But everything in this game is weighed against it. Melee always has trouble in MMO’s, but ESO in particular seems fond of stomping on anyone that wants to fight up close.
In PvE, the AoE effects in group content are the main deterrent. Why play melee when you can use a staff, stay at a safe range from attacks, have far better resource management, and do greater damage?
In PvP, the nature of zerg-swarm bombing balls makes Melee combatants useless. While everyone else pounces on you and spams impulse and ultimates, you’re lucky to get out a single attack before dying. Neither the 2handed or dual wield AoE’s come anywhere near impulse’s effectiveness in AoE situations, both are more costly, and they have less powerful effects linked to them.
When soloing, especially at veteran rank, you’re always better off killing as many enemies from a distance as possible before they can close the gap to attack you. A ranged combatant can stand in one place and interrupt enemy casters at a distance with crushing shock or poison arrow, while a melee player has to constantly juggle back and forth between enemies to keep them from casting.
Of the three melee options we have available – 2handed, dual wield, and 1handed + shield – dual wield is the only one that has fairly good synergy between it’s skills, and between it’s skills and class skills. It also has the most interesting abilities, while nearly everything from the 2handed and shield lines is nothing short of bland. The shield is only useful for tanking, and only because it has such good passives for blocking incoming damage – with inner fire, nobody even uses the shield line’s abilities.
2handed’s greatest source of damage comes from a long cast time, heavily choreographed ability that can be easily avoided in pvp. Cleave’s reliance on a damage over time effect for the bulk of it’s damage (which, by the way, is useless on half the enemies in the game due to being labelled as a bleed effect) greatly hinders it’s usage in aoe situations where you want to continually hit those enemies. Reverse slash does less damage than any of the three class-based executes (impale, biting jabs, or mage’s fury) and costs more to use. Momentum will quickly put you into the weapon damage softcap, if you werent there already, and even if you dont get overcharged the damage bonus it provides is exceptionally low (why wait 20 seconds for 20% extra weapon damage when I can get 99% extra weapon damage instantly with power extraction?).
The sword and shield line lacks offensive power, and none of it’s abilities are ‘interesting’ or ‘cool’ enough to warrant using even for visual effect. The only commonly used ability in the entire tree is puncture/ransack/pierce armor, and only because it taunts enemies – and even that is only used before inner fire is obtained from the undaunted line. Defensive posture is less effective than either backlash or reflective scale, as it only reflects a single projectile while both of the alternatives last for a duration and reflect everything during that duration. Low slash is entirely underwhelming, and power bash is lacking in damage and provides nothing that a class ability cant do better.
So, rant over, what is ZOS doing about this? Will this game ever be melee-friendly, or will we eternally be doomed to wielding bows and staves to be competetive in any content?