Why The Elder Scrolls 6 should look to the past to create a better future for the series
While we’ve been waiting for The Elder Scrolls 6 and – before that – Interstellar, our veterans The Elder Scrolls Fans have been wondering where Bethesda May take the long-awaited sixth mainline entry in the big fantasy series.
Of course, at this point, we’re pretty much sure where it’s really going: High Rock or Hammerfell, or even both. But what about everything else? More importantly, what about the inevitable rework of its instant game and RPG systems? Aside from these elements, how big can it reasonably be?
As I discussed in my previous Elder Scrolls 6 speculation article, most people are watching skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online Fantasy of the next game. That’s not a mistake, especially if we consider the ridiculous amount of Skyrim re-releases we’ve had in over a decade; the game is hugely important to Bethesda Game Studios.Although forget Thanks to its pivotal role as one of the Xbox 360’s early must-play games that brought the series into the mainstream, Skyrim’s shadow is almost impossible to escape and has shaped the entire open-world genre, RPG or not.
However, a major criticism of Skyrim has been how “restrained” it is when it comes to deeper RPG systems. I still believe it’s the most vivid and enduring Elder Scrolls, but it’s hard to deny that Morrowind and Oblivion’s fair share of out-of-the-box ideas and systems are either watered down or thrown out the window. In fact, this streamlining process that ultimately benefits the series has been happening since Daggerfall. It might be time to restore the lost pieces of really cool game design and hilarious lore.
An easy win for The Elder Scrolls 6 would be to bring back spells — especially absent in Skyrim for silly balance reasons — to make spell-based builds more enticing. Vanilla Oblivion has made pure mage less of the coolest class type…but glorious, tattered spell-making makes them worth playing with. If we go back to Morrowind or even Daggerfall, we’ll still find an iteration of a neat optional system that gives these games a special flavor. In the search for more “realism” and cosmic coherence, Bethesda dropped unique features that could easily be improved. This is just an example.
In fact, the studio immediately returned to the do-it-yourself philosophy in Fallout 4 — just four years after Skyrim — making base building and weapon crafting systems a key part of the experience. Granted, for the most part, the balance around them is tighter, but it marks an important realization that players’ freedom of choice is what really makes their modern games so timeless. Since then (Fallout 76 and Starfield), the customization aspect of their game has been around the market, and I fully expect The Elder Scrolls 6 to offer more in that regard than just house building and weapon upgrades.
It’s also worth going back to the question of doubly outlandish legends and bizarre fantasies. If you enjoy reading through the game books in Skyrim or The Elder Scrolls Online, you’ll know that Bethesda isn’t completely burying its more unusual past — Tamriel is still a very strange fantasy setting — — but not many of these weird elements are no longer in the game. Where are the werewolves in Daggerfall? What the hell is going on with CHIM?
Even at their strangest, Skyrim and Oblivion were designed to be the most familiar in order to ease new players into a more obscure fantasy world. Now that everyone’s on the Todd Howard hype train, what’s preventing The Elder Scrolls from getting at least a Fallout-level weirdness? In an increasingly busy market for open-world fantasy games, this series should be the first to discover what makes it special.
It sounds like I’m frustrated with the franchise’s direction after Morrowind, but it’s quite the opposite: I think once it ditched a lot of half-baked systems and worked on more straightforward combat and skills, it actually became approachable and downright engaging Happy mechanics. But I must admit that this process also takes away some of the unrepeatable charm of The Elder Scrolls. With more and more new IPs trying to replicate its formula and revamp it, mining its well-established universe for something truly unique could be the key to its survival.
Yes, The Elder Scrolls isn’t dying anytime soon, but big dreams are part of the franchise’s history and what allowed Bethesda to explore uncharted territories where there were few 3D games before, when most developers were still trying to figure out linear first-person game.
That’s why Starfield fills me with hope – it dares to combine the studio’s greatest strengths and areas of expertise with procedural skills that can foster unparalleled scale. No one should expect it to be as perfect or pleasing as Skyrim, but it’s sure to be a major experiment that will get better no matter what comes after. If anyone can break the manual procedural balance of open world design, I believe it’s Bethesda. They’ve been there before, and as long as they stay true to their core principles, success is within reach.
In a way, The Elder Scrolls Online should also serve as a (half) blueprint for The Elder Scrolls 6, at least in terms of what die-hard fans want their Elder Scrolls to play. Skyrim DNA is there, but ZeniMax Online wisely restores the old bits and pieces to make it a true RPG. Also, it largely feels like a single-player role-playing game, with thousands of players who happen to live on top of all the NPCs.
It blends past Tamriel adventures with future-oriented game design. Combine that with its huge but handcrafted world, and I feel like there’s a lot to learn from “just another MMO doing its own thing” that others might overlook.
A year later, Bethesda Game Studios should be well into (actually, for real this time) TES6 pre-production. It’s not unreasonable to expect a new Daggerfall if we look at what happens to them next, where they came from, and what everyone else is doing. That is, an ambitious fantasy RPG filled with ideas and knowledge of the past, but not afraid to explore unfamiliar paths and make new mistakes.