Damage In ESO
It’s important to understand the mechanics of damage in Elder Scrolls Online. It is what reduces Health and forms the basis of all combat activities. It is also quite a complex topic which is not helped by the range of contradictory information available. This page will go through the mechanics of dealing and taking damage in ESO.
It is important to understand just how damage works before going into the sources of damage itself.
Damage Source –> Target Damage Shield –> Target Mitigation (Armor/Resistance) –> Target Health
This order explains that damage has to go through any damage shields and mitigation before it actually takes Health away from a target. This is best illustrated by the fact that almost all of your ability tooltips will say “does X damage” and yet you will generally deal less actual damage to a target. This is because the initial damage would first hit a damage shield (if one existed) and then would be reduced by the target mitigation (Armor or Spell Resistance) and then would deal damage to the target.
Light Attacks deal a small amount of damage to a single target with the weapon that you have equipped at the time of the attack. The amount of damage that you deal with Light Attacks is determined by your Max Magicka or Max Stamina and also by your Spell Damage or Weapon Damage. Weapons that use Magicka (Destruction Staff Staff, Restoration Staff) use Max Magicka and Spell Damage.Weapons which use Stamina (One Hand and Shield, Bow, Dual Wield, Two Handed) use Max Stamina and Weapon Damage.
Light Attacks are important in ESO, as each time you perform a Light Attack (or a Heavy Attack) you will gain an 8 second buff which grants Ultimate which is used for Ultimate abilities. A Light Attack will always refresh this buff and allow you to continuously gain Ultimate for the duration of a fight.
Light Attacks are the most basic form of damage that you can do, and while the damage from these attacks is small, it plays an important role!
Light Attack Weaving / Animation Cancelling
It is possible to “weave” Light Attacks in with your other abilities and seamlessly deal a bit more damage and keep the Ultimate buff up at the same time. When you are about to use an ability simply perform a Light Attack right before activating that ability. This performs a Light Attack which is immediately followed by the ability which you activated with little to no delay. This concept can add some damage to each of your abilities and does not cost anything and at the same time the Ultimate buff is refreshed!
ZOS have stated that “weaving” is simply an unintended consequence of the combat systems design and they have embraced the concept.
If you practice you can perform Light Attack seamlessly between your use of other abilities. This might not seem like much but it can add a lot to your damage over the duration of a fight.
Heavy Attacks deal more damage than Light Attacks but take longer to perform and can be interrupted with bash attacks and interrupt abilities. It varies by weapon type, but Heavy Attacks need to “wind up” before they deal any damage. Restoration Staffs and Lightning Staffs are the exception though – these Heavy Attacks are channelled over a few seconds.
A fully charged Heavy Attack restores some resources (Magicka or Stamina) when completed. Weapons which use Stamina restore some of your Stamina. Weapons which use Magicka restore some Magicka. You must fully charge your Heavy Attack in order to restore any resources. The amount of resources which is restored on a Heavy Attack depends on your Level.
This resource generation can be useful, especially in PVE where you can knock down off balance enemies with a Heavy Attack and restore a bit of your resources at the same time. It’s also great for healers when they run out of Magicka and tanks when they run out of Stamina.
Heavy Attacks are harder to perform in PVP where the action is constantly moving and enemies might interrupt your Heavy Attack causing you to be stunned.
The Restoration Staff has a passive called Circle of Life which increases the Magicka restored from a full Restoration Staff Heavy Attack, this is great for Magicka management especially for healers!
Abilities are the best and most common source of damage in Elder Scrolls Online. Abilities can also perform a range of other functions for offense and defense such as healing, damage shields, damage over time effects, crowd control (stuns, knockbacks, immobilizes, snares) and buffs to your damage and sustainability.
You can perform abilities my placing them on your Action Bar. You can place up to 5 abilities, and 1 Ulitmate, on your Action Bar. At Level 15 you’ll unlock weapon-swapping, which allows your character to equip another weapon and make use of a secondary Action Bar with different abilities. This effectivley gives you access to 10 different abilities and 2 Ultimates.
Some abilities require a target to cast and others can be performed with no targets in range at an area. Some abilties are cast at the ground, and effect targets in that area, while others are cast on yourself. You will learn a lot about abilities by using them and practising with them.
The tooltips of abilities describe the ability itself and generally include how much damage is expected to be dealt to a target. The actual damage dealt will vary, however, because different targets have different mitigation like Armor and Spell Resistance.
The damage of any ability comes from five different things described below.
Spell / Weapon Damage
If an ability uses Magicka it will scale with Spell Damage.
If an ability uses Stamina it will scale with Weapon Damage.
These stats impact the damage of abilities quite a lot and increasing these stats will increase your damage or healing.
How to Increase
- Weapons (Quality, Level)
All weapon types grant both Spell and Weapon Damage.
