When I was watching E3 announcements, I spent most of it sulking because I knew that the only announcement I wanted was unlikely to appear. When the trailer for Fallout 76 ran, this salty Elder Scrolls fan cursed Bethesda for seeming to pay more attention to the Fallout franchise than to my chosen universe. I then rolled my eyes so hard they nearly disconnected from my head when the Blades trailer ran. It felt like a consolation prize, I wanted to yell “Listen, TODD, giving us what sounds like a fancier version of Clash of Clans or whatever is NOT the same as giving us a new Elder Scrolls title,” My cough was softened when I hear the drumbeats heralding an epic score, the Bethesda logo pop up, and mountains and green appearing from behind misty clouds. YES, PLEASE, THANK YOU. THE ELDER SCROLLS VI, BABYYYY!
I’m honestly excited. This game isn’t set to be a reality until who knows when, but having gotten so much fun out of the games and the lore of the Elder Scrolls universe, I am already pumped for this. So, almost purely as an exercise in self-indulgence, I’m going to lay out all the things that would make this game shoot past its iconic siblings as the greatest installment in the saga yet.
The general consensus on TES subreddits that I frequent – r/ElderScrolls, r/teslore and r/skyrim, is that this game will take place in High Rock and/or Hammerfell. I’m gonna say both, because High Rock is only about a third of the size of Skyrim, and Hammerfell is right beside High Rock. Interestingly, the Bretons of High Rock have an affinity to magic, while the Redguards of Hammerfell are suspicious of magic. Trayvond the Redguard, in Hammerfell, explains his point of view regarding magic use: “Don’t much like spellcasters, because Wizards steal souls and tamper with minds. If you use magic, you’re weak or wicked.” This thematic clash could be really interesting throughout the game. While the Nords of Skyrim are suspicious of magic too, the impending doom of the dragons’ return and the Civil War threw the staunch Nords into disarray, and it was never hugely apparent in Skyrim that magic use was much of an issue.
The locations we see in the trailer of The Elder Scrolls VI are varied – mountains, desert, coastlines, and a beautiful city. These places fit into the idea of High Rock and/or Hammerfell neatly. But mostly, the trailer did a good job of showing us what the game definitely will not be. It won’t be in Argonia, swampy home of the reptilian worshippers of the Hist. While Elsweyr, home of the Khajiit, is definitely a possibility, I think the other aesthetic choices of the trailer rule out this region. The Khajiit are always framed very much as “Other” in the games, with a sense of exoticism. The music used in the trailer sounds as if it heralds war or some great conflict, seeming to match a more traditional and broader tone for this kind of high fantasy. Any Elder Scrolls installment centred around the Khajiit would take into account their archetype as excellent spies and assassins, and therefore the trailer wouldn’t be striking these loud definitive chords that sound more like an open war is about to rage.
Why do I keep referring to war? Well, as I’ve mentioned above, the familiar theme for The Elder Scrolls seems, in this trailer, to be heralding great conflict. But I also must admit that a Reddit user on the mega thread for hype surrounding The Elder Scroll VI announcement has really convinced me. /u/TERAFLOPPER asserts in r/ElderScrolls that there is an Akaviri invasion imminent. The lore in most of the games has been hinting at a stewing Akaviri plot to take over Tamriel, and this commenter believes that Tosh Raka, leader of the Tiger Dragons of Ka’Po’Tun, has the ambition to carry out this invasion. The commenter even points out the significance of this being the sixth (VI) instalment and the invasion being AkaVIri: “I believe that the teaser teased the location of where the Akaviri armies would land to invade, at the coasts of High Rock. Based on overwhelming fan requests in a thread started by the devs at the official TES forums several years back I believe The Elder Scrolls VI will take place in AkaVIr and parts of Tamriel and it will be centered around the greatest war to ever take place on Nirn.” While this commenter asserts that the game will take place in Akavir, I think it is more likely they will keep this one on Tamrielic soil, with some missions possibly bringing you to locations in Akavir. In this way, they get to introduce the Akaviri element, which will be fresh and interesting, but not have it define the entire game, which would be definitely too mystifying to less lore-obsessed Elder Scrolls fans.
