We’re long overdue for some Elder Scrolls VI news. The only thing we’ve gotten since the game’s announcement is a vague logo reveal. With Bethesda and Microsoft finally closing their acquisition deal in early March 2021, there’s hope that we’ll finally hear something soon.
While we wait for an official summer showcase, rumors about Elder Scrolls 6 are starting to spring up. According to leaker Tiffany Treadmore, the next game in the fantasy franchise will include two novel ideas: One would be a franchise first, and the other would be an intriguing evolution of a familiar system.
The leaks reported claim that the game will feature “survival mechanics.” That would be a fun twist on the formula that could draw inspiration from games like Valheim.
The more interesting tidbit, however, is that the game could feature a “Rune Drawing” system. While details are vague, the leak indicates a “new creative system that had been developed for implementing and crafting new magic spells/abilities that is unlike Skyrim and previous games.” So even though Oblivion had a Spell Making system that allowed for custom spells, this would be totally different.
It wouldn’t be new for video games at large, though. The idea actually has a pretty long history in fantasy games with lots of high-profile and obscure examples.
The most immediate and recent comparison that comes to mind is Final Fantasy XV. The RPG features an Elemancy system where players have to manually craft spells, which are consumable items. To craft a spell, players need to collect raw elemental energy and combine it with certain items to create a spell. It’s a more hands-on magic system compared to Skyrim where players tap a button to shout, or Oblivion’s spell-making mechanic where you paid gold to combine spells together.
In other words, this system sounds a bit more nuanced.
The idea of manual spell casting goes back even further and can be even more in-depth. GameCube hidden gem Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem features a magic system where players need to collect runes and combine them to create new spells. The character has to actually stop moving to cast every individual rune in a spell. That adds some tension when an enemy is nearby and players are trying to fire off some powerful magic before they’re interrupted.
Other “rune drawing” systems are more literal. In Arkane Studios’ 2002 RPG Arx Fatalis, players had to physically draw runes to cast spells. A similar system was used in LostMagic, a Nintendo DS game that used the touch screen for rune casting.
The use of the term “rune drawing in the leak is somewhat vague. It’s unclear if that means that players will need to craft spells or physically draw them out to attack. Considering that The Elder Scrolls VI will likely release on consoles, it’s hard to imagine it’ll require players to sketch with a joystick. Arx Fatalis was a PC game, so a mouse could be easily used to capture gestures. The eventual Xbox release had to simplify the system to make it work with a controller.
A system like the one in Final Fantasy XV seems more reasonable. Spells have always been an important part of The Elder Scrolls and a return to Oblivion’s more in-depth crafting system would be a perfect fit moving forward.
Of course, all of this comes with a dump truck’s worth of salt. There’s not a lot to go on with these leaks and they’re extremely general. Terms like “survival mechanics” cover a lot of different ideas. They might end up being technically right even if they’re made up. If we end up sketching runes in The Elder Scrolls VI, we’ll drop that skepticism.