The Elder Scrolls 6 location possibilities are... pretty vast. Or at least they are on first inspection of that super brief E3 2018 teaser trailer we saw - but we actually think it might be possible to narrow them down.
Below, we're going to run through a series of potential locations and settings for the Elder Scrolls 6. We'll rule some out - at least in principle - and highlight some others that we think are particularly likely, and then finally, further below, we'll go through a quick rundown of everything else we know about The Elder Scrolls 6 - like its platforms and potential release date - so you've got all the information in one place.
Do bear in mind though that, really, this is a bit of fun - even if we do start to get quite into it as we go...
It's important to note, however, that Bethesda was acquired by Microsoft, announced on Monday 21st September 2020, and, currently, we don't know if this has had any affect on the development of Elder Scrolls 6.
There's also the 2020/21 New Year's Eve teaser tweet from the Elder Scrolls account to consider, although we reckon that's actually a tease for something else, sadly - but you can read what we made of it in (great) depth via that link.
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Why we think Hammerfell is the location of The Elder Scrolls 6
There's really not a lot to go on here but, if we had to, we'd plant our flag in Hammerfell as the location of The Elder Scrolls 6. Just. Here's why - and bear with us, because we're going way into speculation territory here...
Firstly, let's make some assumptions. Let's assume, for the sake of narrowing it down, that the following is true (and that you've watched that teaser trailer, above):
- It's not set in all of Tamriel - it might be (and we'll discuss the possibility of that below), but if we want to even try to narrow it down, we have to at least start with assuming this trailer isn't just a generic mockup of "somewhere in the continent". For now, let's say the location of the trailer hints at the location of the game.
- It's not set outside of Tamriel - again, we discuss the possibility of this below and again, for us to really narrow it down we need to assume it's somewhere we already know a decent amount about.
- Temporally, it's set somewhere at least close to the dates of the events of Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim - if it's set way before or way after those events, then again we lose all power of deduction from what we see in the teaser (big, land-mass-changing stuff happens over the course of Nirn and Tamriel's history, after all, and Skyrim, for instance, was set 200 years after Oblivion). Let's assume the maps of Tamriel that exist at the time of those other games, and the key locations depicted on them, are already in existence at whatever time this trailer and game is set.
Again, for emphasis: it may be that none of those assumptions are true, or some of them are - but for the sake of argument, and for the fun of it, let's say they all are, so we can actually analyse what we've seen.
So, those assumptions in mind, here's our reasoning for believing The Elder Scrolls 6 is most likely to be set in Hammerfell:
Step one: narrowing it down
Firstly, the trailer shows us several things. We get an idea of the landscape - dry, rocky and mountainous with thinning, shrubby greenery throughout most of it - as well as a clear shot of the sea, to the right. We can also clearly see a ruined, fort-like structure in the centre, near a crater-like drop to the left, and if you look closely, right in the distance on the coast, there is what looks like a city, set in a marshy, green area with some kind of watery passage or river just in front of it.
So, if we're looking for places on Tamriel maps that represent the trailer, we need somewhere in a dry, arid climate, where the ocean would be on our right if the city was dead ahead of us, and crucially no other land mass appears behind the city if we look in its direction.
If we exclude Morrowind, Cyrodiil, Skyrim and the Summerset Isles - all locations we've visited very recently, that feature different climates to this and, I think we can safely say, would make very surprising main locations for the Elder Scrolls 6 - then there are still a number of coastal cities that fit the bill.
Working from the above map, the following cities are possibilities: Farrun, Northpoint, Camlorn and Daggerfall in the High Rock region; Archon and Soulrest in Black Marsh; Senchal in Elsweyr (at a push - if the sea is on your right and Senchal's ahead, you'd probably be able to see other parts of Elsweyr in the distance beyond it); Falinesti, Woodhearth, Southpoint and maybe Greenheart in Valenwood; and finally Sentinel, and maybe Taneth in Hammerfell.
We think the climate and topography of the land rules out Valenwood and Black Marsh. Valenwood is described as "Tamriel's garden" and "a sea of endless green, a maze of foliage with half-hidden cities growing like blooms from a flower" in the fictional (but canonical) book "A Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition". Safe to say the rocky, arid mountains and craterious areas of the trailer don't match up to that lush description.
