So you’ve just picked up The Elder Scrolls Online and you’re itching to log in and begin your journey across Tamriel. Great! But before you jump in and begin playing, you’re first going to find yourself sitting on the ESO Character Creation screen, with a whole slew of options available to you.
For RPG veterans and MMO newbies alike, this can often be one of the most fun parts of the experience of playing the game – but it can also be intimidating. On one hand, you want to create a character that you like and will enjoy playing – but on the other, you don’t want to unknowingly make a mistake that will cost you later on. I’ve seen plenty of players over the years make some poor decisions during their Character Creation process that they’ve later come to regret.
For that reason, I’ve put together this short list of three important considerations when creating your character in ESO. I’d encourage you to keep them all top-of-mind as you’re planning to get into the game, so you can avoid making a decision you’ll regret later on.
1. Choose Your Class Wisely
Choosing the right class will undoubtedly be the single most impactful decision you make for your character, as it defines which core set of active and passive skills that you’ll have available to you. The Elder Scrolls Online is a bit unique compared to some other games, in that there are a wide selection of skills and passives made available to all characters, regardless of class, so the differences between classes aren’t necessarily as stark as you may have experienced elsewhere, but it’s still a very important decision.
There are currently six classes in The Elder Scrolls Online. Four are classes that come available to all players via the base game: Dragonknights, Templars, Nightblades, and Sorcerers. The other two are available for purchase through various other packages: Wardens, which were introduced in the Morrowind Chapter in 2017, and Necromancers, introduced with the Elsweyr Chapter in 2019.
Each class has a trio of class-unique skill trees, including multiple Active and Passive abilities, as well as Ultimate skills, and these can dramatically influence the way you play your character. Nightblades, for example, have unique skills like Shadowy Disguise, which allows you to turn invisible for a short time, and guarantees your next attack will be a Critical Strike. They also have a fairly wide arsenal of high “burst”-damage single-target abilities, like Surprise Attack, Incapacitating Strike, Merciless Resolve, and Impale, but are somewhat lacking in damage-over-time abilities. In contrast, the Dragonknight’s toolkit contains an array of strong damage-over-time skills, like Eruption, Burning Talons, Venomous Claw, and Burning Flames, as well as very strong crowd-control effects that can make it difficult for enemies to escape.
Your choice in class is something that you cannot redo later on – if you choose for your character to be a Templar, it will always be a Templar. There is no option to pay for a class change. As a result, many players choose to have multiple characters that they swap between depending on their mood, or may level one of each class until they identify which one they like the most.
In general, my recommendation to any player starting out would be to check out a Class Overview guide, or watch some videos or streams showing each class in action. With the fairly diverse options of viable builds available to players across all classes, particularly in PvP and non-Veteran PvE content, you’re almost certainly going to be able to discover your preferred playstyle and niche and build to suit it eventually, but it’s always good to have a general knowledge of the class differences before you pull the trigger.
2. Don’t Overlook Your Character’s Alliance
One of the most common (and frustrating) mistakes I’ve seen players make is overlooking their Alliance choice during the character creation process. There are three Tamrielic alliances vying for power in Cyrodiil during the events of ESO: The Daggerfall Covenant, The Aldmeri Dominion, and The Ebonheart Pact.
Each Alliance, or “faction”, is composed of three races. Bretons, Redguards, and Orsimer (Orcs) make up the Daggerfall Covenant to the West. The Altmer (High Elves), Bosmer (Wood Elves), and Khajiit make up the Aldmeri Dominion in the South. Finally, the Ebonheart Pact is composed of the Nords, Dunmer (Dark Elves), and Argonians in the East. A tenth race – the Imperials – have been dispossessed of their homeland during the time of The Elder Scrolls Online, and are therefore free to join any of the three Alliances.
