There are DOZENS of zones to explore in The Elder Scrolls Online, but which zones are best for a Beginner? This guide will show you the most effective starting zones!
Introduction to Starting Zones in The Elder Scrolls Online
Although new players are now forced to load into the newest expansion zone such as High Isle or Western Skyrim, the original starting zones for the three Alliances can still be accessed at ANY time via Wayshrines and still offer the BEST starting zone experience in The Elder Scrolls Online.
These three starting areas are automatically available to all players at any level and of any race. While these starting zones may appear too simple at first glance, there is real value in completing them right away. For one thing, enemies in these zones are easier to defeat and have simpler mechanics, allowing players to acclimate to the game, its mechanics, and controls without being overwhelmed or confused. These zones are also relatively safe as they do not feature world bosses or difficult public world events such as Harrow Storms, Dolmens, or Public or Group Dungeons.
Starting Zones for each Alliance
For the players from the Aldmeri Dominion, the lush and tropical isle of Khenarthi’s Roost is where your character begins their tale. For players hailing from the Daggerfall Covenant the harsh desert isle of Stros M’Kai and Orchish stronghold of Betnikh sequentially form the starting zone. Lastly Ebonheart Pact players will brave the scenic frozen tundra of Bleakrock Isle and the inhospitable marshes of Bal Foyen as they start their journey to greatness.
1. Khenarthi’s Roost – Aldmeri Dominion
Khenarthi’s Roost is a lush and tropical island with beautiful vistas that is mainly populated by Khajiit and other Aldmeri Dominion races. It is relatively small and has only two available wayshrines which makes it easy to get around in a flash. The quests in this starter zone are fun and varied thematically, whilst also introducing you to some heavy hitting characters and lore within the game, not only regarding your alliance but Tamriel as a whole. Treacherous Sea Elves, political intrigue, dirty skooma dealing, rogue liches, and local pest control are just a few of the things players can experience in first few hours of playing ESO in Khenarthi’s Roost!
2. Stros M’Kai and Betnikh – Daggerfall Covenant
Stros M’Kai is home to sandy beaches and aesthetically gorgeous architecture within a desert biome, whilst still maintaining a harsh, edge of civilization vibe. There are three wayshrines present and its populated mainly with Redguards and other Daggerfall covenant races. Shady dealings, back alley skullduggery, piracy, naval hit and run missions, and dwarven mysteries envelope the player from the onset and following the quest line will sweep you away to the Orcish island stronghold of Betnikh along side some of the most charismatic and pariah like figures not only in your alliance but arguably the entire game.
Once here you’ll notice a change from the sand filled biome of Stros to a far more vibrantly green Betnikh. Here you are also juxtaposed with meeting characters who embody the very meaning of honour and bravery, the quests likewise change drastically to match this. Slaying might beasts, undead, and conquering would be invaders in a daring and brave battle before being whisked away and introduced to the main faction zone of Glenumbra.
The relatively meagre amount of time invested into this dual starting zone area will give you a true glimpse of the vastly different sides of the Daggerfall Covenant, its characters, races, and environments.
3. Bleakrock Isle and Bal Foyen – Ebonheart Pact
The landscape of Bleakrock Isle is harsh and unforgiving just like its inhabitants, comprised mainly of Nords and other Ebonheart Pact races. Plenty of snow covers the entire isle, broken only by towering rocky cliffs and mini mountains. There is only one wayshrine here and the area is easily traversed by foot and a mount makes this zone a true breeze to navigate. Cleansing the tomb of a dragon priest, wiping out a band of marauders, finding skeevers and turning them back into people, solving a riddle from a persistent, mocking ghost, and safeguarding villagers as they make their escape from an insurmountable assault are what awaits those brave souls of the Ebonheart Pact at the very first part of their starting zone.
Once safely aboard a boat to the mainland, the second part to the starting zone begins once landing at an equally inhospitable and mud covered marsh of Bal Foyen. Here players are introduced to both Dunmer (Dark Elves) and Argonian races more in depth as they are sent on a myriad of culturally rich quests mainly involving Guar wrangling, assassin thwarting, familial political intrigue, racial dynamics, and the dangers of uncontrolled magic. Along the way players are introduced to an ansemble of important faction characters and potentially some of the most intellectually complex, sombre, soft hearted, and resilient faction characters.
Playing Starting Zones outside your Alliance
While each of the above three starting zones is tied thematically and via story elements and characters to a specific Alliance in ESO don’t let this stop you from exploring them all! In fact, any player can transport to any starting zone regardless of their chosen Alliance! This means for example that a Khajiit could travel to the frozen North of Bleakrock Isle at any time. In fact, players can complete all three starting stories, one for each Alliance, and then decide if they want to proceed further into that story based on interest or just jump into a DLC area instead.
Which Starting Zone is best?
While it is very easy to recommend that you play through all three Alliance Starting zones back-to-back, the best option for new players is generally Khenarthi’s Roost. This zone is small yet densely packed full of content! Whereas the other two factions split their starting experience into two parts/locations and thus loading screens, Khenarthi’s Roost is far more time-efficient for leveling and is small enough to easily traverse without a mount.
The quests you can complete in Khenarthi’s Roost are truly fun and vary vastly in terms of themes and story. There’s something to enjoy for everyone and within the engrossing story the mechanics it teaches you about the game don’t come off as forced or contrived and are just far more elegantly stitched in. Furthermore, the story is far more compact and seamless, as it does not change locations, players are able to better ground themselves not only in the world of Tamriel, their alliance, but also the game itself.
On the flip side, Khenarthi’s Roost also has the benefit for those not too interested in story as being far easier to speed run through to collect skyshards and level up fast! As mentioned, Khenarthi’s Roost is just one area and thus the Skyshards and all the quests are densely situated and can be easily grinded through in just an hour or two with relative ease and skipping through dialogue so even for leveling alts, I would still recommend this location first over the others.
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