Introduction

This will probably be a really unpopular opinion with a lot of people but I got a hot take on racial passives in ESO and I want to give my thoughts on them in a productive manner that even the ESO combat developers may take something from them.

So just as a brief introduction for those who may need a refresher, there's a total of 10 playable races in ESO: Dunmer, Altmer, Khajiit, Nord, Imperial, Redguard, Orsimer, Argonian, Breton, Bosmer, each with 4 racial passives, one being sort of a gimmicky or niche use for gaining 1% extra experience, 1% more gold and so on with the other 3 racial passives geared more towards combat like weapon/spell damage, health pool, stamina, magicka, stamina recovery, cost reduction and really useful things.

What's The Problem?

Simply put aesthetics, in my opinion, should not have significant effects on combat.

So let's break this problem down, while it's cool to have flavor for each class and race, I strongly don't believe it's necessary or even healthy for the game to have racial passives for combat that strongly determine what race (re: aesthetic) you should pick as a player to determine for optimization of tanking, DPS and healing.

Take for example a close disparity in the Nord vs Imperial, while both races can be great for PvE tanking it's clear when it comes to much harder content like Rockgrove Hard Mode Bahsei and Dreadsail Reef that Nord is the clear winner in terms of safety and mitigation for certain sources of damage, why make things harder on your team or yourself, why not just race change from Imperial to Nord one might ask?

Or perhaps in a case that has a wider disparity such as Dark Elf versus Wood Elf, it's clear that Dark Elf has stronger damage passives, or what about Breton versus Argonian, it's clear that Breton is simply more suited to the task of healing especially with recent adjustments to the cost of healing abilities post Update 34 and 35 while Argonian has been delegated to more niche playstyles or setups that are still overshadowed by "stronger races".

Does this all mean you shouldn't DPS, tank, heal, PvP or PvE or whatever on any race you want? No, this isn't the point, frankly no one should care if you have a one legged Wood Elf frost staff and bow build going for Godslayer, that's great and all but what if you wanted to not grind another character or want to PvP in entirely different specs with an entirely different build for an entirely different objective such as Battlegrounds or Cyrodiil or whatever?

The recent Armory system introduced is sort of a solution to changing setups in some aspects but I'd be lying to you if I told you you can have the same output in terms of damage or even mitigation not going from Wood Elf to Nord in PvP or that the build would be exactly the same. Plenty of people through YouTube and the ESOU Discord often ask us if they can emulate builds with their races not showcased in build videos or build pages and I think keeping the racial combat passives is more of a detriment to player learning and experimentation of the famous ESO mantra of "play how you want".

Some will argue that what "alts" - alternate characters - are for but there are already added benefits to using alts such as different classes (that don't have class change tokens, yet anyway) and economic benefits (daily writs).

Others will argue that homogenizing races combat-wise is a terrible idea and takes away player freedom whereas here I see it as giving player freedom while eliminating issues such as the need to compensate for combat changes via free race change tokens from the dev-end, the ability to adjust power creep more easily, player freedom to focus more on aesthetics while being effective and more.

The Future

It used to be a long time ago, about 2014 until late 2015 that racial passives didn't matter too much, there's a reason why for example Woeler, a previous PvE tank content creator and ESO-Hub developer is known for being a Khajiit, it simply didn't matter too much. But this isn't a video looking back with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, this is a video looking at the future of ESO.

Through the breakdown of this problem we've identified two key things: race change tokens and player experience in combat quality of life. ESO is a volatile game in terms of combat balance, anyone who's played for at least 6 months can tell you this.

Sometimes racial passives get changed or other things change enough to the point players feel like they are forced to buy Race Change Tokens via Crowns or gold to optimize further or to keep their previous power level in the specs they're pursuing.

I think eliminating unique combat racial passives per race would be a big thing in diminishing what players call "change fatigue" as it allows the players to freely choose whatever race they want for what they want purely based on aesthetics rather than worrying about whether they need to race change from Dark Elf to High Elf next patch or what have you.

I'm going to start transitioning into the developer and business-end of why the racial passives should go and you're probably asking at this point, "well okay Nefas if we get rid of the passives we have now, what's going to replace them?"

I would propose that all races if they get combat passives get the same combat passives, an extreme example would be to give Redguards everything the Argonians, Imperials, Nords and every other race has and every other race has the same passives as the other races do.

All racial combat passives could be given in some way, some form to not put too much stress in terms of more skill points needed for example perhaps condensing stats into each passive rather than having more unique racial passives and to also alleviate any potential player power loss this could be a transitional point for the future scenario which is to allow the combat team to easily standardize or adjust player power creep in the future if everybody is more on the same level with the same passives because there are combat balance changes where some races are - for better or worse - affected by those changes.

Furthermore if there are to be unique racial passives or flavor or whatever you want to call it, you could put in more niche things such as crafting aspects, dialogue options, Justice system aspects in specific zone that the races are native to, motif a or something that may work with certain nodes of the Craft Champion Point green tree which may pave a way for certain problematics to occur such as the economic advantages of being a race but I would hope such bonuses are as tame as the 1% exp bonus High Elves get right now or the 1% gold bonus Imperials get right now. Even morphs for racial passives could be a consideration or splitting the current passives into two tiers.

At this point, many will ask well what's in it for the business end of ZOS, why would they suddenly let go of the Racial change tokens from the Crown Store?

Here's the catch, they don't and they shouldn't (and yes, NO refunds on previous race change tokens). 

Looking at other MMORPGs and yes even the Crown Crate addictions many players seem to have regardless of whether they hate the current patch or not, a lot of people will still buy the Racial change tokens 110% for aesthetic purposes, a lot of people will still buy things from the Crown Store, there is a reason why ESO is the literal #1 moneymaker for Zenimax Media under Microsoft over anything else including the 11 releases of Skyrim and why ZOS is working on a supposed new MMO IP (because money).

I think accompanying this could be a good way to let go of the Imperial race from the Crown Store at last to make it available as a free base game feature as so many players have requested over the years.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with my hot take, I think there are definite pain points here and there that are valid which could be taken more carefully into consideration for future combat adjustments.