What version of the game should I buy?
Content in ESO comes in several types: the base game, DLC, chapters, and “upgrades”. There are multiple ways to obtain DLC, and depending on how you think you’re going to play this game, different versions may have more or less value to you.
Currently the base game purchase has been simplified to just one edition, the Morrowind bundle. It’s possible you may still find keys for Tamriel Unlimited (the game without the Morrowind chapter) or Gold Edition (the game without the Morrowind Chapter, but with four DLC included) around, but from the website this bundle is the only option. Yay simplification! It’s $30 full price and while it hasn’t gone on sale yet, I expect it to go on 40-50% sale a couple times a year.
Now there is only one way to get DLC permanently, and that’s through the crown store. You can also get the DLC as long as you have ESO plus active. Which method to go depends on your playstyle. If you can afford $15/month, when you are actively playing the game, it is a much better deal than buying the DLC outright.
So what are these DLC, Chapters, and Upgrades?
Chapters are major changes to the game. Currently the only Chapter is Morrowind. Morrowind includes a new class, a massive new zone, and a new PvP type (battlegrounds), as well as a new twelve-man trial. (It does not change the level cap or do anything else that you might be familiar with from expansions).
Chapters must be purchased from the online store.
The next chapter will arrive sometime in 2018 and will (almost certainly) focus on the Summerset Isles. For current players it will be purchased as an upgrade to their existing accounts.
DLC expand game content, but in a more limited way. There are currently seven DLC. The first four are in Gold Edition. They can also be purchased in the in-game crown store. Access to the DLC is granted as long as you are subscribed to the game (which is $15/mo). So you can have access forever if you purchase them or on an as-needed basis if you subscribe.
DLC go on sale for 75% off on their anniversary. The crowns to buy them also go on sale a couple times a year. So it’s possible to get the DLC permanently for a low price. However, because they are crown store purchases they will only apply to the server (NA or EU) that you purchased them on, not both.
- Imperial City: Imperial city is a new PvP zone in the heart of Cyrodiil. Full of daedra, enemy players, and two challenging four man dungeons, this is an important DLC for both PvE and PvP players. Probably around ~10 hours of story content and a lot more of dungeons/pvp.
- Orsinium – Visit Wrothgar, the ancient home of the orcs, and help rebuild Orsinium. This is the largest DLC in terms of single player story content (~25 hours) and has a solo trial which is the most challenging solo content in the game.
- Thieves’ Guild – Join the Thieves Guild as they fight their way to supremacy (again). Interested in sneaky heists, parkour, and making a massive profit on the backs of others? This is the ~20 hours of solo content for you. Also includes the game’s fourth 12-man trial, Maw of Lorkhaj.
- Dark Brotherhood – Hail Sithis. This is about ~10 hours of solo content.
- Shadows of the Hist – two four-man dungeons which are the most difficult in the game, focused on Argonian lore
- Horns of the Reach – two four-man dungeons with interesting new mechanics, focused on the reachmen and their conquest of Western Skyrim
- Clockwork City – a new quest DLC, also includes a new 12-man trial. 10-15 hours of solo content. Trainwiz approved!
- Dragon Bones – two four-man dungeons focused on dragon priests.
Upgrades unlock new features to your account. They can be purchased in the crown store.
- Imperial Race. Imperial race comes from an “upgrade” – you might see imperial edition for sale still. Imperial upgrade can also be purchased in the crown store for 2100 crowns (this is $25 full price and around $10 on sale).
- Any race, any alliance. The base game has all races locked to their alliances. This doesn’t really matter because all alliances can play together for all content except PvP, so you can roll an AD altmer and still play with your DC friends if you like. However, if you are devoted to a particular PvP faction, you may want to get this upgrade. This upgrade is 1,900 crowns. It can still very rarely be found on grey market sites sold as “explorer’s pack” or “adventurer’s pack”. Note that the bonus maps and such are not a selling point – they’re actually a complete waste of time. Only get this if you want any race, any alliance.
There is also an ESO plus subscription, which gives access to all DLC (not including Morrowind), as well as a crafting bag, costume dying, 1500 crowns per month, double bank space, double housing decorations, and some other stuff. Pretty nice for the hoarder. It does not give Morrowind or any upgrades.
One note: XBOX, PS4, and PC are all separate accounts, that require separate purchases of the game, and you cannot move characters between the servers at any point. PC is definitely the best experience due to addons and increased game stability, although the console servers are a bit more active.
If you intend to play on both EU and NA, you can use the same account (on PC). However, things purchased in the crown store will only apply to the server you purchased them on. Things purchased on the website will apply to both servers (that is, Morrowind, subscription, and crowns, will show up on both accounts, but DLC and cosmetics are server-specific).
If you’re looking into acquiring cosmetic items like costumes and houses, or you want to own the DLC outright or get more character slots, you may want to wait for a crown sale. This chart shows the “value” of each pack.
Where should I buy the game from?
First of all, don’t buy the game on Steam. Steam causes no end of troubles for this game, especially on patch day (Although the last few patch days have gone smoothly, so there is hope!). There is no benefit to having this game on Steam – it doesn’t keep the game up to date. Also, when Steam has a sale, so does the main website, for the same price.
Usually the best place to buy the game is on Greenmangaming, which usually has good prices and is a legitimate reseller. The elderscrollsonline.com website itself is good of course. There are often other legitimate resellers with good prices so look around. When you buy from these places you simply put the code on the official game website and download from there.
Keep in mind that most key sellers are selling keys for the website, not for steam. However, some, like humble bundle, are selling steam keys. Keep in mind what you’re purchasing – while most people don’t have any trouble with steam, on patch days I only see people who have the game through steam having trouble.