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E3 2017: Bethesda Conference

Welcome to Bethesdaland.

Well it’s that time of year again, when gamers around the world gather to speculate about games being announced, watch when they aren’t announced and then get upset about what actually was announced… it’s E3 everyone and I’ll be taking a look at the Bethesda Conference 2017.

The conference started off with a quick montage of nameless Bethesda employees speaking about their games and jobs alongside their children cutely showing that many of them don’t really know what their parents spend their days at the office doing. They then showed off the games that had been released over the past year before introducing the combining element for the presentation; Bethesdaland.

Global VP of PR and Marketing Pete Hines took to the stage to introduce the audience to the concept of Bethesdaland and take us on a ‘virtual tour of our playground’. We then got another reminder of the previous year’s Bethesda releases as well as countless buzzwords meant to sum up Bethesdaland like adventure, innovation, wonderment and fun. In all honesty, this display of Bethesda ‘blowing their own horn’ took a tad longer than was necessary and I was glad when Pete Hines left the stage and the lights darkened.

The first games displayed at the conference were both Virtual Reality (VR) rereleases; Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR. While nice to some, neither of these warrant too much excitement due to being rereleases featuring, what looks like, extremely awkward control schemes that would especially detract from the fast and tight gameplay controls of the amazing Doom. The announcer declaring that Doom VFR was ‘so hot right now’ just added to the industry VR ‘bandwagoning’ that, while undoubtedly interesting, isn’t what many gamers will be wanting to see.

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The game up next consisted of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind. With a video showing very awkward streamers and Youtubers talking over a cinematic trailer (with a strange forced focus upon a bear being shot with arrows), it was declared that over 10 million players are playing what many reviews have written is a rather disappointing multiplayer title in an interesting universe. Similar to the VR games, the impression is that many people do not fully care about the title with many, like myself, preferring to have heard about a Morrowind HD remake rather than an expansion to an online title.

Bethesda’s conference then hit what is possibly E3’s lowest ever point for me. The unveiling of the Bethesda Creation Club consists of Bethesda endorsed and fully compatible and optimised mods for Fallout 4 and Skyrim. While this sounds good the fact that the mods are to be paid for with credits certainly isn’t. Bethesda are famous for their infamous Horse Armour DLC for Oblivion and the showing of Dwarven Crab Armour may want to be a self-aware joke but comes across as more of an insult to the consumers in the pursuit of profit. A disappointing reveal.

The next reveal was of an update and expansion to the card game Elder Scrolls Legends. Still seen by many as an attempt to topple Blizzard’s Hearthstone from the card game throne, Legends seems a competent and good example of a virtual card game that attempts to paint an epic and exciting picture with voice over and animation though is still, in essence, a card game. The announcement of the Heroes of Skyrim expansion then led the conference neatly into…

Skyrim released on the Nintendo Switch! Featuring Amiibo support that allows the unlock of The Legend of Zelda content like Link outfits and the Master Sword (content already added by mods I’m sure…), the release of Skyrim on Nintendo’s new console is yet another release of a game now years old. While I’m sure that this is exciting for any Nintendo Switch owners, the constant rereleases of Skyrim on everything featuring a screen are beginning to become a joke on the internet. Rumours are already appearing of Skyrim being released on the Apple Watch, Kenwood toaster and Russell Hobbs microwave…

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Bethesda’s E3 Conference then took a far more interesting turn with the surprise reveal of Dishonoured: Death of the Outsider; a standalone release on the 15.09.17 in which you play as Billy (who has a cool mechanical arm) and seemingly receive the help of the assassin Daud. Both characters will be immediately familiar to fans of the franchise and the unveiling of a new game, with new powers, in this extraordinarily fascinating world is the best news of the conference so far.

A focus on eSports with a black and white video of professional gamers being over the top then introduced the audience to Quake Champions; an update of the legendary franchise that looks like quick fun but nothing that hasn’t been seen before in arena shooters like Unreal Tournament. The addition of Wolfenstein protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz as a playable character was nice and could be considered foreshadowing for the conferences end. The Quake World Championships were also shown off with a return to Dallas, Texas and a $1,000,000 prize pool.

The Bethesdaland theme park overview then took the audience to the ‘Coming Soon’ areas in order to reveal two new titles and the most exciting part of Bethesda’s presentation.

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First up was The Evil Within 2. The sequel to the unexpected horror success, the trailer was well polished and stylish with a rendition of ‘Ordinary World’ helping to create the creepy atmosphere that I’m sure will help make the game a success. Not much gameplay was shown but one can expect the same third-person shooting and running away as the previous title. The Evil Within 2 is set to release on Friday 13th October 2017 and that is very good news.

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Finishing off the conference is the most exciting announcement of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The first person shooter looks as fast, exciting and fun as the previous release of The New Order with the polished trailer showing off the absorbing alternate history world of the Nazi WW2 victory through gameplay, cutscene and live action short film. Bethesda really understand what makes Wolfenstein fun to play as well as what makes the universe so much fun to explore and discover and I’m thrilled for the release of another. Even better is that it releases on 27.10.17.

Overall, Bethesda’s E3 Conference was a very mixed bag. It ended suddenly and was surprisingly short at only 38 minutes long. While I appreciated the lack of presenters on stage and focus on trailers, the theme park overview felt confused and the repeated mentioning of Skyrim would make for a lethal drinking game with the amount Bethesda reminds us of what isn’t even the best Elder Scrolls title. The announcements of Dishonoured: Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus were all extremely welcome however though the conference was made considerably worse with the Creation Club and lack of new IPs. I’m not entirely sure that Bethesda really needed their own show and feel that the new releases could have been included with Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Skyrim on my Samson microphone before taking a look at the anticipated Sony conference.

You can watch the whole conference here and for more E3 coverage stay tuned to Air3 Radio.

by Daniel Wright

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