Likewise, Black Marsh is described as a "fetid" swampland, and is known to have a southern coast that's largely made up of island-like landmasses amid the marshes. The city in the trailer would have to be on Black Marsh's southern coast and, while there does look like there's a little bit of swampy lowland around the distant city in the trailer, the low and flat nature of swamps in general doesn't sit well with the huge, ranging peaks of the mountains on show here.
Step two: High Rock vs. Hammerfell
So that leaves High Rock and and Hammerfell, and there are two reasons we get to Hammerfell: one, because High Rock can be ruled out (reasonably, but not as definitely as Black Marsh and Valenwood) for its own reasons; and two, because the city of Sentinel in particular really fits the bill.
For one, we reckon High Rock can be ruled out because of its size, as it's smaller than Cyrodiil, Morrowind and Skyrim, making it an odd choice for what we can assume would be a massive game world. Second there's its architecture, with the trailer's nearby tower made from a light beige-coloured limestone or sandstone-like material (and also possibly that light-coloured - but to be fair very distant - city), that differs quite strongly from the dark grey stone we've seen in Brettonian, High Rock architecture in other games.
Step three: Why Hammerfell fits so well
Those are fairly thin reasons though. The real, key one is the fact the Sentinel, a major Hammerfell city, seems to slot in perfectly to this location. Take a look at how it fits into this old, fan-made map (found on a site called "The Imperial Library" via the Elder Scrolls Lore subreddit) of Hammerfell, and the location and surrounding area of Sentinel in particular:
Notice the small bit of water right next to the city in that map, and the similar river-like bit of water by the distant city in the trailer? The slight bit of greenery around it in both of those? And, if the camera is sweeping down towards Sentinel, from North to South, in the trailer, notice the mountain ranges you'd be sweeping through to the north of Sentinel, and the other mountains ahead that would sit in front of the desert (blocking the camera) and behind it, in the distance?
Alright, it's a fan-made map, even if it is likely based on Hammerfell-based gameplay in the first Elder Scrolls game, Arena. But how about the following images (again from The Imperial Library) for examples of the terrain and architecture of Hammerfell, taken from concept art and in-game files of The Elder Scrolls Online? They refer to the Hew's Bane location and Craglorn area respectively.
And, finally, this map, from one of the Elder Scrolls wikis, which puts a little tower inland, to the south-east of Sentinel, if you can see it - that could be the ruined fort we see in the trailer:
Away from those very cartographical arguments, there are, actually, quite a lot of other reasons why Sentinel and Hammerfell make sense. Speaking more broadly Hammerfell is just a great location to set big, fantasy RPG: it's a large area, it has a range of climates and environments (not just the dry mountains we saw but also greenery, snowy mountains, and the vast Alik'r desert) - okay, admittedly this is still kind of cartographical - but also a range of enhabitants, too.
Elder Scrolls games have, at the very least in their more modern, post-Morrowind forms, tended to lean quite heavily on racial and political conflict as a foundation for their plot. Regardless of whether or not you think they've been handled with the proper depth, issues like mass migration, racial and religious tension, colonialism, civil war and class struggle have run as threads throughout these games for years, and certain regions, at least in their current forms in the "lore", just don't have the necessary variety of population to carry them.
Hammerfell, however, has the mass emigration of the Redguard people - from the ancient, non-Tamriel land of Yokuda (see the map above, sourced from the Elder Scrolls pages) - built into its history. It has varied architecture, from the gold dome-capped buildings of the Alik'r to the more Nordic Dragonstar on the border with Skyrim and the Mages Guild in Elinhir.
It also, fittingly, has a political history tied to that of Skyrim and Cyrodiil - the Redguard of Hammerfell rejected the White-Gold Concordat, the crippling treaty signed by the Altmeri Dominion and the Empire between the events of Oblivion and Skyrim, that plays as a fitting backstory to those Nord-Thalmor tensions in the Elder Scrolls 5.
It means not only are there regional tensions within Hammerfell, there are also plenty between Hammerfell and the Thalmor, Hammerfell and the Empire (many Redguard feel the Empire "abandoned" them by signing the treaty, according to the in-game book "The Great War"), and even between Hammerfell and Skyrim at the disputed territory of Craglorn in the north.
