The Elder Scrolls Online - Combat Core Values Deep Dive

Taking a step back from their regular stream of content releases and feature highlights, the developers behind The Elder Scrolls Online bring us this deep dive article that focuses on the core values behind the MMORPG's combat system.

If you'd like to know why the game's combat works the way it does, you might want to check this out:


Today, we’d like to share with you our goals and core values for ESO’s combat system. First, we’d like to address the combat Q&A we mentioned a few months ago. As we were reading over your combat questions, it became apparent that we could better communicate to all of you our vision and core values for combat. Most answers to the combat-related questions of “Why” we have gotten over the past few months are grounded in these core values; we wanted to take a step back and overview these to help shed light on our long-term vision for combat in ESO, which we recognize we should have shared with everyone much sooner.

So, what is our vision for combat in ESO? In a nutshell, we want combat to feel fun and rewarding to all players. We have a wide variety of players with unique interests and motivations for playing, so we recognize that what feels “fun and rewarding” is a little different for everyone. Our goal is to strike a good balance, and just like our community has evolved over time, so has the need to address things that didn’t align with our combat core values. It’s also worth noting that these core values are aspirational, not hard rules or a definition of the current reality; they are the values to which we aspire with combat design and what we strive to meet when considering adjustments to combat in ESO.

With all that said, we’d like to present the core values and vision for ESO’s combat which also includes examples of where these values manifest themselves in combat:

Play The Way You Want

We strive to provide freedom and flexibility that allow you to transform your character fantasy into a gameplay reality. We value diversity of choice and playstyle with abilities, weapons, and armor. Some combinations of these tools are more effective than others, but every character should have the capacity to protect their group, mend allies, or devastate foes.
  • Wear any combination of light, medium, and heavy armor
  • Slot abilities from any skill line you've discovered
  • "Deck building" through a selection of abilities, items, Champion Points, etc.
Active Combat

We believe combat is more engaging when you are on the move and continuously taking action. Battles should be exhilarating, with threats and opportunities coming fast and you feeling empowered to respond in kind. In any given moment you should have options for reacting to your opponents and shouldn't be held back by long waits between actions. This requires controls to be responsive and consistent so you feel connected to your character and in control of the outcomes of your battles.
  • Block, Roll Dodge, and Bash/Interrupt are not constrained by the global cooldown
  • No ability cooldowns and a short global cooldown
  • Most abilities are instant, with cast times being the exception
  • Weapon swapping

Whether you've played for 10 minutes or 1000 hours, there should always be something to learn or improve upon. That loop of learning should be consistently fun and rewarding. Our combat is designed to challenge you along two primary paths: character builds and skillful execution. Outside of combat, your character build should test your ability to refine a large number of choices into a proficient engine for battle. Tests of skillful execution occur during battle, challenging you to realize the potential of your build and outperform opponents in fast-paced, active combat.
  • Builds consist of the combination of abilities, items and Champion Points
  • Real-time resource management (Health, Magicka, Stamina, Ultimate)
  • Optimizing ability rotations and timing
  • Light attack weaving
  • Group “builds” and synergies
Elder Scrolls Inspired

The Elder Scrolls has captured the hearts and minds of millions of players over decades, and we strive to honor series traditions. An online multiplayer world presents some unique challenges, constraints and opportunities, but fans of the series should feel a sense of familiarity within our character and combat experience. The lore and mechanics from previous games should serve as an inspiration and, when possible, a foundation for ESO combat.
  • Health, Magicka, and Stamina as attributes
  • Class selection does not define or constrain role
  • Skill lines are discovered, and leveled up by using them
  • Many skill lines are staples from previous TES games (ex: Werewolf, Heavy Armor, Mages Guild, etc.)
Over the course of ESO’s development, we've used these values as our guiding principles, along with feedback from the community and hard data metrics. Outside of some outstanding combat bugs, we believe taking all these into account has now gotten combat in a better place, where ESO is more enjoyable for a variety of playstyles. Much of the work we’ve done over the past few years – such as updating the Champion Point system and the hybridization work – has vastly improved build options, gameplay variety and build equality, which supports several of our values. We know it hasn't always been easy and we sincerely appreciate everyone giving their feedback and spending their time in Tamriel over the years.

Keep an eye out next month for an overview of what to expect in Update 37 as it relates to combat. Again, thank you all for your continued passion and enjoyment of ESO. We'll see you on the field!