Tamriel Foundry

Improvements to Combat Tactics Planned for Update 17

Update 17 promises to make combat more tactical ZeniMax Online posted a new blog entry related to the upcoming Dragon Bones Update 17 which drops later in February of this year. 

In this blog entry they detail how some mechanical changes to ESO combat are intended to make both solo and group combat more tactically focused through three sets of changes:

Improvements to Synergies

The anticipated changes to synergies include providing increased visibility into synergy opportunities by rendering an illumination light source for players. Additionally, synergies will now fire immediately when activated bypassing any cooldowns which otherwise affect the player's ability to act.

PvP AoE Cap Changes

This change was previously announced (and long overdue). I wrote about the significant downsides of AoE caps all the way back in 2014, enumerating the reasons why I felt such limitations were damaging for PvP. Specifically, I claimed at the time:

This will greatly increase the "safety of the zerg", further promoting zerging as the default tactic in PvP.

This time around, ZeniMax have removed AoE caps from abilities, saying:

In Cyrodiil, we want to encourage a wide variety of strategy and tactics, and this includes the way large groups move together. Over time, we've tried to encourage groups to spread out more and stack up less with various additions [...] but we still weren't seeing the changes we wanted.

I realize that nobody likes someone who says "I told you so", but a significant portion of the player community clearly expressed that the initial choice to add AoE caps was a fundamental design defect 4 years ago. I'm personally glad the issue has been corrected, but saddened that it deprived us of 4 years of prime Cyrodiil experience in the absence of this poor design. 

Improved Accessibility of Blocking

Another significant change planned for Update 17 involves reductions to the cost of block and improvements to the effectiveness of block cost reduction enchants. This will reduce the previously enormous disparity between players who specialize in blocking and those who do not. This change will enable characters who do not specialize in block to perform far more active blocking in combat and may lead to interesting challenges for existing balance of both PvE and PvP content.

These changes to ESO combat should lead to new strategies and evolve the PvP meta. 

Interrupt Changes

Another big change which will affect PvP balance involves changes to the interrupt mechanic. Eric Wrobel explains:

With Update 17, we've reduced the severity of the movement speed penalty when using an ability with a cast time to allow you to maneuver more during a fight. This better supports the quick pace of battle if you like to use these abilities. However, when you cast these abilities, you'll also now have a red telegraph indicating that you can be interrupted by your opponent(s). If your ability is interrupted, you can't cast that same ability until after a short cooldown. But don't worry, you'll get your opportunity to try again.

“Interrupting the enemy stops their current cast, but makes future casts unstoppable,"

I personally found this to be a very surprising change, because it seems as if this tweak is helpful to players who get interrupted and detrimental to players who are successful in interrupting. This pivot of overall balance seems antithetical to the stated objectives of the Update 17 enhancement to make combat more tactical. It will be interesting to see what player feedback emerges from seeing this in action, but it's not clear from a design perspective that it makes sense to give players a free cast simply because they were previously interrupted.

Heavy Attack Timing Changes

Lastly, ZeniMax has increased the resource return from successfully landing a heavy attack against an off-balance opponent, as well as making standard heavy attacks faster to execute. To counter the improved effectiveness of exploiting the off-balance status, bosses are now immune to the mechanic for a short time after recovering.

To learn more about the proposed changes, be sure to check out the full article on the ESO website. What do you think about these combat and balance changes? What strikes you as the most impactful change? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

About Atropos:

I am a dedicated gamer and MMO enthusiast who has been involved with MMO communities since EverQuest. As the creator of Tamriel Foundry and Ashen Foundry, I love the challenge of building platforms and tools for MMO communities to flourish.

3 Replies
  1. #1


    Moderator1258 Posts

    Having spent most of my ESO time over the past 4 weeks on the PTS, here are my thoughts.

    The synergy change is welcoming; the activation of synergies fire off promptly and the reversion (in PTS 3.3.3) of synergy cooldown back to 20 s is great. That said, as of PTS 3.3.2, there was still a bug relating to proximity rule of the availability of synergies in groups of players, which I hope will be fixed before it goes Live.

    Blocking change is unnecessary and serves nothing but to marginalise the already least-played role in endgame. They are really shooting themselves in the foot by opting for this, especially after the good work of lifting the AoE cap.

    Heavy attack timing is closely related to the change to Off-balance status, where the introduced cooldown period of 15 s and Off-balance period of 5 s (as of PTS 3.3.3) placed an artificial limitation on the skill rotation of players. In prolonged combat events in the endgame, where resource management is of greater importance, the challenge for players would be to take advantage of the double resource returned in the 5 s window, while minimising disruption to their rotation and thus their overall dps. For some classes and setups where the DoT timing permits players to fully utilise this 5 s window (2 full heavy attacks), the adjustment needed may be minimal. But where the DoTs don't fit in perfectly, e.g. magicka templar, it poses another challenge. A related and inevitable consequence is that any remaining magicka setups that still utilise dual wield (mostly templars) will be eliminated due to the furthered inefficiency (on top of the lower weaving damage) with doing fully charged heavy attacks with swords on magicka-based characters. A change that seeks to increase variability and expand the the tactical options for players, also takes some of that back - it's a zero sum.

    The interrupt change actually functioned well on the PTS, partly because heavy attacks and some common skills are still exception to the interrupt rule (e.g. Puncturing Strikes, Soul Strikes and Uppercut); it also isn't as helpful as it sounds to people getting interrupted, and not as detrimental to the people who interrupt, because the article was only giving a partial picture (whether intentionally or not). When one is interrupted, one cannot recast the same ability within 3 s, but one is also staggered, stunned (2.5 s) and set off-balance for 5 s (as of PTS 3.3.3), this means that under most circumstances, the 3 s penalty to recast the ability is moot. When this elapses or when the player breaks free, a 7 s cc immunity is applied, preventing against other hard cc effects. Where the article says "making future casts unstoppable", it really is just referring to the future casts of hard cc effects made in the 7 s window. The immunity itself is not unique to interrupt, can be granted through potions, skills or breaking free of other hard cc effects and is already a core part of PvP. Therefore functionally, all this change does is to have the cc immunity apply to interrupt, in order to allow counter-play and break the stalemate between people who continually interrupt others and people who are continually interrupted with zero cooldown.

    The AoE change is welcoming. Having previously relaxed the target cap in 2.7 (first 6 targets by 'proximity' take 100% damage, next 18 take 75% of damage and last 36 take 50% of damage), this is indeed another step to remedy a perceived issue that wasn't a problem to begin with. It is easy to overuse "I told you so" and erode its connotation meaning but this is a case where its use is warranted, because of the profound impact it has had on the game over the past 45 months.

    Given all the combat mechanics changes that are coming with update 3.3, a few of which are outlined in the article, I am still not getting an indication of whether or not ZOS has a clear direction of where they want to take the game to, the audience that they want to appeal to and ideas or intention on how to address other glaring shortcomings and unbalance of the current mechanics (e.g. magicka DK in endgame, overabundance of niche or underpowered gear and increasing power disparity (partly due to the Champion System)). It does feel that they are merely remedying their own errors in the past, while devoting much development time on cosmetic aspects of the game (e.g. player housing, outfits and crown store).

    e pluribus unum

  2. #2


    Administrator3180 Posts

    Awesome insight @Latin, your perspective makes things much more clear, particularly the clarification on the actual consequences of the stated interrupt change.

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  3. #3


    Member3 Posts

    AS a tank - I'm super excited about this update. Check me out ma!


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