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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Are Four Classes Enough?

By William Murphy on October 03, 2013

Yes, four classes are enough for Elder Scrolls Online. There we go. Column over. Discuss! Okay, I'll prattle on for a bit longer and then we can get to the usual comment-arguing. The Dragon Knight, Sorcerer, Night Blade, and Templar seem to fill the basic "roles" of traditional trinity-based design. But when you toss in all the many layered variations with skills, weapons, armor, and faction skills... it becomes clear that the four classes are simply a baseline to what the game's character development is all about: player-choice and experimentation.

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I get the worry some may express at a game only having four classes in this day and age. After all, variety if the spice of life and traditionally having a multitude of classes means more replay value when you want to roll and alt.  More classes also means diversity across the game's factions or alliances. And it also adds a great deal of diversity to the world of PVP. But those players who might be dismayed at only having four classes should probably breathe a sigh of relief.  If you haven't been following this site or the game's development: classes are just basic frameworks for a few of the main skills you'll have access to. Literally everything else is up to the player, and the choices are so many that with any of the four classes you should be able to fill any role in a group or scenario.

The way I look at class selection in Elder Scrolls Online is more clear cut and about overall style than just about fulfilling a role. For instance, if I was dead-set on being a life-leeching dark-magic wielding sort of character I might use the Nightblade.  But if I wanted to be a light-wielding champion of justice, I'd go for the Templar. Sorcerer has your more typical lightning and summon abilities, while the Dragon Knight has some really righteous flame-based abilities.  But each and every one of these classes can take on the role of a tank, a healer, or go straight for DPS and even Control.  The weapons and armor are what will dictate that function, not necessarily the class itself.   

So you want to tank? Take up the sword and shield and level that sucker to the point where you can use it effectively. Want to heal? Bust out the healing staff, and make sure you know how to wield it. That's not to say class specific spells won't come into play. I'm fairly certain that buffs, heals, and all manner of support skills will be a part of each class' repetoire.  In my experiences with the game, the Templar has some healing abilities, and these could be altered with morphs as the skills were leveled.  We'll need more info on other classes, but something tells me it would be the case with most of them.  One of Zenimax' overarching goals is to let players build their character their way. 

All of these could be different classes, even the Sorcerer.

In a way, classes in ESO are almost unnecessary.  The developers could have easily given players access to all class skills and trees and let them delve into each of them, and the effect would be the same.  But the decision to link at least some character differentiation to class is probably linked to the fact that classless systems have never been widely accepted by the mass market gamer ESO hopes to attract with the Bethesda IP.  By picking a class at the start of a game, you're making your first decision on who you are in that world. What most gamers in ESO will quickly realize is that such a first choice is mostly superficial when compared to the multitude of other decisions you'll make from level one to fifty and far beyond.  

What do you think of having just four classes in Elder Scrolls Online? Is it enough for the game the developers are designing? Do you see it mostly as a way to keep things simple in terms of the three-faction PVP of Cyrodiil?  Personally, I think that with all the other choices a player can make in their build, balance is still going to be a nightmare for ZOS, but we'll see.  Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Bill Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. He loves games, loves to play them, and ramble about them incessantly to anyone who will listen. He is currently under the weather and wants to crawl into a hole and sleep like a bear until Spring. But instead, he'll just play some GTAV later today and drink a lot of coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TheBillMurphy.

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