If you’ve never done a deep dive into the lore of the Elder Scrolls, you might be surprised to know there are continents on the planet Nirn that are not Tamriel. Sure, if you’ve played all the games (even The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard) and read all the in-game books and paid close attention to the histories of various Tamriel races, you may be aware. But in general, so much of the action takes place on this one massive continent, it’s easy to forget there’s more out there than just a few flimsy islands to visit during a DLC campaign.
While I’ve longed for the series to revisit some of its earliest locations so as to see them now in high definition, reading up on what lies beyond Tamriel has piqued my curiosity. There are many places shrouded in mystery, with scant references to them hidden across games, books, fleeting pieces of dialogue, and other sources you might have missed in the hundreds of hours it takes to complete each game. Some areas would make great primary settings for the next game, not just because of the secrets they keep, but because of their visual potential as well. Here are the six that I think are the most promising.
Thras is home to perhaps the most insidious villains in the Elder Scrolls series, a group of self-involved slug-like necromancers called the Sload. They already have a long history as antagonists, maintaining an ongoing feud with the elves of Summerset that even culminated in a plague that wiped out a massive portion of the population of Tamriel. The drama and conflict are all but built-in, as the Sload are ruthless traders with an aggressive sense of self interest, having no qualms about sabotaging the competition if it benefits them personally in the end. Meanwhile, Thras itself is made mostly of coral, which the Sload use to build the homes in their kingdom, holding tremendous promise in terms of atmosphere (there are no known photos of Thras however; the above is a picture of one of their Summerset Isle-held outposts, Errinorne Island). As a potential game setting, Thras has almost everything Elder Scrolls needs.
This continent, which lies west of Tamriel, may not actually exist anymore, but it’s the original homeland of the Redguard, who were said to have “destroyed” it in order to flee after a series of civil wars. It’s not the most hospitable sounding place; the Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition refers to it as “rocky, barren hills”, with an “arid” landscape and “harsh environment, training the Yokudans well for their lives in Tamriel”. In-game scholars debate how Yokuda ended; the continent was apparently prone to earthquakes, but the civil wars may have also had a hand. But either way, I’m not content to assume that Yokuda, as the texts suggest, is gone forever. With a little writing magic, Yokuda could easily make a challenging and visually appealing destination, two staples of any Elder Scroll adventure.
What little we know of Pyandonea comes mostly from in-game texts. They describe the continent, which lies south of Tamriel, as the home of the Maormer, a group of elves that split off into their own faction back in their ancestral homeland of Aldmeris. One section of Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition, based on an account of the sole Alinori ship to survive a well-laid Pyandonea ambush, calls it a “sea jungle”, with “massive plateaus spilling over with vegetation form mazes around valleys of ocean”, “waving tendrils of kelp”, giant mist storms, and sea serpents that act as guards and mounts.
Along with Thras and Yokuda and other small groups of islands out in the Eltheric and Padomaic Oceans, there’s a lot of room for a seafaring-based Elder Scrolls game that allows the player to visit several areas off the shores of Tamriel by boat. It’d be an ideal opportunity to enrich the lore of the many races in Elder Scrolls, as well as visit several different environments each with their own unique, historically based conflicts. With that in mind, Pyandonea would make a great location to set or visit within an Elder Scrolls game, especially with its long history of attacks on the Altmer of Summerset.
If we’re going to cover all the continents where the races of Nirn originally came from, it behooves us to mention Atmora, the snowy land to the north that gave rise to the Nords, Imperials, and Bretons, not to mention Ysgramor, whose story is told many times throughout Skyrim. The games suggest Atmora is nothing but an icy wasteland, and I’m inclined, on this one, to believe them. And truth be told, after hundreds of hours in Skyrim, I’m not too eager to return to a similar landscape (though I’m wondering why, with its history, it was not referenced more or considered for a major DLC arc). That being said, I’m always game to learn more about the history of this particular branch of Tamriel, even if at this point I find snow and glaciers a tad boring.
