Bethesda usually has a hard time at E3. The company shows up with huge expectations for the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls game, and it has to somehow pace an entire hour and a half long show based around the fact that people really show up for only one reason.
Not this year though. This year started off rough with a questionable performance by Andrew W.K. that made me want to scratch my eyes out if this was the way the entire show was going to unfold. However, after that, Bethesda found its stride. Jokes flowed naturally, self-referential humor won the day, and the games it showed off were a lot more impressive than what EA brought on day one.
Rage 2, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and DOOM Eternal all bring that necessary FPS requirement to the company’s line-up, and both promise the same hardcore violence that comes along with their legacies.
More impressively though, I was taken in by Prey Mooncrash. Arkane Studios has found a fun way to reinvent its popular FPS Prey by completely reworking its popular mechanics into a roguelike experience and a multiplayer experience. This will not only allow the title to live beyond its shelf life, but it will also allow players to tool around with the mechanics in fun new ways that a generic story DLC pack does not allow.
Well played, Arkane Studios. I didn’t play Prey since first-person narrative shooters are not my thing anymore, but with this variety, it might be something I like to try.
A few additions to Quake Champions and The Elder Scrolls Online rolled around and finally, Todd Howard came on stage to reveal what we all wanted to see. Well, Skyrim: Very Special Edition was clever, but Fallout 76 had leaked earlier in the week and it had to be accounted for.
I’m not sure what to think yet. The game being online sounded interesting, but I’m one of those anti-social gamers who enjoy grinding and exploring on my own. Now, the game allows for that, but it’s also obvious you’re not getting the whole experience if you play in the traditional offline method. Teams of players were filmed running through various missions, everything from defending settlements to stealing nuclear launch codes, and the experience appears to be built around team-play.
Bethesda might say otherwise, but it genuinely feels like if you want to play alone, you’re doing it wrong.
Aside from that, Bethesda hyped it as its biggest game yet, four times the size of Fallout 4 even. I’ve said this many times, but I’m not impressed with the size of a game, and in fact, that just translates to me as more running distance between my goals. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas had a pristine balance between size and content, and smaller maps simply feel more intimate to me. Sprawling ones just don’t lock me in as tightly. and once Fallout 4 proved to be too monstrous, I lost interest quickly.
Size is not enough to bring me aboard anymore.
And neither are settlements. Sorry Bethesda, but I’m not here to build. I’m here to get some story, grind some quests, and get out and explore, not make a little house on the wasteland prairie. Now, I know that settlements are also not necessary, but when I’m constantly reminded about the folks back home being under siege, it really gets in the way of my role-playing and exploration.
It’s not all bad though. I like the setting, and I like how Bethesda tooled the West Virginia legends and culture into the game. I like the graphics obviously, and the combat looks smoother than ever, even if I’m wondering how VATS will work in a multiplayer game…
However, I get the feeling that like Fallout 4, this is an even further departure from the deep role-playing experience found in the original Fallout games and a lot closer to the sandboxes that Bethesda has become known for. Todd Howard stressed that this is a game where your decisions matter and affect the story more than ever, but all I see in these trailers are more settlements, more grinding, more shooting, more co-op raids, and not a whole lot of complex story or decision making…
Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just a departure from the hardcore original PC titles and the fun balance I enjoyed back in the Xbox 360 days. That’s what Fallout has become, and it’s a style I feel works better in The Elder Scrolls than it does here. I wasn’t big on Fallout 4, and I’m going to keep my expectations in check on this one.
Luckily, Bethesda closed off on a strong note. Fallout Shelter is now on the Switch, and I’m psyched for that. Todd Howard also spoke with a lot more passion about The Elder Scroll Blades than he did for Fallout 76, and I get the feeling that this is a bit more personal to him. It sounds like a legit experience as well, being playable cross-platform between VR and a smartphone. That’s crazy!
Oh, and we also got a glimpse at Starfield, Bethesda’s first original series in twenty-five years, and The Elder Scrolls VI, a game that I’m totally fine with being the grindy sandboxes that Bethesda is known for.