Bethesda had an interesting 2017. Despite a lacklustre trip to Bethesdaland and reports that several of its games didn’t meet sales targets, the company was still the number one publisher on Metacritic, a fact proudly claimed by Senior VP of Global Marketing Pete Hines. Though if this year’s E3 press conference is any indication, 2018 and beyond are going to be very big and important years for the publisher.
The show kicked off quite literally with a bang as inspirational speaker Andrew W.K. and his band introduced us to to the recently unveiled Rage 2, as well as endless shots of audience members not understanding that they were in the presence of a Party God. We got a deeper look at the game, which seems to be the marriage between Avalanche Studios’ open world game design and the combat sensibilities of id Software’s Doom, with the aesthetic of a fever dream. Expect to rage again sometime in 2019.
As for id Software proper, Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin made a brief appearance to announce Doom Eternal. While we didn’t get any gameplay, we got plenty of teases: A more powerful Doom Slayer, more demons to kill and even a look at Hell on Earth. No date was announced, but more will be shown at QuakeCon in August.
While Arkane Austin may have had some Mimic problems, the studio was able to quell them in time to announce some significant updates coming to Prey. A major update hitting the game as you read this will include a Story Mode difficulty setting, a New Game Plus mode, and a Survival mode. It’s also getting two DLC packs: the newly available Moon Crash, a survival mode where every run through the mode is never the same twice; and Typhon Hunter, a 5v1 multiplayer mode which will employ bold teamwork strategies as one soldier goes up against five players who have the powers of a Mimic.
Typhon Hunter will also be coming to VR as part of Bethesda’s initiative to support the fledgling platform; as will a brand new Wolfenstein title, as part of Bethesda’s initiative to spread the message of “Fuck Nazis” to every platform possible. Speaking of which, MachineGames made a brief on-stage appearance to announce a brand new title. Wolfenstein Youngblood will be set in Nazi-occupied Paris in the 1980s. You’ll be playing as BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters, either solo or in co-op, as they proceed to carry the family tradition of brutal Nazi murder alive. No further details were mentioned, aside from a 2019 release window.
If the first half of the show was a standard affair for E3 press conferences, things kicked into overdrive when it became time to talk about the upcoming work of Bethesda Game Studios. Our guide through this period of delirium was none other than Todd Howard, the patron saint of the New Game Plus Discord, who charismatically and effortlessly weaved his way through massive announcements, timing miscues and audience interjection.
First off, Fallout 76, which will see you rebuilding the world after the War — with actual humans! Fallout 76 will be always online, but Bethesda is going out of its way to ensure that it won’t be as brutal an experience as similar survival games. You’ll be connected with a dozen players at any time, death will not be punishing, and your progress carries with you when you connect with other players. Though if the notion of online Fallout with other people worries you, this is still a Bethesda game, so there’s still a quest and and you can play the game solo.
As for the game itself, it’ll be set in West Virginia, with a massive visual and technical improvement over Fallout 4. It’s a world that’s still somewhat lush, and Bethesda has taken folklore of the area as inspiration for the game. You’ll be able to build wherever you want in the world, and move your buildings anywhere. And if things break down to the point where a nuclear option is necessary, there are several nuclear missile sites in the game world. While a beta will be coming soonish, you’ll be able to rebuild the world from 14 November this year. If you’re after a Fallout experience right now, Fallout Shelter, which just celebrated its third anniversary, has just been released on the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Todd Howard also announced another major Bethesda franchise is going mobile. The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a free to play Elder Scrolls experience that aims to bring an entire Bethesda RPG onto your phone, either in portrait or landscape mode. It’s coming with hand crafted and procedurally generated dungeons, as well as a town building system in which you can see what your friends have built. It’s not quite Skyrim for phones, but Bethesda is at least aware that game is everywhere, even on Amazon Echo devices.
To close out the show, we got a look at the future of Bethesda Game Studios with two quick teases. Starfield, the first new Bethesda IP in 25 years, was unveiled with a logo reveal. But for those wanting something a bit less sci-fi, there was the tease for the next game after that: The Elder Scrolls VI.
If last year leaned far too hard into the kitschy Bethesdaland setting in lieu of major announcements or humanity, this year traded it for significant reveals and developer presence. We got a better look at Bethesda’s future, and what it showed was exciting. Who would have thought all you needed to make a better show was Todd Howard?
(And just in case you were craving another way of playing Skyrim, you can actually play the Very Special Edition on Amazon Echo. Thanks Todd.)