There are some other little things - some fans have pointed out that the reddish-gold hue of the Elder Scrolls VI logo in the teaser represents Dwemer metal, in the same way Skyrim's silver logo represents Skyforge steel (the Dwemer, a popular ancient race, enhabited Hammerfell before the Redguard and called it Volenfell) - but this is a bit of a stretch.
Similarly strained ties can be drawn between the style of music in the trailer and the location. The theme music tends to represent the region of the games: where Skyrim's theme was deep and choral, and Impirial Cyrodiil-based Oblivion's was full of pomp, this one's more militaristic and orchestral, you could say - and therefore fitting of the heroic Redguard. But that really is a stretch.
Otherwise, the location's also easily expandable - the smaller High Rock sits to the North and has close trade ties with Hammerfell, so could make for a Summerset Isle-style expansion, or even be included with it if the game's particularly massive - and the main race is humanoid, and therefore marketable, compared to, say, the fan-favourite-but-not-exactly-mass-appeal Kajiit and Argonian cat- and lizard-people.
Finally, it's not too far from Skyrim, and if there's one thing we can take from that game's ludicrous appeal and platform omnipresence it's that it has huge marketing sway, to the point where some people would see this game as a "Skyrim 2" as much as it's an Elder Scrolls 6. It would be a huge surprise if Bethesda strayed too far from Skyrim, geographically as well as just tonally. Bordering the region, but not overlapping with it, could be a smart move?
A final point: "what about that giant desert in Hammerfell?" I hear maybe one person at most say? Well, the Alik'r desert is located in the south-western part of the region, and it's known to be surrounded by mountains, like the Gobi desert (credit to Goofy_Goober on reddit for that lovely photo) here in the real world. That would also put it just tantalisingly out of sight in the trailer, behind those mountains on the left.
We did put the question to series director Todd Howard straight: is The Elder Scrolls 6 set in Hammerfell?
"I'm not going to answer where it's set!" he laughed. You can read more in our interview with Howard himself, but there are a few other helpful things we learned from talking to him:
- Bethesda has indeed already decided on a location for The Elder Scrolls 6 - That helps, at least. "A while ago," apparently.
- It is possible to figure out the location from the trailer - "I would obviously say yes... but you can't - it's intentionally... You can rule some things out. And you can rule some things in." Interesting. "The first thing we do is the world so we've known for a while where it's set."
In conclusion to all of that very lengthy - and often, admittedly, quite thin - speculation, we think Hammerfell's the safest bet. Above all it just makes sense - plus, just say it: "The Elder Scrolls VI: Hammerfell". It does have a nice ring to it...
All that said - and as we've been at pains to point out as we go - there's still plenty of room for Bethesda to spring a surprise. So, here are some other options. We promise to keep them brief!
Why The Elder Scrolls 6 could be set in High Rock
The next most likely location is, as we alluded to above, High Rock, home of the Bretons.
Keeping those basic assumptions still, the one thing High Rock absolutly has in its favour is the climate, which matches pretty closely in description to what we saw in the trailer.
It's known for somewhat varied geography - in the north are mountains covered with forests, further south are plains, and along the south-eastern coast that faces Hammerfell are several trading hub cities. It's also full of mountains and is called High Rock and, you know, the trailer is full of quite high rocks. There are also some recognisable places for the lore nerds out there, like the city of Daggerfall and the Adamantine Tower, rumoured to be the oldest structure in Tamriel.
The in-game book called "Provinces of Tamriel" is well-referenced when people talk about the continent's various regions, and it describes High Rock as full of "rugged highland strongholds" - like that crumbling fort - and "isolated valley settlements" - like that misty valley we sweep through at the very start of the trailer.
But, it doesn't quite fit with some other aspects of the footage. For one, the sandy architecture doesn't suggest Brettonian strongholds so much as it does mediterranean forts. You could safely say the Breton race is modelled on a kind of Celtic, or northern-British history - places are given names like Dwynnen, Glenumbra, Daenia, Cambray Hills, Camlorn and Montclair, and the Brettonians are described as having a "fierce independence" and "contentious tribal nature" but with a "unifying common legacy" of "language, bardic traditions and heroic legends".
