The Elder Scrolls 6 is happening! We don't know when, and in fact it might be quite a long time before the game is far along enough to give us a proper trailer. Still there are a few details out there that have allowed us to speculate about the RPG's setting, and the mountains in the announcement sure are pretty.
Until we know more, we'll simply have to speculate about the improvements Bethesda might be planning. Will it be a bigger world? Probably. Will it have swords and sorcery in it? Almost certainly. We'd like more than that, though, as ever. Here's what we want from The Elder Scrolls 6.
Better faces and conversations
Bethesda Studios makes remarkable, atmospheric open worlds, but the NPCs who inhabit them look like they have come from a different era. They tend to suffer from stiff posture, stilted animations and faces that can’t emote very much. That’s fine for cool robo-companion Nick Valentine in Fallout 4. For humans we’d like to see huge improvements.
Character faces and performances have generally improved a lot in the last five years and when a game falls behind, like Mass Effect Andromeda, it’s painfully obvious. Likewise conversations could be much more engaging than they have been in previous Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. Fallout 4 introduced a Bioware-style cam that improved interactions, so that’s a sign the Bethesda RPGs are moving in the right direction.
Some memorable NPCs
It might be easier to forgive stiff NPC performances if most of the people you met in The Elder Scrolls games weren’t quite so boring. You meet powerful Jarls and master wizards but they tend to grumble mildly about this and that and then ask you to go fetch them something. There are a few memorable characters, often skulking about in the Dark Brotherhood, but for the most part I’m struggling to remember many NPCs of note. Oddball Fallout characters wouldn’t fit the grandiose fantasy tone of The Elder Scrolls, but some humour, romance, and the odd argument would do a lot to make the world more lived-in.
More varied, hand-crafted dungeons
Some of Skyrim’s dungeons were great. The transition from Dwemer city to glowing mushroom underworld in Blackreach is sublime. Typically, though, the typical Falmer dungeons became samey fast. There might be a trap or two, a couple of caves full of enemies, and a few chests along the way. If you happened to wander into a cave of plot significance you were more likely to see more unusual puzzles and some interesting architecture. More consistently interesting dungeons would be sweet.
Skyrim’s towns each had a separate sense of identity. Riften was grubby and a little sordid, Markath looked like a sweet piece of concept art made real. However compared to The Witcher 3’s Novigrad, or even the Imperial City in Oblivion, the cities felt like limited settlements—a shop or two, a few residential buildings and a central hall. It would be fascinating to see what Bethesda Studios can do with a proper town with distinct districts and a sense of daily working life.
Oblivion and Skyrim both had spellcasting, but Oblivion let players become real magic users through spell-crafting, a feature that didn't make it into Skyrim. By using an altar and combining various spell effects they'd learned, players could design their own custom spells, including range, duration, and effects. With crafting becoming such a big part of so many games, including Bethesda's RPGs, I'd love to see a return of spell-crafting. It would be optional, of course, since there will be plenty of pre-existing spells to learn, but for those who really want to dabble in magic there's nothing better than a little DIY.
A polished third-person view
It’s nice to hop out of your skull and see your character’s cool armour or wizard robes, but actually moving and fighting in third-person feels off compared to first-person in Elder Scrolls games. Part of it is down to your janky animations as you hop and slide around the terrain, part of it is that attacks that look cool in first-person look a bit silly when viewed from behind your character. Having said that, on balance I’d probably prefer to have a janky third-person view than none at all—how else are we to take celebratory selfies once we’ve climbed to the highest part of the world?
Fallout 4's settlement system had its ups and downs, the up being it was an enjoyable activity to partake in between quests, and the down being that the interface was clunky and the buildings generally looked like shit. Freed from a post-apocalyptic setting where building materials could be made from healthy trees instead of bombed out buildings, I can imagine founding your own town in the Elder Scrolls universe to be an immensely enjoyable pastime. You'll be meeting NPCs from all over the land, so why not invite some to live and work in your town? You could raise livestock and grow crops, build your own house, staff your own city watch, attract vendors, build a pub, stables, maybe even form your own guild, and become mayor of a growing community. We always want to establish a home (or several) in Elder Scrolls games, so establishing an entire town feels like a logical extension.
UI designed for PC, please
Both Oblivion and Skyrim's UI were serviceable but ultimately felt like they'd been designed for someone playing on console, not on PC. The UI was overlarge and clearly made for navigation by cycling through options rather than just clicking with a mouse. Modders, bless them, offered much better and more sensible UI for PC, with the Darnified mod for Oblivion and SkyUI for Skyrim. I'm sure modders will once again retool whatever UI Bethesda creates, but it sure would be nice this time around if more thought was put into the UI for PC by the developers.
This one almost goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning that the mod scenes for The Elder Scrolls and fallout games are astonishing. The mod scene is the reason we got a proper PC UI for Skyrim in the first place. We’ve seen modders transpose old Elder Scrolls games into more current engines. We’ve seen dramatic visual overhauls, new monsters, quests, and much more. Mod support will be essential to the longevity of a new Elder Scrolls game. Hopefully we’ll see that in The Elder Scrolls 6.
What would you like to see from the new Elder Scrolls?