Coming up on it’s third birthday, the Elder Scrolls Online continues to create content with the recent announcement of their latest expansion pack, Morrowind. This will be the sixth expansion for the MMORPG, adding yet another content boost to the dynamic, player inhabited world. As exciting as this may be, there is still a lingering itch residing in the back of every Elder Scrolls fan’s head: When the heck will Elder Scrolls 6 be announced?
After the incredible reception to Bethesda’s 2011 title Skyrim, it is no surprise that the pressure is on for another big jump in the franchise. Fallout 4‘s recent release made people expect the next Elder Scrolls to be announced at the least, seeing as Bethesda tends to alternate their releases between the two franchises. Yet there has been no news regarding the sixth installment of the series, and developers have even claimed they haven’t even started working on it. No one expected such a gap in development. Traditionally, each title so far has had a four to five year gap, with Morrowind released 2002, Oblivion in 2006, and finally Skyrim in 2011. With this consistent pattern, it was a bit jarring to learn that six years later there is still little discussion on the sixth installment, unless you count YouTube fan videos using footage from whatever fantasy source they could find in their ‘trailers’
Skyrim’s popularity may be partially responsible for this. With any popular game, expectations raise tremendously among fans for the next installment. This could be the reason for Elder Scrolls Online‘s initial flop as well. While the game does pack a huge variety of content, there is significant downgrades in graphics, interface, and gameplay, which Elder Scrolls games value. Despite these limitations, ESO hosts a plethora of activities and content that even Skyrim failed to capture. It wasn’t so much that Elder Scrolls Online was a downgrade, but rather a game with its focus shifted to serve a dynamic online community.
Think of Skyrim as an very deep well; the world is limited to one (still rather big) area. Items like weapons and armor are very limited, and quests are static. Yet the narrow focus allows the world to be fully dynamic to the players will. Climb any mountain, mod your horse to shoot rainbows out of its butt, decimate an innocent village, etc. This deep well is crafted to the individualistic philosophy that Elder Scrolls has stuck with, and is a major reason for its huge success.
Elder Scrolls Online, respectively, can be compared to a massive puddle. There is so much to explore, with the whole continent of Tamirel now available to the player. There is so much to do as well, like dancing drunk at the pub while witnessing a sloppy PVP fight. The amount of unique items also grew significantly, evident through each race now having their own dignified armor sets. Yet despite all of this, the world is significantly more restrictive. You cant climb any mountain, you cant kill guards (what??) and you cannot mod the game to your own personal vision. The shared experience is both incredibly liberating and restricting at once.
With Bethesda’s development cycle in mind, ESO has almost served as an experimental buffer for future games.The distinct separation from the main series allows room for experimentation which would have been blasphemous to include in a main trilogy game. It can be assumed that Elder Scrolls 6 will follow the traditional games, more crafted to immersing the player in a magical sandbox world which they essentially rule.The bigger question is what will they adapt, if anything, from ESO? Will there be online elements thrown in like cooperative play? Could crafting, equipment and player traits follow a more complex route once again?
Elder Scrolls Online has opened many doors with which the franchise can choose to follow in their future games. Along with the actual content of the game itself, the mere existence of Elder Scrolls Online has opened the world to more media, a larger world, and an even more expansive universe than before. With this in mind, the fate of Elder Scrolls 6 now sits in a delicate balance beam of traditional Elder Scrolls philosophy and pushing the limits of the game and the world itself. With such an enormous title, it makes sense that time will be spent making Elder Scrolls 6 another revolutionizing game.