One of the most confusing things about any game that chooses a hybrid business model is figuring out what you need to buy in order to play the game or to enjoy the game to its fullest capacity. Since it offers both a purchase and subscription option to players, The Elder Scrolls Online is no different. Despite ZeniMax’s best efforts, some of the most common questions I read in forums across the internet boil down to “is it worth the sub?” and “what do I need to buy to get x?”Tamriel Infinium column, Massively OP’s complete guide to buying and playing The Elder Scrolls Online to its fullest capacity as of mid-2019!
First of all, let’s tackle the question of what you can buy. It’s probably worth first introducing the three types of content you can purchase for ESO: the base game, chapters, and DLC. The base game includes the original main story and questing zones along with PvP (faction and small-scale). Chapters are major story expansions that have been released since the base game. DLC usually consist of smaller land mass/story updates or dungeon packs.
The base game
Yes, you can still buy The Elder Scrolls Online base game only. In fact, if you’re just now considering the base game, you’re in luck because the base game has recently absorbed the Morrowind chapter, so purchasing the base game also includes the original Morrowind chapter content. Throw in the fact that it’s often on sale, and what you’re getting with the base game is an enormous amount of ESO content (including all quality-of-life improvements) for a very reasonable price tag.
How much content? In addition to the Morrowind zone, which includes zone story and side quests, the base game includes all zone story and side quests for 16 other zones, the Cyrodiil large-scale PvP zone, battleground PvP, and various public and private dungeons and raids. The base game is available for around $20 US and can sometimes be found for as low as $10 US on sale.
There have been three chapters released for ESO: Morrowind, Summerset, and Elsweyr. As mentioned, Morrowind, with the exception of the Warden class itself, now comes bundled with the base game. Summerset has now been made available as DLC content and can be purchased via the in-game crown store for 3500 crowns (about $35 US). Summerset includes the Summerset zone quests, jewelry crafting, and a skill line (the Psijic Order) that can be unlocked only within Summerset.
In fact, the only chapter still available as a “chapter” is the most recent edition, Elsweyr. The Elsweyr chapter includes Elsweyr zones and quests, the Necromancer class, and everything else we’ve talked about above, including the base game, Summerset and Morrowind content. This edition is obviously the one that Zenimax is trying to steer us toward, and honestly, I’d say that for $60 US it’s a pretty good deal. That is a poo-ton of content, my friends. If you can complete every zone achievement in this game as quickly as you finish most $60 single player titles, I’ll buy you a sweet roll.
Here’s where it gets a little messy. Pretty much everything else that’s been released over the lifetime of ESO (minus quality of life improvements) is considered DLC. Even things that were not always considered DLC are now DLC. The Orsinium expansion? DLC. Imperial City PvP zone? DLC. Clockwork City? DLC. Summerset? DLC! All DLC packs are available for purchase in the crown store for various amounts. All DLC is also made available to ESO subscribers.
Which DLC would I recommend? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I ranked them in this column a few weeks ago. To recap: Summerset, Morrowind, Orsinium, and The Dark Brotherhood top my list, but that article explains why and what you’d be getting out of each!
As you can see, there are numerous purchase options, both outside of game and within game. And though the Elder Scrolls Online is a buy-to-play game, it also has a subscription that you might prefer to utilize. ESO’s subscription is called ESO Plus and is optionally available for $15 US per month.
In addition to gaining access to all DLC, there are a few perks to being an ESO Plus member, but generally speaking there are two big ones: First, members receive 1650 crowns (cash store currency) each month. Secondly, and most importantly, ZeniMax has figured out that for most gamers, inventory management in MMOs is a frustrating drag. So ESO Plus members also have access to an infinite crafting storage bag, where all crafting materials can be stored without taking up space in a player’s bags or vault. With very few exceptions, hardcore ESO players agree that the crafting bag is the best thing about ESO Plus and would be worth the $15 all on its own.
There are some other nice things about subscribing, like discounts on certain cash shop items, but those are the biggies.
Weighing your options
With all of these purchase options, what is the best way to plop down your credit card, sit down, and enjoy a play session in Tamriel? Much of that depends on your particular playstyle and preferences. If you game on a budget and aren’t sure if you’re going to like ESO, it’s probably best to purchase the base game (ideally on sale!) to start, and then make further purchase decisions (DLC, chapter, and/or ESO Plus) based on your experience with it.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a gamer who can’t stand the feeling that you might be missing something and that feeling detracts from your experience while playing, it’s probably best to buy the Elsweyr version of the game (which comes with the base game and Morrowind) and subscribe to ESO Plus for the remaining DLC.
If you’re somewhere in the middle – perhaps you’re a gamer who wants the best bang for your buck, but you enjoy crafting and can live without the newest chapter for the time being – you could buy the base game and also subscribe to ESO Plus for the craft bag and benefits. Perhaps the Elsweyr chapter will go on sale before you even have the chance to finish the base game content, in which case you could snatch it up at a discount.
- Budget – purchase base game only ($20 US)
- Middle of the road – purchase base game and ESO Plus ($20 US and $15 US monthly)
- I WANT IT ALL – purchase Elsweyr edition and ESO Plus ($60 US and $15 US monthly)
Whatever your playstyle, The Elder Scrolls Online has myriad purchase options from which to pick and choose. This does lead to a lot of confusion for new players, but hopefully the three options presented above can give you a starting point with which to enjoy the game!
Authors note: This post has been updated to reflect that all DLC is available as a benefit to ESO Plus subscribers.