We've been talking about The Elder Scrolls franchise a lot lately, what with The Elder Scrolls Online being revealed, Dawnguard being officially announced and Morrowind turning ten in the same week. We've bantered about the past, present and future of the series in our latest PWNcast, and that got us thinking about what we'd like to see from future TES titles.
Whether we see our wish list implemented by Dawnguard, The Elder Scrolls Online or the next numerical Elder Scrolls sequel is irrelevant. This is what we want from the franchise - in order of how badly we want it.
10: Better QA
Let's get this out of the way with early. Bethesda RPGs are almost immune to criticism about bugs and glitches, on merit of them being sensational, but goodwill will only get you so far. Skyrim nearly faltered as PS3 fans were subjected to horrific frame rates, and subsequent patches on all platforms frequently made things worse rather than better. With such a huge game, there will always be bugs - but our patience is finite. With luck, a new engine (sorry, Creation, but I think we still need a brand new one) will help to sort out TES VI.
9: Decisions, Decisions
The Elder Scrolls franchise - and Fallout 3, not to ignore Bethesda's other RPG - offer us more choice on a gameplay level than we sometimes know what to do with, and that's absolutely wonderful. Indeed, it's why most of us became fans in the first place. But The Elder Scrolls isn't good at allowing us to make the big decisions, most of which we're railroaded into by the storyline or faction-specific quests.
You only have to look at Fallout 3 and New Vegas to see what I mean. Megaton, anyone? Yes Man? With Mass Effect 3 focusing on the consequences of our actions yet further, we hope that the next Elder Scrolls game will let us consciously shape the world, and make decisions that affect thousands of people and the direction of the storyline.
8: Arrow? Knee? I don't even know you! Or do I?
A tad facetious, I warrant you, but the fact that that meme happened is testament to some annoyingly chatty NPCs who don't have enough to say - and arguably not enough distinct voice talent to say it. The number of voice actors will doubtlessly increase in the next game, much as they did between Oblivion and Skyrim, but the constant repetition of comments and voices really breaks immersion in parts.
And does everyone really need to say something when I walk past them? Last time I went up to London, I wasn't regaled with life stories by everyone on the tube.
7: Hardcore Mode?
I'm not talking about having to eat and sleep here. Rather, I'm talking about an optional mode for old-school RPG fans who'd like a more traditional pre-Skyrim experience. A mode that, for example, heralds the return of character stats such as strength and endurance. That lets us mix and match different armour elements such as pauldrons and robes. And no auto-levelling for encounters or items.
That'd be nice - better yet, it would be optional.
6: Romance And Roleplaying
The Amulet Of Mara, sort of secret that it was, illustrated that forming deeper relationships with NPCs can work brilliantly as part of the radiant, 'narrative loom.' And that's one key area we feel that The Elder Scrolls has room for improvement: proper NPC interactions. We want to engage with them, not just as quest givers or potential pickpocket targets, but as real people. Many fans expressly play RPGs to enjoy the relationships between characters, and we'd love to see genuine roleplaying play a greater role (sorry) in the next TES game without overshadowing the importance of the player.
5: Dynamic Hindsight
This is a little term I cooked up that basically means save file compatibility. Elder Scrolls games are stuffed with references to previous titles, but it would be a huge rush to see our Skyrim character's actual name and accomplishments feature throughout the literature, possibly even affecting the storyline or the state of the world at the beginning of the next game. That said, since TES VI will presumably release in five years time on next-generation hardware, I freely admit that this could be a little far-fetched. But we'd love to see it nonetheless, and feel part of a world that we helped to create.
4: Epic Battles
Skyrim's civil war questline brought us castle-storming missions that captured the spirit of massive, sprawling and chaotic battles. In fact, these objectives frequently put the story missions to shame. We loved the feeling of being part of an army rather than a lone crusader, and frankly, a delicious taste just wasn't enough.
We must have more. Let us lead our guilds into battle against enemy hordes. Let factions lock horns in glorious all-out war. The Elder Scrolls Online will feature 100 vs 100 vs 100 PvP, but we want the next numerical Elder Scrolls game to redefine the term epic.
3: Beast Races: Time To Shine
The Khajiit and Argonians (and Orcs, to some extent), have gotten short shrift throughout the Elder Scrolls series. They've got their own cultures, thousands of years of traditions and ways of life that we've barely touched upon since the franchise began, so surely it's about time that the Beast Races came to the fore. Many of us have played as a Khajiit or Argonian, but no-one really knows what it means to be one. We'd love to see the next Elder Scrolls game, or TESO, explore them in much more detail - maybe even in a game of their own set in their homelands and chronicling race-specific issues. After all, the Nords have Skyrim. The Dunmer have Morrowind. And the Imperials have Oblivion.
Surely Elsweyr and the Black Marsh will need a saviour soon?
We've been the Nerevarine. The vanguard of a new era. The Dovahkiin. A guildmaster. Legendary assassin. Harbinger. Archmage.
And Tamriel's inhabitants still treat us like errand boys.
You know what? A little respect might be nice. Skyrim upped the ante with guards who rushed to gawp at our amazing dragon slaying prowess, and some neat one liners that reference completed quests, but I'd like to see more of Tamriel's denizens – guildmasters and members especially – treat us with due deference once we've earned it.
1: A Brave New World
Bethesda describe Oblivion as "generic." Skyrim, while authentic, stuck steadfastly to fantasy tropes of wolves, bears and dragons. But Tamriel has so much more to give than what we've seen before, indeed, it's a brave new world that can provide visual and gameplay experiences that resemble literally nothing else on the market.
Morrowind set the stage with Vvardenfell: a truly alien world of chitinous Silt Striders, floating jellyfish, buildings shaped from bizarre fungal growths and enormous crabs scooped out to form Guild Houses. It was different, dangerous and unpredictable, and we loved it.
We'd love to properly explore the dense Valenwood, marvelling at its enormous migratory trees and unique jungle wildlife (or return to it I suppose, since it featured in Arena). Perhaps enjoy a visit to the Summerset Isles, gazing in disbelief at Elven architecture that defies physics and conventional thinking. The mysterious continents of Akavir and Yokuta brim with unexplored potential. We'd like to see something truly new, both in terms of visual design and world-building concepts, in the next Elder Scrolls game.
What do you want from The Elder Scrolls series? Have we made mountains out of molehills? Let us know in the comments!