As everyone reading this can attest to, how attached you become to an MMORPG often relies on how customizable your characters are. In Elder Scrolls Online, though you won’t be “making” your class as you go along as in Skyrim, you will have quite extensive control over just how your character plays and what he or she excels at doing. With a limited amount of skills available at any one time, and the fact that every class can wear any armor or wield any weapon, what you wind up with is a metric ton of combinations that I’m glad I don’t have to “balance” myself. In this part of our week-long coverage of ESO, we’ll dive into the character customization from creation to leveling and beyond. Be sure to leave a comment on what you think of ESO’s progression so far.
As I mentioned in the big preview yesterday, the character creation (even in pre-Alpha) is pretty deep and on part with other TES games. You can tweak and change every facet of the character’s face, as well as the girth and size of their body. Though you won’t be able to make arms longer, or legs disproportionate, you can make a fat Argonian if it pleases you. Rejoice! Though we’re told there will be more options in time, the one area that was limited was the hair. Just not many styles early on, and though many of us will wind up with helmets, don’t forget the RP-folk! After you’ve got the looks just right, you pick your first name and surname (or just the former if you prefer) and off you go. Once you get to actually playing and leveling… that’s where things get deep.
HEALTH, STAMINA, AND MAGIC – OH MY!
Like in all TES games, Stamina, Health, and Magic are your three main stat pools. Stamina affects how much energy you have for things like sneaking or swinging your sword, while Magic effects how much magicka you have to cast spells, and Health obviously determines how much punishment you can take before death. Every level, you’ll get one point to spend in any of these three pools, increasing that stat by a set amount. These are what will primarily make your character stronger when compared to someone lower than you. What’s more is that every few points you’ll unlock special “perks” of spending points in these abilities. For instance, if you spend enough in health you might get a passive skill that increases your regeneration rate. And since you will only have enough points from leveling to max out one tree, it’ll be up to you what sort of character you’ll play. If you want to be a melee fighter with some serious spell-power, it will make total sense to dump points into Health and Magic, while not focusing so much on Stamina. Meanwhile if you want to be a sneaky thief type that can take some punishment, you’ll want to focus on Stamina and Health. You get the idea.
WEAPONS, ARMOR, AND SPELLS
It’s worth noting that the three stats are the only parts of your progression that will effectively stop at level 50 (the game’s cap). Every single type of armor, weapon, and spell has its own leveling path. If you use staves a lot, you’ll level up staves and your effectiveness with them. Axes? Get better at Paul Bunyon-ing. Bows? Better at Robin Hood-ing. If you wear nothing but cloth, you’ll get better at the benefits that come from that type of armor. If you love one specific spell on your character? You’ll get better at using it as well. Everything you use and do in ESO will help grow your character in some way. Even crafting (though we weren’t shown it at the event) has its own unique progression that affects your character in some way.
Not only will the use of a weapon make you better at using it, but as you level it up you’ll unlock special skills with that weapon. A cleave with a broadsword, or whirling strike with dual-wielding for example. As you use armor, you’ll get special skills (usually passive from what I saw) that might help you in certain situations. For instance light armor will intrinsically have magic bonuses, while medium might have stamina bonuses. A sneaky thief might be drawn to using medium armor, but if he wants to use some spells in his repertoire and gain some magicka benefits, there’s nothing stopping him from wearing some medium and some light armor. The same can be said of a tanking sort of fighter. If he wants, he can wear all medium armor, and rely on his shield or blocking ability, plus the bonuses of greater stamina when wearing the medium armor. At the same time, he’d be able to sneak better (as an example) because of the skills learned from wearing the medium armor.
And then there are the class spells and abilities. As you use them, they level up as well. Getting stronger is just one perk though. They eventually “morph” and branch into two paths. As an example, the Slam skill on the Dragonknight knocks the enemy down and dazes them. But if you choose to morph it as you level it up, it will change to a massive knockback (which would be perfect for PVP I’d think). And what’s more is that you can always switch this morph back to the other path without losing progression. The idea is that you should be able to master all skills, since you can only use so many at any one time (six abilities can be put on the hotbar at any one time, and changed out when not in combat).
PROGRESSION PAST THE LEVEL CAP
What all this means for progression at the level cap will be welcome news for those who hate the “progression wall” that usually comes when you hit the end. The developers said it will never be possible to learn every skill, ability, or armor to its fullest extent while you level 1-50. But your progression in weapons, armor, and spells does not stop at 50. Though you won’t get any more of the three stat points, you will be able to continue gaining experience for every spell, weapon, and armor path. A big part of the game’s post-launch plans are to continue to open up more and more high-level “Adventure Zones” (new regions of the world) for players who might prefer PVE to PVP. So it won’t be like you’ll have to play old content to keep advancing.
I think it’s safe to say that it will take many players a long time to get everything unlocked and earned. I’m just hoping everything will be worth unlocking. For instance I hope that there will be a reason I’d want light armor on a tanky-sort of class. Wearing light armor might change my group role, and that could be the point I suppose. Maxing out light armor might help a Dragonknight flesh out a certain role that he wouldn’t be able to use in heavy armor, or vice versa. All in all though, the sheer volume of differentiation between builds with this system is staggering. I wish I was allowed to take pictures of the UI, but they were holding my wife hostage and I enjoy her company enough to not risk her death. I hope this clears up some of the progression questions you might have. If you have questions, feel free to ask them and I’ll try to answer if I can.