I’m not speaking in any form of exaggeration when I say that Bethesda, as a studio, won’t make another decent video game. I mean that quite literally. I waited on Starfield before writing an article such as this, but that game has come and gone, and my suspicions were confirmed: The studio is now too big to produce unapologetically groundbreaking titles.
Between Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, there is not a single person on earth who could have predicted what one of these games would have been like solely by playing the game that came before it. That’s in part due to developing technology, but even factoring that out of the equation, each of these games tried things that weren’t necessarily new, but definitely innovative on The Elder Scrolls’ formula.
Daggerfall an was overwhelmingly audacious title that put its faith in the players’ intellect and the maps’ auto-generated content. Morrowind kept the respect for the players’ intelligence, but swapped the auto generated content out for a handcrafted Vvardenfell. Oblivion kept the handcrafted world, but swapped the respect for the players’ intelligence for a streamlined (and deeply flawed) leveling system. Skyrim kept both of those, but leaned heavily into an even more refined, hand-held leveling system and an evolved, highly satisfying combative gameplay.
And like I said, one couldn’t take any of these Bethesda creations and predict what would come after them. In all likelihood, a player wouldn’t even come close. Can the same be said for predicting what TES6 will be like by looking at Skyrim? I don’t think so. I think even the most casual of Bethesda fans will be able to get an accurate picture of TES6 by simply inferring what might come after Skyrim.
Go on, try to imagine it. Do you see what I see? Why, It’s TES6! And it looks like Skyrim, with slightly smoother graphics, a much clickier-clackier third-person perspective, and some weapons from Morrowind have been brought back (because I’m an optimist). The perk tree might be reworked and more interesting, but guess what? It’s Starfield as seen in Tamriel. No new innovative ways to play, no reworked perk tree, and no improved (and more demanding) graphical development is going to make that shell of a game worth playing. In short, TES6 won’t be decent because to be a decent Bethesda game is to compete with the quality of Bethesda games that actually tried to evolve the formula, which includes risk, which is a no-no for developers who answer to Zenimax (who answer’s to Xbox Game Studios (who answers to Microsoft, ha!)).
I hope for the sake of my RPG fixation that I’m wrong and Bethesda takes my opinion and shoves it, but honestly, my money is on the Indie developers of tomorrow, not the big B.