Some tips for surviving your first hours in The Elder Scrolls Online

tips surviving first hours elder scrolls online the

Check out our review of The Elder Scrolls Online.

At first glance, The Elder Scrolls Online appears to be exactly as massive and daunting as the two halves of that equation would make it out to be. ZeniMax Online Studios released what is, first and foremost, a typically content-rich Elder Scrolls game, but with the added twist that makes MMORPGs so addicting: socially driven online play.

There’s no shame in looking for a little guidance before starting up, but you should also know that there’s no single “best” way to play. Think of this more as a set helpful suggestions meant to make sure you get the most complete experience through your starting character’s first 10 levels. After all,  even a seasoned pro can use some helpful suggestions.

Character creation

Elder Scrolls Online guide 2

Character creation is probably the biggest hurdle to jump, and it’s unfortunately the first one you face when starting the game. You’re presented with a list of alliances – Daggerfall Covenant, Aldmeri Dominion, and Ebonheart Pact – to which the nine base races belong, three each. If you’ve got the Explorer’s Pack add-on from pre-ordering the game, any race can go with any alliance, and the Imperial Edition of the game also includes access to a tenth race, the Imperials.

The race that you choose is a matter of preference more than anything else. Each has its own skill line that you can develop, as well as some natural differences that should be familiar to longtime Elder Scrolls players. For example, Altmer (High Elf) are better with magic than most, and Nords have frost resistance. The Elder Scrolls Wiki is a great resource for reference info on races (and other topics); take a look if you’d like more specifics on racial differences.

Elder Scrolls Online factionsWithout the Explorer’s Pack, the biggest difference is that individual races are locked to a specific alliance – Breton, Redguard, and Orsimer for Daggerfall; Nord, Dunmer, and Argonian for Ebonheart; and Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit for Aldmeri – that determines how the rest of the game plays out. They all have their own ups and downs, and their own set of quests. Once you’ve chosen a faction and race, there’s no going back, so it’s worth serious consideration. Ultimately, you should go with whatever you think will provide the most fun.

Once you’ve made your choice you’ve got to pick your class. The Elder Scrolls Online currently features four: Dragonknight, Sorcerer, Nightblade, and Templar. Each of these have three main skill lines that are unique to the class, but weapons and armor can be worn by any race or class. Your Sorcerer can run around with a sword while your Templar tosses fire at enemies from a staff. Of the four, Sorcerer is the least focused on melee, and will likely prove the most troublesome to play starting out. Even so, the kind of magic they can produce is totally worth it if you can get past the somewhat rough start.

Stats and skills and gear! Oh my!

Elder Scrolls Online guide 3

The Elder Scrolls Online‘s skill system is similar in some ways to Skyrim‘s, only it’s more elaborate. First you’ve got a master level, which rises as you earn experience points through combat and completing quests. Each time you earn a level, you get an attribute point that you can spend to improve your Health, Magicka, and Stamina ratings and a skill point, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Elder Scrolls Online attributesThe three attribute ratings directly correspond to how much magic, health, and stamina your character has, and how fast they regenerate. The first two are self-explanatory; stamina is used whenever your character engages in a strenuous physical activity, like blocking or running. It’s important to improve all three attributes regardless of what class you are, though you should be smart about it. A melee-focused character isn’t going to need high Magicka right away, for example. It’s hard to pass on distributing your attribute points evenly, but be mindful of what your class and skill needs are.

Skill points earned as you level up are spent on unlocking any available abilities within a skill tree. Here’s where we get to the Skyrim comparison. Your character has a wide range of skill trees that are broken into different categories; weapons and armor, class skills, racial skills, crafting skills, alliance skills, guild skills, and world skills (which governs soul magic, lycanthropy, and vampirism). Each individual skill has multiple active and passive abilities – in Skyrim, they were called Perks – connected to it that unlock for “purchase” as that skill’s rating improves through regular use. The skill point you earn when your master level goes up can be spent to buy any of these unlocked abilities, which level up individually as you use them (along with contributing to growth in the skill line they fall under).

