Our Fallout: New Vegas wish list proved popular, even if very few of our wishes came true. Especially not the unspoken wish that the game wouldn’t be forty quid’s worth of catastrophically buggy unplayable crap and that half the patches released for it would be designed to extract more money from you for DLC rather than fixing the broken game you’d already paid for. We’ll admit, we’re still grumpy.Still, there’s another Bethesda title on the horizon, and this time it's being handled in-house, so we’re expecting better things of it: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim.
We loved Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and it’s fair to say that Bethesda could serve up more of the same and we’d be satisfied, but there are a few areas we’re hoping will have received some polish if the developers have time to spare.
1. Hack and Slash
One of our few complaints about Oblivion was the slow response time and lack of any apparent physicality to the blows during combat. Obviously it’s an RPG and the dice rolls are more important than the visuals, but still, it’s a very action-oriented RPG and some extra visual feedback wouldn’t go amiss. In Skyrim we’re hoping we’ll get some animations that convey the impact of the blows, maybe some form of ground-giving that allows combat to drive an opponent backwards or be driven backwards, maybe even a little rumble from the controller. Basically anything to add some crunch to the spectacle of two characters floating around wafting featherweight swords at each other.
2. A Whole New Level
In Oblivion, your opponents levelled with you, getting stronger as you did. In theory, this kept the game challenging right to the end, and added a layer of strategy to the levelling process. In practice, however, it simply meant that every time you spent levelling points on non-combat skills, you became comparatively weaker. Your opponents weren’t polishing their lockpicking skills, after all. One of the great joys of an RPG is starting with a character that can be killed by an oversized rat, and finishing it with a might Dragonslayer, and that joy was blunted in Oblivion. Hopefully Skyrim will find a neater way to build challenge into the game.
3. Could it be magic?
Or could it just be a backpack full of 300 different roots, leaves and flowers nestling alongside a disused alembic? For a lot of players, it was the latter. Don’t get me wrong, the idea that magic use should be convoluted, resource heavy and time consuming is a vital part of an RPG. If it’s instantly and easily possible to make crazy lightning staffs and firebombs, then you’d have the weapons of a sci-fi shooter rather than a swords and sorcery game.
It shouldn’t be easy to develop magic skills. But it shouldn’t be boring or incomprehensible either. In Oblivion, magic was a little dull, there was no sense of purpose to the herbs and spices you collected. In Skyrim, we’re hoping the complexity will come less from the obscure nature of the goodies but from the sheer array of clearly labelled items you can combine: imagine the cards system of Two Worlds on the scale of the weapons system of Borderlands, that’s what we’d like. Imagine spells ranging from glamours to transmogrification to astral projection through to the more common fire, freeze etc. Then add modifying elements-a range herb, a duration totem, some buffs and debuffs to tailor it to particular foes, ultra-rare ingredients to boost intensity. Essentially, we want the combination of two or three obscure items replaced with the combination and customisation of hundreds of clearly identified items.
4.Whose side are you on?
As we said, Bethesda made a big mistake farming out Fallout: New Vegas to Black Isle, despite their history with the franchise. Unplayable bugginess aside, however, Black Isle did add one thoroughly enjoyable element to the game: factions. Sure, Oblivion had its many guilds with specific missions, but joining one didn’t alter the way people reacted to you, or close off other parts of the game the way factions do. Choosing whether to join a faction and when in Skyrim would add to the replayabilty and variety of your game, encouraging multiple playthroughs to access different quests, rather than a single grindthrough taking in every quest there is.
5. I’ve got this rat problem...
Ok, the days in which RPG quests invariably started with a rat-grind dished out by a character with a neon exclamation mark floating above is or her head are long gone, but still we want more: we want the acquisition of tasks to feel completely organic, or perhaps even have the world shape itself around the player’s activities. There are dozens of RPGs that take their inspiration from the Tolkien-esque quest-to-defeat-a-looming-menace structure, but the Robert E Howard style adventuring-rogue-explores-his-way-into-trouble structure seems limited to MMORPGs. I’d like to see an RPG in which the one main quest and dozens of small sidequests structure is replaced with an array of different mid-sized quests that aren’t signposted at all. If you’re playing as a thief you might happen to steal something that sets of a quest, or be arrested and have a mission given to you by a fellow prisoner. Explorers might find a map in a cave that reveals locations not seen on the game map. If the ultimate goal of an RPG is to simulate a life in a fantastical setting, then making the story unfold in a more organic fashion is the obvious next step.