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Without the atomic bomb known as Fallout 4 to announce this year, or the gory spectacle of a new Doom, Bethesda would have to work hard to match the excitement of their press conference last year.
So how did they fare?
If there’s anything to be said, at least Bethesda was better than EA. That’s not saying much though.
It’s nice to see old franchises get a revival in the modern gaming landscape, and Bethesda’s Wolfenstein and Doom reboots have been critical and commercial successes, so of course the logical next step would be Quake. The franchise has faded into relative obscurity in recent years, largely forgotten in the wake of modern shooters, but it’s easy to forget it was a huge deal in its heyday. So the announcement of Quake Champions gave Bethesda’s conference a strong start.
But Quake is no megaton, and the next hour was largely spent looking at expansions, rehashes, and DLC, capped off with an overly long and fairly clunky looking Dishonored 2 demo.
The Elder Scrolls was front and center of course. From The Elder Scrolls Online (does anyone actually care about that game other than the obnoxious shrieking woman in the audience?) to more news about their collectible card game The Elder Scrolls Legends (because everyone needs one of those!), to the “huge” announcement of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (yay for HD remasters of HD games – now with more HD), Bethesda made it clear where their priorities lie. Oh, and Fallout 4 DLC, because they have to justify raising the price of the season pass post-release.
A new Prey game was a surprise since the original was a cult classic, but fans have already bemoaned the loss of the original abandoned concept behind that sequel.
Dishonored 2 is clearly the game they’re pushing to be their big game of the year, but the demo went on forever and looked unimpressive in both visuals and gameplay. It seemed a bit unrefined, and with it due this year, I don’t have high hopes that they’ll tighten it up before launch.
And of course, what better way to end a conference than to announce a collector’s edition, then hand out free t-shirts to the attendees and send them out to sample the games while drinking beer, eating turkey legs, and listening to Blink-182.
Overall, Bethesda strikes me as a company that wants to play in the big leagues of major publishers like EA and Ubisoft, but they just don’t seem to have the catalog to justify their own E3 show. When one of your major announcements is a “limited-time opportunity to play the first level of Doom – absolutely free!” (in my day, we called that a demo, and almost every game had one), you know you’re just trying to fill time.
But hey, it was more entertaining than EA’s show, and at least there was actual gameplay.