The Elder Scrolls V - what we want to see

A number of GamesRadar staff members admit to playing unhealthy amounts of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, with at least one editor clocking in 150 hours and completing every quest in the game. So it could be said we enjoyed it. That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, and after considering the potential release of The Elder Scrolls V (there is no impending release - that was a mistake), we sat down and thought of some ways to improve on the incredible foundation of Oblivion. This isn’t a list of random ideas like “Add golden dragons that breathe nuclear explosions!” (Although that does sound stupendous). We’re going to pick at the flaws of Oblivion in order to point out how the next installment can trim the fat where it’s flabby and flesh it out where it’s bony. Things like…

An intuitive skill system

Initially, Oblivion’s skill system seems like a great way to customize your character from the start and have a “class” exactly how you want it. It lets you choose your major and minor skills. However, the actual way to be powerful in the game is to do the opposite of what’s intuitive. If you assign yourself major skills that you’ll use often, this will cause you to level up quicker. However, you won’t have as many points to assign when you do level up. This actually means that if you want to have particular powerful skills, you’ll want to assign them as minor skills so that when you level up, you’ll have more points to assign because it took you longer to level.

Above: We selected Topless Dancing as a major skill, and it left us severely underpowered

It’s complicated to explain, but the main point is that Oblivion makes it so when you build your character how you think you should, you’ll actually be weaker per-level than if you did the unintuitive, opposite build. So with Elder Scrolls V, we want a system that works how it makes sense to the player: if we choose certain skills, our character should be strong in those skills, not simply level faster if we use them. Leveling too quickly can be a problem because we need…

Monsters that either scale properly, or don’t scale at all

In Oblivion, all of the monsters level up as you do. It’s annoying for two reasons. One, what’s the point of leveling up if the monsters just get powerful along with you? It’s like not really leveling up at all. Two, the monsters don't level up evenly. What this means is, let’s say you gain level 5. Now, all the monsters have leveled up to “5.” While they'll level up as you approach level 10, they won't necessarily get the equivalent equipment. So for levels 5-9, you’ll actually get more powerful compared to the monsters. If you reach a tricky quest that’s killing you a lot, you can (naturally) grind up some levels and come back to win. However, if you level up too much, and say reach level 10, then all the monsters might get some higher tier armor and weapons, and you’re back at square one with that difficult quest. Except, of course, the game doesn’t tell you when these tiers happen.

Above: Ooh, such a scary looking monster. Except he could be a pushover

So, for Elder Scrolls V, we’d prefer if monsters didn’t scale at all. We understand why they scale in Oblivion – in an open world, you’ll travel across the same places many times when you’re higher level, so the monsters in the beginning areas will eventually be too easy to kill. Fine. Yet instead of making those weak monsters stronger, how about introducing rare but powerful random spawns, so we have something new to fight? And we don’t mean adding an extra bear or troll, but something really intimidating. Or, if the monsters really must scale, tweak the system to be more forgiving and more transparent. Follow the MMO template and just let the player know “Hey, this monster with a RED name is too powerful for you, come back when you’re level 13.” It doesn’t have to be super dumbed-down, but it should feel fair and not deceptive.

Balanced player tools

When we say tools, we mean things the player has at his disposal, like spells and weapons. Now, we understand it isn’t easy to balance every weapon and ability when there are so many, but at least take the time to eliminate the tempting super powers. Like invisibility. It’s so overpowered in Oblivion it completely breaks the game. You can walk up to guys and hit them, then turn invisible again and be impervious to harm. Another example is the life-stealing weapons. These things grant you healing every time you land a hit, and make it so you can plow through most enemies without having to use any tactics whatsoever.

Above: You sure look badass with that bow. Too bad it shoots toothpicks

Yes, crazy powerful toys to play with can be fun in games, but if you’re going to introduce them in Elder Scrolls V, perhaps let the player feel invincible for a while, and then introduce enemies that can thwart those super powers. That, or build better AI to deal with disappearing, life-sucking heroes. Also, if you’re going to let us use a bow and arrow, don’t make it an awesome weapon for the first few hours and then useless for the rest of the game by introducing enemies so fast that the player’s range advantage is nullified.

More than 5 NPCs

The one thing that shattered Oblivion’s attempt to immerse the player in a huge, living world was its population of laboratory clones. Not only were nearly everyone’s voices pooled from the same handful of actors, but even the characters' faces were almost all the same. It really took away from the sense of interacting with a thriving, diverse fantasy community.

Above: Why do you look familiar? Is it the helmet?

If it’s too much work to have a bunch of artists make tons of character models, just use the random face generator. Sure, we’ll get some freakish looking peasants, but at least they’ll be different freakish-looking peasants. However, on that note…

Better-looking women

Yeegads. Have you really looked at the women in Oblivion? We’re not saying we want some adolescent male fantasy where every woman we see is a super model, but goddamn. In the real world, not every woman looks like someone carefully heat-softened the face of a mannequin, peeled it off with a razor, and then Elmer’s Glued it over a horse carcass’s shnozz.

