Just like last year, Bethesda started their conference with a fun slice of life montage of everyone who works at their company. There was a decidedly cheesy aspect to it, of course, with employees all enthusiastically working with each other, joking around, mugging for the camera and such. They did such a good job making their work lives seem incredible and making me want to quit my job and beg to wash their windows or something, but all in all, it was a well-done way to show off just how many people go into making the games we all love. Following on from that, Pete Hines took the stage and laid out the game plan for Bethesda, with ‘create’ being the theme of their company this year. Pete waffled on for a bit, hoisting a few of their accolades, such as being ranked the number one publisher in the world and so on while also throwing some playful shade at Wallmart Canada, but he got there in the end.
HOLY CRAP, DID THEY UNFREEZE THEIR CLONE OF JOHN ROMERO FROM THE EARLY NINETIES? Oh, wait… that’s not John. No, Bethesda brought in Andrew W.K. to headline their conference this year. Strutting out on stage while screaming into a mic for MOAR HYPE, Andrew proceeded into a very awkward musical number to promote Rage 2. Opening to a pre-rendered series of sequences depicting the events leading up to the apocalypse of the first Rage, a grizzled sounding guy started narrating his life in this hellish place he called home. A few fast and frantic action sequences later and our narrator is pretty much screaming into the mic like Andrew before, explaining how he is the last ranger and how is just going to have to… well, rage.
At this point, we transition into some actual gameplay from the alpha build, and I became substantially more interested. As we’re cruising around in some Mad Max knock-off with a vaguely eastern European scientist dribbling in our ear, we see first hand some of the admittedly fun looking car combat. As the footage approaches an enemy controlled establishment, our grizzled rage master explodes out of his vehicle and sets to work on the bandits (yawn) who are all sporting colourful mohawks. Glad to see hair dye is still readily available after the apocalypse. As we progress further through the encampment, Grizzle McGruff shows off a few fun abilities, some fast-paced counters and a host of weapons, though oddly enough, the highly focussed boomerang thing from the first Rage gets thrown only twice, and we don’t even see it caught again afterwards. Guess they’re kinda over that thing now, huh? I was a little miffed to notice that in the middle of some actions, like an explosion or smashing the ground to stun enemies, the level advanced into entirely different areas. I’m all for gameplay, but knowing they edited parts out to only show off the most rage-y bits makes me wonder what we didn’t see.
The Elder Scrolls Legends
I don’t need to say a lot about this one, because really, it’s a card game, and they didn’t say much either. We did get treated to a flashy pump trailer for the game, during which I glanced at the comments to see everyone echoing my “IT’S A CARD GAME, GEEZ!” opinion, but sure, it looks good. Christian Van Hoose, the community manager for Elder Scrolls Legends, took the stage to elaborate a bit further on the game, but the quick and simple of it is that the game will be receiving a full visual overhaul and will be rolling out to platforms again very soon.
Elder Scrolls Online
Matt Firor, game director for Elder Scrolls Online, probably had the hardest job of the night as he didn’t have anything to show off. Summerset has already come out for Elder Scrolls Online, so without anything new to talk about, he just kinda rambled on about his experiences in the game and how happy he is with the community. It was kind of charming, but ultimately a time sink. He finished up with a cool “From then, to here, and beyond…” sort of video about the Elder Scrolls Online, recounting the various things that have occurred in the game since it’s launch. As I haven’t played since the switch to free to play, a lot of this was new to me, such as reclaiming an orc kingdom or rescuing a clockwork god, but it did what it needed to do, and it was entertaining.
Whoa! Where the hell did this one come from?! The teaser just started playing, and suddenly we were winding our way through a fire-blasted landscape in the midst of a demonic invasion. Witnessing a sign, some broken machines and ruined structures against a fire lit horizon hinted than maybe we’re on Earth this time around and then, oh there he is, just the briefest glimpse of the Doom Slayer himself, then nothing. The crowd and the comments erupted as the DOOM title burned on to the screen, then Eternal beneath it. Whew. What a way to announce a game. I couldn’t help but think this is how they should have done all their reveals for the night, cranking an epic trailer first, then going into some talking time, but at least they got it right for DOOM. Suffice to say, I’m super excited and can’t wait for the full reveal that will be occurring at QuakeCon in August.
Wow, that… that is an outfit, yep. The walking advertisement to “BUY OUR MERCH” that strutted on stage was the community manager for Quake Champions, Joshua Boyle, and he was decked out in all the merch. Hat, shirt, you name it. I don’t know if this is how he dresses normally, or he just stopped by the booth before going on stage and said “I’ll take it all”, but it seemed a bit forced. Anyway, when he was talking about the game and not spouting memes, it seems that Quake Champions is coming soon and is seemingly identifying itself as the first ever Esport. I don’t know how valid that claim is, but okay. We roll on into a trailer with some Borderlands-esque vibes to it while showing gameplay that feels eerily close to Overwatch. I was not alone in my appraisal of the what we saw, as most of the comments made the same connection as well. I guess if it works for them, cool.
