Be Surprised: Bethesda's E3 2016 Showcase

Bethesda E3 Dishonored 2

Last year Bethesda had Fallout 4 with which to win over the faithful, and they did so emphatically. That game has since released and was just as big as expected. This year’s edition of #BE3 needed something to match that, and boy did it deliver.

More than ever this felt like a press conference for the fans at home, with a pre-show courtesy of Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb, as well as a pre-pre-show with trivia and snippets from upcoming games. It was also good to see every presenter wearing a rainbow ribbon, in memory of the recent tragedy in Orlando.

Bethesda opened the show in a strong way, debuting Quake Champions, the Doom-esque revival of id Software’s other much-loved first person shooter franchise. The new version is hero-based, with a roster of characters each with unique skills and abilities to bring to the arena, and designed from the ground up for world-class esports play. No gameplay footage was shown off, but id’s Tim Willits told fans to expect more at QuakeCon, happening in Dallas this August.

Naturally, Fallout 4 was given its time in the spotlight, with three new content packs announced. Nuka World marks the major update, introducing a post-apocalyptic theme park. In addition, the game’s deep construction system will be getting an overhaul with Contraptions, letting people build their own Rube Goldberg style machines. Finally, there was the Vault-Tec Workshop, allowing you to take the reigns of the franchise’s biggest name in bomb shelters and construct your own Vault, as well as run experiments on your creation’s dwellers. Another bombshell came with the announcement that Fallout 4 is to be released for HTC’s Vive VR platform in 2017.

Elder Scrolls fans got the first of many treats of the night with more details for Bethesda’s potential Hearthstone killer, The Elder Scrolls: Legends. Touting a two-lane battlefield and game-changing rune breaks, fans were also shown a teaser for the game’s campaign mode, taking place during events only mentioned in passing up until now in the Elder Scrolls series. More people would be added to the game’s current beta during E3.

Dose number two was Skyrim Special Edition, a remastering of the acclaimed RPG for modern hardware. The base game was already one of the prettiest of its generation, but the trailer featured new lighting, textures and other effects that rivalled the input of the game’s fanatical modding community, as well as official mod support for console players. While this might not sound like a lot for PC players, it brings the console editions up to par. This new revamped Skyrim will be available October 28.

Finally, Elder Scrolls Online players have new content and players to look forward to. The MMO had a rocky start last year before but has seen constant refinements, content updates and expansions. Formally announcing the game’s launch in Japan, the audience was treated to a trailer for the upcoming Dark Brotherhood expansion, allowing players to sign up with the guild of assassins and carry out executions in the name of Sithis. The big development, however, was the announcement of One Tamriel; a complete overhaul of the game’s character progression systems, automatically raising any player’s vital statistics to the level of the environment’s enemies. After the game’s tutorial no part of the game world will be off-limits to players.

In the evening’s second big surprise, Bethesda announced what could almost be called a new franchise at this point: The return of the long-awaited sequel to Prey. Stuck in development hell since 2011, and having been denied by Bethesda themselves as recently as 2014, players were finally treated to a futuristic psychological thriller, playing the role of a lone test subject aboard an experimental space station under alien attack.

Given Doom’s success, id Software took centre stage again to show the audience the game’s future. id will be refining the game’s SnapMap feature, giving creators a slew of new tools to bring custom maps and game modes to the Doom universe. Also in the pipe is the game’s first DLC bundle. Unto The Evil will feature new multiplayer maps, playable demons, guns, equipment, armour sets and in-game taunts, as well as two all-new multiplayer game modes: Exodus and Sector.

After its strong debut last year, Dishonored 2 returned as the show’s centrepiece this year, with a gameplay demo, an exploration into the city of Karnaca itself, and an insight into the creation of the game’s deep, living environments. Arkane Studios showed off two specific missions, a slew of new powers available to players, environmental effects reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid V, and a curious special mission involving an abandoned manor which will see players jumping backwards and forwards in time to solve puzzles and dispense of enemies. Dishonored 2 will be coming out on 11 November, with a limited supply of the first game’s Definitive Edition bundled free with pre-orders.

Despite the leaks in the last week, Bethesda had several surprises for this year’s E3 audience, with the revival of two long absent franchises, continued content for a number of much-loved games and a fresh look at what will be one of this year’s blockbusters.