At E3 this year Bethesda finally announced that they are working on the next game in the Elder Scrolls series. This isn’t exactly any shocking news, as its obvious that we would be getting it sooner or later, and based on the fact that all they revealed was a glimpse at the title and a background, I’d say we are getting it later, after 2020 for sure, and perhaps even as late as 2022.
So what do we think the new game might involve? Well before the small amount of information was even revealed, I had my own assumptions about what a new Elder Scrolls game might entail. Considering the fact that Skyrim increased the mass appeal of the series by several orders of magnitude, I would expect that they would continue down the same trend that we can see the games moving in since Morrowind and through Oblivion to Skyrim. This would be basically in making a more streamlined open world sandbox game experience, while cutting back the detail in the RPG elements. As unfortunate as it is, I still think this may happen. I believe this approach would also limit the locations where this game could be set. I would generally omit the Morrowind, Cyrodiil and Skyrim regions from the possibility of being in the game, and with a focus on mass appeal I would assume that the more exotic and strange provinces such as Elsweyr, Black Marsh and Valenwood would be overlooked. This leaves us with The Summerset Isles, High Rock, and Hammerfell.
The game would probably continue in the timeline left off in Skyrim rather than being some sort of prequel, as this is covered by The Elder Scrolls: Online, and there aren’t really any interesting gaps to fill. Also, I would assume that they want to continue with the overarching story of the war between the diminished Empire and the Thalmor’s Aldmeri Dominion. For this reason I would then also say that Summerset Isles, the home of the High Elves and the Dominion, would probably not be the best place to set the game, at least not solely.
So that leaves us with just High Rock and Hammerfell, the homes of the Bretons and the Redguards respectively. High Rock is a fairly small mountainous region, and Hammerfell, while large, is mostly plains and desert, so a good setting for a game could be both of these provinces together, especially as they border each other in the Northwest corner of Tamriel. This seems to also be the prevailing theory online, and since the reveal at E3, the single image shown makes it seem more plausible. Comparisons to different maps of Tamriel have led people to believe that the view we get is one looking Southwest from the gulf between High Rock and Hammerfell, with the land in shot being that of Hammerfell. The terrain seems accurate for Hammerfell, There are some mountains, and there’s some greenery but it’s not overly lush, and it would presumably be the cooler region in this northern part of Hammerfell near to High rock and its mountains.
So what would this setting bring to the game? Starting with Hammerfell, the country is dominated mostly by two factions who are in an eternal conflict with each other called the Crowns and the Forebears. They both originate from the island of Yokuda which used to be to the west of Tamriel but sunk in the First Era, and now they are both vying for control of their home in Hammerfell. This conflict would most likely feature heavily in the world and there could be some major questlines involving working for either side. The situation with the Empire and the Dominion would likely not be ignored here. Hammerfell is an interesting place to get a perspective from, as they seceded from the Empire after the tenuous peace was made between the Empire and Dominion due to the peace treaty, The White-Gold Concordat, originally promising half of Hammerfell to the dominion. For the next five years Hammerfell continues to fight the Dominion, leaving southern Hammerfell devastated and the Crowns and Forebears having worked together for once against a common enemy. This would probably lead to some interesting story elements and places to explore in the aftermath of a war with complicated relations between the factions of Hammerfell, the Empire and the Dominion.
Hammerfell lying on the West coast of Tamriel connect it with the Abecean Sea, which will hopefully include in the game more so than surrounding waters have done in previous games, as this one is known to be sailed by pirates. Other than these there are a few other established factions in small locations about the place that could provide some cool quests. High Rock would be a good addition to the game as it also has various factions, a lot of them in fact, due to the country being divided up into city-state like Kingdoms. Within those kingdoms there are supposedly very large and complex noble families, all of whom pride themselves on upholding the Breton reputation of being great mages. There is also Orsinium, the main stronghold of the Orc race, which is situated in High Rock. Overall having both Hammerfell and High Rock would make for some great variety in landscape and story possibilities, but I could also see a situation where we perhaps just get Hammerfell alone.
But what about the gameplay? My hopes for an Elder Scrolls game in that department are ones that I think we mostly won’t get, but what I’d really want to see is more depth and complexity added to the rpg mechanics. More variety and uses for the different skills in the game, perhaps more gameplay options that don’t revolve around combat. Some degree of specialisation, not necessarily returning to a class system, but at least something that doesn’t make it incredibly easy to become a godlike polymath that can kill everything. I want there to be reason to have multiple playthroughs to see different parts of the game or the various guild questlines, and that would make sense, but I don’t think it will happen. They will aim for a low barrier to entry and allow for players to have the freedom to do everything as one character, oh well.
Some more realistic hopes that I have for gameplay improvements include, and ultimately hinge on a new engine being built. For years Bethesda’s game have been feeling dated due to their use of the Creation Engine, which is basically the same engine used since Morrowind 16 years ago in 2002 called Gamebryo, but with some enhanced graphical capabilities. It would take a lot of work to make a more modern engine, but I think it needs to be done, and with it we would get something that feels newer, with better animations and smoother gameplay that we see in so many other new games. At the same time as doing this though, they would need to ensure that they don’t sacrifice the modding capability of a new engine, and that would be tricky to do. Please for the love of god Bethesda, don’t take this as an excuse to ditch modding or go for paid mods as microtransactions again, a free modding community is the lifeblood of the Elder Scrolls games in my opinion, even though Bethesda may see the mass market and extra things to sell as more important.
Other enhancements that I would hope and expect to see are improvements to the combat. In all previous games there was very little nuance to the melee combat, as you would mostly just swing your weapon wildly in the enemy’s face until they keel over in a ragdoll fashion. Something that requires better timing would be good, with more emphasis on parrying and countering each others attacks. Combo moves and alternate attacks based on weapon type, and even just adding some more meatyness and a feeling of impact to the swings would be great, and would be easier to do with a new engine. Basically take a look at the fundamental melee system of Warhammer: Vermintide 2, something like that would be a dream. Finally some more variety and depth added to the NPCs in the world should be doable. With some of my recent favourite RPGs like The Witcher 3 and Divinity: Original Sin 2 having such memorable and well made characters in every corner of their worlds, having a similar level of quality in an Elder Scrolls game would be amazing. At the very least having more variety in the voice acting and character types would be a start.
But anyway, that’s enough of my hopes and fears for Elder Scrolls VI, what about yours? Please feel free to share any theories or ideas you may have!
I’m mostly looking forward to the curved swords… CURVED SWORDS!