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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Racial & Guild Skills

By William Murphy on August 15, 2013

Elder Scrolls Online may be several months away, but Bethesda and Zenimax sure aren’t being too secretive with most of the game’s information and secrets.  The only thing still really under wraps is seeing the Alliance Warfare in action, and of course that monetization question looming over Tamriel. And though I’ve spent a lot of my time in these Elder Scrolls Online columns talking about the game’s varied and deep progression system.  But something jumped out at me during the recent QuakeCon gameplay presentation that I hadn’t previously mentioned: not only will you have entire class, armor, and weapon skill trees to progress through... but apparently you’ll have Racial and Guild skills to earn as well.

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That’s right, as if you didn’t already have enough choices to worry about in ESO, it was highlighted at the recent QuakeCon that your race will play a significant role in your character building as well. Each race, from Nord to Breton will have its own skill tree tied directly to its chosen race.  Granted, you catch a glimpse of the tree at 8:30 into the video below, and the Dark Elf tree doesn’t look too in depth. Still, I count four distinct class skills to level, plus one ultimate ability to wield that only Dark Elves will have access to. 

Each class also has three distinct skill lines, and these tend to be more robust than the race specific skills. The Templar Nick Konkle was playing had Aedric Spear, Dawn’s Wrath, and Restoring Light. I assume that each of these refers to the different roles the class can tackle, with Restoring Light sounding distinctly “healy”.  Paul and Nick also showed how each skill can be leveled up through use and “morphed” down one path or another to change how that skill works. Way back when, Paul talked to us during a press event and said that down the road, if you want to go back and level up a skill down another morph path, you can do that as well.  You can only have one version of the skill active at any time, but they won’t limit your choice and progress just because you might hit the level cap before exploring your character’s full potential.

They also mentioned during that live demo how both the Mages Guild and Fighters Guild will be in the game, have their own series of missions, but they’ll also each have their own skill trees that are independent from the skills you have on armor, weapons, your class, or your race.  In the video, you can see Mage skills such as Meteor, Soul Trap, Magelight, Equilibrium, Fire Rune, and even Persuasive Will all present.  This explains quite simply how ESO will make sure to include all of the spells you know and love across all classes while only having four base classes to choose from. 

You can effectively be a two-handed sword wielding Dragon Knight that uses Meteor from afar and switches to a Staff when he wants to heal some folks.  It’s a very diverse system, and one I can’t wait to really dig into.  I just hope it’s as flexible and goes as deep as it sounds.  The skillbar in the video from QuakeCon only had five active abilities and one “Ultimate”, essentially meaning you can only use six of your many, many skills at any one time (though there will no doubt be some passives in there too).  I hope, for my frustration level’s sake, Zenimax thinks ahead to include some form of “Build Save” feature so I can easily swap between the ways I like to play.  If the game allows you to continue leveling your skills and unlocking more even past the level 50 cap so that you can ultimately unlock everything on one character, I’d better be able to easily swap my armor and skills around.

Oh, and one last thing.  If you listen to the video above, you might have heard something said in a very public setting that’s only been teased before: Werewolves and Vampires will be in Elder Scrolls Online, and even they will get their own skill trees should you choose to become one.  I wonder if they’ll let us be both?  I hope so... because the more skills I can chase down the better.  I’m a bit nuts like that.  Here’s hoping we get some more info on how these two monstrous features will be handled in the game.  The Fighters Guild tree has a skill called Silver Bolts, so one has to think it might have something to do with the Werewolf portion of the game... perhaps usable in AVA?  Indeed, the plot thickens.

Anyway, let’s hear your thoughts.  The skills and progression system are one of my main “do wants” in ESO, but what about you?  What do you think of the gameplay presentation?  Is it enough to get you curious about ESO?  Let us know!

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.


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