Elder Scrolls Online is a vast game with plenty of content to immerse yourself in. Though you can have fun no matter where you start your adventure, it’s good to have a roadmap on hand. Even veteran players find themselves looking for new ways to enjoy and optimize their gameplay!
In this ESO Beginner’s Guide, we aim to offer you aid on your journey through Tamriel. We’ll start with the basics and move on to more complex tips and tricks, all designed to help you navigate this expansive game and all it has to offer.
Let’s get started!
ESO — Not Like Other Elder Scrolls Games
The first thing to note is that Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t play like the other Elder Scrolls games. It’s an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) more in the vein of World of Warcraft than Skyrim or Oblivion, and the gameplay reflects this.
Playing in first person is quite disorienting in ESO (though it’s still possible), and you won’t be a lone adventurer for the most part. Major cities will be populated with plenty of other players, and you’ll likely find yourself joining random fights with strangers to help take down a world boss.
The ESO community is one of the best out there (aside from the occasional rude encounter or PVP troll). Most players are incredibly kind and helpful, and you can always rely on zone chats to quickly answer any questions you may have.
Note: Zone chats in major starting zones can be a bit messy, but it’s otherwise pretty easy to shout out for help. Simply hit ‘Enter’ and specify the area you’d like to interact with in chat.
- /zone alerts players in the entire map zone
- /say alerts players in your immediate area
- /group alerts players in your specific group (e.g. dungeons or battlegrounds)
Building Your Character
Character building is tricky when you’re first starting out — there are so many races and classes to choose from! There are plenty of ways to build your character for ultra-efficient gameplay (we’ve written plenty of guides on the topic), but it ultimately all comes down to personal preference.
Race doesn’t really affect your overall strength all that much. Different races do give you helpful passives — like stamina/magicka boosts or increased critical strike chance — that can help you fine-tune your character, but that’s all optimization. What really puts you at 100K+ DPS is your experience, skill rotation, and overall build. When you’re starting out, just pick your favorite. It’s more fun that way, anyway!
The same goes for class. Any class can play any role, be it Tank, Healer, or DPS. Some do it better than others, but anything goes in ESO and it’s better to just have fun. Here’s a quick breakdown of the six available classes:
- Sorcerers: Mages that use lightning and daedric conjurations to strike down their foes.
- Templars: Amazing healers that burn enemies with holy light and smite them with aedric spears.
- Dragonknights: Strong tanks that focus on flame/poison damage and use earth to shield themselves from harm.
- Nightblades: Assassins that stick to the shadows and deal big spikes of damage with blade or blood magic.
- Wardens (DLC locked): Nature mages that deal frost damage and heal with magical plants, often aided by animals.
- Necromancers (DLC locked): Conjurors of the undead that control skeletons and revive their companions in battle. (Be warned — the common folk of Tamriel don’t take kindly to you summoning their ancestors in front of them. They’ll attack if you do!)
With all of this in mind, remember that your first character doesn’t have to be your main. You can create up to nine characters before needing to buy more character slots, so try out a few options before picking your favorite.
I strongly suggest making 2–3 starter characters of different classes to get a feel for which one you like best. The meta changes often, so if you’re worried about picking a “weaker” class, just remember it may jump up the rankings in a few months. Play each character until Level 30–40, then choose your main from there.
As an added bonus, you can always spend a little gold to further tweak your character later on. Each of your skills can be leveled up and “morphed” into one of two different options, usually stamina and magicka. If you ever want to change up your build, you can pay to swap your skills to the other morph at any time.
Note: This advice is especially important for completionists. Earned skins and mounts carry over between characters, but achievements don’t! Make sure you test out a few classes to find which one suits you best. Don’t get stuck completing everything on a class you don’t even enjoy!
Stories and Lore
It’s best to start with a zone’s first story quest to get yourself situated with the setting and major characters. To start, press ‘P’ to open up your group menu and select the Zone Guide tab. Click “Start Zone Story” to see exactly where the starting quest begins. This will help keep the story streamlined and prevent characters from interacting with you like you already know them.
You can also start with the main quest, found by pressing ‘J’ to access your Journal. The main quest is what all of ESO is based around, so it’s a good place to get your footing. Press ‘M’ to pull yourself to the specific part on the map where the mission is located to get started.
