the skill point into one of the two class skills that didn’t get the first point. It will appear on your hotbar and you’re ready to go.

For now, you can follow the pretty elf lady’s instructions and just head for the gallery or you can run around and get some more experience fighting. There are sabrecats and golems wandering in the area and you might see other players running around. This is not a PvP area, so you can ignore them unless you want to accept the odd duel request (most players in the area don’t bother, but you get the occasional one). I don’t recommend it, but you do you.

The outside area also provides an opportunity to loot more containers, plus gather some ingredients. There is a respawning mudcrab in the pond, for example. The mudcrab is not hostile, so you will need to force the fight. This can get you a drop for some crafting and alchemy ingredients (Mudcrab Chitin) as well as a bit of experience. There are also butterflies flitting around. Mostly they drop fishing bait, but you will occasionally get a Butterfly Wing alchemy ingredient. As with the mainstream Elder Scrolls titles, eating the ingredient will reveal the first effect and the first ingredient you eat will unlock the alchemy crafting skill line. To eat an ingredient, simply “use” it from your inventory. If you have the ESO Plus crafting bag, you will need to retrieve it from your crafting bag to get it into your inventory. The pretty elf lady will direct you to a door which will get you into the Keywright’s Gallery. Surprise! It is not going to be that simple. That’s right, you’ll need to go back across the area to retrieve a Skyshard to open the door and that will require fighting a Gargoyle.

With a bit of luck, you will be Level 4 by this point and will have opened your last class skill line, otherwise work with what you have. The Gargoyle is a tougher fight than the golems and sabrecats, but the pretty elf lady will heal you to keep you from getting get too beat up. Just remember your blocks and interrupts, spam your slotted skills, and it will go down in short order. There are more containers to loot, but your main mission is to grab the Skyshard. Well, “absorb the skyshard” if you want to get technical about it.

This is here partially as a McGuffin, but also to introduce you to the mechanic of finding and absorbing Skyshards. You get 1/3 of a skill point each time you absorb one, so a new skill point for every three you absorb (you get nothing for this one, though).

There are nowhere near enough skill points available through the leveling system to develop the skills you will want, so you will spend a chunk of your game looking for skyshards in each of the zones. There are 339 available in the base game (so an additional 113 skill points to be had) and 132 more available through chapters and DLC for a total of 157 additional skill points. Most zones have at least three, except for White Fall Mountain in Cyrodiil and the Isle of Arteum (part of the Summerset chapter), which only have one each, but most zones have between 12 and 18.

OK, with the Gargoyle out of the way, the containers looted, and the Skyshard absorbed, it’s time to head back across to where you came from to open that door and move onward. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to fight a minor daedra. This is going to be a lot tougher than the Gargoyle fight since it has ranged attacks, but the same ideas apply: remember your blocks and interrupts, spam your skills, keep moving, and try not to get yourself killed. The daedra is the last fight of this zone, so you’re good to go from here on out.

Once you’ve collected whatever you want to collect in this room, head through the door to get to the final section. Hopefully the first thing you’re going to notice is the bookcases. Yeah, you’re definitely going to want to ignore the pretty elf lady and go open up each one. They are almost certainly going to be lore books, but there will usually be one bookcase that has a skill book in it. It seems kind of random, but my motto is “never turn down a free skill increase” and it doesn’t much matter what the skill is. If it’s one of yours, great. If not, it will open a new skill line for you.

After you have opened the bookcases (and looted the urns, of course), it’s time to head into the final room and decide where you go from here.

Your choices will be dictated by what is installed. If it’s just the base game, you’ll head off to your alliance’s start point. This will be Stros M’kai for the Daggerfall Covenant, Kenarthi’s Roost for the Aldmeri Dominion, or Bleakrock Isle for the Ebonheart Pact. If you have expansions, then you have some other options, but I’m going to suggest a somewhat different course regardless of what you have installed: just pick something. There is stuff you will want to do before you get into anything else. Next up: getting started in Tamriel.

Starting the game is pretty much a matter of launching and creating an ESO account. Once those are taken care of, you will be dumped into character creation.

