With the release of Nuka World in August, Fallout 4 has officially closed its doors on the Commonwealth, and while the post-apocalyptic adventures of the Sole Survivor will continue thanks to the game's vibrant modding scene, the Maryland-based studio will likely be turning its attention to its other marquee franchise - The Elder Scrolls.
Aside from ZeniMax's MMORPG The Elder Scrolls Online, fans haven't stepped foot in Tamriel since 2011 in Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. However, the thu'um-shouting, dragon-slaying follow-up to 2006's Oblivion is now readying itself for the remaster treatment on 28 October with Skyrim: Special Edition.
Alongside a fresh graphical overhaul, mod support on Xbox One (sorry PS4 players) and improved performance on home console, Skyrim: Special Edition also bundles the sprawling open-world RPG adventure with its three DLC expansions - Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn.
While the blood-sucking antics of Dawnguard and beast-riding excursion to Solstheim in Dragonborn are the most fondly remembered of the trio, it was the understated domestic additions made in Hearthfire that quietly paved the way for one of Fallout 4's major new mechanics.
Alongside the chance to adopt a Dragonborn Jr., the cut-price add-on also introduced Homesteads - five pre-set areas where you could purchase a small plot of land and construct your own home via a somewhat rudimentary crafting system. Building additional wings for your wintry abode unlocked other room-types, such as an alchemy lab or enchanter's tower, while decorations and furnishings could be crafted from a workbench.
That same workbench would go on to become the basis of Fallout 4's Settlement mechanic which, love it or hate it, was the most significant gameplay addition to the game over its direct predecessors. With this in mind, it is worth considering what exactly we glean from Fallout 4 and its six-pack of add-ons that might tip us off about Bethesda's plans for the next Elder Scrolls game.
At this point, a further expansion on the concept of Settlement building and management is more or less guaranteed for the next Bethesda RPG. The Workshop expansions (as well as a number of patches) did a reasonable job of enhancing what was initially a rather haphazard process, especially the Vault-Tec add-on which transposed the mundane aspects of Settlement management into the metallic confines of a customisable, underground bunker.
A logical step for the Elder Scrolls series would be Settlements on an even larger scale. The irradiated foundations of Fallout inhibits the mechanic's scope to some extent, after all there is only so much you can build out of scrap materials following a nuclear apocalypse - Elder Scrolls does not have this problem.
Can you imagine constructing a heavily fortified town with bustling markets, stocked armories, ecclesiastical monuments and ale-fueled taverns with your own virtual hands? I can, and it is a glorious thought indeed.
At launch, the basic Settlement system in Fallout 4 left a lot to be desired when trying to arrange the denizens of a particular area. Things improved following a slew of updates, with players now able to see which task a settler is assigned to, while the Vault-Tec Workshop DLC added a sinister array of new tasks for Vault 88's diaspora of human guinea pigs.
While Fallout 4's wry tone does not translate directly to the straight-fantasy genre tropes of Elder Scrolls, the concept of giving orders to a band of wayward miscreants does.
Guilds are a bread and butter feature in every Elder Scrolls game - whether its the Five Tenet-following Dark Brotherhood, the fireball-throwing Mages, the trinket-pinching Thieves or one of the unique factions specific to any one of Tamriel's diverse regions.
Rather than having their gaggles of NPCs only star in a prolonged side-quest (and later as a distribution point for accepting radiant quests in an endless loot-cycle), Fallout 4's basic order-people-about controls could have been a testing ground for future projects.
So many factions in so many Bethesda games are eager to anoint you as their chosen leader - it would make sense to actually lead them in the next one.
This is an absolute no-brainer. It has been well documented that legendary FPS developer id Software assisted in the process of enhancing the clunky gun-play seen in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas for the Sole Survivor's jaunt around the Commonwealth.
Melee encounters in Elder Scrolls have never been a thing of beauty, both to behold and in terms of gameplay. Swinging wildly at a swarm of shin-nipping Mudcrabs is hilarious, yes, but against the toughter, more serious foes it distracts from the high-fantasy theatre.
Expect a larger quantity of combat-focused missions too, especially if Nuka World's kill-everything-to-win scenarios inspire the quest designs in Elder Scrolls 6.
The gladiatorial battlegrounds in the Wasteland Workshop DLC would have been nothing without the ability to capture wild, unhinged Deathclaws for your personal amusement.
This was a bit of a throwaway feature in Fallout 4 and essentially boiled down to imprisoning unsuspecting mutant-creatures (and the occasional raider for good measure). Elder Scrolls is already home to a cavalcade of wondrous, and often dangerous beasties, and a similar mechanic would give players the opportunity to finally end the vampire vs werewolf debate in a fancy arena.
Taking it a step further – what if you could rear animals as a source of food and materials around your Settlements? If Bethesda is going to expand on its structure-building and NPC-management ideas, then this would fit rather perfectly.
Judging by its E3 2016 conference alone, Bethesda is seemingly going all-in on virtual reality. While a VR edition of 2016's phenomenal Doom reboot is still without a set release date, Fallout 4 VR for the HTC Vive was announced with a 2017 launch window.
In a live-stream following the conference, Fallout 4 director Todd Howard also put aside fears that the VR-version would be a watered down 'experience', stating "let's not make a short version of Fallout 4 - the promise is the whole game."
In short, if the enormous scope of Fallout 4 can be achieved in VR, a virtual reality Elder Scrolls game is not going to be far away.