I think many fans of Bethesda Game Studios would agree that the studio’s last title, Fallout 4, was a great game, although a safer entry in the series when it came to new additions that its fanbase may not have connected with, like its Settlements system and more. Otherwise, there’s no doubt a lot to love from Fallout 4 and other Bethesda games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, and all of their predecessors.
If Bethesda Game Studios wishes to remain as relevant as they are in the western role-playing space at the moment, they’ll need to rethink their approach to the genre with their two upcoming titles, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, if they want to continue setting the standard that they’re known for.
It’s nice to know that The Elder Scrolls VI is in development, but it’s most certainly not surprising. Studio Director Todd Howard has hinted at the game’s existence in the past, and this teaser was likely meant to appease hardcore fans who consistently demand the studio reveal more info about the title. We’ve probably got a few years to go before we see a glimpse of either of the studios’ new titles, but I think it’s appropriate to talk about what these games need to do to keep the studio relevant amongst fans of the role-playing genre. I’ll mostly be focusing on The Elder Scrolls VI here since I believe it’s easier to speculate what that game will probably be like or what it could be like: Starfield, on the other hand, is an absolute mystery to me and, I’m sure, the vast majority of other gamers.
So, why do fans love Bethesda’s games that came before Fallout 4? I think it’s largely due to the open-endedness of their previous titles. My first foray into the world of The Elder Scrolls was with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a game that to this day I enjoy a lot more than Skyrim, even with all of its flaws. It was actually one of the first games I played where the world and characters truly felt affected by the decisions I was making in-game, and a huge part of that came from the game’s dialogue options and character interactions.
By comparison, when Fallout 4 was revealed at E3 2015, Bethesda showed us that they had taken the very blatant, unpredictable, and sometimes hilarious dialogue list from its previous titles and replaced it with a more Bioware-esque system similar to what you’d see in Dragon Age or Mass Effect. I imagine this decision was likely made to accommodate the newly-introduced choice of playing a female or male protagonist that were fully-voiced, which limits the amount of dialogue options available to players.
While I’m not exactly opposed to this style of selecting dialogue, unpredictability alongside blatancy are key here. In my opinion, Fallout 4 did not stay true to this, as it focused more on the blatant outcomes of your choices by letting you know how dialogue choices may come across before you would say them. The mistakes you could make were easier to point out.
Modders actually created something on PC that sought to make the dialogue system closer to previous entries in the series. By comparison, a title like CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3 kept a more direct dialogue approach and still, players felt more immersed than ever before in a character and world that was already well-established before its third entry.
I believe Bethesda should revert back to this previous style and keep up with their trend of silent protagonists, as we saw in games like Fallout 3, Oblivion, and Skyrim. In my opinion, this more often allows the player to inject him or herself into each situation. It seems like Bethesda gave the protagonist in Fallout 4 a voice so that they could give the main storyline a little more “oomph,” but I feel that this worked against the overall game more than it worked for it: that’s especially considering that I don’t think the story in Fallout 4 is all that memorable.
Jumping from Fallout 3 to Fallout 4, we also saw huge improvements to the shooting and combat. But when looking at melee combat in those games alongside The Elder Scrolls series, most players will tend to avoid close-up combat at all costs. There are modern RPGs aplenty that have done sword and hand-to-hand combat extremely well, and Bethesda only needs to look at what those games have done and then apply it to the next Elder Scrolls game.
The studio’s upcoming Fallout 76 will likely see similar combat to Fallout 4 based on what we’ve already seen from it at E3 2018, so I’m not expecting many changes there. The execution skills that were introduced in Fallout 3 and refined in Skyrim and Fallout 4 are a great starting point for improving combat that’s close-up. They need to take it a step further, however, and improve the continual combat that players will find themselves in during the game.
In Skyrim, you could become almost anything and everything at the same time, and in Fallout: New Vegas, your allegiances determined what direction that story would ultimately go in. Bethesda needs to take those two things and apply and refine them for the world at large. If I join the Dark Brotherhood, that should directly affect the way I’m seen by other people, factions, and individuals. Maybe the Thieves Guild doesn’t care that I’m an assassin on the sideline, but that also doesn’t mean I should so easily be welcomed amongst the Imperial forces. Small things like this break immersion and make me feel too powerful. Things like this remind me that I’m in a “game” world — a world that responds to me unnaturally — versus a world that feels alive and reacts ore noticeably to what I do.
On that note, a patch of land to call your own would be a welcome addition to The Elder Scrolls VI. We saw moderately open-ended building mechanics introduced in Fallout 4, and while there were many flaws with it, there were still a lot of powerful tools at your disposal. We’re also seeing some light town-building in the upcoming mobile title The Elder Scrolls: Blades, so perhaps this is an idea they’re already tossing around for the sixth entry. It would be interesting to see Bethesda try and take this newer mechanic and redefine how exactly it works.
What I’m proposing is that The Elder Scrolls VI should have a multitude of areas in the overworld where players can customize and create their own town and kingdom of sorts: refine and expand the tools given to players in Fallout 4 and apply them here. I think the game should allow players to truly personify their own town: perhaps you can build a town that houses the wicked, like werewolves, vampires, members of The Dark Brotherhood and more, or perhaps you could build something more conventional. All I’m suggesting is that if this mechanic is done well, players should be able to give their areas a sense of individuality.
We also saw some slight political elements thrown into Skyrim that added a lot of character to that land and perhaps with a mechanic like building, they could take that even further with something players have never seen before in a fantasy RPG that’s likely going to be larger than anything we’ve played in the past. Of course, this would be my ideal way of changing things, and I’m no game developer. I can’t say for sure how Bethesda Game Studios would make this mechanic better and more meaningful so that players would enjoy it more, but I think it’s something worthy of attention that would add to the game’s sense of immersion.
With The Elder Scrolls VI, Bethesda Game Studios will need to look at everything that has worked for and against them, while also creating new additions to a series that’s a staple amongst epic fantasy RPGs. After all, the best developers take what they’ve learned from their previous titles and apply and refine the mechanics that worked incredibly well, as well as tweaking or abandoning the ones that did not pan out so much.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bethesda Game Studios will deliver good, if not incredible games with Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, whenever they actually end up releasing. If they want to keep their status in a genre that’s always looking to raise the bar though, they need to create a world that gives a role-playing experience unlike anything we’ve seen before. They’ve definitely got plenty of time to flesh out tons of old and new ideas…so no pressure right?
What new additions or revisions would you like to see in The Elder Scrolls VI? Discuss with me down below in the comments.