Tamriel and the lands beyond it are home to several different Elven races, many of whom were formed during a conflict in their home country of Aldmeris, which divided the Elves into varying factions based on their beliefs on how to best spread creation on the plane of Mundus (the Elder Scrolls’ version of the mortal universe). This key event is integral to the lore of the series as a starting point for the habitation of Tamriel following the creation of Nirn. And yet, whether Aldmeris even exists is a matter of dispute and depends largely on which source of information you choose to believe. The Crystal Tower of Summerset Isles (where the Elvers, known as Altmer, first settled after they left Aldmeris) describes Aldmeris as a beautiful and strange place, an endless city built upon itself until “no nature remains”. However, an out-of-game text suggests that Aldmeris may have never existed at all but rather, refers to a time before the split between the Elven races, and that all life started on Tamriel. Another interpretation in the game state that Aldmeris will become accessible again once all the Elves reunite as one.
I’m not sure I like the more allegorical theories about Aldmeris, as I prefer to think it exists and can be accessed from the mortal plane, however some texts do suggest that the Elven races divided while on Tamriel, which would support the more metaphoric take on the existence of Aldmeris as well as establish a path towards making it a physical reality. (As there are no artistic depictions of Aldmeris, the above is concept art from The Elder Scrolls Online depicting a biome of the Aldmeri Dominion, a faction created by some the descendants of the Altmer that fled Aldmeris and later settled in Summerset).
The premise is ripe with creative opportunity. According to legend, while many Altmer fled and started new colonies elsewhere on Nirn to avoid a destructive conflict on Aldmeris (the ideological divide, perhaps?), many stayed behind. Their fate, and that of the many adventurers who tried to find Aldmeris over the years, is unknown. That too, presents lots of narrative paths to explore.
Aldmeris is an immensely significant location in terms of Elder Scrolls lore, and seeing it after years and years of build up would be rewarding, no matter what form it took. After the wonder and awe of experiencing other taboo, ethereal locations like Oblivion and Sovngarde and the Soul Cairn, I’m ready to visit Aldmeris.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s little doubt that the next Elder Scrolls game will take place on Akavir.
Knowledge of this large continent east of Tamriel may seem obscure, but at second glance, it’s lying right out in the open, scattered throughout the lore established by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and subtly referenced elsewhere, from a few missions in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to various tomes available for reading within the games. Akavir is translated as “Dragon Land” and is the original home of the dragons that awakened during the events of Skyrim. The Blades, who have a long history as the protectors of the Dragonborn, are even said to be from Akavir, with hints of their ancestry shown in the designs of their culture, from architecture to weaponry. In the first Era, their clashes with the dragons of Akavir led the dragons to flee to Tamriel, where the Blades followed and later settled in service of the Dragonborn emperors. At the heart of Skyrim, in other words, is the history of Akavir. The two are hopelessly entwined.
More importantly, however, a recent encounter in The Elder Scrolls Online (spotted by an eagle-eyed Imgur user) heavily suggests that the series will go down this path in the next game, with a few sentences of dialogue that reference both the events of the past, and possibly the ones to come. As analyzed by Gamesradar (and heartily agreed with, by me), it could be a hint as to the entire plotline of The Elder Scrolls VI. It reads:
“I’ve heard rumours that Akivari is making preparations to invade us again. They are apparently only waiting for the Empire to collapse in Civil War or some other crisis. We’d certainly need a Hortator then – if we had one, maybe they could travel to Akaviri before the invasion and weaken or stop it.”
That sounds an awful lot like the job for a lone adventuring hero, the type that leads nearly every RPG-like game in the Bethesda stable. And the Civil War referenced here has already happened—the war between the Stormcloaks and the Empire in Skyrim.
One thing that I think lends support to this theory is how Bethesda has previously used tidbits of information in one game to thread interest into the next. In Fallout 3, only a few lines of dialogue made reference to The Institute, but it was enough to generate massive fan speculation and build an entire game on: what later came to be Fallout 4. Similarly, the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion were also foretold by a line of dialogue in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
Development on The Elder Scrolls Online doesn’t appear to be slowing (the Morrowind expansion came out last June), so it will be interesting to see when Bethesda finally gets around to announcing the next official installment of the series. Many fans feel it will be this year, and with this latest hint dropped in the MMO, I’m inclined to agree. Even if I’m wrong, with all the potential that Nirn holds, I’ll be satisfied no matter where the next game takes us.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.