Welcome to Tamriel
The Elder Scrolls Online celebrated its 3 year anniversary on PC in April of this year, and 2 year anniversary on consoles in June. I have played a lot of games in my lifetime, and none have kept me coming back as much as ESO. I am also not sure I have ever seen a game, outside of World of Warcraft, go through so many changes and improvements over the course of its lifespan, including its largest expansion, Morrowind, launching in June. With such a vast world to explore and so much content to dive into, it may seem a little overwhelming to a new player.
Whether you are new to the world of Elder Scrolls or new to MMO RPG’s in general, these are tips for the absolute beginner in ESO. This guide is not going to include build recommendations, theory crafting, or give you tips on how to complete the toughest endgame content. This guide is aimed at helping a new player get started in the right direction.
Picking Your Character
One of the biggest changes to ESO recently is that the 9 available races are no longer restricted to specific alliances (10 if you count Imperials, but they were never restricted to any alliance). In the past, the Daggerfall Covenant was restricted to Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs. Now, if you want to be an Orc of the Ebonheart Pact, you can.
I only bring this in case you come across older guides mentioning it. You are now free to experience the world of ESO any way you choose.
Your race selection will come with certain passive skills that can be better matched with certain classes, but for a first time player, I would not get too hung up on that. You will be able to play endgame content with any race and class combo. The only place the race and class combos are going to make a real difference is at very high level PvP encounters.
If you are interested in which skills each race offers, you can view a list of racial skills here.
With the recently added Warden, you now have 5 classes you can choose from if you have the Morrowind expansion. The other 4 classes have always been a part of the game and are Dragonknight, Sorcerer, Nightblade, and Templar.
If you are familiar with other RPG games, these fit into your typical RPG tropes. Dragonknights are your warrior class best at melee based attacks. Sorcerers are your typical spell casting magic user. Nightblades are the more sneaky thief capable of high DPS but often a little more squishy. The Templar is your cleric type best suited for support and healing.
One thing that is great about ESO, although I briefly mentioned what these classes are suited for, you can mold them anyway you want. Want to be a tanky sorcerer? You can. Want a damage dealing Templar? Done. A magic based Dragonknight? No problem. They are all possible.
All of your skills, spells, and abilities are going to drain one of two resource pools: magicka or stamina. Generally speaking, spells are going to cost magicka to cast and things like a special attack with a two-handed sword are going to drain stamina. Some races give bonuses to these resources. If you are a min/max type player in other games, keep that in mind when choosing your race and class.
Most players max out one of the two, and you will see that if you look up build guides. You will find Magicka Dragonknights or Stamina Dragonknights. You won’t often find builds that go for a little of both. Again though, you are free to do what you want with your character. And if you make a mistake, it is easy later in the game to respec your character without having to spend any real money to do it or reroll a new one.
You will also be faced with a decision in which alliance to join. At this time in the game, the only thing your alliance choice restricts is who you play with in PvP. Members of the Aldmeri Dominion cannot team up with players from the Ebonheart Pact. If you have friends in the game already or you are starting together, you will want to keep this in mind when choosing your alliance. Outside of that, the only real impact your alliance choice has is where you start in the world of Tamriel.
You cannot switch alliances later, but you can start new characters in the other alliances.
The first quest choice you will be faced with is whether or not to play the tutorial. If you are new to the game, play it. It will get you familiar with the game mechanics and gives you some of the initial backstory to the main quest. After you finish the tutorial, you will find yourself on the shores of your chosen alliance.
Although the tutorial does a great job, the game doesn’t explain the quest lines very well. There are several different types of quests you will encounter at the beginning of the game. It can get a little confusing figuring out what you should be doing at first, so let me lay them out for you the way I wish someone had for me.
Main Story Quests
These quests progress the main story along involving reclaiming your soul and Molag Bol’s evil plans to pull Tamriel into Oblivion with his dark anchors. For most of these quests, you will be summoned by The Prophet to the Harborage.
Each of the 3 alliances have their own questline. These quests usually involve the leader of each alliance working to pull the different races together to solidify the alliance and/or facing some threat trying to tear the alliance apart.
