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Bethesda had the huge task of establishing itself as one of the big boys of the gaming industry during its E3 presentation this year. The company wants to be more than just one who develops astounding open-world RPGs. It wants to be a major publisher as well, meaning it needed to scoop up some talented studios to show off other games on the big stage besides Fallout 4.

Not Fallout 4

id Software and Arkane Studios have proven to be two of Betheda’s most reliable acquisitions from over the years, and both of them came along for the ride. id showed off the new DOOM to start the show, and it looks exactly as you might expect a current generation DOOM game would. Very violent with generously detailed monsters and generic weapon design. I was thrilled to see the old-school approach it is taking with the lack of iron-sights, waypoints, and regenerating health, but those first impressions wore off as all the demonstration seemed to get into was combat.

For DOOM, I’d like to see more exploration. The original game is just as much about uncovering hidden walls and secret passages as it is about blowing monsters in the face with a shotgun. Violent, blood-rushing combat is not enough to sell a game anymore. If it can tap into that older feeling of finding “secrets” in its levels, I’ll be impressed.

And if id Software doesn’t do it, then perhaps the users will. Snapmap sounds like it comes straight from Halo’s Forge or Mario Maker, and I’m sure we’ll get some quality user-generated experiences out of it. Oh, and by the way, the trailer below is far more exciting than what we saw in the lengthy presentation.

Following that, Bethesda tried its hand at the free-to-play arena fighter with BATTLECRY, but I doubt it will be getting much love. The trailer was really rough, and Blizzard’s Overwatch is running circles around it in both the art and gameplay department.

Arkane Studios showed up next and finally let us in a little bit on Dishonored 2. A lot of people have wanted to play this sequel, and they are right in sticking with it. Arkane hasn’t lost its step in thinking of different ways to dispatch other humans, and the new shadow powers from the pre-rendered trailer look like they’ll convert into gameplay solidly enough. As of now though, that gameplay is non-existent since it didn’t turn up in any video form. Just knowing it exists will make a lot of people happy.

I enjoyed the first Dishonored to a degree, but not enough to call it a favorite or to ever play it a second time. As a neutral fan with little emotional investment, I’d say it was a decent reveal, especially knowing that you can complete the game without killing any other humans.

Fans might also be happy knowing that the current-gen remaster is also on the way.

The Elder Scrolls Online showed up, but I don’t think many gave it a second glance. The bigger shock was the announcement of The Elder Scrolls Legends, a free-to-play strategy card game that Bethesda obviously wants to set up as a competitor to Hearthstone. This will be available for the PC and tablets.

Before we jump into Fallout 4 though, Bethesda had another nice little surprise in Fallout Shelter, a charming little mobile game that charges players with managing a vault. To the cynical out there, this doesn’t look at all like a mindless cash grab, and it doesn’t even have any countdown meters or tokens. Bethesda claimed they made this game for themselves to enjoy, so it’s something I think gamers would genuinely like to play.

I’d give it a go, but it is exclusively coming out on iOS for now, leaving me on the outside looking in. Maybe Bethesda has an Android version in mind down the line, but nothing solid has been announced yet.

Fallout 4

And now for why you really came here. Ron’s Fallout 4 thoughts. Well, would I be off the hook if I said I was mixed? Maybe that’s what it is, but more likely than not I want to keep my excitement in check.

The parts Bethesda showed off that I liked did look spectacular. I can’t wait to be jumping in and out of VATS again, blowing holes in the brains of mutants and rats with pinpoint accuracy. Level design and the “look and feel” of shooting seem lifted straight from Fallout 3, and you know what? I’m cool with that. Slaughter in the wasteland never looked so good.

I liked the new Pip-Boy too and how Bethesda took the time to animate it. I even considered buying the Collector’s Edition for the real life Pip-Boy… for about 30 seconds until I realized I would use it only once. As far as companion apps though, Bethesda might have found a solid middle ground for the genre. You don’t have to depend on the Pip-Boy mobile app to open treasure boxes, but it keeps you involved in the game even while you’re away.

