Since ESO launched six years ago, players have raised two consistent complaints about weapons:
- There aren't enough weapons to choose from
- The weapons we have are too specialized
Now, a combat system with depth requires limitations, but there are still opportunities to add variety while working within the system. But before we dive in, the first step towards addressing these issues is to understand why they're in place:
- Why Hasn't ZOS added more weapons? Weapon types affect many aspects of ESO, so adding a new one is…complicated. You first need to create a weapon skill line that fills a new and unique role in gameplay—ZOS apparently explored Polearms during development, but couldn't sufficiently distinguish them from 2-Handers. However, even if you do devise and balance a new weapon, that means new designs for every outfit style, new research for crafters, and a new item in loot drop tables: Another weapon to get instead of your BSW Inferno Staff or Maelstrom Bow. Presumably, nothing ZOS has come up with so far was worth the trouble.
- Why can I only use certain weapons for certain things? Two reasons. Firstly, weapon passives dramatically impact your build, whether you slot any weapon skills or not. Secondly, weapon type determines which resource you regain when you heavy attack (e.g. Bows restore Stamina).
- Why do Magicka builds only get to use staves? This was part of a balancing act that was meant to distinguish Magicka builds from Stamina builds. Magicka builds have more class skills to choose from, while Stamina builds have more weapon types. However, this didn't have the intended effect: Mag players want more weapons, while Stam players want more class identity.
Every complaint about weapons—the deficiencies of Spellswords, the necessity of staves, the poor damage potential of Sword and Board—boils down to those issues. But with that said, I think three major updates could go a long way towards easing these restrictions without unexpected consequences or balance issues:
#1: Finish the "One-Hand and Rune" Skill Line
This isn't my idea, but it should absolutely happen. For context, someone once data-mined a "One-Hand and Rune" weapon that ZOS was working on—presumably inspired by the Altmer Hero in the trailers—but nothing has come of it yet.
Adding this one weapon type would be a huge breath of fresh air for Magicka builds, and fulfill the Spellsword fantasy as well. You add a passive that causes heavy attacks to restore Magicka, and whereas Destruction Staffs focus on elemental magic, 1H+R skills could focus on pure Magic damage (i.e. "Alteration") with a combo system like the Necromancer corpses to add unique value.
Add this one new weapon, and balance it with a few more Stamina morphs of class skills to give Stamina builds more class identity, and you've already made a lot of players very happy.
#2: Add "Weapon Type" Skins That Transform Existing Weapons Into New Ones
What if we could add an array of new weapons without adding new drops or skill lines? Consider this: an Outfit slot that changes both the appearance and the attack animations of your equipped weapon, to make it look like a new weapon entirely. For example, your Maelstrom Bow would have the same stats, and use the same skills, but it would look like (and fire like) a Crossbow.
This opens the door to countless new weapons—many more than you could add to the game under the current system:
- Dual Wield could transform into Hand-to-Hand weapons like wrist blades and hand wraps
- Two-Handed could transform into Polearms like spears and halberds
- Bows could transform into Crossbows and Throwing Weapons like javelins
- Staves could transform into Handheld Magic like spells in the single-player games
These skins would be more limited than traditional weapon styles, but they could be awarded via PVE content, quest rewards, antiquity leads, and yes…even the Crown Store.
#3: Expand and Diversify Weapon Passives to Make Weapons More Flexible
This idea is more ambitious than the other two, but I'm excited by its potential. Each weapon skill line has 10 passive skill slots that heavily influence that weapon's combat applications. What if we added another set of 10 passive slots with a very different focus, like damage-focused passives for Sword and Board, or support-focused passives for Bows?
To avoid power creep, players could only spend a total of 10 passive skill points per weapon, forcing them to choose between one focus or the other (or in some cases, a hybrid of the two). The core principles are similar to those of the morph system for active skills, which works pretty well.
This would enable an entirely new use case for each weapon, while maintaining overall balance:
- Sword and Board could add damage-focused passives to make the weapon viable for DPS
- Bows could add support-focused passives to make them a better backbar weapon for tanks
- Restoration Staves could add passives that boost group damage and sustain, increasing the usefulness of healers in all content
- Dual Wield and Two-Handed could add some support and utility passives that gives them more unique applications in PVP
Of course, a lot of work would have to be done to make this concept balanced and viable—each weapon's uniqueness would have to be preserved—but this would enable a wide range of new possibilities with minimal changes to gameplay mechanics.
In any case, I've spieled enough. Let me know what you think, and thanks for coming to my TED Talk!
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