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Hammerfell: here’s Elder Scrolls Online’s crafting system explained by its makers

The Elder Scrolls Online is out for PC and Mac in six weeks.

The Elder Scrolls Online is out now; here’s our Elder Scrolls Online review.

I spent my Elder Scrolls Online beta time tip-toeing my way around the slopes of Daggerfall, avoiding combat where I could – and occasionally very loudly thwacking the iron ore out of the odd rock jutting up from the greenery. 

Crafting has always been one of a compelling set of reasons to meander around Tamriel – one quest in Morrowind was notorious for sending players on an hours-long walk for a nice flower – but it’s become maybe more alluring (and certainly more complicated) in ESO. 

Items can be tinkered with and taken apart for their traits, and some bonuses are exclusive to well-hidden areas on the map. Creative director Paul Sage, lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle and lead user experience designer Chris Strasz elaborate on all that in the video below.

Crafting Locales enable players to create special set items, imbued with a bonus applied uniquely to that area. But you’ll never find one in a hub city like Daggerfall – only when exploring out in the wild. In this case, the game’s directors visit a remote Ayleid ruin – one of those turquoise-tinged dungeons that were dotted throughout Oblivion and return in force in ESO.

“It really ties the crafting system in with exploration in the world,” explains creative director Paul Sage. “There are social elements there too – ‘Oh, I found this one ruin you can go to and there’s a legendary station that lets you create a set bonus which is pretty good’.”

The quality of items can be further improved by tempering them at grinding stones or crafting tables. The more tempers you add to that piece of armour, the higher its stats will be – but there’s a gamble involved. You’ll have to press ‘E’ knowing there’s a percentage change the armour will be destroyed instead. It’s like taking a risky shot in XCOM, but within the reach of a comforting hearthfire.

Crafting is further layered by ESO’s range of races. Each one crafts in a particular style that’s reflected aesthetically in the piece or armour or weapon that emerges at the end. Only books found in the world – Racial Motifs – will let players learn the styles of other kinds.

All of this requires ingredients, naturally, and lots of them. Investing in the ‘keen eye’ ability – upgraded using the skill points you get when levelling up or after finding sky shards – means materials will be highlighted from a distance in the world and be easier to find and harvest.

There’s a keen eye upgrade for every material type found in Tamriel, and they’re not limited by class – only your willingness to forgo combat upgrades instead. The game’s directors reckon it’s worth the payoff.

“You think you’ve seen them all,” says one. “And then you look at an area with Keen Eye and you think, ‘Oh man. There are a lot of flowers here to pick up’.”

Master crafters can train in stuff like breaking items apart, to release their inherent traits for use in new armour. Do you think that might suit you, so to speak?