E3 has come and gone, but the shock waves are still rolling from the announcement that Bethesda is, yes, working on Elder Scrolls VI. We are years away; the game is only in pre-production at this point, but… it IS in pre-production. 🙂 We’re looking at a release date of 2021 or 2022.
I’ve watched a few reaction videos, and my favorite is Scott on the FudgeMuppet channel at YouTube. He looks at the promo vid, then compares the geography to Tamriel, as well as considering lore, to figure out the setting of the game. Lots of good info in this vid, and his logic is solid, given what we know. Check it out:
I think his guesses are good guesses, and I don’t really disagree with his conclusions – High Rock and/or Hammerfell seems most likely. But I thought I’d take a look at some of the foundation assumptions he makes at the beginning of his argument.
Spoiler warning: I discuss the endings of previous TES solo games in this post. Click the Read More tag at your own peril. 🙂
Before anything else, we have to figure out where the TES6 story is set in the TES timeline. A meta-plot has been developing across the solo games since at least TES2: Daggerfall, and I would be very surprised if the devs didn’t continue it. And that means the game has to be set in the 4th Era, after Skyrim. And if that’s true, then it follows that the main story will again feature our friends the Thalmor, who we all know and love from Skyrim. (And by “friends” and “love”, I mean “yeah, I totally kill those jerks when I meet them marching prisoners on the road, you betcha.”)
Why Thalmor? Where’s the meta-plot going? I’ve been babbling a lot about the Towers as a side topic in my latest lore posts, and the Towers are central to the Thalmor’s long-term plans, which is to destroy Mundus and kill every mortal on Nirn. The Towers… hold up the sky, basically – they form a network of protections across Nirn that keep Oblivion from swallowing Mundus.
I’ll do a lore post focusing just on the Towers in the near future, but for now: Walks-Brass (i.e. the Numidium) was the Dwemer Tower, which the player deactivates at the end of the Daggerfall game. Red Mountain is the Red Tower, which is deactivated when the player destroys Lorkhan’s heart at the end of Morrowind. When Martin, the last surviving Septim heir, dies at the end of Oblivion, it very likely means the White Gold Tower is deactivated. (::sniffle::) Did you kill Paarthurnax in the Skyrim game? That might mean Snow Throat, the Tower of Skyrim, is also deactivated. (That last one is pure speculation on my part; the monks could be guarding the power stone in addition to guarding Paarthurnax.)
The first step in the Thalmor plan to destroy the world is to deactivate all the Towers, removing Nirn’s primary defense. By the end of Skyrim, they are very close; not many Towers remain active. That’s why it seems so likely they’ll be the primary villains of TES6, and that the plot will feature one of the remaining Towers. We didn’t really get to kick their butts in Skyrim, so I am kinda hoping they show up as the Big Bads in TES6.
One of the few remaining active Towers at the end of Skyrim – possibly the only one – is the original physical Tower, the Adamantine Tower, one of only two created by the Aedra. The other – the Red Tower – they created by accident with Lorkhan’s heart, but the Adamantine Tower is a deliberate echo of the ur-Tower, made by the gods themselves. (It is the location where they met to decide the fate of Lorkhan.) The Adamantine Tower is on the island of Balfiera, in Illiac Bay – within the High Rock region, specifically. It’s also called the Direnni Tower, in honor of the Altmer family who lives there and guards it. (Btw, “Thalmor” =/= “Altmer”; the Thalmor are a splinter sect of Altmer purists.)
I was questing in Summerset last night and did the quest for the Direnni acropolis region for the first time. Few of the Direnni are on Summerset now, because most of the clan went to live on Balfiera in the Tower – that’s part of the info we’re given in the quest. It seems possible the Direnni are part of the Summerset quests in order to “seed” information about the Tower’s history and remind us it exists, b/c the devs plan ahead like that.
So it seems highly likely that Scott’s guess in the vid is correct, but it hinges on the timeline continuing forward into the “future” from Skyrim, and that may not be the case. Also, he narrows down the location of the area in the promo vid by looking at coastal regions exclusively on Tamriel, but that’s another assumption that may not hold true.
Let’s take another look at Okiir’s excellent fanart Map of Nirn:
If TES6 is in Skyrim‘s past, then looking at this map gives us three other possibilities:
- Akavir: I’m not as quick to dismiss Akavir as Scott is. I’ll admit it’s a long shot, because Tamriel is our home, but I think it’s possible. ESO has been teasing us with the Tsaesci motif and the Akaviri motif is already in the game, and we’ve got at least a couple of years of development before TES6 comes out for them to get us used to the idea of a TES game on a different continent. Putting us in Akavir would open up a ton of game world we’ve never seen before. And now that I think about it, an Akaviri-based story doesn’t necessarily need to be set in the past. (It also occurs to me that Akavir could be the setting for next year’s Chapter expansion.)
- Yokuda: The original home of the Redguards. We don’t know much about how/why Yokuda sank, and that’s a story I’d like to hear. We do know the descriptions of the island sound a lot like the landscape in the promo footage. An oblique reference in a couple of texts suggests Yokuda was sunk by a renegade band of Ansei (see: Yokuda), there’s a lot of references to civil wars, and conflict = potential plotlines. We also know that Yokuda had a Tower, which was destroyed when the islands sank, so even if the story is set in the past, it could still tie into the Thalmor/Tower story.
- Atmora: The original home of the Nords before Ysgramor and his Companions sailed to Eastmarch. This seems the least likely possibility, because it would feel too similar to Skyrim.
No matter the location, I find myself weirdly ambivalent about a new solo game, which is something I never expected to say. But ESO is everything I want from a TES game, plus way more challenging, and… all my friends are there, even when I’m solo’ing. 🙂 The biggest advantage of a solo game for me now is that I can mod it, but honestly, the housing system in ESO takes care of 95% of that itch for me.
A couple of years ago they finally shut down the Asheron’s Call servers and ended the game, and when I read the article about it my first reaction was “people still play that?” followed immediately by a tremendous surge of empathy, because that’s totally going to be me when (hopefully decades from now), ZOS shuts down the ESO servers. Someone reading the article will be saying “wow, people still play ESO?”, but I’ll be clinging to the servers by my fingernails while I organize ineffectual “keep it alive!” petitions. I want to play TES6? But my first thought was about how much a new solo game would cut into my ESO time. 🙂 I am nothing if not focused in my obsessions.
Speaking of which, TES6 is years out, but we have two more DLCs to drop yet this year – Argonians and werewolves, oh my – and no, I still haven’t finished Summerset even once. (The verb is “savoring”.)
Happy hunting, everyone!