Quakecon Video Dissection: Reactive Combat

Earlier this weekend we all had the pleasure of getting our first glimpse at some solid gameplay in the Elder Scrolls Online.  The reaction has been mixed, and as the combat was not really explained during the stream, giving a lot of people the impression that the combat is spammy.  While I don’t feel this is the case, I find it hard to blame viewers for not knowing what was going on when a proper review of combat mechanics hasn’t really been published since PAX East, and the indicators have never before been seen by the public eye.  In this article, I’m going to try to identify the various indicators so that readers will then be able to review the footage with a better understanding of what’s actually going on.

Overview of Combat Mechanics and Controls in ESO

Combat in ESO is basically built around the player reacting to the fight in a visceral way, including the timing of both offensive and defensive abilities. Here are the basic controls as we experienced that at PAX East:

QuakeCon Banner

  • Left Click: Basic Attack. Hold to power attack (can be released at any time, will automatically release when at full power).
  • Right Click: Hold to block.
  • Right Click + Left Click: To perform a melee interrupt, hold right click to block, then left click to bash.
  • Double tap a direction: Dodge roll (This can also be bound to a key now)
  • Ctrl: Sneak
  • Shift + Move: Sprint
  • X:  Activate synergy

Note that blocking, interrupting, dodging, stealthing, and sprinting all consume stamina

These weapon abilities are basically your bread and butter abilities, and the goal is for players to be able to use them, in addition to the hotbar abilities, to instinctively react to combat cues to properly execute fights.  So what exactly are those combat cues?  In the sections below, I’ll be grabbing screenshots from the Quakecon gameplay demonstration video to try to show what each of the separate telegraphs looks like.  I apologize for the quality in advance, as these are screenshots of a video capture of a low quality stream, so they aren’t going to be pretty.  If you’re having trouble making out what I’m talking about, I’ve included a link to where it happened in the video for each one so that you can see it in action.

Enemy power attacks

At 17:05, the player rushes towards a monster and begins to attack it.  The mob turns to face the player and begins a power attack, crouching down and readying itself for a strike.  The power attack is also indicated by the glowing yellow lines emanating from the mob, and at least in this case, an indicator on the bottom of the screen telling to you hold the right mouse button to block (which is most likely a tutorial feature).

Power Attack Indicator

When this happens, you want to block the attack before it goes off.  Successfully blocking a power attack places the mob in an “off-balance” state where they are stunned, lean down, and have a white glowing circle above their head, as shown below.

Power Attack Downed State

In this state, enemies hit with power attacks will take heavy damage and be knocked down by the blow.

While it wasn’t shown in the video, it seems entirely possible that enemies will also be able to block player power attacks, discouraging players from spamming power attacks outside of the off-balance state.  Keep an eye out to see if you can find any footage of an NPC blocking.

Enemy casts

At 10:48, you can see the player engage in combat with two unsuspecting NPCs –  a warrior, and an archer.  While the warrior charges in to attack the player, the archer stands back and begins casting a frontal cone AoE against the player.  You can barely make it out in the screenshot below, but when he begins casting, he seems to emanate a red version of the power attack animation.  This indicates that they are casting an ability that can be interrupted.

Quakecon Cast Indicator

As you can see in the video, if the cast is interrupted correctly, the attacker will be placed in the same off-balance state caused by blocking a power attack.

Enemy AoE attacks

At 19:06, the player pans to the right to see a wide, red indicator that an enemy is aiming an AoE attack in his general direction.

Quakecon Enemy AoE Indicator


Obviously, this is where dodge rolls come into play.  However, as we saw in the enemy casts indicator, at least some of these AoEs can be interrupted if you’re fast enough.

Enemy Synergies

At 18:15, you can see the often discussed oil + fire enemy synergy in action.  Notice the enemy running towards the player, throwing out his hand, and a thick, black oil slick covering the ground underneath the player.

Enemy Synergy 1

Notice the archer in the back left, already firing a flaming arrow.  When that flaming arrow lands:

Enemy Synergy 2

Boosh!  It seems like player will have to react pretty quickly to be able to avoid mob synergies, and it was nice to see the oil placed right where the player was standing, and not just in some random area as some games have done in the past.

Player Synergies

And lastly we have player synergies.  These are a little bit different than others as they add an element of reactive combat that comes from your teammates instead of your enemies.  The way synergies work is that one player will use an ability which will allow players to activate a synergy specific to that field.  This can actually be seen in our power attack demonstration at 17:05, where, after blocking and rolling around the mob, the player enters a synergy area allowing him to activate a synergy called “Leeching Strike”:

Quakecon Player Synergy

I didn’t notice the player using any synergies in the video, but it seems likely that they will be fairly powerful abilities that will give a definite edge to more coordinated groups of players.

The Wrap Up

Well there you go – those are the basics of reactive combat in The Elder Scrolls Online.  With these systems in mind, give the video another look and see what you can notice!