I love The Elder Scrolls series. I was first introduced to it when I played TES IV: Oblivion at a friend’s house about six-odd years ago now, and I instantly fell in love. There is something very absorbing about TES games that see me sinking hundreds of hours into them.
I think it’s partly the role playing aspect that allows me to become my character. I often find myself talking to the characters as if I was actually the one having the conversations, pretending to be injured when my avatar is, and monologue-ing to myself into the early hours of the morning. I love it, even if anyone watching me would swear I was possessed or just off my rocker. Add to that the expansive worlds, engaging lore and the extensive modding scene on PC, and the experience is nigh on endless.
On a quick side note though, why do half the top rated mods need to be nudity and sex related? I get that people like pornographic material, but do you need mods for that, or so many to boot? I want to enhance the AI and make all the characters less thick than a bag of toffee in molasses. I want to embark on new quests and strange adventures in never before seen worlds. I want to make the vampirism system more useful than mammary glands appended to underside of a male bovine. I don’t need to add a mod that allows my lizard-woman avatar take her top off and bang an orc in the middle of the street for money [slightly NSFW link]. I mean seriously? I like to be able to play this game when people are in the room, and if I wanted porn, there are far easier ways of getting it than installing a random mod for a game and running the risk of it crashing to desktop or erasing my saves. Anyway, different strokes for different folks I guess (no pun intended).
Back to the topic at hand. I’ve spent the last few weeks replaying the latest three titles in the series – Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim respectively – and will likely continue to for a good little while. That’s mostly to distract myself from questioning the details of my benign existence and contemplations of the great unknown that is my future on this tiny planet, but also because they are really fucking enjoyable. However, while playing I noticed the myriad of differences between each game. The things that were good, the things that were bad, the things that were changed and the things that were not.
So, I decided to write a little list of five things I want to see in the as yet unannounced The Elder Scrolls VI. Because really, we all know they will make one, it’s just a matter of time, so I may as well get in early (I say that like they will listen to me at all).
Here we go then: The five things I want to see in TES VI.
- Recharge magic items over time.
Magic items are a staple in TES, and are charged with a certain amount soul energy to keep them from becoming too powerful. Since these weapons and items drain their charge over time they must be charged occasionally with soul gems or at an NPC. This makes a nice risk-reward system; you can use your flaming sword for these minions now, but it might run out of charge before you reach the boss.
In Morrowind, these items recharged themselves over time, albeit slowly. This meant that while your flaming sword could run out of power, you could always let it recharge over time in your bag, and use a less powerful – but more reliable – average weapon in the interim. You always had a way of charging items, even when out in the field.
For some reason, however, they removed this feature in Oblivion and that carried over to Skyrim. Now weapons can only be recharged with soul gems, which are expensive and hard to find, even in the case of smaller ones, and that’s before they are even filled. Oh, and they’re one time use. If you aren’t a mage with access to a form of Soul Trap and a sizable collection of empty gems, I hope you have several grand on you whenever you want to recharge your weapons.
The removal of minor charging over time also removed a major element of TES games in the process: choice. Instead of choosing to swap weapons to allow items to charge, only certain types of characters were allowed access to weapon recharging in the field, and even then it was highly expensive.
A slow drip feed of weapon charge is enough to give the player a sense of control. If they choose, they can swap weapons frequently to slowly build up a charge, or they can use some of their soul gems for a quick but powerful boost. Either way, the player has choice, and removal of that is detrimental to this style of RPG.
- Limit fast travel
Fast travelling is great. The ability to zip from one town to another provided you’ve been to the area, are outdoors, not near enemies and not taking damage was a great addition to Oblivion, and I was glad to see it return in Skyrim. However, the vast worlds built for these games suffered because of that. Once you have been to a location you can easily fast travel there with no penalty, meaning that most areas in the game will only be experienced once. This removes any sense of familiarity the player gains with the world.
I’m not saying I want fast travel removed though; far from it. Running between two of the early towns in Morrowind was particularly annoying, because they were just far enough away to be a pain, but not far enough that they bothered to put anything interesting in between. I do however think that a limit needs to be placed on where you can travel to.