Above: She may not look so bad, but that’s due to clever use of soft lighting

Heck, there’s already a mod for the PC version of Oblivion that makes the women (and men) into lovely creatures. If some lone modder can do it, surely Bethesda can with its army of artists.


  • Casualgamer - December 25, 2013 6:32 p.m.

    Im surprised that variation between the different races hasn't been mentioned. How come my wood elf handles just like an ork? I think that an assassins creed style of agility for the more nimble races would be a huge plus, this could even be an improvable skill. and different fighting styles... each race should feel completely different to play with. just a thought.
  • BossADC - January 14, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    I aggree completely on all topics, especially for armor customization. I would really like for them to impove the NPC's too. I dont care much for the looks, but making them smarter would be helpful. One thing I would kill to see in Skyrim though are the werewolves from Morrowind:Bloodmoon. We see vampires in Elder Scrolls games all the time, but the werewolves of Solstheim really caught me. If they added them into the game, id sell my left nut to play.
  • dropdeadjames - December 20, 2010 2:43 a.m.

    "I ran into some mudcrabs the other day. Nasty creatures..."
  • MrBossMan - December 17, 2010 1:05 a.m.

    I agree with pretty much everything said here.. one thing i would change that wasnt mentioned was the lack of variety in the weapons and armor. Sure you had iron, steel, silver, dwarven, elven, glass, ebony, and daedric and yes there were many different weapon types. But in the real world no 2 swords are the same. maybe its too much to ask the developers to make every weapon and piece of armor unique but what about the enchanted weapons and armors? I dont mind every iron short sword looking identical but i thought it was a little annoying that i could find an enchanted weapon and it looked no different than any other plain weapon. finding an enchanted weapon or set of armor or earning it through a quest is rewarding and it definitely gives the player something fun to work towards other than leveling up and completing quests. If you have a very powerful character then why shouldnt they look as powerful and badass as they are?
  • asmund-havnas - November 21, 2013 12:48 a.m.

    Because many of the shitty enchanted weapons you find are just ordinary weapons some mage picked up and practiced his Enchanting-skils on. "powerfull and badass" artefacts are often unique, and that's what makes it extra fun to collect them.
  • BurntToShreds - December 16, 2010 9:32 a.m.

    The best thing Bethesda could do is ask the modders if they can use their mods, and pay them royalties if they agree. Also, I want to see better physics. For example I want them to fix the gravity so that dead bodies fall at the same rate as living PCs and NPCs. I also want to see some clockwork and steampunk stuff.
  • asmund-havnas - November 21, 2013 5:15 a.m.

    You mean Dwemer ruins?
  • luke1608 - December 13, 2010 6:16 p.m.

    You forgot to add that if you look down you can actually see your feet, most frustrating thing for me in the whole game (with the exception of finding that bastard the count of Skringrad when it was actually legal for me too talk to him!)
  • foxyexplosion - December 13, 2010 3:02 a.m.

    This is mostly wrong, play morrowind to see how to make a good elder scrolls, the leveling system works fine you just have to know what youre doing or not want to create an overpowered character, simple shit. The cool spells are also what make the game, things like invis and life drain, the point is to get strong and be badass. The rest is pretty on top of it but the armor thing is that it should just go back to the morrowind number of armor slots and give you more options, pallete swap is a solid idea
  • theking909 - December 12, 2010 6:41 p.m.

    if bethesda pay attention to their own map of Tamriel, the game world should be smaller than oblivion as Skyrim is smaller than Cyrodiil. Yes, im really sad...
  • oryandymackie - November 22, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    I would just advise Bethesda to give it their all and make it an absolute masterpiece.
  • Nerevarine7 - November 5, 2010 8:41 p.m.

    Again levitation, there's so much potential... Stealth entries into high castles from the roof, Flying battles with wizards and sorcerers. If they did it in Morrowind, I'm sure they could do it and make it even better for the 5th installment. Oh more books too! Oh and make it Scarier, more suspense and set pieces in dungeons. Ha Ha, I don't ask for much do I!
  • Nerevarine7 - November 5, 2010 8:32 p.m.

    I agree 100%. I also agree with Johnny Maverick. After playing for 150+ hours it would be nice to feel a bit invincible, just like in Morrowind. I spent alot of time getting to that level so why am I struggling against the same enemies I was fighting 20 levels earlier? Also can you not level the artifacts and special weapons, its such a shame if you get a powerful weapon early to be set at a weak level. Having super powerful monsters protecting a super powerful weapon is the best way to lower levels obtaining it. Don't allow me to get it and then make it rubbish because I'm a lower level. Thats cheating! Also please can we have levitation back together with seamless integrations between towns and wilderness. Also allow more training per level, you can make training more expensive as a barrier to players levelling too fast. Theres nothing to spend my money on in Oblivion. Oh And please can you make the spells look more interesting. Apart from that and the other points mentioned, its all great, especially the changing light and distance, even now still holds ok I think. Not sure I agree with better looking women though, Kinda reminds me that I shouldn't be playing computer games on a Saturday night!
  • MissPeanut - October 31, 2010 11:26 a.m.

