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Bethesda at E3 2019: the biggest announcements, trailers, and games

Period pieces and demons — and NPCs are back in Fallout 76!

Deathloop, coming soon from Arkane Lyon and Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda Softworks
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

After five years, Bethesda Softworks is no longer a new face in the E3 keynote game. The home of Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein and the Elder Scrolls followed Microsoft this evening with the full spectrum of major-publisher topics and offerings. It all began with an air-clearing of sorts for Fallout 76. Here it is, along with the rest of today’s biggest announcements.

Bethesda Softworks via screenshot

Todd Howard acknowledges the elephant in the room

Give Bethesda its due, the company didn’t shy away from Fallout 76, whose developers have spent the past six months mopping up from an archetypal “troubled,” “beleaguered” or just plain rough launch.

“We’ve had an incredible year at Bethesda Game Studios,” said Todd Howard, the game’s director and Bethesda’s face of development. “Given some of that excitement, I’m impressed you’re still here.”

“Take Fallout 76,” he said (but he did not add “please.”)

It was Howard’s call — insistence might be a better word — that Fallout 76 not have any human NPCs, to emphasize the human multiplayer component. That gamble backfired, and Fallout 76 at launch seemed lifeless, rote, and greatly disappointing to fans of the RPG, particularly since Bethesda took it over a decade ago. This acknowledgement, at least, shows Bethesda won’t bury its mistakes or paper them over with E3-season hype and PR.

And that’s good because ...

Human NPCs are returning to Fallout 76

The more immediate big news for Fallout 76 may be the introduction of a battle royale (“Fuck yeah, we put a battle royale in Fallout 76,” said BGS’ co-director, Tom Mustaine), which is coming later this summer after a week-long free preview on all platforms. But the bigger news may be the Wastelanders expansion, which will land later in the fall.

“That’s right, human NPCs are coming back to Fallout 76,” project manager Jeff Gardiner said (to which someone in the audience replied, “Fuck yeah!”). This followed a trailer in which the Overseer of Vault 76 dryly acknowledged, “I don’t think any of us ever expected people to come back.”

Arkane’s new game is Deathloop

Man, what is it about Bethesda developers and crashed space stations? There’s one slammed into the middle of the Black Reef, the setting for Arkane Studios’ next game, Deathloop. Viewers were treated to an extended scene-setter for the game, which unfolds as a showdown between co-protagonists Colt and Julianne. Deathloop also looks like it will deliver the same displaced-time setting and stylizations that are a hallmark of Arkane games (Dishonored) as well as other Bethesda franchises.

Doom Eternal gets a launch date

The Doom Slayer goes back to hell on Nov. 22, 2019, on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows and Xbox One. Bethesda dropped the news with another lengthy trailer, this one setting up the story for the sequel to 2016’s Doom. There’s also a bigtime collector’s edition, which includes the Doom Slayer’s helmet, but again, in light of Fallout 76, not sure Bethesda wants to run such a high profile on special edition premiums, nome sayin’?

Also inside the Doom Eternal block was a rundown of a new mode, succinctly called Battlemode (trailer above). It pits two demon-controlling (and spawning) users against one fully tricked out human Doom Slayer. Plenty more on Battlemode will be shown off at QuakeCon this summer, which Bethesda’s Pete Hines said will go by “DoomCon” for the game’s 25th anniversary.

Ghostwire: Tokyo is Tango Gameworks’ spooky follow-on

Horror specialists Tango Gameworks, known for The Evil Within (2014) and The Evil Within 2 (2016) with Bethesda, take their brand of foreboding adventure and grisly, occult-inflected suspense to the streets of Tokyo. A spate of disappearances points to a demonic infestation that the player must clean out.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood continues the period-piece theme

When you have a franchise built on the lucrative, crowd-pleasing action of killing Nazis, you gotta pull that thread as long as it will go. This time, Machinegames lands in Paris 1980, chock full of synthpop, new wave goodness. B.J. Blazcowicz’s twin daughters, Jess and Soph, are looking for dear old dad. In this alternate past, the Nazis won World War II, of course, but nothing has been said about disco and whether that survived the late 1970s. Guess we will find out.

The next level of puzzles.

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