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Skyrim: what else can Bethesda cut?

Can Elder Scrolls shed any more features?

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim might look massive and mountainous, but in an alliteration-breaking turn, it's actually the least feature-heavy Elder Scrolls to date. Devices and mechanics once deemed essential to unplanned wolf-punching have been waved imperiously off stage like X-Factor also-rans.

Race and class options, spears, levitation spells and less compelling perks are gone, dialling down Oblivion's "spreadsheet feel" and hence opening the game up to audiences who can't be arsed with menus. A risky move by Bethesda, that - role-playing pros are nothing if not jealous of their options - but one that has, for the most part, met with success.

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Pass me the pruning scissors.

Skyrim is a more fluid, intuitive experience for its relative shortage of background options - you spend less time poking at raw numbers, and more time poking at bandits. The question then, for me, is: will the process of streamlining continue with Elder Scrolls 6? And where should Bethesda draw the line?

Certainly not at cooking. A gentle thrill initially, cooking has become one of my least favourite mechanics. The benefits to health, mana and stamina versus potion-brewing are limited, and to obtain them consistently, you'll need to scoop up each and every potato, leek or hunk of raw Walrus you find. Result: cluttered inventories and the creeping threat of over-encumbrance.

You could argue that being able to cook makes the world more plausible, but then again, that's a world that makes room for death-by-shouting and (last time I checked) backwards dragons. I doubt being denied the right to grill a leek will make the experience any less gamey.

By the same token, I'd probably get rid of the children. Do they make Skyrim's settlements feel realer than Oblivion's? Indubitably. Do they make Skyrim's settlements more irritating than Oblivion's? Most certainly - not least because you can't electrocute kiddies to fragments when they moan about their Dickensian day jobs. Stupid artistic moral standards.

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