    I love oblivion, it's a great game even though it does have many flaws, I agree with everything you have said in the article. I hope they do make a new one as I will defiantly buy it. I also think that they should change the fact that the music changes the second an enemy spots you because that then means no enemy can sneak up on you which I would like to happen occasionally as it would make it more fun. I'm also one of those people who have spent 150+ hours on the game but I only ever do all the side quests as I find the gates really boring as well as the tasks in the main quest. If they where to make a new one I would hope that they make it more realistic so that while bein able to bash in goblins and what not you can have a family and do normal chores such as farming etc... I would also love to be able to give my character a personality because then when talking to people I can ethier be nice to the people I like and mean to the obnoxious snobby people you meet. :)
  • nosajdrof - October 31, 2010 8:14 a.m.

    sorry for bad english
  • nosajdrof - October 31, 2010 8:11 a.m.

    i whole heartily agree with the coment about the leveling system. so i have a solution. basically keep the major minor skills, get rid of the way leveling minor skills affect your stat increases, but the major determines when u level, and replace it with a skill unlock system which allows people to create say an assassin, or a battle mage, etc. basically if u give the player unlockable skill choices from achieved the characters major skill herdles. This would add more customization and reduce the ability to create a character that has 100 everthing and all level 10 stats. this would create a way to make more diverse classes by developing the unlocked skill choices without having every skill at 100. this would only work with a fallout style skill point allocation skill point system.
  • fibetr - October 26, 2010 1:20 p.m.

    Someone should really make sure Bethesda reads this thread. I agree 100% with every negative/constructive comment in the past five pages. Oblivion can't even compare to the quality of game Morrowind is. Sad, but true. Change will have to come, even though I have little or no faith.
  • Big_K - October 21, 2010 9:08 p.m.

    This article is too right. In addition to this article I wish in the next game Bethesda could use some of the things from Morrowind. Especially all the guilds. Now in Oblivion you had Fighters, Mages, Dark Brotherhood, and Thieves. Yet in Morrowind you had Fighters, Mages, Morag Tong, Blades, Thieves, Legion, and a few others. (which i cant recall) Plus you could be apart of one of three house: Hlaalu, Redoran, and Telvanni. What happened to that? I liked all the things I could do in that games. Especially levitation. In my opinion the ruins of the Dwemers were a lot cooler that the Ayelids. The customization of armor by color schemes would definitely be a plus. Also the ability to wear cloaks over armor again. Lastly, cool masks and armor. The armor in Oblivion seemed bland especially the glass and ebony. In Morrowind the glass had the shards sticking out which was awesome. The ebony had a cool mask that covered your face. In Oblivion it just didnt seem right. It didnt have the cool Clavicus Vile masks and such. Just saying.
  • Gorpus - October 18, 2010 2:58 a.m.

    i disagree with changing armor color, changing encumbrance, and the game crashing. the armor color makes the stuff easy to identify, your character can carry over 200 lbs, and simply get a faster computer if you dont want it to crash.
  • cannon4est - October 18, 2010 2:41 a.m.

    I agree with all of this. I would also like to see a more living environment, both nature and city/town. For instance perhaps random civil events like musicians, artists, dancers etc. I like how people follow a schedule like how six or so people always go to the Merchants' Inn after they've closed shop and leave around midnight and go to bed. If they could build on this system it could be very neat. I want to feel like I'm in a city: lights, noise, smoke and lots of people. When I approach a city, I want to see the glow of lights in the smoke above the city. I mean, if the Imperial City is the hub of Tamriel, shouldn't there be some more traffic on the roads and waterways around it? There are very few people traveling on the roads; it's generally you, the occasional guard, on the very rare occasion some other type of NPC and usually a crap load of creatures and monsters. You would think that on major roads like between Chorrol and the Imperial city or Skingrad to Kvatch and Anvil there would be people traveling from city to city, trading goods or buying items. More remote roads would have fewer travelers. The economy should be ramped up. Prices should flux and items should cycle more often, perhaps the characters actions could effect the economy. Also, if I can buy some super expensive shield at the Best Defense, I should be able to sneak in and steal it somewhere from in the store. One more thing: your life and relationships. I want to be able to get married and raise a family, similar to fable II but perhaps more in depth and drawn out. The relationship could flux or whatever but It would be cool to have a homestead somewhere, (or a cheap apartment) that you have to manage or pay someone to manage while your off on quests bashing in goblins' heads, trying to make money for your family while also saving the world from doom. I want to decide to be benevolent or cruel, honorable or greedy, virtuous or pessimistic and have these behaviors attract or detract compatible or uncompatible characters respectively. Some people may be too honorable to accept bribes. Overall, I want the next Elder Scrolls environment to feel more lived in/livable and more useful and diverse.

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