E3 2016 PC Gaming Wrap-Up – Day 1 – Bethesda

E3 Banner - Bethesda

If you’re a dedicated PC Gamer who just wants the news out of E3 without sitting through hours of being spoken to like a child, from people who’d say anything to get your paycheck… this is for you. This is an editorial; a curated list of interesting, PC-specific information and trailers to come out of this year’s events, from a skeptical/pro-consumer approach.

Quake Champions

Many people, myself included, were immediately concerned while watching the cinematic, pre-rendered trailer that this might be a MOBA. The “Champions” portion of the name, the flashy skills/abilities, the lack of anything that looked like a first person perspective, and the overall similarities between it and trailers we’ve seen in the past for LoL and Dota 2. Thankfully that is not the case, and the game is being described as a traditional competitive “arena-style” multiplayer shooter, but with the addition of “the champions”, mimicking the character-driven approach of a number of recent titles. They’re trying to appeal to players of say Quake Live, who want that fast responsive e-sports oriented experience, while also trying to diversify play with the character-specific abilities to attract new players much in the same way that Overwatch is more likely to appeal to more casual audiences than say CSGO does, even though hardcore players tend to enjoy both.

They say they’ve spoken heavily with pro players, and are trying to keep the essences of quake (rocket-jumping, strafing, air control, timed items, Rocket/Rail/Lightning trinity, etc) that they want… The new Doom featured fantastic single-player gameplay, but really let a lot of people down with the multiplayer in the way that it really seemed to dumb down the experience for consoles, appealing to fans of Call of Duty and Halo than ones of the real arena shooters. This title however, is releasing only on PC (“the platform that can give use the competitive, e-sports angle that we’re thriving for”). Not only that, but during the press conference they explicitly referenced a target of 120hz with no framerate cap. At least from my knowledge, this is the first time I’ve ever heard >60hz referenced on stage at E3, on top of the sheer rarity of “hz”/”framerate” to begin with. It seems to be multi-player only, so those looking for another campaign are likely out of luck, and considering the platform choice and e-sports focus I’m presumming Free to Play; I just hope they do it properly. Release date unannounced.

Fallout Shelter on PC / More Fallout 4 DLC / Skyrim Remaster

All three of these I’m pretty indifferent on. Fallout Shelter is finally coming to PC over a year later than it should have, “for free download on Bethesda.net” [Keeping the micro-transactions I assume? To what extent and why do you think that’ll work on PC? Another launcher; why not Steam?…], but they’re also expanding the game with a new combat system, pets, crafting, new rooms, and more.

The rest of the Fallout 4 DLC filling out the Season Pass (Parts 4-6) offer some interesting additions including custom underground vault building and all sorts of mechanical contraptions (tracks, logic, elevators, scaffolding, armor racks, etc). However that leaves only Nuka-World [August 2016] and the recently released Far Harbor as what seems like the end of it in the way of true expansions to the game. The amount of content wouldn’t be that bad for the average game, but not only are Bethesda notorious for refusing to drop prices of DLC for years after their games launch, but they’ve also started the Season Pass off at $50. Players almost unanimously panned the Wasteland Workshop for being essentially nothing more than a small pack of inconsequential mods. While Vault-Tec Workshop [July 2016] actually seems to be quite a valuable addition, Contraptions Workshop [June 21, 2016] might suffer the same fate as the first, offering very little that free mods don’t already do better. To be honest here, integrating the ideas you see from the modding community is the kind of thing that you just patch into your game because it’s minimal effort for high return in consumer goodwill. Slapping a price tag on it, while also taking up space in a $50 season pass that players assumed would include more meaningful traditional expansions comes of as quite distasteful, especially after being the company that just recently tried to implement paid mods (where they took a ludicrous cut of the profit) and got shot down in one of the biggest backlashes I’ve seen in years. Having lost interest in the game I’m not all that fussed for the time being, but for tons of those who have stuck with the game (and put in their $90-110) seem to be furious, flooding the store page with negative reviews.

