There are few gaming entries that transformed a genre the way Skyrim did back in 2011. The Elder Scrolls franchise was already in good shape after Oblivion kicked off the console generation, but Fallout 3 (and New Vegas) had bought traditionally non-RPG players into the fold.
When Skyrim launched on that famous 11/11/11 release date, it elevated the RPG genre in a way rarely seen. We'd had great games in the genre, but this was a huge step, and the game cast a huge shadow over the industry - and arguably even Bethesda itself.
Since then we've had Fallout 4 and will soon have Starfield, and Bethesda has ported Skyrim to seemingly every platform possible. We know that its successor is in development, but what do we really want from that? What's feasible?
Elder Scrolls 6: What Does Bethesda's Skyrim Sequel Need To Do?
When comparing Skyrim to Oblivion, there's not a great deal that changes between the two. Sure, the green hills of Cyrodil are swapped for the craggy, harsh mountains of Skyrim, and there's the minor matter of quite sizeable dragons terrifying the NPCs, but not a great deal changed.
Since Skyrim, though, plenty is new. We've had Geralt of Rivia's first open-world adventure in The Witcher 3, a game that many would argue surpassed Skyrim when it launched back in 2015. Its action-based combat, strong narrative and detailed characters make Skyrim look a bit, well, old.
The Witcher 3's dark fantasy world has been aided in its permeation of mainstream culture by its Netflix show, but while many may deride CDPR as "that Cyberpunk 2077 developer", there's much they can teach Bethesda.
For one, Skyrim's characters are flat - and I'm not just talking about their dated facial animations. They exist as enemies, quest-givers, merchants, or set-dressing. Swap that for The Witcher 3's cast of characters, and while there are plenty of background NPCs, there are also complex relationships between Geralt, Yennefer, Triss, and plenty more besides.
These relationships give CDPR an edge - every quest feels important, no matter how it first appears. On the other hand, Skyrim's tasks seem uninteresting and uninspired.
Of course, what allows CDPR to raise those stakes is Geralt himself. By offering a single, named protagonist, Elder Scrolls would ironically lose a little of its own identity. After all, what's Skyrim without making yourself a lizard person to scare off the locals?
That's not to say that the two are mutually exclusive, though. Divinity Original Sin (and its excellent sequel), let players run around as multiple races and genders, with writing and interactions tied to each. Take the Undead, for example, who townsfolk will run away from unless they wear a mask - even if that mask is just a bucket.
Consider as well an Elder Scrolls title with some more fluid combat. It doesn't have to be Witcher-inspired, but just something to make swinging a sword feel a little less like guesswork. Again, this may mean you need to restrict player choice somewhat, so it's perhaps unlikely, but outside of cool finishing moves, Skyrim's combat feels like smashing two action figures together.
Finally, it's no coincidence that many of Skyrim's more popular mods add mini-games. Hell, The Witcher's Gwent is its own game now, and the likes of Assassin's Creed have begun adding in ever more ways to spend time in the world. We'll even take Elder Scrolls Legends being put in the game, really.
What do you want to see in a Skyrim successor? Let us know in the comments below.