So is it actually possible for any class to play any role, as the developers claim?
I might enjoy talking about builds and what works for different playstyles, but math is far from fun for me. Fortunately, I have friends for whom theorycrafting is their calling. I wrestled down Calls1gn, a top-tier raider formerly of Memories of Xendor. I sat him in front of a skill calculator for ESO and made him create some amazing, yet viable, builds in some obscure classes to prove once and for all whether the class system is as flexible as ZeniMax claims.
Bear in mind these classes are built around PvE, but I'm sure if handled correctly, they'll have PvP implications, too.
Let's start with traditional builds. Not everyone will want to do something weird, after all. If tradition is what you're looking for, then ESO can deliver. With some of these builds, like this first one, I am going to assume that you're going to kit yourself in the most appropriate armor and take the traditional passive abilities. If something is truly odd, then I will be sure to point that out.
Nightblade stabby stabby
You'd better believe that Nightblades have incredible burst damage on a single target. But to keep them viable in PvE, the devs have ensured Nightblades also have utility, such as armor breaks and an AoE damage-reduction effect. But as with every rogue-like class, the meat of a traditional Nightblade revolves around disappearing and critical hit.
Our traditional Nightblade wears medium armor and carries twin blades. When approaching an enemy, he pops Shadowy Cloak, a rank-four morph of Shadow Cloak. This makes him invisible for 2.5 seconds and grants him 100% critical while he's cloaked. Before making the initial burst strike, he hits the enemy with Surprise Attack, a rank-four morph of Veiled Attack, stunning it and reducing its armor by 40%. Now we are ready for the hit! Rapid Strikes will hit six times in a row in rapid succession with the last hit being four times as powerful as the first five.
But in many dungeons, players will face multiple enemies at one time. Can this traditionally single-target class work in a team environment? Yes, he can. By adding Whirling Blades to his bar, he will have a powerful AoE and an attack that restores his stamina so that in theory he can keep spamming this ability forever. And he also has another amazing trick up his sleeve: Shadow Image. This sweet ability sends a shadow of the player to a targeted enemy, reducing the enemy's damage output as well as health. When the player has finished off the enemy he is working on, he can pop that ability again and teleport to the shadow to finish off that one, too.
Melee Sorc summoner
I want to move on to a build that has to be one of the weirdest builds I've seen, yet old-school TES fans demand it. They want to play a Sorcerer who that uses a melee weapon and has pets. Just so you're clear, this is a class that is traditionally a glass cannon type of class, one that literally stands in the back shooting lighting or wielding giant fireballs. But this time, just to see if it can be done, we are throwing him into the middle of the fray.
Most likely, you will want to kit this Sorcerer out in a mixture of medium and light armor so that he can take some hits but still maintain a decent magicka level. He should also have a two-handed melee weapon, like a battle axe or a broadsword. Yes, a broadsword. "This is not going to work," you're telling yourself right now. I know! I said the same thing when Calls1gn first showed it to me, but once I go over the specifics, you might start to see its viability.
The idea with this class is to keep your pets alive as you charge into battle. First, conjure your familiars: the Volatile Familiar and the Restoring Twilight. And if you have an ultimate available, then summon Charged Atronach. All three of these pets will attack nearby enemies on top of utilities. Volatile Familiar explodes on death and stuns the enemy. Restoring Twilight increases magicka regeneration to allies by 13%. And the Charged Atronach stuns enemies while putting out lightning damage. An ally can activate Charged Lightning synergy and increase the Atronach's damage output by 150%.
Next you will want to activate Empowered Ward. Not only will this help protect you, but it will protect your pets and increase their damage by 20%. Now is your time to jump into battle. Critical Rush charges you into battle and smacks the enemy hard based on your distance from him. And if you toss in Reverse Slice, not only will you have ever-increasing damage output, but two nearby enemies will be hit for 23% of your total damage.
What do you think of those wild combinations?
Next week, the Tamriel Infinium moves to Tuesday, which means you won't have to wait a whole week to find out about the tank and healer builds we worked on. I think you will be surprised at what we were able to pull together. How does a Dragonknight healer sound? What about a Sorcerer tank in light armor? Yes, those are possible. Come back on Tuesday and I'll show you how.
In the meantime, have fun in the beta this weekend. I will be streaming ESO off and on all weekend including today for Massively at noon or whenever the servers come up. Follow my Twitter feed and I will let you know when I'm going live.
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.