You can have up to nine characters associated with your account if you don’t do anything else. You can increase this number by buying additional character slots at the Crown Store (1500 Crowns each – $15), but you won’t have access to this until after you have created a character and gotten into the main game, so let’s just stick with the one for now.

To be fair and forthcoming, I’ve burned through four or five characters before settling on my current main, so lots of trial and error happening. The whole point of this is to help you avoid my errors.

Character creation is a matter of choosing your character’s race, alliance, and class, plus setting their appearance. The character’s class can never be changed, or at least not through means I have been able to discover.

Unless you bought the Imperial Edition of the game way back in the day, you will not be able to have an Imperial character until you buy that expansion in the Crown Store (1000 Crowns or 2100 Crowns for the Imperial Edition upgrade). Also, and unless you buy the “Any Race, Any Alliance” expansion in the Crown Store (2000 Crowns) or if you are playing an Imperial, you are going to be stuck with the standard races for the three alliances. This does not affect anything except what you do in Cyrodiil and which of the three alliance storylines you will be following.

The character’s name can be changed by buying a name-change token (2500 Crowns – $25 with 500 Crowns left over). Character race can be changed by buying a race-change token (3000 Crowns – $25). Character alliance can be changed by buying an alliance-change token (2500 Crowns – $25 with 500 Crowns left over), but this will reset your current Alliance progress to zero. Appearance (not including clothing) can be changed by buying an appearance-change token (1000 Crowns – $15 with 500 Crowns left over). The point here is that unless you feel like spending real-world money or starting over with a new character, think long and hard about your choices. You get 500 Crowns for buying the base game, but that’s not enough to buy any of these tokens.

Making your character

If you choose to be Altmer, Bosmer, or Khajiiti, you will be following the Aldmeri Dominion questline. If you choose Breton, Orc, or Redguard, you will be following the Daggerfall Covenant questline. If you choose Argonian, Dunmer, or Nord, you will be following the Ebonheart Pact line. If you are Imperial, you can take your pick.

Race gives you some passive skills. These passives make some races a bit better suited to some play styles than to others, but unless you are min/maxing, any race is workable in any class.

There are four classes for the base game: Templar, Sorcerer, Nightblade, and Dragonknight. The Warden class requires having the Morrowind chapter installed, and the Necromance class requires having the Elsweyr chapter. If you have a subscription, then all six classes will be available to you.

You class will determine your three class skills. Class and other abilities are activated from your hotbar and you will gain new abilities as you develop those skills and assign skill points to them. Initially, however, you start with no skills. Put those two together and there are seven skills trees that you have automatically. Any other skills must be unlocked by what you do in-game.

Characters are mostly going to be magicka-centered (spellcasters) and stamina-centered (fighters), with a lot of blending depending on whether the player wants damage or healing. It is not necessary to pump attribute points into Health unless your purpose is to tank for a group where you need to be able to soak up more damage. This is not to say that you would be wrong to put points into Health at some point, but you will really want to be spec’ing in with the types of skills you will be using and those are mostly going to be relying on a good pool of Stamina or Magicka. All three attributes can be buffed through enchanted items and consumables, which is why you will probably want to focus on one attribute and deal with the rest through equipment and food.

To be perfectly honest about it, the game does not do an exceptionally good job with stealth-centered character builds. The Nightblade has two skill trees that lend themselves to a stealthy playstyle (Assassination and Shadow), but stealth comes across as an afterthought as far as the majority of the game is concerned and it is mostly governed by the Ledgermain world skill rather than any class skills.

You will find many very good online videos and tutorials on the pluses and minuses of each of the races and classes in the game. I think they are very well made and offer very good advice, so go watch, listen, and learn. I would argue, however, that these “best race for this class” sorts of things are mostly aimed at players who want to seriously do the MMO thing. If you are going to be playing solo and mostly sticking to the PvE stuff, all races can be decent with any class and all classes are workable for a solo player. I am partial to Bretons as being the better all-around race due to some of racial bonuses and passives, but that’s just personal preference (and a lot of time spent playing Bretons in the main Elder Scrolls games). It’s really only when you get into the group stuff and others are depending on your character being able to support the rest of the group that the differences show up. I think those build guides are excellent for this sort of thing and you really should seek out some. But just like with whether you should pay for the subscription or not, you will want to gather your information, and then you do you.

