What a night. As time goes on, Bethesda’s press events are only becoming more elaborate. This time, E3 attendees were in for a literal carnival, a bright showcase of various Bethesda properties with, what else, the Nuka Cola park theme song playing on a loop at the entrance. With mini-games, free drinks, and even a Ferris wheel, there was a lot to take in, and to top it off the night was capped with a DJ set by The Chainsmokers, making the occasion more of a party than a media briefing.
But as the crowds filtered into the assembled venue space, everyone settled in for the belle of the ball: Bethesda’s E3 announcements. And for Bethesda, the rest of the year looks promising.
Up first was the announcement of Doom and Fallout 4 on VR. As a skeptic of both VR and the creative direction of Bethesda’s most popular franchises, I viewed the trailers with mixed feelings. The adrenaline of Doom is definitely an experience I’d like to have in VR, but it may prove overstimulating. How the core mechanics are implemented will determine its success. Fallout, meanwhile, seems a better fit. Bethesda needs to buy themselves some time before Fallout 5 and putting Fallout 4 in VR is a good way to do it. I’ve written extensively about my issues with the turns the series has taken, but I have to admit, the idea of playing Fallout—any Fallout game—in such an immersive context is too appealing to ignore. Bethesda will likely have an easier time of putting Fallout 4 in VR than Doom, but either way, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this challenge.
Also announced was an upcoming expansion to The Elder Scrolls Legends, which they hyped on the big screen with a quote from none other than Paste Magazine. It wasn’t my quote, of course—I’m not fond of the game’s reinforcement of Bethesda’s aggressive, and often cheap, attempts to diversify their IPs. Thus, the new content doesn’t interest me much. Be that as it may, more Legends is on the way.
There wasn’t a dull moment in the presentation, even during the trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, which came out last week. The announcement that gathered the least excitement was probably the Creation Club, the new DLC service that will, among other things, allow some community modders to sell their stuff directly through Bethesda’s monetization service. The idea of paid mods has been met with resistance by Fallout and Elder Scrolls fans in the past, so this fresh attempt is interesting. Will fans accept this new development now that it has a clearly delineated mark between the mod community and paid content? Hard to say, but I for one am in favor of giving modders a means to make money off their work. After all, if Bethesda is going to rely on them so much to fix and improve their games, they’re obligated to ensure the modders compensated.
One of the more impressive revelations of the night was Bethesda’s plans for Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch, a move that has been rumored since footage of the game was shown in a commercial for the device. This isn’t Bethesda’s first attempt to continue profiting off of Skyrim; the high definition version, Skyrim Special Edition, was very well received upon its debut on the latest generation of consoles. So how is Bethesda, ahem, switching it up this time? By allowing the player to turn the Dragonborn into the Hero of Time with the use of the Link Amiibo. I’ll admit, as fatigued as I am by re-releases, this is an addition that’s too tempting for my Legend of Zelda loving sensibilities to ignore. I can’t believe I’m thinking about buying Skyrim again.
Dishonored 2 also got some love and attention. Its first expansion, Death of the Outsider, looks intriguing from the trailer footage, but as an admitted non-fan of the series (I prefer my stealth games to be a dis-empowerment “fantasy”), I was more interested in one of the main characters featured in the footage, a black woman. In fact, Bethesda’s press conference featured at least two black female characters, delivered with a casualness that lacked the familiar stench of corporate insincerity. How the writing for those characters is handled will mean everything, but I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
As for the best trailer of the night, it’s a toss-up between The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. I’m not big on trailer hype, and yet both videos gave me the distinct feeling that I really missed out by not playing their predecessors. As a horror fan, the imagery used in the footage for The Evil Within 2 felt refreshing, as if somehow, there might yet be a game that can still scare me. Wolfenstein II, meanwhile, not only has impeccable political timing (honestly, it would have been nice to hear the crowd get just a little more excited about beating up Nazis), but also breaks the mold a bit by bringing BJ’s wife, who is pregnant with twins, into the mix. The best part of the entire show, for me, was watching her included as part of the main cast, treated as a capable co-conspirator, culminating in a triumphant scene where she violently, and repeatedly, stabs a felled Nazi. To be honest, I hope the game includes some way to play as her instead of BJ, because it would be infinitely more interesting. It’s about time we stop relegating pregnant characters to flimsy back stories explaining the protagonist’s tortured motivations and gave them something to do.
And Bethesda wouldn’t be Bethesda if they weren’t jumping on a bandwagon. Buried among their more exciting announcements is Bethesda’s upcoming foray into esports, with a sponsored Quake Champions competition on August 26, 2017. The game, which is now in open beta, will feature Wolfenstein’s BJ Blazkowicz as a playable character, as a nod to the newly-revealed sequel.
Bethesda promises that all the new material they showcased will be available in the coming year, with an enviable and well-timed release date of Friday, October 13, for The Evil Within 2. While most of their press event featured either rehashes of or sequels to their old titles, I’m nonetheless looking forward to what’s in store for the second half of 2017.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.