Skill Overview – Melee Weapons

We're getting up close and personal with melee weapons.

We’re getting up close and personal with melee weapons.

We’re back with the next part in our continuing series of skill overviews based on the Elder Scrolls Online build that was playable at PAX Prime and more recently at London’s Eurogamer Expo.  Isarii here, and I’ll be guiding you through a look at what ESO has to offer in terms of melee weapons – the weapons of choice for players who like to get up close and personal.   If you like hitting things in the face, then this is the article for you. I’ll be breaking down the One-handed and Shield, Two-Handed, and Dual Wield weapon lines that you can level and upgrade in-game.

One-Handed and Shield

Masters of defense should look no further than the one-handed and shield skill line, which is clearly intended to be the go-to weapon set for aspiring tanks.

  • [Active] Puncture – Deals physical damage, reduces the target’s armor, and taunts the target for a moderate duration.
  • [Active] Low Slash – Deals physical damage, snares target, and reduces the target’s weapon damage for a moderate duration.
  • [Active] Defensive Posture – While slotted, increases block mitigation and reduces block cost.  Activating the skill reflects the next spell projectile back at the attacker.
  • [Active] Shield Charge – Charges to target and attacks, dealing physical damage and stunning the target for a short duration.
  • [Active] Power Bash – Deals physical damage, disorienting the target for a moderate duration.
  • [Passive] Sword and Board – While you have a one-handed weapon and shield equipped, all damage and armor are increased.
  • [Passive] Deadly Bash – While you have a one-handed weapon and shield equipped, bash deals double damage and costs less stamina.
  • [Passive] Fortress – While you have a one-handed weapon and shield equipped, the cost of blocking is reduced.
  • [Passive] Deflect Bolts – While you have a one-handed weapon and shield equipped, block an additional percentage of damage from projectiles and ranged attacks.
  • [Passive] Battlefield Mobility – While you have a one-handed weapon and shield equipped, movement speed while blocking is increased.
Daedroth Attacking

This could be a glimpse of “Defensive Posture”

The skills in one-handed and shield line should come as no surprise, as all the usual trappings of a tank’s toolkit are present; you have a taunt, snare, sunder, charge, spell reflect, and general survivability related goodies.  Fans of hitting people in the face with a shield will be pleased to see a shield bash, and the more observant ones will notice allusions to a second one in the passive Deadly Bash.  This refers to the melee interrupt standard to all weapon types, which I pointed out in a previous article detailing the reactive combat elements of The Elder Scrolls Online.

The abilities in this skill line are heavily weighted towards survivability, providing powerful defensive bonuses that as an aggregate outclass those found in any of the other skill lines we’ve seen so far.  In addition to this, the active ability Puncture is the only taunt we’re currently aware of.  The combination of these two features may very well make one-handed and shield borderline mandatory for tanking due to how significantly it surpasses the tanking abilities of the other weapons, so aspiring tanks would be well advised to plan to use it as their primary set.



Up next we have the two-handed weapon line.  Do you enjoy hitting people in the face with heavy objects? Then this is the skill line for you.

  • [Active] Cleave – Deals physical damage to all enemies in front of you, inflicting a bleed dealing damage for a moderate duration.
  • [Active] Critical Charge – Charge to target and attack, dealing guaranteed critical physical damage.
  • [Active] Uppercut – After a short cast time, deals physical damage to an enemy, stunning them for a short duration and knocking them back a small distance.
  • [Active] Reverse Slash – Deals physical damage which increases based on the target’s missing health.
  • [Active] Momentum – Increases weapon damage by a flat percentage for a moderate duration, with the percentage amount increasing every few seconds.
  • [Passive] Heavy Weapons – While a two-handed weapon is equipped, axes have a chance to inflict a bleed damage over time effect, maces ignore a flat amount of armor, and swords deal a flat percentage more damage.
  • [Passive] Balance – Reduces the cost of two-handed weapon ability by a moderate percentage.
  • [Passive] Forceful Impact – While a two-handed weapon is equipped, light and heavy attacks deal a moderate percentage of the damage as splash damage to an additional nearby enemy.
  • [Passive] Arcane Fighter – While a two-handed weapon is equipped, the chance of proccing status effects is doubled.
  • [Passive] Battle Rush – While a two-handed weapon is equipped, killing an enemy increases stamina regeneration by a significant amount for a moderate duration.
Its hard to argue with someone wielding a very large sword