Elder Scrolls Online skillsLet’s look at an example: You need a rating of 20 in “One-handed and Shield” to unlock the “Shield Charge” ability for purchase, but you have to spend a skill point to be able to actually use it. The major skill lines all culminate in particularly powerful Ultimate abilities, like Storm Atronach for the Sorcerer’s Storm Calling line. The key is to remember that you won’t improve a skill’s rating unless you engage in activities related to that skill. You can improve “One-handed and Shield” by using any gear falling under that category, but you’ll need to actually join and participate in a guild or craft items if you want to improve skills in those directions.

There are enough skill points out there that any mistakes or changes in build shouldn’t prove to be a big problem. If you end up deciding you’d have preferred to assign your “One-handed and Shield” skill points or Magicka stat points in a different direction, there are shrines where you can drop some gold to reset them.

You’ll want to be sure to check the stats on items as you collect new gear. You might pick up, say, two pairs of white Rawhide Boots, but they could have completely different Armor values. Each piece of gear has a certain level attached to it, as well as a color-coded quality. So a green item is generally better than a white one, but if said green item is level 6 to the white item’s level 10, the white might actually be better.

To arms! To arms!

Elder Scrolls Online guide 4

Combat feels like a mix between Elder Scrolls mobility and MMO-style hotkey abilities. You move using a standard WASD setup, and double tapping any of these will make your character dash in that direction for a short distance. You run by holding shift down as you move, and you interact with objects and characters by pressing E. 

Combat feels like a mix between Elder Scrolls mobility and MMO hotkeys.

Active skills, for class or weapon abilities and the like, are attached to a hotbar at the bottom of the screen which consists of five total slots. Standard skills go in the first four slots, mapped to number keys 1-4, but you can only assign Ultimate skills to the fifth slot (mapped to 5). For those joining the game from other MMOs with larger hotkey bars, this might seem incredibly limited, but it requires you to think more carefully about how you’re going to face the challenges ahead. Note that some skills require certain positioning or weapons to be equipped; for example, a Poison Arrow can’t be used unless you have a bow equipped.

Swapping between weapons in the inventory screen takes time; experimentation is good, but you’ll want to settle on a setup that works for you sooner rather than later. At level 15, you get the ability to quickly swap between two different sets of weapons and hotbars. That’s when you’ll want to start thinking about having both a melee setup and ranged setup. It’s best to stick to melee early on; going ranged-only at lower levels can be a pain, as enemies love to close the distance and attack. If your committed to attacking at range, there’s a number of skills that snare or otherwise disable enemies for short periods of time.

Certain skills produce an area of effect that’s visible to others, friend and foe alike. You might encounter casters tossing AoE blasts of fire, for example, and the area this is set to hit will be illuminated before the spell takes effect. You can avoid the majority of these AoE attacks if you dash out of the way as soon as you find yourself inside a spell’s intended area of effect.

Elder Scrolls Online combat

When you do start to take damage, it’s good to have your quickslot filled with potions or food for healing. In the midst of a fight, you can tap Q to use whichever item is currently set in your quickslot (which you can change in the inventory screen). It’s worth putting something terrible there over nothing at all, as even the slightest amount of healing can keep you alive long enough to win.

Playing solo is basically impossible at lower levels. That isn’t to say you need to join a party, or that you’re forced to join one, but a number of quests and areas will have other players wandering around in them at the same time. If you start a battle, other players will often jump in to help you finish it off, and the same goes for you hopping into their battles. As long as you get a hit in, you get the same chance at finding loot on the body as you would in solo combat.

Questing, exploring, and hoarding

Elder Scrolls Online guide 5

When you first step out of the tutorial area after making your initial character — you can skip that section with subsequent characters — the first thing you’ll likely notice is how little direction there actually is. The main story is there, but you can also do what you want and wander around as you please. Just like you’d expect from an Elder Scrolls.

