Q: Light vs Medium vs Heavy Armor — which one should I pick?
You can take a look at my post about Armor skill lines to find out a bit more about various passive bonuses you receive for wearing them. It doesn’t go into too much detail though, so I’ll try to explain a bit more here.
Heavy armor offers the most protection, and is almost exclusively used by tanks. Heavy armor passives increase your armor and magic resist, offer more health regeneration, and reduce the stamina cost of blocking attacks, something which tanks are doing constantly. The bonuses to damage dealt are insignificant.
Medium armor mostly includes bonuses to weapon critical and stamina regeneration, both of which is equally important for physical damage dealers. If your build of choice is a stamina-based archer or melee DPS you will want to wear at least 5 pieces of medium armor.
Light armor is for casters: ranged spell-casting mages or healers. It offers reduced magicka cost of spells, and increased magicka pool, both equally important for builds which are focused on constantly casting spells.
So which armor type to wear?
It depends entirely on your build. Since all classes can essentially play all builds, there’s no definitive answer for every class.
Do note that Active armor skill line spell (Annulment, Evasion, Immovable) can be used regardless of what armor you’re wearing, so if you’re looking to boost your armor and spell resistance via Immovable you can do it while wearing Light or Medium armor as well.
Other passive bonuses are certainly not insignificant so in most cases you should stick to the armor type preferred by your build choice.
Combining different armor
Most important bonuses are gained by wearing 5 pieces of a particular armor weight, and with 7 available armor slots you can use two different armor types. As an example, you could wear 5 pieces of Light armor to get majority of magicka bonuses for casting spells, but also equip 2 pieces of Heavy armor at the same time for some extra protection.
To put things further into perspective, when I tank with my Templar I usually wear 5 pieces of Heavy armor, and 2 pieces of Light. The protection from heavy armor is often necessary, and wearing 2 pieces of light armor still gives me some additional reduced magicka cost and regeneration so I can cast more spells.
When I play easier group content such as delves in Craglorn, I don’t need nearly as much protection so if I have to tank my choice is 5 Light armor and 2 Heavy armor pieces. Usually I wear my headpiece and chestpiece heavy armor (because heavy looks better than light, and those are the two most noticeable pieces of equipment). Also, remember that your Belt gives the least amount of armor; in fact a Heavy belt will give you LESS armor than a Light chest. If you’re looking to combine different armor type pieces, look for the ones that give you least or most armor and replace accordingly.
Furthermore (and I hope I’m not going into too much detail here), enchants can give different amounts of stats depending on which gear piece they’re on. Typical traits on items are Infused (stronger enchants), Divines (stronger Mundus stone buffs), and Reinforced (more armor). I strongly recommend you take a look at my recommendation on which traits to use on armor for further explanation on this.
I hope I didn’t lose you yet, because this means the following. If you want to wear two pieces of Heavy armor, those should be Boots and Shoulders primarily, because they give the highest amount of extra armor, but not highest effect of enchants so the traits on those items should be Reinforced. Your Gloves and Belt give very little armor and don’t receive full effect of enchantments, so they should have Divines trait. Lastly your Head, Chest and Pants item slots should have Infused traits since they give full effect of enchants.
If you’re still confused, simply check my table with best traits and stick to it!
To conclude there’s more to armor types in Elder Scrolls Online that you might think at first, but you should primarily simply decide which build you will play.
Tanks will want heavy armor, melee DPS and archers Medium, and mages and healers light armor. Use a full set of Heavy, Medium or Light armor, and once you get the hang of it and understand how damage scaling, regeneration, enchants, traits, and defenses work you can combine different pieces of armor to get more out of your class and build.
Got more questions? That’s what the comments below are for!