Learn the similarities and differences between the racial abilities and a brief summary of which class they may play optimally for.
There are 10 races in The Elder Scrolls Online; 9 of which are divided into groups of 3 for each alliance while the 10th race, Imperials, are available to players who have purchased the ESO Imperial Edition. By default, you can only choose one of your alliances own three races or Imperial if you have access to that bonus race. Players who pre-ordered or purchased the Explorer’s Pack via the Crown Store are granted the privilege of playing any race in any alliance without restriction. The races belonging to each of the game’s three alliances are:
- Aldmeri Dominion: Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit.
- Daggerfall Covenant: Breton, Orismer and Redguard.
- Ebonheart Pact: Argonian, Dunmer and Nord.
Every race has 4 passive abilities which give them a unique advantage towards a certain class. The first passive bonus for each race is automatically available at level one without requiring a skill point to be spent. It grants a 15% experience bonus when training a specific weapon or armor skill line. Since this first passive is only of temporary benefit while leveling your character it should not be a large factor in determining the best choice for your intended class. Everyone will end up with their used skill lines leveled to the maximum, so while this is a useful benefit to have while leveling these first-tier passives offer no long-run utility.
The subsequent three passives in each racial tree each have three ranks, which increase in power as you invest additional skill points into them. Not all racial passives can be unlocked right away. In fact, only the first rank of the second passive will be available to you starting at level 5. The rest will become available as your character progresses further in levels. All of the passives will become available to be unlocked prior to reaching level 50, however.
Altmer (High Elf)
An Altmer or High Elf is one of the best options for a mage-type character. The Altmer enjoy an increase in the size of their base Magicka pool, its recovery speed, and a damage boost for all elemental effects. This greatly benefits your damage output. Altmer are a highly recommended race for magicka-based Sorcerers and Dragonknights, but are also an excellent choice for Templar players. Altmer are slightly less useful for Nightblades since they do not utilize as many sources of elemental damage.
Bosmer (Wood Elf)
Bosmer or Wood Elves are a useful race for stealthy builds revolving around stamina/melee. Choosing a Bosmer may also be a good option for players who want to heavily use the Werewolf skill line. Werewolves take +50% extra poison damage in Werewold form, so the Bosmer racial resistance for poison can help to offset the largest negative aspect of Lycanthropy. Bosmer are a recommended race for Nightblades or melee Sorcerers and Dragonknights, and are additionally the best tanking race within the Aldmeri Dominion because of their increased Stamina and Stamina Recovery. While their 15% increase in the Bow Skill Line is commendable, it's not enough to make it solely worth being a ranged, bow specific class.
Khajiit are statistically similar to the Bosmer, but with the extra Weapon Critical chance Khajiit is a more offensive option. The increased Critical chance gives Khajiit players the highest potential crit percentage in the game using melee weapons. Khajiit share the Stealthy passive with Bosmer and are an excellent choice for players wanting to take advantage of a stealth playstyle as well as builds designed to use melee weapons or bows.
Bretons are an incredibly versatile race. Their Magicka management is the best of all races with both increased base Magicka pool as well as percentage reduction in cost of casting spells. Given the importance of class skills and the prevalence of Magicka based spells in ESO, a Breton can be an excellent race for almost any playstyle. Breton characters can also be strong tanks, since it is often easier to boost your character’s Armor value than it is to increase Spell Resistance, which is a valuable defensive attribute.
Orsimer make great tanks and defensive characters because of their increased Health and Stamina pools. This doesn’t mean they can’t be a damage dealing race. The Swift passive opens the door for interesting gameplay options which take advantage of stacking run speed bonuses or charge attacks. Orc Templar builds leveraging Focused Charge or archer builds taking advantage of high movement speed are excellent ways to get the most out of the Orsimer racial bonus.
Redguard characters are arguably the best starting point for any melee build in ESO, whether offensive or defensive. The Adrenaline passive gives them the highest Stamina sustain in the game which is extremely important for damage and defensiveness during long fights. Redguard are the best option for Nightblades within the Daggerfall Covenant as well as any class planning to use physical melee attacks.
Argonians are a fantastic race selection for Ebonheart Pact players who are planning to rely heavily on Alchemy and potions or intent on utilizing the Werewolf skill line. Argonians, thematically, are intended to be excellent healers, but for Ebonheart races the Dunmer are superior in this role. Like Orsimer and Redguard within the Daggerfall Covenent, Argonians are a capable defensive race benefitting from increased Healing received, benefitting any class or build designed to have strong self-healing. Argonians are also particularly good Nightblades, taking advantage of an excellent synergy with the Catalyst ability.
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
Dunmer or Dark Elves, are easily the best (magicka) Dragonknight option in the game as well as in the Ebonheart Pact. Almost all Dragonknight class abilities are fire-based, allowing Dunmer to take advantage of their Flame Talent bonus. Dunmer are also the best choice for players determined to be Vampires, since their increased Flame Resistance helps offset the Vampire succeptibility to fire which is the biggest weakness of Vampirism. Furthermore, Dunmer are the best spellcasters in the Ebonheart Pact with an increased Magicka pool, particularly for Fire-based Destruction Staff builds.
Nord passives are extremely valuable for aspiring tanks. The Rugged passive which reduces incoming damage is incredibly valuable for endgame damage mitigation, and while their increased Frost Resistance is not particularly useful in current endgame encounters, it will certainly provide a large bonus in future content. For damage-dealing or healing characters, Dunmer and Argonian make better choices within the Ebonheart Pact, but Nords are arguably the best race for tanking within the entire game.
Imperials are the special race unlocked through the ESO Imperial Edition and they come with a special passive which makes them unique. The Health return offered by Red Diamond is great for builds which already have high melee sustain like Dragonknights, Nightblades, or melee Sorcerers. Increased base Health and Stamina pools are incredibly useful for creating a well-rounded character with high overall stat pools, making Imperial a versatile race that make them a good choice for Stamina-based offense or tanking.
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