- Jewelry Enchants
- Item Sets
- Sorcery / Brutality Buff Abilities
Max Magicka / Max Stamina
If an ability uses Magicka it will scale with Max Magicka.
If an ability uses Stamina it will scale with Max Stamina.
These stats also impact the damage of your abilities quite a bit and increasing these can lead to more damage and a larger pool of resources.
How to Increase
- Attribute Points
- Armor Enchants
- Jewelry Traits
- Item Sets
The rank of an ability (I, II, III, IV) will also increase the damage or duration of that ability by a small amount. Your ability will progress through the ranks automatically with XP gained while that ability is slotted on your Action Bar.
This is simply a hidden number which determines how the ability will scale and can’t be seen or changed. This simply differentiates the damage of different abilities so that everything doesn’t do the same damage or healing. You don’t really have to worry about this and you can’t change it.
When a Light Attack, Heavy Attack or ability does a critical strike it deals 50% additional damage. This is a great boost and can lead to much better damage!
You have a base Spell Critical Rating and Weapon Critical Rating of 10%. This means that every time you deal damage, there is a 10% chance to deal critical (+50%) damage to the target.
How To Increase
- Item Sets
- Prophecy / Savagery Buff Abilities
The higher critical you have the more critical strikes you will deal and the more damage you will do. You should not forget about Spell Damage, Weapon Damage, Max Magicka and Max Stamina as these do not rely on chance and can yield better damage results. It’s best to have a good mix of high stats.
In PVP a lot of players use the Impenetrable Trait on gear. This will reduce the amount of extra damage that your critical strikes will deal. If the player has enough Impenetrable your critical strikes will deal the same amount of damage as a normal hit. It is wise to wear gear with the Impenetrable Trait in PVP as some players have a very high critical strike chance which will deals lots of extra damage.
If you are wondering why ESO references Critical Rating in the game with numbers instead of percentages head over here and read about the ESO critical system.
How Can I Increase My Damage?
You can increase your damage by increasing any or all of the above factors. It is generally a good idea to start with Max Magicka / Max Stamina and Spell Damage / Weapon Damage as these have quite a big impact and work well in both PVE and PVP. You could then go for more Spell Critical / Weapon Critical. It is up to you how exactly this is achieved and how much you need. Just by doing things in game and experimenting with different ideas is a great way to learn and you can easily do this in the lower Levels and while questing and exploring!
You should take into account many things when considering how to increase your damage such as potential loss of survivability and resource sustainability. There is no point in doing a pile of damage if you’re already dead.
Increase Your Damage Stats
- Weapon (Level, Quality, Enchants, Traits)
- Attribute Points (Max Health, Magicka, Stamina)
- Armor Passives (Light, Medium, Heavy)
- Armor Enchants (Health, Magicka, Stamina)
- Armor Traits
- Jewellery Enchants and Traits
- Item Sets
- Passives (Class, Weapon, Race)
- Champion Points
There are a lot of ways to go about this, and there are no right or wrong ways. Some players like to get their item sets worked out, and then move on to their gear enchants, jewelry and weapons and finally fill in Attribute Points to cover any weak areas left over. You can go the other way too and use your Attribute Points first and then fill in any areas you want with your gear.
Measure Your Damage
You can enable scrolling combat text in Settings. This will then display damage numbers indicating the exact amount of damage that you deal, healing that you do and healing that you receive. This is handy when evaluating your effectiveness in combat and examining how your abilities are performing.
For PC/Mac AddOns can also serve this very purpose and are plentiful. I would recommend something like Foundry Tactical Combat or Combat Cloud to allow you to view live damage and heal numbers. These AddOns also show when your deal critical damage. There are a lot more AddOns to help with your damage measurement like Combat Log Statistics which let you go back and have a look at the damage that specific abilities did.
It is always good to evaluate your effectiveness and look for ways to improve. Maybe your first plan didn’t go so well due to an unforseen problem or maybe you need to invest in more Spell Damage or maybe the increase of 1000 Stamina isn’t worth the extra damage when you could use Health instead? AddOns can help a lot with this process!
Damage per Second (DPS) is not always the best or most accurate to measure your damage in ESO. DPS is calculated (mostly with AddOns) by timing a fight (from entering combat to the end of the fight) and also measuring how much damage was dealt in that time and dividing it by the number of seconds. So if you did 10,000 damage in 10 seconds that would be 1000 damage per second. Now imagine that there were 3 enemies and you charge in and deal AoE (are of effect) damage to all them, therefore dealing 30,000 damage in 10 seconds making your DPS jump to 3000. AoE DPS is very different to single target DPS.
A situation where DPS might be a useful measurement tool is a sustained boss fight.
DPS gets muddled in PVP as well, because the “in combat” and “out of combat” times are messed up due to the volatile nature of Cyrodiil fighting so any DPS measurements in Cyrodiil are likely to be inaccurate. DPS can be a handy measurement tool but it really has to be understood and taken in context rather than just used to boast.