Understanding Cyrodiil

Recently ZeniMax Online released a video in which they heavily showcase Cyrodiil and the player vs.  player aspect of The Elder Scrolls Online. As most of you may know, Cyrodiil is the central province of Tamriel and in ESO this will provide the backdrop for the “Alliance vs. Alliance (AvA)”  combat which is a primary component of ESOs endgame. The objective players face in Cyrodiil is for you and your faction to conquer the province, claim the ruby throne, and rule all of Tamriel by crowning an Emperor. In order to fully control Cyrodiil, an alliance must conquer and control all of the keeps which surround the Imperial City. This article attempts to clarify some misconceptions regarding what to expect in Cyrodiil. I also want to address the general strategy in attacking and defending fortresses from your enemies. Lastly I’ll touch on some of the game-mechanics that have been announced regarding the Alliance War.

The Scale of Cyrodiil

Described in the beautiful song written by Miracle of Sound, Cyrodiil will host a three-way war in a massive open-world environment. Many are expected to answer the call. This comes as no surprise, considering that ZeniMax has always made clear their intention of offering players large-scale content. According to Brian Wheeler (ESO’s lead PvP designer) these battles often feature over to two-hundred concurrent players on screen. In fact, the engine and technology which powers ESO was specifically designed with this size of battle as a required benchmark. Marvelous as this may sound, it can also be incredibly overwhelming for players who are not used to MMOs or group-based content. It would be quite understandable for some less-experienced players to find themselves lost, confused, and feeling unimportant in the midst of such a huge battle.

Cyrodiil's large battles may seem overwhelming at first

Cyrodiil’s large battles may seem overwhelming at first

The terrain and geography of Cyrodiil has a huge impact on the way battles are played. Between bridges, outposts and the very topography of the map itself there is a lot to consider. Having the higher ground or being able to bottleneck your enemies in a natural chokepoint is always important. Take this scenario as an example: you are heavily outnumbered and are forced to fall back, if you retreat to a bridge it would provide the tactical opportunity to position your group on the opposite end and force your enemies to cross it, narrowing down their numbers as they pass beneath the archways. By intelligently coordinating the usage of area of effect abilities and crowd control you may even decimate the enemy vanguard right away.

While these tactics sound like they are drawn from a military playbook, don’t expect to belong to a huge and well-drilled army. It is unlikely that your faction will organize themselves into a major force cleansing the land at every step, nor will most players cooperate with the strategy you suggest. There will always be countless players who want to act like a general, and it can become difficult to know whose advice to pay attention to, and how to make a constructive contribution with your own group. It is crucial to know how to distribute objectives between larger (12+ players) and smaller groups (2-6 players). Since the number of concurrent players from your Alliance that can be active within Cyrodiil is limited at the campaign level, carefully coordinating multiple groups of players will always lead to a more effective war effort. While it is useful to have a massive group capturing major objectives, it is equally (if not more)  important to have smaller groups supporting by capturing outlying objectives, defending owned  keeps, patrolling for enemy reinforcements, and applying pressure to the flanks of enemy sieges.

Remember that there are three alliances at war with each other. Taking advantage of situations in which both opposing factions are fighting each other yields the opportunity to greatly advance your own position.

Cyrodiil Battle

The only way to win is for both your enemies to lose!

Sieges and Alliance Points

Ultimately, everything will come down to control of keeps, castles, and resources. Regardless if you are on the offensive front lines or struggling to defend your own territory, you will require siege equipment. These weapons and resources will be key to any effective attack or defense. The attacking force won’t be able to break down a keep’s door or wall without heavy weaponry and will have a much harder time claiming the keep itself without having first secured all the resources surrounding the keep. Likewise, as a defender, employing counter-siege equipment like boiling oil and ballistae buys you time needed to reinforce and hold an objective. It will also be crucial to maintain control of the resource network which surround each keep. Not only do resources gate access to travel links between keeps, they also help determine how strongly that keep is defended. The act of disrupting a transit route or bringing in some extra weaponry may help turn the tide of battle in your favor.

Never underestimate the old saying “the best offense is a good defense”. In Cyrodiil your attacks and their effectiveness will be limited by your available resources, and thus it is extremely important to safely control as much territory as possible. Heavily disputed territory becomes a resource-sink (yes, I am trying to start a trend here). When all the ground you own is contested ground you cannot hope to ever truly best another. The ability for player guilds to claim keeps and outposts will easily provide incentives to hold on to what territory you own.

The economy of Cyrodiil is transacted in Alliance points, from keep-repairs to purchasing siege equipment itself. You can earn alliance points by capturing or defending objectives and killing enemy players. This means that your alliance can have a good income of alliance points just by owning and defending your own territory. Forcing enemies to make an advance can cause them to waste resources and leave themselves exposed to losing their own territory. In time,  players will learn how to react to enemy movements in a way to take advantage.


Attackers can use catapults and trebuchets to destroy keep walls

The Emperor and Elder Scrolls

Emperorship is granted to be granted to the player who sits atop the leaderboards when their alliance controls all six keeps which surround the Imperial City. ZeniMax has also mentioned that having an Emperor will award some pretty sweet armor, a unique skill line, and will bestow all the members of the ruling faction with passive bonuses. Clearly, any faction who can crown an emperor for a long time will maintain a significant advantage, further helping them progress in their war efforts. However, the other two alliances will have abundant motivation to attack and dethrone the ruling alliance, providing a constant and  shifting balancing mechanism to keep Cyrodiil competitive.

Lastly, each alliance will have Elder Scrolls to protect. Each alliance begins the campaign with two scrolls. While  controlled, these scrolls provide players bonuses to aid their PvP effort. The bonuses provided by these relics are certain to help your faction be more efficient. One must keep in mind, however, that the Elder Scrolls work as a double-edged sword. Taking an Elder Scroll from another alliance will make you a high-priority target for them, and make no mistake, they will do their best to take it back. With that on the table, it is likely that the dominating faction will find itself fighting the other two remaining factions simultaneously and therefore it must take advantage of the bonuses it has acquired.

Success in the Elder Scrolls Online, as a PvPer, will be determined by organization, preparation and intelligent use of tactics. If any one alliance can coordinate many groups  of players who can cooperate and work together effectively, they will have a strong chance of succeeding and, ultimately, prevailing as the conquerors of Cyrodiil.