Things to improve from Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls VI
Skyrim is a pretty amazing game. No game is flawless, but this one packs in so much that while you will eventually get bored, you can’t really complain because you have spent 200 hours on this specific playthrough. It has a landscape that varies very naturally and feels very real – a definite improvement from Oblivion which felt, at times, like a storybook. The cities and towns are distinct and every player has a favourite (mine is grumpy, gorgeous little Falkreath, by the way, and if I could plunge one city into ruin it would be Markarth). The NPCs feel a lot more lively than most games can manage, and provide an abundance of side quests when you aren’t bothered defeating Alduin just yet, or you have no idea what the hell a Stormcloak is and why you should or shouldn’t join them. It’s a game that allows you to immerse at your own speed. However, there are definite aspects that can be improved, and I hope The Elder Scrolls VI accomplishes this.
The first thing I would want is for every controversial faction that has a main questline to have an equally complex counter-questline. In Skyrim, the Civil War is equally as long whether you are Imperial or Stormcloak, as is the Dawnguard quest, whether you choose to be with the Dawnguard or not. However, this cannot be said for the Dark Brotherhood or the Thieves Guild. Many players of the Elder Scrolls game really enjoy the character-building aspect of the game – while they may have played the game 20 times before, they can choose to play it as any race, any sex, any affinity, and with their own personal ideas of the character and what they would or would not do. I recently played with this gorgeous male Breton character, and he looked like Viggo Mortensen (obviously this was on Skyrim and not Oblivion where they all look like potatoes). So he seemed like such an archetypal hero when the time came to join the Dark Brotherhood, I took the other path – to destroy them. The whole quest was basically to go to their lair, which wasn’t hard to find at all, with a password the quest-giver helpfully tells you immediately, and to slaughter the members of the Brotherhood, who are pretty lame opponents.
This quest could have been amazing – you could have needed to go through a dungeon to find the password, you could have needed to gain the trust of a Brotherhood member to find the lair. Or, following the trigger of the counter-quest (killing Astrid) you could be constantly on the watch for the members of the Brotherhood, all stalking you with their own methods to assassinate you.
Please, Please, Please, Let Me See the Dwemer in The Elder Scrolls VI!
Trust me to make a very tenuous Smiths reference in an article about the Elder Scrolls. This point may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it opens some interesting discussion. The most enduring mystery of TES lore is what became of the Dwemer (or Dwarves). A race of elves who believed only in knowledge and the god of their own creation, the Numidium, they vanished into thin air just prior to a huge battle, leaving only their halls and automatons.
I don’t know if I want an answer as to what happened to them, exactly. The theorizing has become integral to the fandom and the mystery is what draws most people into wanting to know more about the lore of the universe. But I’d love a flashback or some kind of quest in which for a few minutes you get to see a Dwemer ruin as it was when it was populated. Perhaps not directly communicating with an actual Dwemer, but a glimpse of their society. I could do with even just getting a better idea of how they lived. There’s a Dwemer city in Hammerfell so maybe we can expect some cool history to unfold itself to us there!
Because there’s a good chance the Bretons may be central to this installment, it would be great for the game mechanics to take another whack at magic. In Skyrim, it’s overly simplistic and doesn’t quite encourage you to branch out. I tend to lean on Destruction, and I just blast my enemies with flames until I passively reach a high enough level to get Wall of Sparks or something. In Oblivion it requires more discipline but is also more rewarding. You feel like an actual mage, and the ability to craft your own spells and name them makes the player feel active in furthering their own magic skills. A blend of the two approaches would be great – have the leveling smoother and more integrated, as it was in Skyrim, but let the player be more proactive and creative in their use of magic (as in Oblivion) for The Elder Scrolls VI.
Just please, Bethesda, please, finish this. But also make it perfect. But also don’t rush it. And make sure it’s massive.
We may not know when we’ll get to play The Elder Scrolls VI, but it’s gonna be spectacular.