Prey is going to be getting a slew of updates this year, starting with a Story Mode, then New Game+ (which was a highly requested mode, apparently) and a Survival Mode. On top of that, Prey has some all-new DLC on the way, dubbed Prey: Mooncrash, which is a whole new gameplay style in the vein of a first-person roguelike. It seems that every time you play Mooncrash, you’ll experience entirely different occurrences than before. The trailer didn’t have a lot of time to visualise this, but glimpses of the same area, once on fire, again swarming with enemies, a third time in near darkness, all hinted at the variety that might end up in the final product. Typhon Hunter was also announced, which introduces yet another mode to Prey in which one player hunts four others who have the power of the mimic to be able to turn into anything they like. A funny comment I saw said they couldn’t wait for “Monster hunter hide and seek,” but given what I’ve seen of the game, I’m more inclined to think it’ll end up like a first-person hidden object game.
I’ve been chomping at the bit for some more Wolfenstein action, and it looks like it’s nearly here. After recounting the successes and player engagement of Wolfenstein 2 and it’s arrival on Nintendo Switch, we got an all-too-brief teaser for the daughters of B.J. Blazkowicz and their contribution to the mission of their father. Jumping ahead to the eighties in this alternate timeline where the Nazis dominated the planet, B.J.’s twin daughters are continuing the fight in occupied Paris. Seeing as there is two of them, I took a guess and yep, it got confirmed, Youngblood will be a co-op game. I’m already sold on it just being a sequel to some of the best action shooters ever, but this was icing on the cake. We didn’t actually see the daughters, as they appeared to be shrouded in darkness, but a quick glimpse indicated one is probably going to be a bit tough, trimmed hair, gung-ho and taking after her father, while the other may be a bit more sneaky, elegant and follow in the footsteps of her mother Anya. Over it all, we heard B.J. himself encouraging his daughters to fight, and I’m just wondering what it will be like to see him pushing seventy in this game, though given what happened in Wolfenstein 2 (no spoilers), I don’t think he’s entirely out of the fight yet.
Prey: Typhon Hunter VR and Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot VR
Running us through a quick history of Bethesda’s VR offerings, Pete went on to add that Prey Typhon Hunter will be launching in VR as well as regular play, which brings my first person hidden object game appraisal to whole new dimension (literally). On top of that, it looks like Wolfenstein will be going VR as well, with a new addition to the series named Wolfenstein Cyberpilot. In this game, you play a hacker who can control Nazi war machines and turn them against the goose-stepping goons in what Pete described as Bethesda’s never-ending mission to spread their “Fuck Nazis” message to every platform possible. Not the first F-bomb of the night and not the last. The crowd ate it up, and the comments were full of laughs, but that was nothing compared to what came next, and that was…
Skyrim: Very Special Edition
In what felt like the beginning of a Netflix comedy special, Todd Howard, game director for Bethesda Studios, waltzed out on stage and pretty much just started telling jokes. It was quite entertaining, and he’s not that bad. The best part was him recounting the history of E3, from its cute baby years, through to its awkward shut-in teen years, all the way up to now, in its twenties. After he riffed for a while, he finally got around to the thing we’ve all been waiting to see. The game of the night. The hype was real, the tension was incredible, and then, we saw…Skyrim Very Special Edition. Wait, what? Okay, as far as gags go, this one was pretty epic. I’m not even going to explain why it’s funny. Instead, here’s the link. Keegan Michael Key was hilarious in that skit, and I’m delighted that Bethesda has the class to take a poke at themselves for all the jokes about releasing Skyrim on every device imaginable. Well played.
We all saw the teaser released not too long ago, but now we got a full run through of the game. Fallout 76 is a prequel to all the previous entries in the series, occurring twenty-five years after the apocalyptic nuclear war that essentially ended America (and no doubt other places). As a vault dweller in Vault 76, you emerge into a world only just beginning to pull itself out of the radioactive dust, with brand new mutated creatures clawing their way to dominance amidst a world thrown off balance. Some things from previous entries are already present, such as deathclaws and mirelurks, robots and the like, but the most delightful thing to come back was that once again Ron Perlman was providing the narration. This new game will feature an upgraded graphics engine capable of rendering sixteen times the detail as Fallout 4, in a world four times as large. Whew. On the world side of things, the whole place looks relatively decent, considering what happened. As the nuclear bombardment didn’t blanket the country from top to bottom and we’re not looking at two hundred years of decaying infrastructure as in other titles, the mostly verdant hills of West Virginia set a striking new direction for a Fallout game.
