Why the next Elder Scrolls game should be set in Elsweyr
So one of my friends recently asked me some questions about Khajiit religion, and it got me on a Khajiit kick, and I realized I’ve never put my case for the above out into the blackness of the internet. Note I’m not saying other locations wouldn’t be deserving–just that I think Elsweyr, at this particular point in the lore of the universe, is the prime candidate for a game.
What is Elsweyr
Elsweyr is the homeland of the Khajiit. Set in the central south of Tamriel, it borders Cyrodil in the north, Valenwood in the west, and Black Marsh, roughly, in the east. The land itself reflects the dual nature of the Khajiit–the north is a hot, sandy desert inhabited largely by nomadic tribes, while the south is lush and tropical, home to many plantations, with several large cities where most of the population is concentrated. Already, we have the setup for a great world, with lots of visual variety in addition to cultural variety.
Why Elsweyr works so well
- It has great fodder for dungeons
- Cyrodil had Ayelid ruins and oblivion gates. Skyrim had barrows and Dwemer Ruins. Elsweyr? Egyptian-style tombs buried in the sands of the dessert, complete with mummified corpses. Delving the south? Ancient temples and ruins from before men or mer were even on Tamriel. It represents a chance to see things older than we ever have before.
- Crime is widespread
- Not just the bandit camps, but organized crime–smuggling, drug trafficking, theft, scams. Khajiit carry a reputation as criminals for good reason, and it is likely a game set there would put Skyrim’s plentiful bandit camps to shame.
- It is visually stunning
- Vast shifting dunes. Plantations on stilts. Rainforest-like jungles. Great cities and entrenched strongholds. Elsweyr doesn’t just have a great variety of climates, it has a variety of some of the most visually contrasting and appealing climates. This isn’t skyrim where everything is grey, white, brown or green–the foliage alone has all the colors of the rainbow.
- It’s full of characters
- Anyone familiar with the Elder Scrolls series knows that Khajiit are often some of the most memorable characters. From their wit to their playful nature, each one is memorable in their own way.
- They’re visually diverse
- Khajiit biology is tied to the moons–there are a total of at least 17 kinds of Khajiit, ranging from elves with cat tails to intelligent housecats to man-sized tigers. This means that everyone you meet will be different, and cities full of them will not feel as homogenous and bland as Skyrim’s cities often did.
- They have a unique philosophy
- While Khajiit have a version of the monomyth that features many of the Divines we’re familiar with, by and large they worship Azurah, and follow the teachings of a Bhuddist-like philosophy called Ja-Kha’jay. After a game that asked pointed questions about what a deity was in the Elder Scrolls universe, Elsweyr is ready and waiting to ask “What does it matter?”
- It has a newly relevant ruin with a lot of historical importance
- If you delved into Skyrim lore, you probably picked up that Talos, who went on to become Tiber Septim, founded the third era by conquering Tamriel, thanks in no small part to a giant bipedal machine called the Numidium, which was powered by the heart of the dead god Lhorkan. The building site of this machine, the Halls of Colossus, was built in Elsweyr, after the Blades forcefully evicted the area of the native Khajiit. Not only that, but at some point during or after the Numidium’s construction, it began poisoning the surrounding area, rendering a large swath of Elsweyr uninhabitable to the present day, with descriptions often recalling radiation poisoning. You do the math; an old, abandoned ruin, once home to the heart of a dead god, now in territory controlled by the Thalmor, who have an expressed desire to achieve deity, possibly at the expense of the mortal world.
Why they work now
- They’re an outside perspective
- Though technically part of the Aldmeri Dominion, Khajiit are natives to Tamriel, and are generally skeptical of both elves and men. This makes them an excellent background for a story about the conflict between men and elves, which Skyrim obviously built up. We will get to see not only both sides, but what each side looks like to a people unconcerned with either of them.
- They’ve never been more accessible
- Because Elsweyr is now part of the Dominion, it’s been instilled with an influx of Thalmor, trying to control their society and generally being perplexed by their culture. Not only does this provide a great source of conflict for the player to be involved in, it gives the writers a way to showcase the quirks of Khajiit culture without making the game totally alien and unrelatable.
- They’re the most politically uneasy ally in the Dominion
- Elsweyr joined the Dominion, not as Elsweyr, but as Anequina and Pelletine, the two countries it was originally formed out of. This is because the Mane, the Khajiit spiritual leader, was assassinated by the Thalmor. The Mane served as a mediator between the two halves of Elsweyr, and without him, the balance between the two fell apart. They both joined the Dominion after it claimed responsibility for ending the Void Nights, but there are several indications that the common folk are unhappy with their new Thalmor rulers. Combine this with a long tradition of Khajiit rebels and nationalists and an old racial conflict with the Bosmer, and Elsweyr is the best place to start for somebody looking to chip away at the power of the Dominion.
- Its experiencing an identity crisis
- Anequina. Pelletine. Elsweyr. What is the homeland of the Khajiit? This is a question the Khajiit are very much struggling with right now, and there would be no better time for us to explore a culture than when it is trying to find itself, especially as an outside group (the Thalmor) is trying to force their own culture and religion on them.
- They’re primed for a player character
- Their spiritual leader is recently dead. Their country is fractured, their culture under assault, and they very recently spent two years with the focal point of their lives absent. What happens when the type of child you have is determined by the moons and they aren’t there anymore? Is it random? Does it go on as normal, but without a reference? Are all the children stillborn? In any case, it’s mass panic at best, and there would be a great deal of lingering trauma over that. To put it in the simplest terms, the Khajiit have the most problems that could be addressed by a legendary hero coming in and shaking things up.
I know you want to go to Alinor and punch the Thalmor in their faces. I know Black Marsh has undergone several radical, often concerning changes. I know Valenwood is fantastically interesting, as are the lands beyond Tamriel.
But have you considered going Elsweyr.