However, the game does have a few elements that I could live without. I might be in a minority here, but I hate it when games try to do “everything.” I much prefer experiences that revolve around one or two really solid mechanics and send you on your way, as opposed to ones which hammer you over the head with too much. Fallout 3? Shoot things and go explore the world. Good, you’re done! Nice and simple, clean-cut, everything pulled off perfectly.

Fallout 4 looks like it might be biting off a bit more than it can chew, taking inspirations from other hits out there rather than trying to define itself. It is inspired by Minecraft, it is inspired by The Last of Us, it is inspired by Call of Duty and Mass Effect. It has home construction for you and dog house construction your dog. It has resources that can be gathered to build and tweak a nearly infinite supply of guns.

These little additions are fine and all. I think that Bethesda’s presentation was dragging a bit at this point, and I just wanted to see the VATS in action. Much like in Fallout 3,  the magic is that Bethesda lets you simply walk away from these additions if they is not your style. Ignore! I might build a few guns if I find the proper materials, but I won’t go hunting for any… maybe. I definitely have no intention of building a house or lighting up my front window with Minecraft lights.

I mean, I thought we were wanderers on the wasteland. Why do we need a place to settle down?

WARNING: This trailer below has naughty language.

The thing that really rubs me the wrong way though is the focus on narrative. Showing that the character has a voice, has a face, and has a motivation kills the immersion that Fallout 3 nailed so perfectly. This is no longer “ME” in this game, this is my avatar. And don’t even get me started on those “BioWare Dynamic Dialogue Branches.” Does every game require these now?

What do I mean by too much narrative? Well, that intro scene is ripped straight from The Last of Us. Your character has a perfect family life which comes crashing down at the first sound of trouble. After some chaotic running alongside neighbors, the worst happens and your family is killed in a nuclear blast. How you survive is not yet known, but this setup just comes off as lazy. Dead beloved family? Really? Fallout 3 had you turning on your friends, murdering fellow vault members, and fleeing the safety of the vault for a new kind of safety away from your oppressive overlords.

Now… your wife/husband died, and you’re sad. The absolute simplest way to sympathize with any protagonist in a video game. Maybe there is more to it, but cinematic cutscenes in other games haven’t proven to me that open-world RPGs can handle this kind of emotional story. Hopefully, I’ll be able to just walk away and unfold the world as I see fit, but a central plot is far harder to shake off than house modification or weapon building.

In terms of graphics, the scenery looks fantastic, but the character models come off as stiff and something that was made on last-gen tech. Maybe it was the resolution of the stream I was watching, but I was not inspired by the look of the character, the enemies, or the dog at all. Fable 2 had a more believable dog than this.

What it sounds like is that I just wanted a re-skinning of Fallout 3, and maybe you’re not wrong. However, does Fallout 4 really need all of this? Piling on more and more systems and story is not the best way to evolve the strengths of a solid franchise. Games don’t have to do everything and be everything to be enjoyable. I can play Minecraft and Fallout 3 and get more pleasure from that instead of playing Fallout 4 which tries to be both.

Of course, I’m probably wrong. Fallout 4 could astound the world, and it will most likely deliver on the kind of freedoms that other Western RPGs have been lacking these days. I’m just being careful… and a little jaded maybe. Fallout 4 will launch for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

As for Bethesda itself, I wasn’t too impressed by the show. I really wonder why it decided to reveal Fallout 4 earlier in the week instead of leaving us in suspense throughout the presentation. I would have been more on the edge of my seat and maybe have had better first impressions if I didn’t know what it looked like or if it was coming 100 percent or not. I was burned out by the DOOM videos and all the fuzz in between to really enjoy the big moment when it came.

And then it went on a bit too long.

In Bethesda’s defense though, planning out an hour and fifteen minute show with three games as your centerpiece is tough. It still needs a bigger library with a larger range of genres if it wants to pull off an EA or Ubisoft style press conference again in the future. Bethesda definitely has the talent and a selection of great games to establish itself as one of the better big league publishers in the industry, just not enough to fill an entire show.