This week, I would like to dive into a bit of the combat basics. Creative Director Paul Sage and his crew have given multiple demos showing the combat of ESO, and even a few of our own reporters have hopped onto a demo PC at a convention or two to experience the game firsthand. I certainly suggest you read those write-ups if you're looking for the overall experience because today I'm talking about combat specifically. How does it work, and more importantly, what will it feel like?
If you have not played an Elder Scrolls game before, it's going to be difficult to describe the feel of combat to you. I will tell you that if you are used to the standard MMO, then ESO will throw you for a loop. Many people have described ESO as spamming the same button over and over, stating that they would likely develop carpal tunnel syndrome if they played this game for hours on end. I can sympathize with that, but fundamentally there are two issues with that sentiment: There are already many games out there with much faster clicky combat, and if people are clicking all the time, then they are doing it wrong.
It is true that your default attack rests on your primary mouse button. If you hold that mouse button, then you will perform a more powerful attack. Imagine it like taking a longer swing with an axe or pulling back further on the bow string. Just keep in mind that this is your default attack. Once you begin to earn other abilities, you should use your default attack less and less often. Because I have not seen the game's endgame yet, I can't exactly tell you how often you'll use your default attack, but if the game follows the norm, then it's distinctly possible that you will never use it with some classes.
Those who have played Skyrim or other Elder Scrolls games will likely fall right into the initial combat mechanic. Left clicking activates the primary hand; right clicking activates the secondary hand -- sort of. Right click in ESO is actually your block maneuver. If you have a shield, it will lift the shield, and if you have two blades, then it will cross the blades in front of you.
Of course, I should warn any traditional MMO player that you cannot move your camera freely around your character. The cursor is fixed on the center of your screen. You can move it around when browsing through other menus, but otherwise, wherever your camera looks, so does your character, much as in Skyrim and other action-type games.
Although I'm uncertain whether you can make your ability bar visible all the time, I do know that during combat your abilities appear at the bottom of your screen along with your hit point, magicka, and energy bars. As in Guild Wars, you can place a limited number of abilities in your ability slots (up to five in ESO). The arrangement and make-up of these abilities is completely up to you. And you can have a different set of abilities depending on the weapon set you're wielding, up to two weapon sets. It appears to be possible to give yourself abilities that don't relate to the weapon you're holding, but that's probably not recommended.
Offset from the end of the bar sits an ultimate ability. Not a whole lot has been released about the specifics of some of these abilities, but we do know that each class can earn three of these and only one can be placed on your bar at a time. When your finesse bar fills up, you can cast an ultimate ability. These abilities, of course, are powerful abilities that tend to do greater damage, but there are other nuances as well. For instance, the Dragon Leap ultimate from the Draconic Power line for the Dragonknight causes the player to sprout wings momentarily and soar toward the target, acting as a gapcloser.
If you're an MMO traditionalist, then you will likely need little prompting to use your ability bar. However, you might be looking for a cooldown or some kind of indication that your next ability is ready to be fired, but you won't find one. As a major combat perk, ESO allows you to fire the same ability over and over. This means the only thing you have to worry about is your resources: Do you have enough magicka or energy?
Last but certainly not least, no matter your class and no matter your race or faction, you can wield whatever weapon you like. It would appear to be weird for a Dragonknight to carry a Destruction Staff, but that can happen. I'm certain that some classes will gravitate toward certain weapons, but that doesn't mean that odd combinations won't be seen -- or won't be viable, for that matter. The weapons skill trees are independent of class, race, armor, or any other skills tree. I'll get into skill trees more in another article, but the fact that all of these are independent adds to the overall feel of the game.
Next week, I will continue to discuss just what this game feels like, but I certainly welcome your questions in the comments. What do you think of the combat so far? Taken by itself independent of other factors of the game, does it sound interesting? I believe it's a huge deviation from what we've seen in other MMOs -- what are your thoughts?
Each week, traverse the treacherous terrain of Tamriel with Larry Everett as he records his journey through The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG from ZeniMax. Comments are welcome below, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. He promises to keep the arrow-to-the-knee jokes to a minimum.