Your build concept is going to dictate your weapon choice, but if you follow my advice on playing the tutorial, you will have some options built-in and can proceed from there. I am going to strongly advise not skipping the tutorial solely so you can open those options. So, stay tuned for the next installment.

If you’re buying from Steam, the base game is usually pretty cheap ($20 or less, most of the time). There is usually a bundle deal of some sort going on where you can pick up the base game, the most recent chapter, plus the previous chapters for the price of a new-release game (about $60). Buying just the most recent chapter will normally set you back about $40. Unless you buy them as part of a bundle, the individual previous chapters are usually only available for purchase in the in-game Crown Store. You get access to them as part of an ESO Plus subscription, though.

There is enough content in the base game by itself to keep someone occupied for several hundred hours, but the chapter bundle really does seem to provide the biggest bang for the buck if you are a new player. If you are an existing player, the $40 for the current chapter is cheaper than a subscription, but buying the most recent bundle or chapter will leave out a lot of other content that is only available through the Crown Store or to ESO Plus subscribers. This makes the real question whether it’s better/cheaper to go with just the base game and a subscription or something in-between.

An ESO Plus subscription will set you back anywhere from about $15 per month (if paid monthly) to  $11.66 per month (about $140 per year). The content is not “necessary,” but it does provide a few perks.

Probably the biggest perk is that you get access to all that other content without having to buy it and you retain access as long as your subscription is active. If you cancel your subscription, you will lose access to the other content, but you will keep whatever gear and items you picked up while playing it.

In addition to the major chapter expansions (Morrowind, Summerset, Elsweyr, Greymoor, and Blackwood) that would be included in a bundle, there are several minor expansions, such as The Imperial City, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Clockwork City, and several others that someone would need to purchase from the Crown Store if they wanted to keep access after cancelling a subscription. Once purchased from the Crown Store, they remain associated with your account regardless of whether or not someone has am active subscription. They all have an interesting story to tell, but a few of them provide a useful bit of something. Clockwork City, for example, has a publicly accessible Transmute station.

Subscribers get 1,650 Crowns per month, but the full amount is paid up front for a multi-month subscription. I’d also point out that it took the better part of a week before the crowns for my subscription showed up, so you might have to deal with customer support to get them and the support folks are SLOW.

There are a few under-the-hood perks that go with a subscription. Subscribers get a 10% bonus to experience and gold gained while they are out adventuring, so they are going to level up faster than non-subscribers. Subscribers get double the bank space of non-subscribers (you can stash more stuff for later), the ability to change the appearance of their outfits at an Outfit Station, can hold twice the number of Transmute Crystals (500 for non-subscribers and 1000 for subscribers), can place more furniture and stuff in their home(s) (yes, you can have more than one home), and that kind of thing.

As far as I am concerned, though, the biggest boon to subscribers is the craft bag. This is basically a bottomless storage container where your crafting ingredients go. So ores, wood, food, alchemy ingredients, enchantment runes, and the like to no eat up your limited inventory or bank space. Yes, inventory management is a thing in ESO. If you later decide to cancel your subscription, you do not lose whatever is stored in that extra bank space or in the craft bag. You will still be able to access it as you normally would, but you will not be able to add more to it. If your bank space is below the non-subscriber number of slots, it will work like it normally does and you just lose the extra slots.

Note that if your friends and guildmates have access to content that you do not have access to, you will not be able to join them in that content. That’s kind of a bummer if you’re playing it for the MMO aspects.

For the amount of content, the base game is a pretty good deal. The same can be said for the chapter expansions. You are still looking at a lot of play time for a fairly minimal investment. The subscription is the iffy part. You can live without it and the worst that will happen is that you will have to play the inventory management game more aggressively than a subscriber would. At the end of the day, however, it’s your money and your game, so you do you. I’m just here to explain some of your options.