Its hard to argue with someone wielding a very large sword

While superficially the tree appears to be entirely focused on damage-dealing, I find it interesting that we see abilities typical of tank archetypes such as cleave and charge making appearances.  My expectation is that the morphs for a few of the two-handed abilities will end up offering players a choice between increasing their damage or increasing their survivability, making two-handed an ideal choice for those seeking to fulfill the role of a bruiser, or heavy DPS. Also worthy of the note is the Heavy Weapons passive, giving each two-handed weapon type a unique additional effect ala Skyrim, only all in one passive.

On the theorycrafting side of things, I’m curious about the role of Arcane Fighter, and if it’s serving as a balancing mechanic.  Most MMOs implement weapon procs -which are weapon effects that have a chance to apply on every hit- by limiting them on the basis of procs per minute (PPM) as opposed to a flat percentage to proc on every hit.  In addition to balancing the utility-value of the proc between weapons of various speeds, this also serves to lessen the chance of random number generation (RNG) granting a player massive, overpowering chains of procs.  Could Arcane Fighter be an indication that ESO is implementing procs based on flat chance and not procs per minute, thus planning to balance the discrepancy between dual wield and two-handed attack speeds by increasing the proc rate for two-handed weapons?  I suppose time will tell.


Dual Wield

Not to be confused with duel wielding, the dual wield skill line offers players the most direct and dedicated route towards dishing out melee damage.

  • [Active] Twin Slashes – Two hits for physical damage, inflicting a bleed effect for a short duration.
  • [Active] Flurry – A six hit attack performing bonus damage on the final hit.
  • [Active] Whirlwind – Deals physical damage to all enemies surrounding the caster. Damage is increased versus low health enemies.
  • [Active] Sparks – Blinds the target for a moderate duration.
  • [Active] Hidden Blade – Throws a dagger that deals physical damage and interrupts the target, snaring them for a moderate duration.
  • [Passive] Slaughter – Increases damage by a flat percentage against targets at low health.
  • [Passive] Dual Wield Expert – Increases off-hand weapon damage.
  • [Passive] Controlled Fury - Reduces the cost of dual-wield abilities by a moderate percentage.
  • [Passive] Ruffian – While dual wielding, the player deals more damage against disabled targets.
  • [Passive] Twin Blade and Blunt – While dual wielding, axes have a chance to inflict a bleed damage over time effect, maces deal a percentage of bonus damage against heavily armored targets, swords deal a flat percentage more damage, and daggers have increased critical strike chance.

Dual Wield can bring the DPS while another player holds enemy attention

I don’t see many surprises here.  Damaging abilities?  Check.  CC that adds to your survivability?  Check.  CC that keeps the target from getting away?  Check.  Everything I would expect to see for the standard dual wield or assassin archetypes.  If you’re looking to deal damage quickly, effectively, and not do a whole lot else, this is probably the skill line for you. It’s certainly worth noting that the wording of the ability appears to imply that the amount of bonus damage dealt by maces will scale with the amount of armor rating the target has, whether this passive will function in this way remains to be seen. Likely the functionality of this passive will mirror that in the two-handed line.


I would be interested to hear from the Tamriel Foundry community what weapon line you will be choosing for your melee-themed characters? What do you think sounds stronger for DPS, dual-wield, or two-handed? Do you think the One-handed and Shield tree will be required for tanking, or do you think some tank builds may be able to use an alternative weapon? Are there any obvious weaknesses you perceive in any of these weapon lines? Let us know in the comment section below!