Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim has once again had a surge in relevance following the game’s 10th anniversary. Not only could fans return to the game with next-gen upgrades, but also new content in the Anniversary Edition. Of course, despite the beloved reputation of the game, some fans are frustrated at it being resold yet again. Many are fixed solely on the future of the franchise, yet news on The Elder Scrolls 6 remains scarce.
The new Anniversary Edition returned me to the land of the Nords, yet I began to think about the next adventure. I am less concerned with the setting or story details, as those will be subjective preferences for each fan. However, I have begun to wonder how the series will evolve, hopefully becoming the next great RPG. What systems could it introduce to make its predecessor pale in comparison? Here I will consider the ways in which Bethesda might go about improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim.
This criticism should come as little surprise to anyone familiar with the game. Strangely enough, the combat is not without a variety of options. You can approach any situation with a vast array of weapon types, spells and even stealth. Yet despite so many unique tools in your arsenal, most of them have a singular playstyle. Every weapon functions exactly the same, usually having a single use in combat. The most interesting thing that can happen when wielding a melee weapon is the occasional stun move. By contrast, spells have more varied effects, but using them feels samey as many are just hand-thrown projectiles.
Stealth is another gameplay style that, in my opinion, is way too simplistic and lacks diversity. While you can occasionally find online clips of people using creative spell and shout combos, this is not the norm. Stealth consists of either sniping enemies from afar with the bow or sneaking up to deliver a backstab. There are surprisingly few environmental exploits that can be used to lure, distract or trap enemies.
Improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim would simply be a matter of adding more engaging skills during combat. Melee combat should be able to incorporate counter moves, throwing melee weapons and effective combos. Spells, while diverse in effect, should also play differently. What if the fury spell, instead of simply enraging enemies, could control them? What if you could assume control of an enemy under your spell? Stealth needs more options, such as varied assassination opportunities, traps and quick escape tools like smoke bombs.
A Balanced Levelling System
The levelling system in Skyrim is far from bad, and it’s refreshing to level from practice rather than random choice. The game essentially factors in two separate types of level: Your character level and your individual skill levels. Increasing your skill rankings advances you towards the next character level. Upon levelling up you can use a new skill point in one of your skill trees. The skills available are determined by your ranking, meaning you could hit level 20 but still not advance skills you’ve neglected.
The issue with this system occurs when you prioritise anything other than combat skills early on. The problem is that when your character level increases, so too does the average difficulty of enemies. Skyrim operates on a level-scaling system that allows the player to explore most areas at will. However, if a player decides to focus on alchemy, pickpocketing and lockpicking right away, they will suffer consequences in combat. This is actually a general rule for any none-combat focused skill, as levelling makes enemies stronger while you remain static. Levelling too quick can also punish you. Being a jack of all trades means you lack the skill levels to acquire new perks. This, in turn, essentially pigeon-holes your playstyle, forcing the same early priorities with each new playthrough.
Improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim would require a separation of the skill types. I believe investing in crafting or exploration skills should not detract from your damage stats when levelling. This could mean reducing the skill trees to skills and perks that don’t focus on damage. Additionally, more ways to acquire perk points would make levelling new skills late in the game less punishing.
Lasting Character Creator Options
An aspect of Skyrim that I find surprisingly minimal is its character creation options. This is rather peculiar since at first glance it seems to be stocked full of options. The game provides 10 different races to choose from with their own unique racial traits and skill. They also include unique appearance changes that allow for an extremely varied character creator. However, these are mostly cosmetic, and the stat distinctions are mostly minor.
The issue with the game’s character creation is how little it impacts your experience in the game. Of course, NPCs occasionally remark on your race or gender, but never in a meaningful way. I understand that the developers didn’t want to punish players for their choice, but it’s simply too meaningless. The homeland of the Nords is tearing itself apart, with the Civil War partially ignited by racism towards Elves. Yet outside of the occasional hurtful comment, I could play a none-Nord without any consequences. No being denied entry to certain establishments, no rejections from certain factions. Additionally, the game only allows you to make a completely blank slate with no prior background options. Unlike games like Dragon Age Origins or Cyberpunk 2077, you can’t establish a vague backstory that grants unique dialogue options. It results in your character always seeming unnaturally clueless about the world.
Improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim would require a more in-depth character creator. More unique dialogue options as a result of race, gender and background, would add more to the game’s replayability.
More Role-Playing Options
Another issue that Skyrim suffers from is the inability to engage in anything other than a combat-heavy lifestyle. One of the latest features of the game included in the Anniversary Edition was the farming creation club content. This essentially allows the player to acquire a plantation to generate a regular income and sell harvested produce. It was a feature I was quite excited for, as it finally facilitated potential peasant playthroughs. While it’s certainly a nice addition, it’s fairly hands-off, requiring a few monetary investments before it generates money automatically. It’s not too different to having a spouse open a shop in a player home. It doesn’t actually include any farming minigames or questlines. In fact, the most I had to do was constantly fight off invading dragons like locusts.
Even so, it’s a nice step forward, but it could use some improvements for the next game. Farming should be but one of many occupations available to players outside of questing. I would like to be able to open my own smithy to forge and sell items. This could involve an apprentice or assistant who regularly stocks the shop with materials. This could apply to various stores, including an alchemist’s shop or an enchanter’s store.
Improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim would be a simple matter of expanding the experience beyond dungeon delving. Having more activities to engage with that subsequently add more role-playing experiences would be a welcome addition. Maybe you could even run your own inn or become a priest for a temple. There are so many possibilities that would make character building all the more exciting.
Another issue I have when returning to play Skyrim is just how unengaged I am with the main story. The problem is that the game, despite seeming so open, has no player choices throughout the story. You have dialogue choices to add flavour, but no way to approach the story in a unique way. The only choices you have revolve around the Civil War questline tie-in. During the peace conference, you can negotiate which side takes certain territories. Alternatively, you can avoid the conference entirely if you’ve already ended the war.
All the serious choices occur during side content, and even then it’s rare. Outside of choosing between opposing factions such as the Stormcloaks and Imperial Legion, the game feels somewhat on rails. It’s now at the point where most of my new playthroughs involve skipping through dialogue. I have zero agency in the events and I know they will play out just like my last character’s story. It’s also an issue with factions such as the Companions or the Thieves Guild. Despite opposing values, the game does not prevent you from joining both without consequence. Similarly, the effects of these factions and their missions don’t bleed over into any other content.
Improving The Elder Scrolls 6 over Skyrim would require more careful and intertwined mapping of plotlines. Actions throughout certain side quests should be able to drastically impact the main story and vice versa. The main story should also include far more options for tackling the main threat, with multiple endings also factoring in. Skyrim’s longevity is already remarkable, but it would last even longer with a greater combination of consequences.