Though each alliance starts you out in a different part of the world, quests are quests are quests. Sometimes you’ll be asked to go to a place to get a thing, and sometimes you’ll need to go to a place to kill a thing, and sometimes you’ll need to take a thing to a place. Active quests can be managed via the journal (called up by pressing J), and the solid white arrow on the navigation bar at the top of the screen indicates which direction to travel for your currently selected quest. You’ll also see arrows in the nav bar that aren’t filled in; these point to quests you can take on and complete at your discretion. All quests have an experience level associated with them, which serves as a general guideline for how hard they are.

If you do get beaten to a pulp and your health falls to zero, there are shrines where you resurrect after dying. Your gear durability takes a hit whenever you die, but you can easily repair this damage at most any merchant. Resurrection shrines are also points that you can fast travel to for a small price. They unlock for use the first time you find them, and you can fast-travel to a shrine from anywhere in the world. These locations are often fairly close to larger settlements or quest hubs. Mounts can also ease the pain of traveling in real time if you prefer to avoid spending money on fast-travel, but they cost a significant amount of money to purchase (unless you you got the Imperial horse with the special edition of the game).

Much like any other Elder Scrolls game, it’s highly recommended that you explore every nook, cranny, and crevice. Skyshards are scattered in various locations, and there are also books and various crafting ingredients to pick up along the way. Crafting items might not be as useful early on, but that shouldn’t stop you from hoarding them like an apocalypse is coming. Be aware though: unlike a lot of the other Elder Scrolls games, just because you see a sword on the ground, that doesn’t mean you can grab it. A lot of items exist purely for decoration.


From NES to PlayStation, retro gaming is booming. But will it last?

Everyone craves the good old days, and companies like Nintendo and Sony are cashing in with their mini versions of beloved retro consoles. But is this fad built to last or will our fixation with pixelated graphics come and go like mom…
Product Review

Make friends. To survive the wasteland of 'Fallout 76,' you're gonna need 'em

Fallout 76 brings the nuclear wasteland online and invites you to hop in with your friends. It’s fun, and a new direction for the Fallout franchise, but it’s not without its faults.

‘Fortnite’ gifts perfect for the video game fan in your life

Chances are someone on your holiday shopping list is a fan of Fortnite. As the most popular game on the planet, there are plenty of Fortnite-themed gift options available for purchase in stores and online. Here are the best ones we found.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.

‘Blockchain gaming’ startup gets $16 million in Series A funding

A gaming startup, Mythical Games, has raised $16 million in Series A funding to work on their concept of blockchain gaming. The aim is for the startup to develop games for the PC, console, and mobile markets.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

‘Fortnite’ named Ultimate Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick awards

This year's Golden Joysticks, the gaming awards handed out by GamesRadar, have been announced and Fortnite has been named the Ultimate Game of the Year. It beat out Red Dead Redemption for best game, but Red Dead was named critics' choice.

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.

‘Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers’ to launch next summer with gunblades, Viera

Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers will be released in summer 2019. The third expansion of the MMORPG will include new story content, dungeons, and raids, in addition to gunblades and the Viera.

The Fix PUBG campaign is over: What’s next for ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’?

The PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds development team declared that the Fix PUBG campaign was over. Here are the results of the three-month campaign, as well as the future plans for the multiplayer Battle Royale shooter.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…

Get an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 for just $200 at GameStop starting Sunday

GameStop is currently running an early Black Friday sale that offers an Xbox One S or a PlayStation 4 slim model for just $200 apiece. Both consoles come with a free game, and other games are also on sale.

Original ‘Diablo’ developer calls out Blizzard for disrespecting its employees

In a Twitch rant, an original creator of Diablo has said that Blizzard is more interested in caring for its shareholders and the elite one percent of the company than looking after its workers.