It's a bit of a push, basically, especially when stacked up against all that (admittedly somewhat flimsy) evidence for Hammerfell we gave above. The pasty humans, dark stone architecture and cold, northern environment all sound a little too close to Skyrim for an immediate follow-up, too.
Why the Elder Scolls 6 could be set in all of Tamriel
Moving away from individual regions then, one decent bet on the next Elder Scrolls game's setting would be Tamriel in its entirety.
For one, we can be just about certain that The Elder Scrolls 6 will release on next-gen consoles only (more on that below), and that, we can reasonably assume, would bring another jump in computational power. Basically, we think consoles will be powerful enough to feature the whole of Tamriel to the detail that Bethesda Game Studios would want by the time Elder Scrolls 6 comes out.
But... would they want to do that? There are a couple of reasons, we reckon, that Bethesda would likely stay clear of covering all of Tamriel in one go.
For one, there's the problem of The Elder Scrolls Online. The MMORPG is still ticking along nicely, having just added Summerset Isle at the time of writing, and it covers the vast majority of Tamriel already. There's a pretty solid argument that a big, next-gen Elder Scrolls game in the main series that covers the exact same locations as The Elder Scrolls Online would cannibalise its audience. Despite their differences, a lot of the MMO's pull is the fact that you can play something close to a Bethesda Elder Scrolls game but at massive scale.
The other thing to consider is that by covering all of Tamriel in one game, options for a sequel beyond that are then significantly narrowed down.
Yes, Elder Scrolls 6 is still years away, but there's no reason to believe that Bethesda would make this one their last - not with the ludicrous amount on money they'd be leaving on the table by doing so - and while other continents exist outside of Tamriel in the world of Nirn (again, as we cover below), they make for much more challenging locations to set a game in the franchise.
All that said, we still can't rule all of Tamriel out, of course. Plenty of games set sequels in the same open world as their prior entry and do just fine, and other continents (and, crucially, time periods) in Nirn do obviously exist. We just think that's a bit of a stretch for The Elder Scrolls 6. Maybe next time.
Other potential Elder Scrolls 6 locations: could it be Elswheyr, Valenwood, Black Marsh or somewhere else in Nirn?
Finally, there are some more left-field options.
The Elder Scrolls 6 could still be going to somewhere like Elswheyr, Valenwood or Black Marsh. For one, there's no guarantee that what we saw in the trailer is even supposed to represent the game's setting. Todd Howard, Bethesda Game Studios director, is the only person to do any real talking about the game so far, and his only mention of the setting is this very brief momement in an interview with Gamespot, where he describes it in the following way:
"It's very early. It's in the concept and design, this is where it is, this is what it'll be, here's some of the parts it'll have [stage]."
So you never know, they might not have actually settled on a location yet and the trailer could just be something they threw together to keep people like us busy pouring over while they actually decide where they want to set it.
Likewise, there's no way to rule out this being set somewhere other than the continent of Tamriel. The planet Nirn has plenty of other areas to it - although we've only ever heard of them in passing - and one popular, albeit surprising choice would be Akavir.
Akavir is the original land of the Blades, who themselves migrated to Tamriel to chase roaming dragons, before swearing loyalty to the first Dragonborn, and so on. According to the in-game book "Mysterious Akavir", it's said to be populated by several races: the Tang Mo, described as "monkey-folk"; the Kamal, described as "primal demons"; the Ka'Po'Tun, or "tiger people"; the Tsaesci, who are apparently "vampire serpent-men"; and finally a few Humans, who may have been wiped out (read: eaten).
It's a bit of a leap from regular old recognisable Tamriel then, but you never know - maybe the tiger people are actually an archaic description of Kajiit, and there could be a new point in the timeline where things are a little easier for us human folk to comprehend? Or maybe we could be going to one of the other regions on Nirn: Yokuda, Atmora, Pyandonea, Thras or Aldmeris, that you can maybe see on that unofficial map above (sourced from the Elder Scrolls Wiki)?
Unlikely, in our opinion, even if it's technically possible. Maybe one for some left-field DLC though?
For now, however, we'll just have to wait and see - for both the release date and the game's location - at least there's that mobile game...