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A Deep Look at ESO's Racial Skills

Ryan Getchell Posted:
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It can be traced back to the very early editions of pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons (1974) and even Chainmail from (1971), possibly even further, but my knowledge stops at D&D and Chainmail. Even back then, Special Racial Abilities were an important part to creating an immersive and unique game. It offered players an additional option to creating that perfect character. We’re going to discuss character racial abilities and find which role each character will be best suited for in The Elder Scrolls Online.

Since ESO was announced back in May of 2012, the Developers always stated they want players to be able to have a unique character that they can customize and build the way they want to. Racial abilities will help us do just that.

One thing to keep in mind is, racial abilities are never a defining characteristic that you need to have to be good at a class. If you’re a min/maxer who wants to have that added little bit of damage then yes it is, but if you want to go out and have fun, you can still be a viable player without a specific racial ability.

I remember back when I played Dark Age of Camelot, I was mocked and made fun of for playing a Half Ogre sorcerer. Sure he was slower than the Inconnu race that had the racial benefit for Sorcerers, but I stuck with him, and when I finished playing Dark Age I had him to Realm Rank 10 (13 being the highest). Even though he was a clumsy Ogre and I got mocked for playing him, he is the character I’ve had the most fun playing out of all the games I’ve played.

Just goes to show that racial abilities aren’t the be all and end all of requirements.

Elder Scrolls Online will launch with nine playable races  Breton, Orc, Redguard, High Elf, Wood Elf, Khajiit, Argonian, Dark Elf, Nord, and of course the bonus race that has stirred up a major controversy, the Imperial.

Anyone who has played an Elder Scrolls game in the past might see some similarities in the abilities. Before we jump into the abilities themselves there are some basic fundamentals I need to explain. Each race will be given four unique abilities in their race skill tree. The first skill is a passive and will be given to you for free once you start the game. The other three skills that each race has can be upgraded two additional times after the first purchase. The abilities can’t all be purchased right away, just like the other skill lines you unlock them as you progress the racial experience bar, don’t fret though, this bar increases at the same rate that your character overall experience bar does.

Now that you’re familiar with the basics, time to get the abilities. ESO is still in beta and because of that I have opted to not put any of the current number values in the ability description in the event the information changes at release.

Altmer (High Elf)

  • Destruction Talent – Increases experience gain with the destruction staff skill line.
  • Spellcharge – Increases Magicka Recovery while in combat.
  • Gift of Magnus – Increases maximum Magicka.
  • Elemental Talent – Increases damage with cold, fire, or shock effects.

Altmer – The racial abilities focus primarily on Magicka increases and rejuvenation, as well as added damage with cold/fire/shock abilities. Just as we saw in the cinematic video The Arrival, the Altmer is designed around being a spell slinger, a magicka using Ranged DPS role.

Bosmer (Wood Elf)

  • Archer Expertise – Increases experience gain with the Bow skill line.
  • Vigor - Increases Stamina recovery while in combat.
  • Resist Affliction – Increases Poison and Disease resistance. Increases maximum Stamina.
  • Stealthy - Improves Stealth radius. Increases damage done while stealthed.

Bosmer (Wood Elf) – The Bosmer’s racial abilities seem to be a mix and match, there is no real strong connection between them. Its abilities are closely matched by that of the Khajiit’s abilities. However due to the synergy between the Khajiit’s abilities, it makes it a far superior race over the Bosmer.


  • Medium Armor Expertise – Increases experience gain with the Medium Armor skill line.
  • Robust - Increases Health regeneration while in combat.
  • Stealthy - Improves Stealth radius. Increases damage done from while stealthed.
  • Carnage - Increases Critical Rating for melee attacks and damage done by successful Critical Hits.

Khajiit – Very similar to the Bosmer racial abilities, but far superior because of the link between Stealthy and Carnage abilities. These abilities together will give the Khajiit a great deal of power when attacking with melee weapons from a stealth position. The Khajiit would be ideal as a Melee DPS role, a Nightblade who wants to stalk his prey at choke points in Cyrodiil.


  • Heavy Armor Expertise – Increases experience gain with the Heavy Armor skill line.
  • Brawny - Increases Max Health and Max Stamina.
  • Robust - Increases Health regeneration while in combat.
  • Swift - Reduces Sprint cost and increase Sprint speed.

Orc – Focusing a lot of the Health and Stamina regeneration, the Orc race would fit best in a Melee DPS role, or be a fantastic tank.


  • Light Armor Affinity – Increases experience gain with the Light Armor skill line.
  • Gift of Magnus – Increases Max Magicka.
  • Spell Resistance - Increases Spell resistance.
  • Magicka Mastery – Reduces the Magicka cost of spells.

Breton – This race is a great hybrid. It can fill the role of a ranged DPS (Spell Caster) with the nice addition of using a Restoration Staff as a secondary weapon, giving them the ability of being a great hybrid Healer/DPS.  The reduced magicka bonus is what provides a great bonus to both a DPS spell slinger and a healer who have to worry about magicka consumption.

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Ryan Getchell