The first four main installments in the Elder Scrolls series all took place t0wards the end of the Third Era. The Emperor, Uriel Septim VII, was a mainstay of the series until his death during the opening of Oblivion. After that, Skyrim took an unprecedented leap forward through time, showing players what Tamriel had become 200 years after the last Septim Emperor’s death. The Elder Scrolls 6 needs to make a similar time jump.
As The Elder Scrolls Online shows, Tamriel has been culturally and technologically static for at least a millennium. Political alliances rise and fall, but the boundaries of the provinces making them remains roughly the same, and each race remains in the same rough area of the continent. The Elder Scrolls 6 needs to make Tamriel seem like it’s really changing in terms of culture, knowledge, and borders. If it doesn’t, it may not be able to create the same sense of wonder that many players associate with their first foray into Tamriel.
Tamriel is a largely static world. Though the dynasty’s change, there is an Empire based out of Cyrodiil in the center of the continent, and each of the races has their own province. No main Elder Scrolls games explore any period before the arrival of the Elves or humans to the continent, before the creation of the Bosmer and the Khajiit, or before the arrival of the Redguards from the western continent of Yokuda. There are lost races like the Dwemer, but there are no main games which take place before the Dwarves disappeared.
Skyrim was Bethesda’s first cautious experiment at subjecting Tamriel to significant change. 200 years after the events of the Oblivion Crisis, the continent has seen some transformative events. The Summerset Isles, Valenwood, and Elsweyr seceded from the Empire, formed the Aldmeri Dominion, and went to war with the Imperials. The Red Mountain erupted, destroying Vvardenfell, the setting of Morrowind. The Argonians invaded Morrowind from the south, forging new borders around the areas they were able to hold against a counter-attack.
Hammerfell was released as an Imperial province after its warriors continued fighting the Dominion, following the signing of a peace treaty between the Dominion and the Empire. Talos worship was made illegal throughout the Empire, reducing the nine Divines to eight.
Not all of these events are felt directly in Skyrim. The eruption of the Red Mountain has implications for the Dunmer refugees in Solstheim and Skyrim‘s hold capitals, but fans could go the entire game without learning about the war between the Dark Elves and the Argonians, or Hammerfell’s release from the Empire. It is the Aldmeri Dominion as the new power on the continent which is most felt throughout Skyrim‘s main quest. From the presence of High Elves during the Helgen execution sequence, to the Thalmor Embassy mission, and the motives underlying the Stormcloak rebellion, The Aldmeri Dominion’s presence is clear.
The Elder Scrolls 6 needs to take another leap forward through time — be it a few decades or several centuries — and escalate the change taking place across Tamriel. While the Argonians were often outcast and oppressed in previous games, Black Marsh could be on the rise as a powerful independent nation. The Empire could dissolve entirely, leaving its scattered former provinces to the mercy of the Aldmeri Dominion. The composition of the Dominion could also change, and it could also begin feeling the strain of its growing influence.
The collapse or at least waning power of the Empire could see new borders emerge. High Rock and Hammerfell might merge into a single nation with a new name or could dissolve into smaller kingdoms. Black Marsh might start being referred to by the name the Argonians give to it — Argonia. With Morrowind all but destroyed, and its remnants annexed by its neighboring nations, the Dark Elves may end up travelling in nomadic caravans similar to the Khajiit.
One of the biggest challenges facing The Elder Scrolls 6 is that the huge world of The Elder Scrolls Online already rendered parts of every province. Places which sounded completely alien in many earlier games like Elsweyr, Valenwood, and Black Marsh were suddenly given far more solid forms, robbing the locales of their mystery. Though Tamriel has always been rendered on a reduced scale in the Elder Scrolls games, showing so much of the continent in ESO truly made the world feel smaller.
To prevent this sense of shrinkage, the Tamriel of The Elder Scrolls 6 needs to have undergone enormous change. There should be new kingdoms and factions players have never heard of, religious developments akin to the outlawing of Talos worship, and much more. This could be felt on a micro-level as well. A new currency may have spread across the continent, with the Dominion crushing the use of the Septim and its symbolic ties to Talos.
There could even be new developments in the world beyond Tamriel. Traders may have rediscovered the lost continent of Yokuda and begun bringing back strange goods and animals from that land. The Argonians may have made contact with Akavir and formed an alliance with one of the Beast Folk races found there. There should also be developments in terms of the guilds found across Tamriel, from the Thieves’ Guild to the Dark Brotherhood. Without easy passage through the Empire, some guilds may have found themselves cut off or destroyed entirely, replaced by new local groups.
Though the Elder Scrolls games have been successful for a long time, Skyrim massively increased the series’ mainstream popularity. If The Elder Scrolls 6 doesn’t make its version of Tamriel feels like a completely changed world, fans will likely find the continent feeling smaller and less worthy of exploration than ever before.
The Elder Scrolls 6 is currently in development.