Checking out Elder Scrolls Online’s Skill Advisor

Somehow this weekend I found myself back in The Elder Scrolls Online. A random YouTube video triggered my desire to log in and once I did I remembered there’d been some big changes since I last played. One of those was the new Skill Adviser, a system intended to help players spend skill points as they level up.

One of TESO’s biggest barriers up until this point was that you could really gimp your character if you didn’t get the build right. As a newbie, the best way to avoid that was to do some research on the web to find a build put together by an advanced player and follow that. It’s what I did and honestly it wasn’t all that fun, but it did work.

The Skill Adviser [hereafter, SA], I assumed, was Zenimax’s way to obviate the need to turn to the web.

I decided to take it for a spin. I was playing on Xbox where I didn’t have any capped characters or high-level characters so I was, I thought, a good proxy for a new player. I did have a level 29 Stamina Templar and I started there. I reset his skill points and dove into the adviser.

For each class they offer 5 builds: a “newcomer” build, a Stamina DPS, a Magica DPS, a Tank build and a Healer build. The “newcomer” build for Templar is based on Magica and I didn’t want to reset my attribute points, and as rusty as I was I didn’t want to go Tank, so I chose the Stamina DPS build.

I have to say, it was a struggle. The build had you take just one self-heal and it was the one (sorry, I forget the name) that relies on having corpses laying around. My SA-specced StamPlar did fine fighting crowds of above ground mobs (I should note that all my testing has been done solo and outside of dungeons) but when a story quest led me to a 1 on 1 fight with a powerful opponent and no trash mobs to leech health from, I was doomed unless I had plenty of room to kite (the build pushes you towards dual wield and bow). I fought one end-of-mission boss (in a confined area) a dozen times before rage-quitting the mission. Finally I went ‘off plan’ and put a couple points into healing skills so I could self-heal and started doing MUCH better.

My assumption is that the Stam Templar DPS build it intended for group play with a healer. Or possibly for more advanced players who have access to better gear, better food and better potions.

My next test was a level 8 Dragonknight. I re-specced him and started following SA Dragonknight Tank build. Seems a natural fit. I almost immediate ran into problems where the SA was telling me to take skills I hadn’t unlocked yet. Further I never would unlock them because it never told me to take skills from the same line with lower requirements (which would cause that skill line to grow until the one it wanted me to take unlocked). I ditched that one quickly.

For my 3rd and final test I rolled a new character, a Nightblade, and followed the ‘newcomer’ build. It had me go Magica and so far this build is WEIRD but is working well. I’ve held my own against world bosses (can’t solo them but don’t get pancaked immediately) and delve bosses are no problem. I’ve had fights that have been a struggle but not an over-whelming struggle. More of “OK that didn’t work, let’s try another tactic” struggle, which are so satisfying when your new tactic works.

So why is it weird? At level 20 I have not put a single point into a weapon skill or an armor passive. Everything has gone into the Nightblade skill trees, including passives. One passive rewards wearing heavy armor so for now that’s what I’m doing, which seems crazy right? I’m running dual-wield on the front bar mostly because aesthetically it fits the combat style (a lot of nightblade skills are based on stabbing and such). So here is a magica-based, plate-wearing dual-wield ninja, teleporting into combat, then vanishing from sight and hitting again with a stun. Very mobile build…in heavy armor. On my back bar I put my single buff and my single dot (the other slots being dupes of the front bar for now) and I’m using a Restoration Staff (what?) that has a mana leech ability. Basically if I run low on mana I switch over to the staff to leech some from the target, but most of my time is on the front bar.

At some point I’ll go off-plan since I have like 7 skill points I can’t spend yet since I’m waiting for my class-abilities to level up enough to use them. But I’m waiting to see how far I can get just following the SA.

I have been told that at level 40 you get a free respec coupon as a level up reward. Based on my findings and that fact, I think the “intended” way to use the Skill Adviser is to start a new character, follow the “Newcomer” build to level 40, and then if desired switch to a more focused build. By that time all your class skill lines will be leveled up (as well as whatever weapons you’ve chosen to use). I also think we need to take the name literally: this is a Skill ADVISER not a skill dictator. If you feel like you need a skill that isn’t “advised” be willing to bend the plan to your needs.

I mean, that’s just a guess. We’ll see. Given the 4 year anniversary event going on, leveling is super fast (you get a 100% experience buff). You now get ‘level up rewards’ and at low levels you get a lot of gear that is +exp as well. I created my new character Saturday evening and hit 20 by end of day Sunday…I’m going to guess 6 hours total play time maybe? And I wasn’t really hurrying, just playing the game and enjoying the ride.

Poor Far Cry 5 got kicked to the curb during all this, but as a single player game it’ll wait. I’m really enjoying this 100% exp buff ride so I think I’ll stick with ESO for the next week until the event ends.