In The Elder Scrolls Online, combat is probably one of my least loved features of the game. I still love it, mind, just not as much as other aspects of the game. My main issue with it is that it’s nowhere near as good as it was on Skyrim and Oblivion – but I’ll get to that.
With my current character, I fight with either double swords, or a sword and shield, and then use a bow as my backup. I couldn’t really comment on magic based combat, or on double-handed combat either. So I’ll focus this article on the three types of combat that I tend to use.
But, before I go into the three types of combat, I’ll briefly mention how these are set up. You basically get four choices, past level 10, as to how you fight with your character. You have your main hand weapon, staff, bow, and one or two-handed weapon. You then have an off-hand, provided that your main hand is occupied by a single-handed weapon (i.e. sword, axe, mace or dagger). Your off hand can be occupied by another single handed weapon, or by a shield. You then have a back-up main and off-hand, which you can set to any combination along the same lines as I just mentioned. You switch to your back-up weapon set by pressing left on the D-Pad – personally, I use dual-wield as my main mode of combat and then have the bow as a backup.
Now on to using those weapon sets! First off, we have dual-wielding. Duel wielding can take the form of two swords, two daggers, two maces or two axes – or any combination of those weapons (i.e. a sword and an axe). Personally, I play with two swords. Ideally for dual-wielding, you’ll have picked the Nightblade class for your character, which works best with light and medium armour. It’s not a necessity though, as your class doesn’t lock you to weapon types. However, Nightblade gives your shadow based special skills which work incredibly well with dual-wield based attacks. When it comes to fighting, the right trigger hits and then on the controller, you can hot-key special attacks, which you unlock as you play. In all, dual-wielding is a tough way to play the game, but it lets you deal a lot of damage in a flurry of hits – and some of the shadow based special moves are pretty awesome.
Occasionally, I’ll mix things up by playing with a sword and shield. This is a bit more defensive – despite the fact that you can block with any weapon choice, blocking with a shield is the most efficient way to minimise enemy attacks. You won’t deal as much damage, so combat will be a bit more tenuous, but you will hold on to a lot more health. In general, I’ll use duel-wield against lower levelled enemies, or in instances when there are other people fighting a higher level enemy. If the enemy is better than me, or there are multiple lower levelled enemies and just me on my own, I’ll use the shield as a way of preserving health and attacking the gaps.
I always keep the bow as my back-up option, as it’s quick and easy to switch to by tapping left on the D-Pad, and weapon switches are almost instantaneous. Usually, I’ll use the bow to weaken enemies from a distance, particularly poisoning them early on in the altercation. That way, I won’t have to chip as much HP away with my swords or sword and shield. Plus, poisoning them early on means that I have an instant advantage in any fight (provided that they’re not resistant).
You can also put enchantments on your weapons, which definitely helps in combat. If I’m facing a bigger enemy, I’ll tend to pick my weapon before the battle. So, if I know that the enemy is weak to frost or fire, I’ll choose the appropriately enchanted weapon before kicking off. This helps in the long run, as you’re able to take away extra health through elemental damage.
However, the combat isn’t anywhere near as satisfying as it once was in Skyrim and Oblivion. It feels more clunky than it was in the older RPGs, and the MMORPGness of it takes away from some of the magic. It’s not boring, it’s just not as exciting as it once was. Plus, the bow is a bit of a disappointment. My highlight of using the bow on Skyrim was that the arrows used to stick into the enemies, but they don’t in ESO – which is a bit of a shame. Still, these are just minute points, and the overall experience of the game helps to make amends for the slightly disappointing combat.
There’s no surprises with armour, as you have a choice of heavy, medium or light – and obviously, certain armour types fit well with certain playing styles. I guess the big surprises are found in the vast number of styles of armour that you can find, buy or make. Personally, I like to make my own armour – mostly heavy – by crafting, which will be the subject of my next article!