If you choose a race other than the Imperials, you’ll be automatically forced into the associated Alliance – see the screenshot above. There is an optional “Any Race, Any Alliance” item in the in-game Crown Store available to purchase that can allow you to circumvent these restrictions, and there are also Crown Store “Race Change Tokens” that you can buy to change your character’s race (and gender) later on – but like Class selection, you cannot change your Alliance through any means after your character is created.
While Zenimax has made a lot of changes to the game since its original launch in 2014 that have made it possible for players to play together in most open-world zones and PvE content, your Alliance alignment is still an important decision because your character’s Alliance wholly defines who you can and cannot play with in Cyrodiil and Imperial City – ESO’s massive open-world PvP war zones.
If you’re playing the game with friends, you’ll want to make sure that you all choose the same Alliance – and even if you’re venturing into Tamriel on your own at first, if you even decide to join a player-run guild (you can join up to five), you’ll need to have a character of the same alliance as its members in order to PvP together. While you’ll always have the option to just make another new character on a new Alliance, that can sometimes be a difficult pill to swallow.
3. Determine Whether To “Min-Max”
My third and final major suggestion starts with a question – just how “serious” are you?
Are you the type of player who wants to push out the best possible damage or healing numbers in every encounter? Do you want to complete every achievement in every piece of content on its highest difficulty? Are you just interested in completing the higher difficulty content, but not necessarily push the best possible scores? Does the difficulty level matter to you at all? Or do you not care for group content whatsoever? Depending on your answers to those questions, you may want to adjust the criteria for the decisions you make at character creation.
Every playable race has a series of unique racial “passive” skills that provide noticeable, tangible benefits to you in combat. As a result, there’s actually a fairly noteworthy difference in your effectiveness in a particular role, based solely on your race choice.
For example, races like Redguards and Bosmer have very potent bonuses granted to their Stamina stats, while Bretons, Altmer and Dunmer have bonuses to various Magicka-related stats. This means that, assuming all other factors are held constant, if you choose to build your character around stamina-based damage, you’ll actually mathematically always be able to push out better damage on a Bosmer than you would on a Breton.
It’s not just limited to damage output either – Argonians have resource-return passives that lend very well to Tanking, and your healing output is influenced by many of the same stats that impact damage, so a Magicka-based Altmer healer will always outperform an equally-skilled and geared Nord.
Because of the various racial passives, if one of your goals as a player is to pursue high-end content, it’s actually important to consider how your race choice synergizes with how you intend to build and play your character. Even if you don’t want to pursue that challenging content, a well-aligned race/class/role combination can reap benefits for any player, as higher damage, stronger healing, and better “flavor” passives (like an Orc’s increased movement speed, Bosmer’s reduced fall damage, or Khajiit’s improved stealth radius) can make your life easier in any number of situations you’ll find yourself in through your adventures.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find success despite a less-than-ideal race choice. It’s absolutely possible – I’ve successfully healed Veteran Trials on a Bosmer Magicka Nightblade, and my pal Woeler has famously been Tanking some of the most challenging content in the game at a very high level on a filthy Khajiit, of all things. It’s absolutely possible, but you’ll need to accept that it may require devoting more time and energy to developing the skill and understanding necessary to accomplish something that would be easier if you’d just chosen the more efficient race or class for the job.
At the end of the day, though, what’s most important is that you create the right character for you. If you want to play an Argonian Stamina-DPS Sorcerer, then do that. You might be able to push 10% higher damage on a Redguard, but if that detracts from your enjoyment of the game, it may not be worth it for you.
It’s also important to remember that, in 99% of situations, a more skilled player in a poorly-optimized race/role combo will still bring more value to the group than a less skilled player with the better race choice. As long as you’re willing to accept that you might lose a few more fights in PvP, or you might not be able to hang with the absolute best-of-the-best PvE community because of your choice, it’s your decision. If you’re good, and you put the time in, you’ll still be able to complete most content – and even if you decide later that you should have gone Redguard instead, you can always pay for a Race Change Token from the Crown Store.