As a massive Elder Scrolls fan, I find myself listening to numerous Elder Scrolls themed podcasts (shout out to Elder Scrolls Off the Record, check them out http://www.elderscrollsofftherecord.com) and one of the common topics of late has been regarding that of how classes are portrayed in the series and what approach the next game in The Elder Scrolls universe should take.
To approach this question I will briefly explain the approach of the previous three TES games (TESO, Skyrim, and Oblivion) and discuss how the next game would be best off using certain elements within those approaches. On the whole there tend to be two sides to this debate, one side that argues a lack of classes allows a degree of freedom that simply isn’t possible for the player if classes are forced upon them, the other believing that classes give a template for the player to follow through the game allowing for better roleplay opportunities and helping the player learn the ropes of what can be an overwhelmingly large game if left to one’s one devices.
Let’s start with Skyrim, the game with arguably the most different approach to classes for an Elder Scrolls game, by virtue of the fact it completely lacks classes. Whilst this left the class style very much up to the imagination of the player, it allowed us to change how out character played throughout the game without fear of no longer levelling up or being punished for using magic when our character primarily focusses on melee. However this approach did take an element of bring the character from your head into the world, out of the game. If your character was a paladin, Skyrim wouldn’t recognise that, the world wouldn’t recognise it and that ultimately was detrimental for the hardcore roleplayers in the game.
Oblivion took a more rigid approach to classes, with numerous options for you to choose from and even to create your own. The class was build with primary and secondary skills which immediately gave a bonus to those skills and also helped your core character traits like strength, speed, endurance, luck etc. This allowed the player to really think about the character they wanted to play as and immediately pushed them into a roleplaying mindset which ultimate for an RPG makes it a better game experience. The downside was that your character would only level up through use of your primary skills. If you didn’t select Marksman, tough luck you better not use a bow and arrow because it won’t help your character progress. This led me, and others, to constantly re-make characters and meant exploring the world became a chore as many aspects of it would have to be done over and over with new characters. Fortunately enough, I loved every second of Oblivion so this wasn’t too much bother for me, but I know of others who have found it to completely end their interest in the game, which is a massive shame given the depth there is to explore in Oblivion.
Thirdly we have the Elder Scrolls Online’s method of dealing with classes. I’ll state it now, in my opinion is does the worst job of the three regarding classes but that doesn’t mean there aren’t elements within it’s systems that the next Elder Scrolls game shouldn’t look at including in the next entry to the series. Elder Scrolls Online limits you to just 4 classes and whilst the skills that the player has available to them is vastly different then in the single player series there is something worth taking note of. The unique skills that each class has is one of the finest additions that the ESO brings to the table and is something that could really benefit the single player series in a way to bring classes back without infringing on the free levelling that Skyrim introduced.
In the next Elder Scrolls game I would like to see elements from each of these three brought together. Bringing back the class options of Oblivion and even having those primary and secondary skills. However allowing the secondary skills to contribute to your overall level just like all skills in Skyrim do. The perk system of Skyrim also needs to be included but with the edition of unique class perks like we see in Elder Scrolls Online. I feel this would create a well rounded class and level system in the game that is more inclusive to roleplayers and makes the player really create a character, but also allowing the freedom for the player to adapt to the game making use of all the skills at their hands rather than just using the ones that would help their level as was the case in Oblivion.
What do you guys think? what would you like to see in regards to classes and skills in the next Elder Scrolls game?
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