You know, the weirdest thing happened to me last night. I was watching YouTube and stumbled upon a live stream of a concert by musician Andrew WK. I’ve never listened to his music before, so I thought “hey, why not stop and check this guy out?” I sat down with a glass of apple juice and listened to the unique stylings of this strange musician. The crowd at the venue seemed really confused, which struck me as odd, but I kept on watching regardless. After he played one song, Andrew WK left the stage and a bunch of dudes started coming out to talk about…video games?
“Golly,” I thought, “this sure is a weird concert.” But like any dedicated music blogger, I am determined to cover the whole performance. After all, what is a video game press conference if not an extended series of music videos? I’m sure this is what Andrew intended with this piece of daring art, and I for one wish to give credit where it is due. So let’s take some time to talk about the video games that were presented as part of this concert and to evaluate their contribution to the overall musical presentation.
Bethesda’s press conference was a rollercoaster of emotions – if you followed my live tweets on Twitter, you saw me go from confused to intrigued to defeated to pleasantly surprised over the course of the night. The conference featured new entries in familiar series such as Wolfenstein and DOOM, while also showing off new modes or DLC for titles like The Elder Scrolls Online and Prey. Rather than spend too much time on any particular game, I’d prefer to focus more on some of the themes that played out throughout the conference.
When it comes to humor, Bethesda delivered a press conference that was able to stay engaging thanks to some quality gags worked into their trailers and presentations. It certainly helps them that properties such as Rage 2 and Fallout have humorous elements built-in to the aesthetic of the game world. The Ruckus the Crusher commercial, for example, was an absolutely brilliant way to show off the special edition of Rage 2 while also paying homage to the game’s world. Beyond the game trailers themselves, though, Bethesda made no qualms about acknowledging recent developments in the gaming community and showed an awareness of the (admittedly obvious) desires of their fans. The fact that there was a full commercial for Skyrim on Alexa where the device describes your actions to you and you play with your voice, for example…priceless.
Speaking of Skyrim, the Elder Scrolls had a strong presence at E3 this year between Legends (the card game), Elder Scrolls Online (the MMO), and two new games announced: Blades and Elder Scrolls VI. I honestly had hit the point where I expected to hear nothing about Elder Scrolls VI, particularly when they talked about Blades so much. I saw in my future a number of articles about the death of console gaming at the hands of the mobile market, but those worries lessened significantly when the next truly mainline Elder Scrolls was finally – mercifully – confirmed.
So what is Blades all about, exactly? Elder Scrolls Blades is a mobile title (that will also be available on consoles and PC) where you explore both pre-crafted and procedurally-generated dungeons. You go on quests, kill monsters, loot treasure; all of the typical elements of an Elder Scrolls game are present here. There are three main modes you can play in: an Abyss mode which provides a neverending dungeon, an arena mode where you battle other players, and the Town mode where you accept quests and purchase goods and whatnot. You battle monsters by swiping the touchscreen on your smart phone. At the end of the day, while it is certainly an ambitious mobile title, it is a mobile title nonetheless. When I thought this was the only truly new Elder Scrolls content we were getting, I was pretty frustrated. Now understanding that a legitimate single-player full console experience is actually coming, I am content to let Blades do its own thing.
Of greater interest to many fans, though, was the other major series created by Bethesda: Fallout. This is due primarily to the reveal of Fallout 76 a few days back, and there’s been a ton of speculation surrounding this game. Is it an online game? Is it an MMO similar to Elder Scrolls Online? Does it focus exclusively on building structures rather than engaging in any combat or quests or other Fallout staples? Todd Howard did a good job of dropping the “online experience” bombshell while also explaining exactly what that would mean for fans of the series.
Fallout 76 is an online multiplayer experience. It will exist on servers so subtle that the players won’t even see them when they boot up the game, making 76 as seamless a Fallout experience as any other title in the series. Rather than being on a server with hundreds or even thousands of other people, you’ll only have a few dozen to interact with. The amount of space promised is four times the size of Fallout 4’s environment, with the added bonus of being able to build anywhere you want. You can also move structures you build to a new location, perfect for when other new mechanics in Fallout 76 come calling for you.
First of all, other players can (and let’s be honest, will) brutally murder you when they see you out in the world. This does earn you points and money of some kind but don’t worry – for the dead guy in this scenario, you don’t lose any progress or resources when you die in the game. On top of that, the world is full of nuclear missiles to which you can find the codes, and launching any of them will cause them to fall on a random location in the world and level it. The irradiated landscape will have unique materials to harvest and new monsters to beat – so hey, destroying the landscape using nuclear power is totally a good thing! Couple all of this with the new cast of freakish monsters pulled straight from West Virginian folklore, and this game is definitely not your mother’s Fallout title.
While Bethesda is most known for Fallout and Elder Scrolls, they have a lot of other franchises to show off and they did so with aplomb during this presentation. Similarly to how Elder Scrolls VI got a reveal but absolutely no meaningful footage or detail, DOOM Eternal and Wolfenstein Youngblood are total mysteries to those who might otherwise be looking forward to them. Those interested in Rage 2, though, now know a lot more about this bright and colorful FPS.
I do want to take a moment to comment that the “Nazi-killing” dialogue during the Bethesda conference was, at best, low-hanging fruit. At a conference that has been notoriously sparse in the applause department (see my EA press conference coverage coming this afternoon), it seemed like the presenters here off-handedly mentioned taking out Nazis just to draw a positive reaction from the crowd. I understand the sentiment behind it but to me the comments seemed more like some dudes saying whatever got people to clap rather than Bethesda as an entity making a definitive statement about acceptance or inclusivity.
The last big thing really worth talking about here is Starfield, the first brand new game that Bethesda has worked on in their 25 years. Rather than continuing a project started elsewhere, they have the freedom to create their own product and define every aspect of it from the very start. Unfortunately, the only thing we really know is that the game takes place is space. One could possibly anticipate a science fiction game in the style of Elder Scrolls and Fallout (this alongside Elder Scrolls VI was really the only major single-player announcement at the press conference), but ultimately until more news is revealed, the best we can do is speculate.
Overall, I felt like the Bethesda conference had solid pacing and showmanship, particularly when it came to alleviating the fears of hardcore fans. Explanations of Fallout 76’s online functionality were handled gracefully and with a bit of humor. Elder Scrolls VI was finally revealed, and even just having a title screen likely lessened the fury of those who felt betrayed by Elder Scrolls Blades and Fallout 76. I think some moments could have been trimmed up a little bit (goodbye, Andrew WK) but overall the Bethesda conference was a fun one to watch.
What are your thoughts, adventurers? What was the most exciting game for you at this press conference? Anything disappoint you, or did you need to take some time to really process it all? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to stick around Adventure Rules as their is a lot more E3 2018 content that will be coming your way!