There are two guilds you will encounter at the beginning of ESO, the Mage’s Guild and the Figthter’s Guild. The Mage’s guild line of quests involve around the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath. In the Fighter’s Guild quests you will be fighting against a plot by Molag Bol separate from the main story quest.
Completing quests for the Mage’s and Fighter’s Guilds will increase your ranking with each and unlock new skills and passive abilities.
These are basically everything else you will come across before you reach the endgame. You will constantly encounter NPC’s throughout Tamriel offering rewards for helping them.
Skills and Leveling Up
Here is where things can get a little tricky for someone new to RPG’s, but will likely feel right at home for veteran of the genre. For new players, it is a lot simpler than it might look at first.
Your character has a level. You gain experience through killing enemies, completing quests, finishing dungeons, and just about any other activity throughout Tamriel. As you gain experience, your character will level up until they hit the max level of 50. Then the Champion Point system kicks in, but that is something new players do not have to worry about. Leveling up your character will reward you with skill points that can be used to unlock skills and abilities. The Main Story quests and some select other quests will also reward you with additional skill points.
Each class has 3 distinct skill lines. For example, Dragonknights have Ardent Flame, Draconic Power, and Earthen Heart. Under each skill line are skills that can be unlocked and equipped. Having a skill equipped as you are gaining experience throughout by completing activities as mentioned above, will go towards increasing the skill level of that skill line.
For example, under the Ardent Flame skill line is a skill called Searing Strike. If you equip Searing Strike, as you gain experience you will also be leveling up the Ardent Flame skill line, which will unlock other skills under Ardent Flame. Your individual skills also rank up making them more powerful and unlocking the ability to morph them into one of two variations of the skill.
If you equip more than one skill under the same skill line, that skill line will rank up faster. In other words, if you equip Searing Strike and Lava Whip, two skills under the Ardent Flame skill line, the Ardent Flame skill line will rank up faster than if you just had Searing Strike equipped.
Regardless of class, each character has the same weapon and armor skill lines. These are two-handed, one-handed and shield, dual wield, bow, destruction staff, restoration staff, light armor, medium armor, and heavy armor. These skill lines are increased by using those items while gaining experience. Equipping a two-handed axe, will level up your two-handed skill line. Wearing a piece of light armor, increases your light armor skill line.
If you want to increase one of the armor skill lines faster, wear only pieces of that type of armor. Want to level up your heavy armor skill line faster? Wear all heavy armor and it will increase faster. If you want to level up all the armor skill lines, then mix up your armor choices and increase them all.
There are a number of other skill lines including your racial skills, world skills, and crafting skills. They are pretty self explanatory. One difference is that the crafting skills are leveled up by deconstructing gear you find during your adventures or crafting new gear.
Find a piece of heavy armor and deconstruct it. That will level up your blacksmithing skill. Craft a health potion. That will increase your Alchemy skill line. Each crafting line has 140 skill points that can be put into it. You won’t be able to level them all up and still have skill points to put into your other character skills. Most people choose 1 or 2 crafting skills per character.
The current maximum skill points you can accumulate to use on skills is 382, so you will not be able to unlock everything available and will have to choose how to build your character.
Do not worry though. If you change your mind about how your character is built, you can visit a reset shrine and reset all of your skill points. You will still keep all of your accumulated experience and unlocked skills. You can just rearrange how you distributed your skill points. It costs a little bit of in-game gold to do so, but is not very expensive. The price does go up to do it over and over again, but there is little need for that.
Weapons and Gear
Don’t overthink this. Do not fall in love too much with anything you pick up early on. After level 50, you will not be using any of the gear you picked up before that. Equip higher level gear as you find it. Either sell your old gear or deconstruct it for materials and crafting experience.
Do not spend gold to repair equipment. As you adventure in the world of Tamriel, your armor is going to wear down from your many battles. Do not spend gold repairing it. It’s not worth it until you get to the endgame and have collected your endgame armor sets. Everything before that is crafting and materials fodder.
This is all you need to get started exploring the world of Elder Scrolls. If you get stuck on something or need help, use the in-game chat feature. The ESO community is great, and you will always find someone willing to help new players out.