Free from Criticism? – Bethesda’s Immunity Card in 2017

WHERE IS MY ELDER SCROLLS VI?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was first released in 2011, 5 years after its predecessor, the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. In 2017, we, the Bethesda fans, were so hyped and ready for the announcement or release of the Elder Scrolls VI. Speculations were alive on Youtube, Reddit, etc. about all the different aspects of the new game – which province of Tamriel the game would be set in, what the mechanics will be like, when the game will be set, etc. Yet, what we got was, essentially, a re-release of Skyrim, still wrought with the same bugs as the first version. Yet, for some reason, unlike other publishers, like EA, whose terrible performance in 2017 has even threatened its license by Disney to produce Star Wars games, Bethesda seems to be…immune? Where is the outlash and the violent criticisms? Are Bethesdas fanboys and fangirls really that devout? …and why?

2017 in View
2017 was a mixed bag of goodies for the video gaming community. There were stunningly beautiful and awesomely creative games, but there were also terrible disappointments (I’m looking at you, EA).

Nintendo saw a revival of its dying and disheartened fanbase with the release of the phenomenal Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch. The years before were rife with lackluster releases, along with less than desirable profit growth on their key franchises, such as Pokemon and Fire Emblem, the only new series that seems to live up to the legendary Japanese video game company was Splatoon. However, 2017 was a year of redemption for Nintendo, as many gamers would consider Breath of the Wild to be the best game of 2017.

There were also a few notable PS4 releases that were fantastic as well. My personal favourites were, in no particular order, (1) Horizon Zero Dawn, (2) Nier: Automata, (3) Persona 5, (4) Little Nightmares, and the absolutely addictive (5) Injustice 2 (although Mortal Kombat is still more my style).

I even found myself deeply tugged into the PC addictions that were PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) and Cuphead.

2017 even seemed like the year in which some Triple-A publishers finally found back their sanity, morality, dignity, etc. Assassin’s Creed Origins almost made me forget that whole vomit-inducing disaster that was Unity. It seems like Ubisoft loves to play with their fanbase’s feelings. I was almost ready to call death on the series after Assassin’s Creed: Revelations because Assassin’s Creed 3 sucked. Black Flag was amazing, and then we saw a huge downturn again. Yet, 2017 was the year that Ubisoft got its collective shit together, because they also gave us the phenomenal VR experience that is Star Trek Bridge Crew, for all our nerd Trekkie fantasies. Even Capcom got its act together, somewhat, with Resident Evil 7, which really, in my opinion, rescued the entire series.

Yet, 2017 was not all aromatic flowerbeds and amazing gifts to gamers. It was also the year of micro-transactions, that frankly, completely fucked up some of the most amazing franchises. EA, the money-loving company as they are, ruined 3 different series this year: Mass Effect, Star Wars and Need for Speed. Mass Effect Andromeda, to me, as a long-time Mass Effect fan, is a game I would rather pretend never existed. It is downright insulting. Thankfully, I never had much hope for Star Wars: Battlefront 2, because the first was a complete failure too. Need for Speed: Payback is exactly what it’s title is – “please give me my money back”. As much as I would like to release the shitstorm on EA, that is not the focus of this post.

There were also tons of other disappointments, such as Wolfenstein II and Destiny 2 (for fuck’s sake, Bungie, you used to be my favourite back when I was playing the original Halo).

Where was Bethesda in all of this?
If you are not a Bethesda fan, like I am, of their amazing open-world franchises, Fallout and the Elder Scrolls, then it is likely that my frustration is lost on you. I will still persist to articulate the problem and seek to explain it.

What’s the problem?
For months and months, and even years before that, even before the release of The Elder Scrolls Online, Bethesda fans have been calling for the Elder Scrolls VI. With the first game, Arena, released in 1994, the second, Daggerfall, in 1996, the absolute video game gem that is the third game, Morrowind, in 2002, the fourth, Oblivion in 2006 and finally, Skyrim in 2011, the Bethesda fans collectively looked at their calendars. “Hmm…” we thought to ourselves, “the longest wait between 2 main series games in the Elder Scrolls franchise is 6 years.” “2017?” we wondered, “this must be the year we get our new game!”

How wrong we were.

October 2016: Skyrim Special Edition
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In October 2016, Bethesda ‘re-released’ Skyrim as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition for Windows, Xbox One and Playstation 4. This included the patching of a few quests and bugs, and the edition of a mod system.

BETHESDA, PC GAMERS HAVE BEEN MODDING THIS GAME FOR YEARS, FOR FREE.

Sure, the graphics are improved, but we have mods for that too. I have spent hundreds of hours on the game, modding the absolute shit out of the original Skyrim. The only reason I even know anything about computer programming or coding, is because I had to fix my game so many times after installing way too many mods that either overloaded the system or were incompatible. I learned an entire 2 University courses worth of programming just to fix my damn Skyrim!

I also have a gaming laptop, with a great processor and storage, which means ENBs are not a huge issue for me. In other words, my original Skyrim with mods looks nicer than your Special Edition, Bethesda! I can even play with SkyRe, which makes the game much more difficult, because as someone who played Morrowind, Skyrim is laughably easy.

