Combat in Elder Scrolls Online: Good or Bad?

I was running some public dungeons with my guild in Elder Scrolls Online the other day, and we started talking about all the stuff we liked about the game. One guildie started gushing about the combat, about how fluid and active and engaging it is, and another responded with “Eh… it’s ok. I prefer tab targeting.” I was kind of torn about which side to take.

Personally, my all time favorite combat in any MMO was WildStar. It was an awesome mix of action and tab target where position mattered, and you were constantly ducking out of red telegraphs. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly was mine. Too bad WildStar’s developers decided that the best thing to do with their excellent combat was to push people into ultra-hardcore endgame raiding, leading to its ultimate demise. Two MMOs’ combat styles remind me a little of WildStar, and those are Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online. GW2 leans more toward the traditional, WoW-style tab target, whereas ESO leans more toward shooter-style action combat (which reflects the roots of each). GW2’s combat feels a lot better to me–I feel like I’m given better feedback when I’m doing something right, which makes me feel more like I know what I’m doing–but ESO has a lot more of the situational awareness/dodge-the-red-circles component, especially in dungeons (to a much more reasonable degree than WildStar).

Combat has, in my opinion, always been a weak point in The Elder Scrolls franchise. The main, numbered games’ combat boils down to “click to attack, click longer to attack harder.” ESO’s combat is a little more interesting, with five skill slots and an ultimate, times two swappable bars. Technically, that’s potentially more usable skills than WildStar or Guild Wars 2. So, while it feels watered down because you’re only seeing five skills at a time, if you think of it as having a ten slot bar with two different ultimate choices it’s not that different from other modern MMOs. That said, shooter/action camera has always felt unwieldy to me. I’d much rather my character only turn when I have the right mouse button down, and there are a lot of times where I’m left wondering if my fireball actually hit the things I was pointing at or if it fell just short.

I don’t hate ESO’s combat, but I don’t love it. I would rather it was a different style, but it’s not enough to overcome the things I do like about the game. It has incredible story, a great crafting system that is made even more useful by a pretty good housing system, and nice graphics. If ESO didn’t have any of that and was nothing but a bland murder hobo sim, I wouldn’t be playing it. But if the combat was absolutely painful to me, I wouldn’t stick around long enough for the things I do like.

So… I guess my position is firmly on the fence?

What are your thoughts on ESO’s combat? Do you love it, do you hate it, or do you just kind of put up with it?

4 thoughts on “Combat in Elder Scrolls Online: Good or Bad?

  1. Back when I played ESO, I thought it was fine after I got used to it. But it wasn’t really a draw to me either, and I eventually left ESO for the tab-targeted FFXIV. Which I left for the Action shooter Warframe. And I recently re-subbed to FFXIV, so… I can’t really say which style I prefer anymore. I didn’t have a problem with Neverwinter’s action style. In TSW action style was an option, but I always tab-targeted in that one. I rather like the action style in DDO too, so…

    I guess for me both can be fun. Though gun to my head, I’d still say I prefer tab-targeting — just not a by a large margin.

  2. My problem with ESO combat is the same floaty movement translates to the combat – just no weight. Magic is fine but melee combat has no crunchy feedback. Whether you hit or are swinging at air it all feels (and sounds) the same. Also there really needs to be a combo system worked in because there is absolutely nothing to break up using the exact same rotation over and over which makes an action combat system way less interesting. Give me a block follow up attack or am evade follow up or a 2 and 3 hit chain. Something…

    • I agree with you about the weight of combat. It’s a difficult thing to get right (or even describe), but when it’s not there it just feels wrong.
      However, I can’t stand combo combat. It’s really just a rotation that the game sets up for you that you have to memorize because it’s not on bar. With the number of games I play and alts I inevitably make, I can never keep them straight.
      There’s nothing wrong with that style of combat–play what you like–but it’s a big turnoff for me personally.

      • Understood, and yes impactful mmo combat really is a feel. I just get this ‘aha!!’ feeling when I block or evade and can follow up with a crunchy powerful style of some sort. Goes all the way back to Dark Age of Camelot combat I suppose, which also had positional styles. Does ESO have bonuses for attacking from the back?

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