The Elder Scrolls games have always had a way of telling deep stories that pull you into the lore, and ESO is no different. If you take the time to read through the quests, there are plenty of morally-charged choices to make. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game — so many other games seem to push you in a singular direction, so it’s nice to feel like your decisions actually have an impact. Characters will even speak to how you aided or hurt them, making the quests feel even more real.
Most text interactions simply give you more information about the quest, but red text signifies a serious decision. You won’t be able to take back a choice once you make it (unless you reset the quest by abandoning it and restarting), so choose wisely.
With that being said, the choices you make in a given quest (usually) won’t affect other quests in the game. You have the freedom to change your moral code at any time.
Our biggest piece of advice here is to avoid the main quests in the DLC zones until you’ve gone through the base zones. DLC areas often bring back characters that you’re supposed to recognize from base zone quests, and you’ll likely be left scratching your head over missing details. That said, if you don’t care about continuity or a smooth storyline, carry on with whatever zone you like best.
Free Content and DLC Content (ESO+)
Most areas are accessible to all players, but you won’t be able to play all the content if you just have the base game. It’s frustrating to be locked out of DLC-only content, but there are ways to get around this problem.
The content you’ll have access to depends on which game package you buy, but you’ll at least have the following at the base level:
- 24 Zones (playable areas with various cities, quests, and stories to explore)
- 24 Dungeons (four-player group content with a specific story and special gear rewards)
- 3 Trials (complex, twelve-player group content with special gear rewards)
- 1 Arena (solo or four-player content with waves of enemies and a single, powerful weapon reward)
If you want additional content, you can either buy a specific DLC or subscribe to ESO+. ESO+ unlocks all DLC areas in the game (except for the most recent Blackwood Zone). On top of base content, ESO+ gives you access to:
- 16 Zones
- 22 Dungeons
- 7 Trials
- 3 Arenas
We suggest playing the base content before spending money on ESO+, as there’s no reason to pay for content you’re not using yet! Once you’re able to maximize the time spent in DLC areas, consider giving ESO+ a shot. Some players pay a monthly subscription, while others get it for a single month and rush through the content they want to play. Alternatively, you can also wait for the occasional one-week free trials to test out new content and unlock new gear before making a decision.
Groups — Expectations
When playing group content with other people, you have three major roles to choose from:
- DPS: Focuses on dealing both AOE and single target damage.
- Tank: Focuses on taunting enemies (pierce armor or inner rage) and taking hits.
- Healer: Focuses on healing and buffing allies (restoration staff and some class specific skills) while damaging and de-buffing enemies.
In the Group tab, you’ll have one of the icons of these roles selected, so make sure you can provide the support your group needs. Unless you’re in a group with friends, you should be ready to play your character’s set role. Groups can still get through fights if you’re not playing to your set role, but content goes much more smoothly if you do.
Gear — When Does It Matter?
Gear is very clunky early on. Because gear caps out at CP160, anything you find up to Champion Level 160 will slowly lose its value. Every time you level up, your armor will become weaker and the passives it provides will diminish as well.
For this reason, optimizing your build before Champion Level 160 isn’t a great use of your time. Feel free to pick up armor you find and wear it along the way, but players who want to jump to CP160 quickly prefer to buy or craft training gear.
Training gear will boost any experience you gain by a small amount, helping you level up and unlock new skills more quickly. Using experience scrolls will also help with leveling, and should be used whenever you complete a random daily dungeon or battleground (both unlocked at Level 10). Jewelry costs too much to craft, but you can get most levels of Julianos (magicka) or Hundings (stamina) clothing from guild traders.
Top 8 Tips and Tricks for Beginners
In this part of our ESO Beginner’s Guide, we’ve put together some tips and tricks to save you time and money as you get further into the game. We’ve broken them up into subsections to give you a clear idea of why and how they are important.
1. Stablemaster — Horse Speed, Carry Weight, and Stamina
Train your horses daily! Horses are initally slower than running, which makes riding them miserable. You can train them once a day (every twenty hours, to be exact) to increase their speed, carry weight, or stamina. Carry weight is actually your own, as you can’t stow anything with your horse, and stamina refers to the number of enemy attacks your horse can take before you get knocked off.
