In an industry saturated by numerous first person shooters, it would be easy to think that meaningful single player experiences are becoming a thing of the past. Thankfully, there are still some companies who put quality in front of quantity. With stellar franchises such as Wolfenstein, Fallout, Dishonoured and The Evil Within; Bethesda is definitely one of those companies. The recently released magnificent Fallout 4, once again has reminded us that amazing single player experiences are still here and very much alive. So, to honour Bethesda Game Studios, let’s have a look at their other flagship series and speculate as to what they are currently working on.
I think I may have spent more time playing The Elder Scrolls than any other gaming series. To say that these RPG games are vast, would be a gross understatement. Players can literally spend over a hundred hours exploring and barely scratch the surface off what the experiences have to offer. Even in 1994 with the original; The Elder Scrolls Arena had a procedurally generated map which spanned over 6 million km2. That’s not to say that the games are just big for the sake of it however. There is an inherent difference between big games, and games that are packed full of creative and memorable content. Through a staggering attention to detail, the fantastical setting of the fictional continent of Tamriel is stunningly realised across all entries in the series. You’ll be going on quests, slaying mythical beasts, honing your various magical and non-magical skills, joining up with factions such as the honourable Fighter’s Guild or secretive Dark Brotherhood and generally be having a great time whilst doing so.
In addition, whereas many major video games progress in a linear manner and offer players relatively little opportunity for exploration or deviation from the main plot; The Elder Scrolls thrives on such deviation. In each game you start by creating your own personal character and then, the world is your oyster. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for instance, your character narrowly escapes execution at the start of the game and is then prompted to warn the nearby village of an impending dragon attack, but this is entirely optional.
You can progress with the main plot and warn the nearby citizens of the threat or go exploring for different opportunities. The choice is entirely up to the player, who is in no way penalized for the decision they make. Ken Rolston, lead designer behind The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, described Bethesda’s motivations in creating the series as wanting to craft a world in which the player could be what they want and do what they want. To impose limitations upon the player would be to limit fun, and why would you want to limit fun? Choices are left open to the player, just like in real life.
We haven’t received a new Elder Scrolls game directly from Bethesda Game Studios for 4 years now. Given that there was a 5 year gap between the last two entries in the series, I can say with some confidence that it won’t be too long before we see an announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI. Regardless of when we get the next entry in the series however, there are a few things we can be sure of. The game will be another epic scale RPG in which the player traverses the massive world and completes countless memorable quests. Obviously there will be a graphical and mechanical upgrade over 2011’s Skyrim, so the only thing were not really sure of is where the game will be set. Each recent game in the series has taken place in a different province of Tamriel; Morrowind in Morrowind, Oblivion in Cyrodiil and, Skyrim in Skyrim. But for a next gen game, it would be amazing to imagine a world full of new areas that have never been seen before.
One idea is that the next game will be set in the province of Black Marsh, (the marshland home of the reptilian Argonians). Whilst this would definitely be a unique setting, and the potential for enemies such as an aquatic variation of Skyrim’s dragons in the form of sea serpents would be great, I can’t help but feel that an Elder Scrolls game set in a swamp would get literally bogged down in mediocrity and monotony.
In the past, the visually distinct lands of Morrowind and Skyrim made for engaging settings, whereas Oblivion with its fairly generic fantasy setting was less interesting purely on an aesthetic level. Locations such as Valenwood (the forest homeland of the Wood Elves) or Elsewyr (the desert homeland of the catlike Khajiit) would be great then. But a combination of multiple distinct settings for the next game could be truly wondrous. This would not only contribute to longevity and replay value but also it would create a hugely distinct game for the series in which the variety of things to do and places to explore is only expanded upon further. Just think how exhilarating it would be to have settings such as desolate swamps, arid deserts and lush green forests all in the same Elder Scrolls game.
Just think how exhilarating it would be to have settings such as desolate swamps, arid deserts and lush green forests all in the same Elder Scrolls game.
At the very least, I feel there will be a hook of some kind to the next Elder Scrolls game; one that makes it distinct to prior entries in the series. In Oblivion, this hook was a focus on the mythical realm of the demonic daedra. This hook may be a new mythical creature of some kind or perhaps it will be the exploration of a specific aspect of the lore of the series. I would personally love to see a game focussed on the origins of The Elder Scrolls universe. That being said there really is no way of knowing; we had no idea that dragons would play such a central role in Skyrim until the game was announced in 2010, so we’ll just have to wait and see what Bethesda have planned.