We all already know that we desperately need a new Elder Scrolls to revitalise the RPG genre (and redeem the series from the god-awful Elder Scrolls Online) but have we given any thought to what we actually want in it? Here’s a definitive list of things we at Cobbic want to see in the next installment.
Each game in the series is getting more casualised. By which we mean content is being reduced in favour of being easier to understand and play, in order to grab a wider number of players. After Fallout 4 ditched the skill system (which we referred to as the ‘fall of rpgs’, though not without a little affection) there’s a genuine concern that we might be reduced to improving one of three skills each level up – Combat, Magic, and Stealth.
Casualties from previous games include Mysticism (which once allowed us to absorb attributes and skills, detect creatures, reflect magic, and even teleport), Acrobatics (in Oblivion a true master could jump on water, which was pretty cool), and a wide array of weapon skills. But it might be time to bring some of them back – so that we can really develop our characters, rather than having them as a generic ‘can do everything’ hero.
More kill animations
Something Skyrim added for the first time in the series was kill animations, both for weapons and for spells. There weren’t many of them, and some were left out of the game due to development limitations (though you can get a mod to add them back in) but they felt pleasant and satisfying when you’d get a chance to decapitate someone, or slow-mo pin a guy to the wall with a well-placed stealth arrow.
With a bit more focus and variety, they’d be welcome in a new TES game.
Less killing, more variety
The main issue I had with Skyrim was that everything is resolved with murder. Want to be the Thieves’ Guild leader? Kill your way through dungeons. Want to complete the main quest? Kill your way through dungeons. Want to find someone’s lost necklace? It’s at the bottom of an underwater cave. Kill your way through dungeons to get there.
It’s in stark contrast to not only Morrowind, which involved pilgrimage, travel, persuasion, and exploration, but even Oblivion – which included sneaking to avoid enemies rather than facing them directly, diving into a well to retrieve a ring that would trap you down there, and murder that was slightly more complicated than ‘slaughter everyone’.
It’d be nice to not have to fight off endless Draugr for every quest in the game. Have us find some secret doors, make us work out the recipe for some ancient potion – just not more Draugr, I beg you.
Less linear locations
Morrowind had a big focus on exploration. Some locations you’d come across would only be one room, while others would be sprawling underground palaces. It’d be rare that you’d wander through a single corridor and get out at the end.
While I don’t have a huge problem with Skyrim’s preference for exits at the other end of a dungeon – it saves time backtracking through explored areas – there’s not much in the way of multiple routes, or places to explore off the beaten path. It doesn’t take much to throw in a little extra, and it’d go a long way.
As far as I’m concerned, Daedric Prince DLC/expansions are the best part of any Elder Scrolls game. Morrowind had Hircine in Bloodmoon, which was the far superior werewolf questline (I’m looking at you, Skyrim Companions. You suck). Oblivion had Sheogorath’s Shivering Isles, which was possibly the best expansion I’ve ever played in anything ever. And Skyrim had Dragonborn, with Hermaeus Mora taking over Solstheim.
Each has been entirely different to the last, and each has been good enough to be a game by itself. Whether it’s the deep and choice-driven questline of Bloodmoon, which ends in opening up a whole new playstyle, the chaotic and innovative background and playing area of Shivering Isles, or the Lovecraft-themed tentacles-and-Morrowind feel of Dragonborn, we want more of it. Not the same stuff, but more of the same quality. Maybe Clavicus Vile next time? He hasn’t had much of a look-in.
More unusual scenery
Coming off the back of talking about Hermaeus Mora, some of the coolest stuff in Skyrim was the Daedric architecture of Apocrypha and the areas surrounding the Black Books. I’d love to see more of that, but there’s so much that we could enjoy. Oblivion had the Oblivion gates, and while they got boring after the first couple, it was a great idea. Morrowind’s landscape varied from town to town, making each location unique and fascinating. Skyrim was a bit bland, with a few swamps and a bit of snow, but it had its moments.
Soaring heights, bottomless pits, warped worlds – that’s what we’re looking for.
More weapon and armour variety
It’s not hard to see that Skyrim’s equipment variety was a bit lacking. Not the different branches, as such, but the options for each. Swords, for example, started out at steel, and worked their way up to daedric and dragonbone, but each type was just a linear upgrade on the last. It has, admittedly, been more or less like that forever, but in Morrowind there felt like different types of each sword so you could customise for appearance.
It’d also be nice to have the old way of equipping back. In Morrowind, you could equip each glove separately, a helmet, a pauldron on each shoulder, a cuirass, top and bottom clothing, leg armour, and boots. In Oblivion, the pauldrons were removed and the gloves turned into a single option, and you couldn’t wear clothes under other things. Fine, we understand the limitations and requirements of making bigger games. But Skyrim has taken it one step further, and it’s a worrying trend that makes me think the next game might just give us full sets of armour and the option for a helmet. Don’t do that, Bethesda.
One coherent main story (not 2 unfinished ones)
Skyrim’s main quests were the weakest part of the game by far. The civil war was unfinished, and had been meant to include options to lose, to go back and forth across the landscape with your enemy, and so on. Instead, it gave us a few repetitive kill-everything quests (like the rest of the game) and then we won. Except half the population didn’t seem to even notice and kept supporting Ulfric Stormcloak to my face while I was wearing his armour.
The dragons, on the other hand, were poorly thought out, with an inconsistent goal for Alduin, irritating Blades characters who should be serving you with their lives rather than ordering you about, and a fairly trivial final quest wherein three heroes who got utterly toasted by Alduin the first time are enough to practically beat him by themselves this time.
Morrowind’s main quest was tricky, thoughtful, heavily philosophical, and downright interesting. Even Oblivion’s took us to a mysterious ‘paradise’ and had us sneak through the enemy base in disguise.
Skyrim tried to do too much and didn’t succeed in any of it. Much better to have one main quest that’s really good instead of two forgettable ones.
Magic really got screwed in Skyrim, having been partially screwed in Oblivion. As mentioned already, we’ve lost Mysticism entirely, with the pitiful remains of the skill tree being spread across the other schools. Destruction looks much better, with effects much more explosive than they were in Oblivion or Morrowind, but there’s just so little variety in spells these days. You can’t make your own, so you can’t combine effects. And while Flames and Fireball, for example, are supposed to cover different tactics – one being more accurate and one being more powerful – the Flames work out as so weak that it feels more like an upgrade path.
In Morrowind you could warp the world to your fancy. You could make people like you, open locks, fly through the air… magic felt varied and useful in a variety of situations, rather than just a different style of combat.
If magic is going to be fun again, it needs to return to the wide range of powers it used to have. Of course, it’s hard to include a ‘raise disposition’ spell with disposition gone, and without attributes you can’t drain or absorb them. I’d say bring them all back, but short of that, at least use your imagination, Bethesda.
More Dark Brotherhood
I make no secret of the fact that the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion is my favourite part of any Elder Scrolls thus far. From the mysterious first greeting while you sleep after killing someone, to the Agatha Christie one-by-one mansion murders, to ‘cleansing’ your Sanctuary, it did everything right – and it wasn’t just ‘kill everything’, but offered up alternate routes, different ideas (like pretending to kill someone instead of actually doing it) and an interesting plot.
Almost as importantly, it had the coolest armour and I wore it everywhere, because it looked great and it worked great.
More of that, please.