A First Look at Group Dungeons In ESO

Hey Foundry community, as part of our continuing coverage of the press beta for The Elder Scrolls Online I have a very exciting video to share with you all. ZeniMax afforded Tamriel Foundry the privilege of sharing 15 minutes of ESO gameplay footage for level 1-15 content. We wanted to take advantage of that possibility by making the biggest impression with that allowed footage. I think one of the most neglected aspects of ESO is the excellent instanced dungeons which are available to groups of players. There have been a lot of requests for PvE coverage, and we wanted to deliver on that. Myself, and some guild members from Entropy Rising formed up to tackle the three instanced dungeons designed for level 13-15, and we produced a video that I hope is an excellent introduction to the group PvE experience that ESO has to offer. Before continuing further, let me start with a disclaimer:

The following article and video contains minor spoilers regarding the plotlines and encounters of the first tier of group dungeons in ESO. If you want to preserve the element of surprise, you may wish to turn back.

Still with me? Alright, let’s do this. I am playing a Breton Sorcerer, using a Restoration Staff to heal the party. I’m joined by @Phazius as a Dragonknight tank, @Erlex as Templar ranged DPS, and @Benefactor playing a dual-wielding Nightblade. We tackle the first three dungeons of Spindleclutch in the Daggerfall zone of Glenumbra, Banished Cells in the Aldmeri island of Auridon, and Fungal Grotto in the Ebonheart zone of Stonefalls. Enjoy the video!

Alright, who’s excited after watching that? I think the dungeons of ESO have been spectacularly designed by the artists and designers at ZeniMax. I can say out of personal experience (some of which you have now witnessed) that they are very enjoyable! These way the dungeons are set up and the variety of mechanics that we’ve seen even in this first tier of dungeons is hugely reassuring of the capacity for ESO to have challenging and entertaining endgame PvE content for groups and raids. The Elder Scrolls Online is launching with 16 group dungeons, and 6 veteran mods for Veteran Level players. The veteran modes of these dungeons extend the story that is started in the normal mode of the instance, and each of Spindleclutch, Banished Cells, and Fungal Grotto have a Veteran mode that will have you re-visiting these locations after you reach level 50.

There are a lot of things I like about group dungeons in ESO. I don’t want to turn this article into a full review of the dungeon experience. I think every MMO player is aware that “newbie dungeons” are indicative, but not necessarily representative of later challenges. I will say some things that I like, however, as well as some things that I don’t like in these starter dungeons:

What I Liked Best

  • Environments and Plotlines – The design of these dungeons is very story driven, each one contains a full plot arc. The environments are unique and beautiful, and are very fun to explore. I love that the normal mode of each instance contains foreshadowing for later events that you will be able to revisit once your character has grown in strength. For example, in the Banished Cells after you re-imprison High Kinlord Rilis, there is strong foreshadowing that his bonds will not hold in the long run and that darker forces are at play than first realized.
  • MMO Boss Mechanics – I am tremendously re-assured that the bosses in ESOs instances feature interesting, but effective, MMO style mechanics. Most bosses have several unique abilities that require you to adjust your tactics a bit in order to intelligently approach the fight. Some bosses are certainly “tank and spank”, but there’s clearly been some thought into giving dungeon bosses spells and abilities that are unique and different to anything found elsewhere in the game.
  • Rewards – The dungeons are definitely worth your time to do them. They provide great experience, gear upgrades, and even skill points! The first time you complete each instanced dungeon, the main questline for the dungeon rewards your character with a bonus skill point which you can use to upgrade your character’s abilities. This is an awesome incentive to make sure that it’s in everyone’s interest to experience these dungeons at least once.

Room for Improvement

  • Dungeon Length – At least this first tier of instanced dungeons was relatively short in length. Without any party wipes, these first tier dungeons only took around 15-20 minutes to complete. I think the number of boss fights was satisfying, but the trash pulls between bosses were fairly sparse. Perhaps this is a good thing for the game, but I would rather that a group dungeon take in the 30 minute range. It remains to be seen if later level group dungeons are a bit more expansive. To be fair, our group was (slightly) overleveled for these encounters. Our party was levels were 11, 11, 15, and 15. Most enemies in these first tier dungeons are levels 13-15.
  • Boss Health - My only other real gripe, and it seems a bit petty, but I frequently felt that bosses’ Health pool was too small. Our group was comprised of good MMO players, so I suspect our average damage was reasonably good. Even so, fights were often over before they really got fun. We often only were able to see one or two repetitions of each boss’ mechanic before the boss was already dead. I would like to emphasize that I think the difficulty of the bosses was fine, I think their damage output was also fine, but I would really like to see boss health totals boosted to add a bit more drama to the process of defeating these encounters.


I know the ESO community is eager to learn more about PvE dungeons and the group PvE experience. Feel free to ask me what questions you have about these dungeons. I suspect that Erlex, Phazius, and Benefactor will also be around to respond to any questions, so let us know what you’d like to know in the comment section. Which dungeon did you like the best? Was there one boss in particular that looked really fun to you? Was there anything else that stuck with you because of this video?