Most striking of all was Todd’s bombshell announcement (which we’d all mostly guessed by now) that the game will be entirely online. How this will work is yet to be seen, but the promises of continual character progression and loot keeping, one hundred percent dedicated servers and a sort of softcore survival definitely eased a lot of apprehension I had towards this being a multiplayer game. While there will be a significant focus on PVP combat amongst other players, there will be computer controlled mutants, monsters, robots and who knows what else. Todd did go on to say that every person in the game is another actual living player, but I suspect NPCs, quest givers and an assortment of other people will still be computer controlled. It’d be somewhat difficult to move a game forward with no base structure like that in place. In a series of fun animated PSAs from the VaultTec company, more features of the game were laid out, including the ability to nuke other players and an overhauled take on settlement building mode from Fallout 4. Todd was very adamant in reassuring the crowd that the game can be played entirely solo even though it is online, and from the trailer, if you hadn’t noticed the names above other players, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a standard Fallout game, so credit to them on that for maintaining that aspect. Finishing up with a gorgeous looking Power Armour collectors edition that includes an actual wearable power armour helmet (which you bet your ass I’m getting), and announcing the game is coming on November 14th THIS YEAR.
Talk about a tough act to follow. Well, this whole segment is Fallout, so it was more of an addition, but the long and short of it is that Fallout Shelter is now three years old. Coming to PS4 and Nintendo Switch that very night, Todd was quite happy to say the game was still going strong. As a frequent player of it in the past (not a lot to do once you max out three vaults and six hundred dwellers, Todd) it’s nice to see it still being supported, but unfortunately, there was no mention of any new additions or expansions to it. Oh well. Still going on about phones, Todd wasn’t done yet.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Now, this is another game that came out of nowhere. A full console quality Elder Scrolls game, running on mobile devices? Undoubtedly ambitious, but if anyone can take a crack at it, it’s the Bethesda team. Not indicating where precisely this game takes place in the overall timeline, Elder Scrolls: Blades is a pure RPG game like the titles that came before it, in which you play a member of the titular Blades, who are pretty much Tamriel’s secret soldiers. While being almost indistinguishable from its predecessors, it seems to draw most heavily from Arena, in that it will feature both handcrafted areas and procedurally generated dungeons and environments. There is also a town building mode, which plays into the overall narrative, with upgrades and residents contributing more and more to your story as you get them. Aside from the main game, there is a one-on-one PVP fighting mode and something called Abyss Mode, where you see how far you can survive into a never-ending dungeon, in the style of a roguelike. Being that it is on mobile devices, it does look somewhat awkward to control (at least given other games I’ve played that feature virtual control sticks), but I’m still game to give it a try. The bonus is if it doesn’t land well on mobile devices, it is slated to come to PC and consoles later, so that’s cool. It’s even getting a VR version which will be part of a universal cross-play network, meaning PC players will be able to play with console players and VR players without any barriers.
In one of the shortest teasers of the night, a bombastic orchestration follows us as we glide through space, seeing a satellite come into view. Just as we get a good look at it, a massive burst of light wipes everything away, and the lone title of Starfield appears and then, that was it. Really can’t glean much from that offering and Todd was quite tight-lipped about it, but it’s cool to know they’re working on an entirely new IP to add to their already stellar line-up. Will have to wait to see how it all shapes up. And then, just as it seems like things are wrapping up and I begin awkwardly squirming in my chair (this was an hour and a half long conference after all) Todd, ever the showman, drops one more bombshell on us.
The Elder Scrolls VI
Talk about saving the best for last. In what is unquestionably the most brief teaser of the night, the familiar tunes of previous Elder Scrolls games play in a new and unfamiliar style as we roll across some hills in a thick fog. As it clears, we get a glimpse of a structure atop a hill, some rocky terrain and a vast coast bordering on a sea just as the title comes up and the crowd loses their minds, along with their fellows in the comments. No doubt, some diehard fan out there will be playing this teaser back a thousand times trying to work out which coastline that might be by poring over their maps, but I’m going to put in a vote for it being Akavir. I have a long and storied history of advocating for a return to Akavir in some fashion, but I’m not going to get into that here. All said and done, it’s official now, Elder Scrolls VI is happening, but who knows when we’ll be getting it. At least this game coming out will probably lessen the chance of Skyrim getting released on my toaster and fitness tracker, so there’s that.
With all the trailers and teasers shown and everything out in the open, Todd finally departed the stage, and Pete Hines sent us on our way, bringing the conference to a close. While it got off to a less than stellar start, Bethesda found it’s footing about halfway through and then really delivered the goods for the final showing. Apart from a couple of slightly cringe-inducing moments, I’ve got to say, it’s one of the better appearances I’ve seen from them at E3 and it certainly succeeded in pumping me up for the games I was already excited about and firing me up for ones I didn’t even know existed. 2018 is looking to be a pretty sweet year for games, and Bethesda’s offerings are almost certainly going to feature in a lot of my purchases this year, as well as in the years to come. Grade: B+