Skyrim Special Edition 02

Finally, they’ve announced Skyrim Special Edition, a remaster for PS4/XBO (as the last gen versions were horrid) and PC (FREE for owners of the base and Dawnguard + Hearthfire + Dragonborn, or the Legendary Edition). Featuring “remastered art and effects, volumetric god rays, dynamic depth of field, screen-space reflections and more” with no mention of any new content or mechanical features. Like Fallout 4, they’re adding a modding interface for consoles. For PC users, the immediate concern is modding, as the original stands next to Minecraft as likely the most heavily modded games of all time. If there’s no carryover modders likely wouldn’t be all that enthused with starting over from scratch. Thankfully they’ve already addressed this, stating “basically, yes” in response when questioned about compatibility. While they’ve updated the engine moving to 64 bit, the changes overall seem to be rather minor, and that’s probably for the better. The main thing I’d hope for is more competent support of >60FPS, but judging by the fact that Fallout 4 was barely any better (same engine), I’m doubtful… Releases October 28, 2016.

Dishonored 2

The original Dishonored may very well be my favorite game of all time, at the very least in my top 5. It’s incredibly tactile, engaging, tactical, immersive, versatile, and filled with interesting lore; I absolutely adore it and have wanted more for a while now. Arkane Studios is back, and it’s seems they have delivered. After the initial trailer last year, I was very impressed with the setting but was concerned with the possibility of the game being dumbed-down to appeal to broader audiences… I am relieved to see this early footage and the idea that, they might have just gone and made it even more challenging, complex, and diverse.

We have two playable protagonists this time around, ignoring Daud from the original who was playable in the game’s two expansions. The metal-masked Corvo Attano who is miraculously no longer silent, and Emily Kaldwin who was central to the plot in the original, and is now 15 years older and a hell of a lot tougher. The choice is made at the beginning of the game, and not only are their powers and play-styles said to differ substantially, but Emily can chose to refuse being granted her powers at the start, on top of all the player-dictated objectives and run types that were possible in the original. They’ve confirmed that you will be playing through the same campaign/missions, so it’s not two radically different so, but their perspectives on the world and the dialogue will be, as will animations in an attempt to make the two characters feel very different even beyond their unique abilities.

My preferred way to play (at least for the first time though) is described as “Ghost“, meaning zero kills and no detection, while also aiming to collect all of the upgrades/collectibles throughout the environments. It is by far the slowest way to complete the game, but I find the planning aspect and sheer suspense of it be really engaging. That said the variety of play is really quite limited vs violent runs because of the imbalance of lethal and non-lethal abilities. I’m hoping now that there’s two characters, there will be more options to help diversify that style of play.

Dishonored Map
The industrialized Empire of the Isles, and the mysterious Pandyssian Continent

Dishonored 2 takes place primarily within the capital city Karnaca on the island of Serkonos, directly south of the city of Dunwall (capital of it’s island, Gristol) from the original. Where Dunwall was an a very grey, industrial whaling town with heavily British inspiration, Karnaca takes takes more of a Mediterranean approach (“Spain, Italy, Greece, Cuba”), set in a bay surrounded by mountains, cliffs, and vegetation. The intensity of the sun, and warmer weather overall contrasts clearly, both of which can change at a moments notice with a new dynamic wind/weather system that can hider visibility and mask sounds. Releases November 11, 2016.

Prey Reboot

Arkane Studios next project is a new entry in the Prey ‘franchise’ if you can call it that, after the original release in 2006, and Prey 2 which was announced in 2011 and canceled in 2014 for not meeting their quality standards. It was rumored back then that development had potentially shifted to Arkane among a few other possibilities, but it has been confirmed now that old project and this one are entirely separate; “there is not a single element of Prey 2 [in the new title], other than aliens…”. To be honest, I know almost nothing about the original game, but it seems after hearing from people that do, that this has very little resemblance to the original; potentially a complete re-imagining of the core theme simply taking advantage of an old license.

The pre-rendered trailer is really intriguing to me, as I enjoy playing with fear and psychological horror, but not the needlessly over the top gore that so many films and games seem to go for. Every room slathered in blood, hooks, and saw blades is monotonous and unappealing to me, more than it is scary; it’s totally uninteresting to me. It’s said to be a first person shooter, taking place within some sort of space station, and they’ve specifically drawn parallels between it and Dishonored concerning openness in level design (non-linear environments, but not open world), choice/consequence, and detailed/logical world design… all of which totally have my interest. Slated for sometime in 2017.

For full disclosure, I have no stake in any of the games or companies mentioned and the opinions shared are entirely my own.

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