Elder Scrolls VI: Amalgamation

No, that isn’t the title of Elder Scrolls VI, and to my knowledge none has been announced – in fact, I don’t think the game has even been announced, even though Skyrim is approaching 3 years old.  Then again, I don’t think Skyrim had been announced yet in 2009, and it wasn’t even in full development until after Fallout 3 was released.

However, I’m sure there will be one sometime in the next 3 years, based on the longest gap (Daggerfall to Morrowind) in the series’ history.

That said, the elephant in the room for TES VI is ESO.  Up until now, the Elder Scrolls games have been about the main series games, with the side games being minor forays into other things, Battlespire probably being the most prominent of them.

ESO tends to distort that; It’s a huge game with at least as much overall series impact as Oblivion, and maybe more than even Skyrim, which made Elder Scrolls into a mass-market franchise.

So, with that in mind, what do we want to see in Elder Scrolls VI?

Well, here’s my laundry list.  I’ll discuss some of these in the detail they deserve in upcoming posts, but here’s the list.  I’ve grouped them mainly by subject, but not by importance as I haven’t totally made up my mind in that regard.

Lore:

Resolve the Civil War.  They may have painted themselves into a corner with this one, since in previous games there has been a canonical resolution to choices when the next game comes out, and it may be impossible to avoid pissing people off with this.  I don’t think a repeat of the Daggerfall “all endings happened simultaneously” will work a second time, nor will a resolution that obviates both choices.

Less significantly, an adequate resolution to the Paarthurnax dilemma.  This one I think is easier since there seems to be a certain consensus that Delphine and Esburn act like total shitlords about the entire thing.  I’ll address both these points in another post, for sure.  In fact, more choices in general would be nice rather than almost entirely linear questlines.

The choice made by the Dragonborn in regard to the Dark Brotherhood also needs to be resolved, but given how integral the Dark Brotherhood is to recent TES games and lore, the result of this is likely a foregone conclusion.  I don’t have a major problem with this, given that Titus Mede II is a nincompoop, so having him canonically assassinated doesn’t bother me much.  I’ll address this one as well.

Some hint as to the result of the Cidhna Mine escape and what happened with the Forsaken would also be nice, and of course there’s the result of Dawnguard, but I’m fairly sure that one is another foregone conclusion.

Also, more joinable factions in general are needed, and not by adding them in DLC.  In Morrowind you had the Fighter’s, Mage’s and Thieves Guild quests, plus the Morag Tong, the Imperial Legion, the Imperial Cult, Tribunal Temple, and three Houses.. and there was no joining them all.  Something like that is needed, including meaningful choices between them.

Gameplay

I’d like to see a retention of the present “3 attributes” scheme, rather than a return to the system of 8 attributes and then the 3 resource pool attributes on top of them.  Although I found a lot of the criticisms of this system in Oblivion to be overblown, they weren’t totally invalid, and it demonstrated the limits of this system.  The present system could use some refinement, but it’s more simply grasped, and lacks the pitfalls of the Oblivion system.

The skill system is fundamentally good, but needs some revisions.  Some of the skills, like Speech, were practically worthless, and worse it turned social challenges into a simple skill check rather than the minigame of Oblivion.  Stealth, on the other hand, was complete winsauce, especially combined with archery, as was the alchemy-enchanting nonsense.

Another improvement would be taking out a lot of the “tax” perks, such as Fists of Steel (really?) or the excessive numbers of perks needed to enhance Destruction damage across multiple elements, or the “matched set” armor perks.  I’d also rather not see any more of the “stack of 5” base perks, especially not with the massive bonuses given to some of them.  Something like Sneak had, with a strong first perk in the stack and small additional bonuses would be better, and only stacking 3 rather than 5 assuming the same leveling curve.

Finally, I’d like to see a more even distribution of total perks across skills and an avoidance of highly specialized skills like “pickpocket”.

Increase the number of magical effects available significantly.  A lot of cool effects have been lost since Morrowind and really need to re-appear.  More variety overall in magic would help immensely.  I’d like mysticism back, even at the expense of Restoration, which is a really narrow focus and hard to make as varied as the other schools.  I’d roll Restoration into mysticism.  Some people are likely to screech, but that’s how I feel.

Something a little more similar to the ESO control scheme would be nice, rather than the “hands” system of Skyrim.  I’d like something like, say, 4-6 hotkeys for weapon sets (rather than the 2 of ESO) and then 4-6 ability slots for each weapon set where you could put spells, items, or weapon abilities, like ESO.  No ultimates, though, please.  Noncombat sets could comprise some of the loadouts as well, so you might have a “Stealth” hotbar that contained a lockpick, an invisibility potion, a silence spell,  fortify carry weight spell, and a fortify pickpocket spell.

The crime system could use some additional work.  It’s far from bad, but it always strikes me as a bit weird that any crime can ultimately be cleared by just throwing money at it.  I wouldn’t mind something where murderers defeated in combat by the guards ended up on the scaffold or at the block with some options to escape in the meantime.. and failure means reload a save!

Combat

DODGE MECHANIC!  The double-click dodge of ESO is a must!  I find myself constantly missing it now.

Improved dual wielding, similar to ESO as well.

Destruction magic needs to be stronger than in Skyrim, or at least not be so ridiculously slow to level.

Smithing improvements should be far less drastic in their effect on the damage curve.

Bring back some classic weapon choices, especially spears.  Crossbows were a really strong point of Skyrim, especially how they felt different from bows, instead of just being funny-looking varients of the same thing.

More varied enemy AI would be really nice, including enemies that have appropriate perks and crafting-equivalent buffs, or pre-improved gear.  Enemies that have more varied builds with things like spellswords would be fantastic, as would stealthy enemies!

So, broadly, that’s what I’d like to see.  I tried to keep this broad, mainly because what I want for TES VI is not “fix Skyrim in these areas.”  It will be a new game with new technology and its own way of doing things, and we should look to it for that, not for a revision of Skyrim or ESO.

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