5 Things The Elders Scrolls V Shouldn't Do

What happens in Vegas stays in New Vegas, the setting of a brand new standalone Fallout 3 game announced this side of the pond (London) earlier today. It's not by Bethesda, but rather Obsidian Entertainment, whose members have been involved in some of the best computer RPGs ever (Planescape: Torment, the first two Fallout games) as well as some of the most mediocre (Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2). That's all we know at the moment, so let me change the topic slightly by speculating shamelessly.

Oblivion's been out for years now, Fallout 3's already seen two downloadable content packs with a third on the horizon, and so I'd wager Bethesda's on the verge of saying something (perhaps at E3 2009?) about their fifth The Elders Scrolls romp. That's V as in five, not "vee" as in vermicelli. Or Vicodin.

Don't think they've been working on a fifth installment for awhile now? They have. It's not just that Bethesda's Paul Oughton spilled the beans last October when he said of the company's development lineup "At the moment we've got Fallout 3 for this year and potentially there's a new Elder Scrolls title in 2010." "Potentially" means it's advanced well past a twinkle in Bethesda's eye.

The Elder Scrolls V? Or my recent trip to Scotland?

That said, I recently pulled Oblivion off the shelf for another go. You know, see how it stacks up, three years old. Hindsight's tetchy-tetchy, and lest those of you unfamiliar with my past thoughts on the game assume I'm some kind of RPG-killjoy, know that my original review for Computer Gaming World was a full five-star editor's choice cascade of superlatives.

On to the list:

1. Don't recycle your voice actors. Okay, I get that Oblivion's a Really Big Game and you probably blew two-thirds of your budget snagging Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean and Lynda Carter, but stellar as the less-well-known acting talent is here, modulating accents and vocal timbres doesn't scrub out the distinctly evil-overlord-shtick guys like Craig Sechler have going on (who does this sound like?). Given the choice between "voiceless text" and "recycled voice acting" audio? I'll take text plus my own imagination, please.

2. Don't make the world map one-third the total screen size. Let's see an honest-to-goodness full-screen map. Or at least a full-screen map option. You know, like windows in Windows? Minimize-maximize? It's bad enough that the PC version was a straight port of the console's squashed tabulation interface, but even on a TV screen with a gamepad, it was like trying to read a map looking through the slit in a medieval helmet. Give us a map that's worthy of the game world, and if you don't mind, make the zoom level continuous ala GPG's Supreme Commander. Or if that's too tall an order, at least more granular zoom levels, please.

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