Yes, I may be nickpicky and a little too fired up, but realise this – (1) Bethesda fans have been waiting 5-6 years for this, which is the average time for a release of a new Elder Scrolls game. (2) Instead of giving us a new game, Bethesda decided to choke the hell out of Skyrim and squeeze every last drop of money it can from it before moving on.

November 2017: Ports to Nintendo Switch and Playstation VR
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For the love of, whether you call him Alkosh, the First Cat or Akatosh, the Dragon God of Time, or Auri-El, chief of the Divines, Bethesda, please! May Stendarr (or because I am Khajiit, S’rendarr) have mercy on your souls, because this is just insulting!

2017 was full of hype for the Elder Scrolls series, because every Bethesda fan knew that, by right, this is the year we should be getting the sixth game in the series. Even that phenomenal jump from Daggerfall to Morrowind, that gave birth to the hallmark of openworld RPG games, took 6 years. Instead of getting any news on that, Bethesda once again decides to greedily milk every last drop they can out of Skyrim by porting it to yet another console.

It’s also insulting because of the thousands of fans speculating on the next game. It wasn’t just a low-level speculation, but one backed with so much evidence and knowledge, we could even make a whole University degree out of it. Fans dug into the deep lore of Tamriel, such as the many different Khajiit races, the landscape of the Black Marsh, the weird habits of the Bosmer, etc., and came up with so many fan theories and expectations. Unlike those other 2017 games, that delivered but fell terribly short, Bethesda did not even deliver.

And herein, lies the problem: Publishers that failed to deliver on popular game series, such as EA, who is currently about to lose their license to publish Star Wars and singlehandedly killed the Mass Effect franchise, have been boycotted, or at least, faced violent outcry from their fans. How is it that Bethesda fans, including myself, seem to be mostly isolated pockets of mere annoyance? How is it that despite these obvious cashgrabs and fan-betraying acts, fans, including me, are still giving Bethesda a chance with such a wide margin for error?

What is the answer?
I think a personal account would help greatly with this.

I first started gaming at 9, when I received the original Xbox. It came with 2 games, the original Halo and Fable: the Lost Chapters. While the first was a game that I did well in, much to the chagrin of my parents (“girls should not be good at video games, especially shooters”), the second was what caught my attention. RPGs. The ability to live as someone else, with the ability to make decisions that change the world around me. That, was beautiful.

At 13, I picked up Oblivion by secretly downloading Steam on my laptop and sneakily buying a wallet code to purchase the game. Back then, I loved the game so much already. The Elder Scrolls series was unique, even among RPGs, because you truly felt like you had absolute control over your character. It was truly non-linear because of the vast amount of side quests and the non-urgency of the main quest. The customisation options were amazing as well. Not only did you customise your character at the start, the way you played the game greatly affected how your character turned out. At one point, it ceased to be a character – that person in the game was me – with my preference of weapons, creativity in spell-crafting, feelings towards different characters, etc.

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Then, my life took a downturn at about 15-16. It was exactly 2011, when it felt like something inside me had really shattered. It was a culmination of (1) family problems, (2) naturally attracting friends who had deep emotional problems, sometimes suicidal, (3) the curse/blessing of being able to sense emotions like they were my own, and (4) the inability to isolate emotions. I was seriously depressed and suicidal, and because of problems at home, it was not the sanctuary it should be. I found myself constantly stressed and depressed, with nowhere to turn to.

Video games were my hiding place. It was the same year that Skyrim was released. Skyrim was a huge step up from Oblivion, in terms of graphics, and while I greatly disliked the fact that the magic creation system was removed, it gave me a world in which I had greater control – over myself and the world around me. It gave me a sense of control, freedom and relaxation I was unable to get in real life. Furthermore, I found myself involved with the Elder Scrolls community more, and it was in the video game community (as I branched out to other games) that I found myself that first little platform to bounce back in life from.

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Even as I moved onto to play other game franchises, the Elder Scrolls remained special to me, not just for sentimental value, but because I slowly came to realise what was so unique about it. In what other game do you really just boot on the game just to walk through a beautiful landscape, killing wildlife randomly, in order to get a sense of relaxation? The Witcher series may also be an amazing RPG series, but no one really does that. That’s because in the Witcher, you are a fixed character – you are Geralt of Rivia. You have a name. In the Elder Scrolls, you have a title, e.g. the Nerevarinethe Hero of Kvatchthe Dragonborn. It gives no indication who your character is in essence, what he/she is capable of aside from what the title says, etc. You are entirely free to create a character of your own, either in your likeness or otherwise. This is why, as you find yourself identifying more with your character, you have instances where you boot Skyrim just to walk through the golden forests of the Rift, as if that character in-game was you.

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My point? This is an introduction post, which is why I gave that story. My theory is that the Elder Scrolls and Bethesda are only immune to criticism, because its games are truly one-of-a-kind. For devout fans of the series, there are few alternatives and no true replacement. It is very easy to become deeply invested in the game series, so much so it is not a game – it is an alternate universe, with its complete and wholesome lore that makes it seem like a world in itself. In other words, (1) the Elder Scrolls is too unique, (2) which leads its fans to become devoted on a much more personal level than other games, and (3) they are less likely to leave the series and any outcry dies down easily.

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