Being able to fast travel to towns, cities and other social hubs makes sense. They are connected via roads and would be travelled by many people constantly, meaning less danger. However, I shouldn’t be able to fast travel to “Doctor Shady’s Crack Den-upon-Whiterun” just because I have been there once. An obscure area like that should be a place I have to personally journey to each time. Not only would this make a bit more sense, but it would mean I am almost forced to see the amazing scenery that has been built, and maybe even find a quest I missed along the way.
Walking through the major cities in TES games is always fun because you come to learn the layout and know the area intimately. However, that intimate understanding is not carried over to the world itself, and that is a huge shame. There were many jaw dropping moments I had while playing Oblivion in which I would walk over a hill and see the White Gold Tower of the Imperial City emblazoned against the rising sun. However this only happened because I actively chose not to fast travel, and that isn’t a choice many people make very often. I would love more moments like these in future TES games, but they rarely come in Oblivion and Skyrim because most of the time you can bypass all the beautiful scenery.
- More colour
This is a pretty simple one. Please add more colour to future TES games. Morrowind was mostly brown and dark-green. Skyrim was mostly grey and white. Oblivion is the only TES game that seemed to know what colour was – for the most part anyway. The Ayleid ruins were boring stone and the planes of the titular Oblivion were drab reds and browns, but that didn’t matter so much because most everything else was vibrant and contrasting. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the gorgeousness that is the Shivering Isles. The way the first room you enter dissolves into butterflies around you as you take in the wonders of The Shivering Isles is something I’ll never forget [Click for video].
Now I know that Skyrim is mostly tundras and Morrowind is very marshy, but without any colour, these games don’t feel alive. There were sections of Morrowind and Skyrim that were colourful, true – some of the forest areas in Skyrim are astounding when paired with a full moon, and there are a few late game areas in Morrowind that are visually impressive – but as a whole, the games were very dull (visually).
For the next TES game, please make it a bit more colourful. Though, if you must have another bleak world, look to the Souls games and do what they do – make bleak look beautiful. Either follow in the mad footsteps of the Shivering Isles and be vibrant and wacky, or embody the spirit of Anor Londo and make a silent, desolate, depressing city look absolutely stunning.
[Dark Souls’ Anor Londo, making bleak look beautiful]
- Less hand-holding with quest markers
The quest markers added in Oblivion and carried into Skyrim were, for the most part, great additions. Personally, I think it makes sense that my character would mark where they need to go on a map and even employ the use of a compass. That’s all good.
The issues arise when my character has the uncanny ability to locate people they’ve never seen before from across the province and track their every movement day and night, or locate the lost toenail clippings of an orphaned mammoth through thought alone. Not only does this make no sense, it ruins a lot of the fun in searching for things when they are blatantly marked for me.
As a general rule, my character should be able to follow quest markers to a location or landmark – provided their map has been marked accordingly – and that’s it. Quest markers should not mark people, objects or creatures. Not only would this allow us to go back a bit to the Morrowind days of actually asking about a person’s daily routine, it would also mean the Clairvoyance spell wasn’t completely useless.
I mean really. Why would I need a spell to highlight my path briefly when I can locate dust mites with my eyes closed?
- More bug testers
This is pretty simple. Hire more bug testers. I have lost track of how many times I have reloaded a save file just to try to stop a quest from bugging out.
I shouldn’t have to trial and error my way down a corridor because some of the tiles cause my NPC followers to huff spray-paint and lie on the floor, playing with their nipples. I shouldn’t have to watch in horror as a cheese wheel the size of Galactus engulfs the world because I had the audacity to knock it off a shelf while running from a half-rendered bear. Or a dancing dragon.
I shouldn’t have to mod your game to fix it; I should be modding the game to add to the brilliant work you’ve already made. I know that you make massive, expansive experiences, but it shouldn’t take the work of freelancers to fix (in their spare time) what you are getting paid to make.
So yeah, more bug testing.
And that’s it. Those are five things I want to see in TES VI and beyond. Obviously, being an armchair critic, it’s easy for me to say what should be in the next game and it will be a lot harder to actually implement it, but I think that even one of these changes could go a long way to making this series even greater than it already is.
But seriously, more bug testing.
Logan, the Not-So-Dragon