You can also make horse riding more bearable by unlocking a speed boost through playing a bit of PVP. Queue for some battlegrounds or head down to Cyrodiil or the Imperial City — once you get to Assault Level 3, you can unlock the Continuous Attack passive. This gives you Major Gallop whenever you ride a horse, increasing your mount movement speed by 30%.
Spending the 250 gold for each training can feel like a lot for a starting player, but it’s worth it for the time you’ll save by moving around quicker and holding more items in your inventory.
2. Pack Merchant — More Bag Space
Buy the first couple cheap bag upgrades early on. Each time you buy a bag upgrade of ten inventory slots, the cost will jump up in price. It’s pretty manageable at first, costing only 400, and then 2000. It’ll eventually cost 64,500, which is pretty difficult to come up with at the start. You can buy up to eighty slots of increased bag space — the rest will have to be earned through horse training.
Bank space can also be increased, with less severe cost spikes but much more space to cover. You can buy up to 180 slots of increased bank space, with the first ten starting at 1000 and the last costing 85,000. Don’t worry about maxing out your storage spaces right away, just increase them as you go.
You can always store items on your other characters, though it can be annoying to trade items back and forth between your mules. Bag space is really a quality of life expense in ESO — more space means less time going back to the city and selling all those items you don’t need.
3. Join a Guild — Friends, Allies, and More
Guilds range from being beginner-friendly and low-expectation to complicated and demanding in terms of generating revenue. You can sort out what you’re looking for, which will probably be something casual until you gain access to items with higher selling points.
Guilds are useful on many fronts. First and foremost, you’ll gain a great community that will have your back, willing to answer questions and help you out with difficult world bosses or dungeons. Depending on the guild you join, you can find a lot of useful information just by asking around.
Second, you’ll be able to teleport to any of these guild members for free, meaning you can simply right click their name and have access to a new area of the game without needing to run or ride your slow horse all the way there. When you teleport, you’ll arrive at the closest wayshrine to them, meaning you’ll then be able to use that wayshrine to port between locations you know. Remember that traveling between wayshrines is always free — it only costs you money to teleport from the middle of nowhere to a specific wayshrine.
Third, guilds throw events that can help you earn achievements that otherwise might be difficult to get playing solo, such as completing trials or dolmens in a specific zone. You can also buy and sell items from your guild trader, which you can access from NPC bankers.
Note: If your guild hasn’t paid for a trader in a given city, you’ll only have access to the trader from the bank. This means only other guild members can buy from the trader; if your items aren’t selling, this very well may be why.
Get these early on to save a ton of time! This is coming from someone who generally likes to play games in their purest form. After many hours of playtime, I finally decided to give them a try and was amazed by how much they changed the game in both small and large ways.
You won’t get cat-shaped dragons like you could with Skyrim add-ons, but you can optimize the game to make tedious things go by much more quickly. We have a guide on which Add-ons are the most useful right here, in case you were wondering which ones to start with.
ESO add-ons can highlight important areas on the map, track how much damage you and your group are doing, instantly complete crafting writs, and more. You can toggle add-ons in-game, so you can always keep your least favorites turned off until you want to try them out again. I use the Minion add-on manager to streamline usage and updating, but you can also download them directly if you’re not keen on using a manager.
5. Vampires and Werewolves
All you need to do is ask. Certain things in the game can only be accessed through purchases in the crown store, but becoming a vampire or werewolf doesn’t require you to pay any real money. You won’t need to pay any gold in-game either. You simply need to ask for a vampire or werewolf bite in zone chat and someone will give you one if they are passing through.
Sometimes you’ll need to wait for a bit, but if you stick around one of the shrines it shouldn’t take you all that long. Asking in your guild is another surefire way to get a bite. If you want to become a vampire or a werewolf, we have a guide on all the specifics of where to ask, where you need to be, and the benefits of being one or the other right here in these guides:
Playing as a vampire or werewolf can be loads of fun, and shouldn’t be blocked behind a paywall of 1500 crowns. Because players can turn one another every seven days per character, players no longer need to buy it from the crown store like they had to in the past. Save yourself some money and enjoy the fun mission you’ll get to play through when you get turned!
