What Happened To Bethesda?

It’s been a rough year for Bethesda. If this was a smaller, lesser known company, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shut their doors. The ignorance, greed, and total disconnection from the fans has been staggering with things only getting worse. So, why has this happened? Why has Bethesda been falling down a really long staircase this generation? Honestly, I believe this all started with horse armor.

Horse armor has been memed to death at this point, and I’m not here to make fun of it (even though it’s ridiculous). At the time, this was one of the greediest moves Bethesda could make. Nobody was happy that they had to pay $2.50 for a simple cosmetic item, but if you think about it, in a weird way Bethesda was ahead of its time. How many times this year alone have you heard, “There’s microtransactions but it’s only cosmetics so it’s okay”? It wasn’t okay all those years ago when Bethesda did it, so why is it okay now?

Aside from the horse armor incident, Bethesda had an amazing run last generation. We saw The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, and the insanely massive juggernaut, Skyrim, all critically and commercially well received. What has Bethesda churned out this generation? The surprisingly divisive among fans, Fallout 4, a port of Skyrim, and *shivers* Fallout 76. Personally, I’m a fan of Fallout 4 although I completely understand why some fans really don’t like it. A lot of the RPG elements were taken out, and it was more action focused. The main story was ‘meh’ and was very similar to Fallout 3, so it felt kind of lazy. My personal favorite Fallout game is New Vegas, but Bethesda didn’t develop that one (thank you, Obsidian). Another port of Skyrim really should’ve have surprised me but it did. I felt like it hadn’t even been that long since we last played the game. 

So let’s look at this: Skyrim was released in 2011, then two years later it was re-released with “Legendary Edition” slapped onto it. Three years later we saw Skyrim come to current-gen systems,  a year later it came to Nintendo Switch, and a year after that Skyrim arrived for VR headsets. That’s the same game, released five times over the course of seven years. That’s insane, not to mention it’s downright lazy. Rather than put out a new game, it seems Bethesda would rather release the same game over and over again. There was a five-year gap between Oblivion and Skyrim. But as our “Lord and Savior” Todd Howard once said, “If you want us to stop releasing it, stop buying it”. Money talks louder than fans I guess. Then there’s, Fallout 76.

Right from the moment it was announced, Fallout 76 was a mess. Nobody knew what the game was when the trailer released. We didn’t know if it was going to be another Fallout: New Vegas, an MMO, or an online co-op game. Unfortunately for everyone, it was an always online game in a similar vein as Destiny which nobody wanted. Some were hopeful prior to the game’s release—I was not one of those people and with good reason. I hated everything I had seen. No single-player campaign? No NPCs? Literally no other characters? Boy that sure does sound fun, doesn’t it? When Fallout 76 released, it was (and still is) a buggy mess; textures not loading, game crashes, and enemies not dying just to name a few. Not to fear though as Bethesda was going to fix everything this year! The free update that was going to save everything, called Wastelanders, was going to add missions, NPCs, and dialogue trees—things that should’ve been there from the start, considering it’s a RPG. I won’t even give Bethesda praise for continuously working on the game for free because none of this should’ve needed fixing in the first place. Bethesda however, had to sadly delay the update, until 2020 but that’s okay, we can all wait right?…. right?

Fallout 1st. If this isn’t the biggest offender of greed that Bethesda has offered, then I don’t know what is. If you don’t know by now, Fallout 1st is a subscription service that Bethesda is offering for Fallout 76 players for $100 a year. Yep, you read that right, $100. So, for that much money you must be getting something pretty substantial, right? Well let’s see: A survival tent which has a stash, a sleeping bag that works as a fast travel point, private worlds (which is broken), unlimited storage scrapbox (which is also broken), some atoms every month, exclusive emotes, icons, and Ranger armor. Starting with the survival tent, this idea to me feels lazy. Is a place-able fast-travel point really worth the asking price? Is it really that much to ask gamers now to fast travel to the nearest location to where they want to go and just walk? Or just skip fast travel entirely and walk everywhere?

Private worlds would’ve actually been a decent feature, if it worked. If you were to create a private world now, any friend can join—regardless if you invite them or not. The unlimited storage box (regardless if it worked or not) feels like a lazy addition. It’s useful, sure, but considering Bethesda is touting this as a “premium service,” it feels a little lackluster that this is one of their main selling point. It’s literally just a storage box that has an unlimited weight cap. On top of that, it’s not really being a thoughtful addition, since it eats any item you place in there. At least the atoms, emotes and icons work. In Destiny you can pay for emotes and icons, so I guess we’re used to paying for those. I wouldn’t pay $100 a year for them but I have bought a few in Destiny, so I do see the appeal. Then there’s the Ranger armor. Sure, it looks cool and yes, it is iconic, but you can also get the exact same armor by downloading a free mod.

Not only have Bethesda put out a broken, almost unplayable Fallout game, but they tacked on this lazy excuse for a subscription service rather than putting out decent and fulfilling content. I wouldn’t be complaining so much if what they were offering was worthwhile, but when all they can offer is a few emotes, a piece of armor (that you can get for free), an unlimited storage box, private worlds, and a place-able fast-travel point, it begs to question if Bethesda even care what they put out anymore. This service would be worthwhile to me if they were to add substantial expansion packs and you’d get them for free through the subscription service. Something like that would work well, almost like a Netflix subscription. You could subscribe to Fallout 76 and get access to all these expansion packs and exclusive items, but if that’s not your thing, you can still buy the expansions separately.

What happened to Bethesda? Laziness and greed. The writing was on the wall way back with horse armor. That’s not to say the next Elder Scrolls or Starfield won’t be amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve complained a lot, but I genuinely love most of the games that Bethesda have put out. I love Skyrim, it just annoyed me how much Bethesda has re-released that game rather than come out with something new. I love Fallout 4, despite missing the RPG elements from the previous games, but in terms of world building and being a genuinely fun time, I played the hell out of it. This is why it’s hard right now. I hate seeing Bethesda turn into a greed machine. I really hope by the time these new games come out, we’ll see the Bethesda that cares. They’ll probably come out buggy and possibly have game-breaking bugs (which is unacceptable—look at The Outer Worlds to see how it’s done properly) that players will no doubt accept and call the “Bethesda charm” but at this point, I’d take that over another Fallout 76 debacle.

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