Doom Eternal, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and Fallout 76 led the charge in the Bethesda E3 2019 press conference.
By now, you’ve no doubt seen our list of every game announced at the Bethesda E3 2019 press conference.
The venerable developer and publisher, as expected, put first-person shooters at the forefront of their show. Wolfenstein Youngblood already looked really promising, and Bethesda used its typical, three hotel advertising billboard for Doom Eternal. (Something we imagine the proprietor of the Hotel Figueroa is delighted to have on the side of their establishment.)
But it wasn’t just Wolfenstein and Doom. This isn’t 1992. They also had *checks notes* a new Commander Keen game? Maybe it is 1992 after all.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
The free-to-play, mobile Elder Scrolls game, Blades, is surprisingly impressive. It combines slick visuals (that are not too far removed from its console brethren) with a mix of dungeon crawling and city building.
First up is a new update, which is free for all, and launches tonight. It features new jobs, a new custom jewellery system, and a questline featuring dragons. They like their dragons.
But perhaps the bigger news is that The Elder Scrolls: Blades is coming to Nintendo Switch. It’s controllable with a dual JoyCon, dual-wield configuration (like Twilight Princess on Wii promised back in the way) and promises cross-save compatibility. Expect to see the Switch version of Blades this autumn.
Both Pete Hines and Todd Howard alluded to the poor reception of Fallout 76 in the Bethesda press conference. They talked about feedback from the fans and being “kept honest,” while Howard went so far as to say that Fallout 76 “had a lot of difficulties at launch” and Bethesda “got a lot of well-deserved criticism.”
The funny thing is, though, that Fallout 76 has found its place in the world. It has a dedicated community of players who have embraced the rough edges, and Bethesda have incrementally improved it over the past year.
The time for increments is over, however. Fallout 76: Season 2 is almost upon us, and promises to bring actual NPCs, traditional questlines, and full dialogue trees to Fallout 76 in autumn 2019.
Bethesda is also adding a battle royale mode to Fallout 76, called “Nuclear Winter”, which sort of looks like a cross between battle royale and reality TV show? The premise is that vault 51 doesn’t have an overseer, and in order to find one, 52 players need to compete in a battle royale to see who has the best staying power. Quite how they plan to balance the immediacy of battle royale with Fallout 76’s perks, skills and experience remains to be seen, but it certainly looked interesting.
Tango Gameworks took to the stage to announce Ghostwire Tokyo. It’s a supernatural horror action adventure game, which sees the player battling mysterious forces that are causing people to disappear from the streets of Tokyo.
We only saw a snippet of Ghostwire Tokyo, but it looks seriously impressive.
Also, everybody loves Ikumi Nakamura now.
Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is getting a couple of expandalones.
The first, Wolfenstein Cyberpilot, puts the player in the boots of a hacker working for the French resistance. In it, you’ll take control of Nazi defences and turn them against their masters. In VR. It doesn’t sound amazing? It kind of looks like roleplaying as someone watching a bunch of CCTV feeds.
The second one though, the one we already knew about? Wolfenstein: Youngblood is shaping up to look impressive indeed. Playing as the twin daughters of BJ Blaskowicz, the sisters, Jess and Soph, are trying to rescue BJ from occupied Paris in the 1980s.
This one can also be played in two-player co-op, which is a win in our books, though the trailer we were shown was using a split-screen effect to show the two different characters, which was a bit misleading. Don’t get us wrong: if this does have local co-op, we’ll be singing Bethesda’s praises. But don’t get up your hopes that it will, because we’ve not heard anything of the sort in press materials thus far, and the game releases on July 26, 2019.
We were all a little concerned that, after the relative financial underperformance of Prey and Dishonored 2 in sales terms, that Arkane Studios might not be allowed to make weird, immersive sims anymore.
That’s not the case, though, because Deathloop looks simultaneously like something brand new and vintage Arkane, all in one go.
In short, it’s like an immersive sim version of Groundhog Day? Or maybe that Source/Code movie with Jake Gyllenhaal is a better comparison. If you don’t figure out how to fix the situation – in this case, murder someone before they murder you – you’re doomed to repeat it.
Orion is “a group of patented technologies that optimise game engines for performance in the cloud.” No wait, don’t go to sleep just yet. We’ll try and make it sound more exciting.
Bethesda and Id Software, with all their years of game engine development, have been working on improvements to game streaming technologies. These solutions and APIs, collectively known as Orion, can be used with any game engine and any streaming platform – for example, Google Stadia or Microsoft xCloud – to improve the experience.
How? Orion can “stream content 20% faster per frame, and uses 40% less bandwidth” according to the presentation, which “substantially reduces the cost of streaming for players and publishers.”
If you want to see for yourself, Bethesda will be holding a public test with the 2016 version of Doom. You can sign up at slayersclub.com to try and bag a spot on the test.
That leads us nicely onto Doom Eternal which is, erm, still happening? It’s hard to say anything particularly nice about this one because it, frankly, wasn’t very impressive.
While the 2016 Doom excelled at putting the player in the suit of the Doomslayer, timed the early story beats with Mick Gordon’s killer soundtrack and in-time cocking of a shotgun, and literally had the Doomslayer busting an intercom because they were sick of someone giving them exposition over the radio?
Doom Eternal is going hard in the other direction. Lots of story. Lots of exposition. It even features some third-person cinematics, which feel particularly ethereal and out-of-body when you’re used to viewing everything from behind the Doomslayer’s helmet.
Doom Eternal launches on November 22, and will feature a new multiplayer mode, imaginatively titled “Battlemode,” which pits two players as demons versus a single Doomslayer in asymmetrical multiplayer.
Assorted other musings
- There’s a new Commander Keen mobile game and it looks truly dismal.
- There was a “trailer” for the Elder Scrolls card game, Elder Scrolls Legends, but as far as we can tell it was just a reminder that the game exists?
- Ditto a “trailer” for The Elder Scrolls Online: Elsewyr, which included a really cool cinematic of a Khajiit battling a dragon, but is in no representative of the clicky gameplay of an action MMO.
- Rage 2 has a bunch of DLC coming out. It’s more stuff for Rage 2. It’s exactly what you’d expect.
- As press conferences go, it was a slightly strange atmosphere. Where most conferences are filled with journos (you can tell them by the laptops and the lack of cheering) this audience seemed to be almost entirely stocked with influencers, fans, and Bethesda staff on a day out. It made for a very lively… audience, but also felt a bit like an overwhelmingly, aggressively positive echo chamber?
- Following on from last year’s conference, where they had testimonials from all over Bethesda’s operations including receptionists and call centre workers, this year’s “We Are All Bethesda” motif featured talking heads from developers and superfans alike. It was really nice. Bethesda is very good at this stuff.
- Todd Howard: “We’re still hard at work on our next-gen RPG, Starfield, and of course, Elder Scrolls VI.” Which is disappointing. We were hoping to see some of the Elder Scrolls VI this evening.