6. Crafting Certifications
Getting certified in each of the crafting trades will help you to get started on creating useful items, as well as earning the general crafting rewards, gold, and experience gained by completing writs.
Writs are quests to craft specific items in a crafting trade, and by selecting the “quest only” option in the crafting menu, you’ll only see the items you’ll need to use to make the required item. Simply walk up to a crafting billboard in a major city and interact with it. This will start you on your quest to get certified in a specific crafting trade. If you don’t already have the skill line, this will open it up for you and you can start leveling it up to get passives that will help your character craft more efficiently, find resources more easily in the world, or even use consumable items more efficiently.
Completing crafting writs can also give you very expensive upgrade materials, which you can put to use golding out your weapons and armor or even sell on a guild trader for some great profit. We have guides on each of the crafting trades and how to best level up each one.
It’s better to have all of your crafting trades maxed out on one character, whether that’s your main or a specific toon just for crafting. This is in large part due to the requirement that the more advanced writs you can earn later on will require you to know specific motifs, which gives you the ability to craft specific looking armor styles. It’s best to have one character “know” all of these motifs so you don’t have to trade your writs back and forth between toons later on.
7. Companions — Friendly NPCs that Help You with Questing
Unlock companions early to boost your DPS (or survivability, if you have Blackwood). Having a companion to help cover the gaps in your build is really useful. As a DPS, you can set your companion up as a healer or tank, or vice versa. There are only two companions out at the moment — Mirri and Bastian.
Mirri can be found at the Northernmost point of Blackwood at Doomvault Vulpinaz. Bastian can be found in the South West area of Blackwood at Deepscorn Hollow. Both companions are useful, but most people prefer Mirri for her passive (which boosts your chance of getting extra treasure from opening treasure chests). Bastian’s passive (boosting your chance of getting a better potion when you collect one) clutters up bag space and isn’t all that effective by comparison.
If you want to hear more from your companions or are annoyed by their dialogue, you can change their interaction frequency by going to Settings > Gameplay > Companion Reactions.
8. Crown Store — What Should You Buy?
This is a polarizing issue in the ESO community with plenty of conflicting advice. The Crown Store is an in-game store that requires the currency of “crowns” to buy various items with. When you subscribe to ESO+, you’ll get some crowns to buy in-game things with, but you can also just use real money to buy crowns directly.
The Crown Store offers things like DLC zones, dungeons, playable classes, and the Imperial race. You can also buy cosmetic upgrades like mounts, outfits, hairstyles, and more. What you hear people complain about the most are usually the crown crates. These are basically a collection of 3–5 random items that range from meager potions all the way to legendary apex mounts. The catch is that it’s basically gambling to buy these, and people can spend a ton of money buying up these crates hoping for a mount and never get one, while some roll it and get in on the first try.
If you are tired of your mount and want to a new fancy one, you could consider the crown store, but you can also earn specific mounts in-game. Earning outfits and skins are much easier to do than mounts, but ESO puts out events that usually let you work towards earning a mount eventually through event tickets. These event tickets are earnable through completing specific things during events such as dungeons, PVP, crafting, and etc.
If you do want to invest in crown crates, pray to the RNG gods and be ready for an influx of poisons you can later exchange for gems (which can in turn be exchanged for items found in crown crates). Some love them, some hate them. I personally think your money’s better spent on the Warden or Necromancer class, or on summonable banker/merchant NPCs to save yourself a trip to the city. It’s all up to preference on this one, though!
Join the High Ground
We hope you enjoyed our ESO Beginner’s Guide! ESO is a wildly large game, but we hope this guide helped iron out some of the details for you. For more in-depth guides and the latest on ESO and your other favorite games, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter.
I’ve read so many guides from other websites and I must commend you on a great job of making all of your guides easy to read, easy to understand, and more useful than any other website. Thank you. Now I have great hopes of improving my characters and actually enjoying the game.
Thank you, Beth! I’m so glad you found the guides helpful and easy to understand. Wishing you the best on your journey across Tamriel!