I’d like to tell you all a story: Back in 2008, I had moved to a new city. I didn’t really have any friends, nor was I part of any clubs at the time. I eventually did make some new friends, who formally introduced me to a game that I’ve only heard mentions of before: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This was a game unlike any other I had played! It was an open world RPG that let me do whatever I want, while at the same time being an interesting universe with diverse side-quests.
There was so much meaningful side-content and fun things to do that I found myself losing many hours to the game. Oblivion was a game that had issues, but did so many things right that it made up for them. It had a colorful and beautiful open-world, with a ton of fun and engaging side-quests, a decent variety of enemies, and a massive amount of things to do.
Oblivion certainly had its problems, there’s no doubt about that. There were bugs, terrible facial designs, a somewhat bland combat system, and a terrible interface. Despite this, the game is still a lot of fun to play today, even without mods. As much as I dug Oblivion, it started a horrible trend that still plagues Bethesda to this very day: Oversimplifying the RPG concepts and and gameplay.
With each open-world RPG game after Oblivion, Bethesda began to make each game simpler and simpler. This got worse once Bethesda got the license to the “Fallout” game series. Bethesda then churned out Fallout 3, a game that simplified many elements of the core Fallout franchise. While Fallout 3 is hailed as a cult classic, many classic Fallout fans downright despise the game.
Still, the game was a fairly fun solid experience and had a ton of well-priced DLC. After Fallout 3, Bethesda allowed Obsidian to develope the next game, which was titled “Fallout: New Vegas”. This allowed some of the people who originally made the series to create a new game for the franchise, while Bethesda was busy finishing Skyrim. What resulted was a Fallout game that managed to please both old fans and new.
New Vegas was released as a spinoff to the main series, but had much more in common with the first two games. In fact, NV was more of a sequel to Fallout 2 than Fallout 3 was! New Vegas introduced more roleplaying elements, features that previous open-world games by Bethesda was lacking. As great as New Vegas was, it was really just a filler game for the series. It’s plot didn’t factor in to Bethesda’s Fallout games, so Bethesda mostly pretended it didn’t happen.
This lead Bethesda to one of their biggest mistakes ever: Fallout 4. Now, recently I’ve been playing Fallout 4. I just got into the game for the first time and I can say that it’s actually a pretty entertaining game. Sure, certain quests are broken beyond belief, there’s a ton of bugs, the story is kind of lame, and the role-playing elements have been dumbed down considerably, but it’s still pretty fun.
The problem isn’t with Fallout 4 itself, but with how Bethesda handled it. You see, Fallout 4 became one of the best-selling games for Bethesda ever. This is great for the company, but it was also too big of a success for a company like Bethesda to handle. Due to the game being such a huge success, Bethesda became sloppy. They jacked up the price of the season pass for the game, and overcharged on the downloadable content.
Worse still, they start banning people on Steam. Why? This comes down to the fact that people were changing to servers from different countries, just so they could play the game a few hours before everyone else. Despite this being more of a minor thing, Bethesda was not happy in the least. Things only got worse from there, however.
Soon, Bethesda made an announcement that they would only give out review copies to the popular Youtubers. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but most of the big name Youtubers will say nothing but positives things about Bethesda’s games. This means that they will also ignore, or choose not to mention the big flaws the games have.
Some may argue that most of the bad choices came down to Zenimax, which is most likely true. Zenimax owns Bethesda Softworks, so it’s only natural they’d handle the business end of things. Still, Bethesda themselves aren’t completely innocent either. Keep in mind that the spokes of Bethesda, Todd Howard lied during an E3 conference. He said that settlement building was optional, and that it also wasn’t needed to beat the game. Both of these things are false, it’s necessary and you have to do it to complete the main story.
Now, a lot of these things are fairly forgivable. They are dumb choices, but they don’t come off as openly antagonist or anti-consumer. You know what does? Bethesda’s Creation Club. I’ve talked about this system before it’s release, but I think it’s not time to talk about the huge debacle that came from this system. The Creation Club was Bethesda’s second attempt at paid mods, by having modders create “new” content exclusively for the platform.
I say “new” with quotations, since a lot of the supposedly new content is based off pre-existing content from past games. Heck, some of the things you can purchase from the CC are just taken from pre-existing mods! Not only that, but the CC breaks most mods. This includes the “Fallout 4 Script Extender”, which allows for more of the creative and more expansive mods to be used.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a giant text advertisement for the CC was shoved into the corner of the title screen. Constantly there, cluttering up the main menu, and always nagging you to try out this system that encourages poorly implemented paid mods. I’m not against modders being paid for their hard work, but they deserved a better system for this.
In short: Fallout 4 may have been a great game, but the things that spun out of it are slowly killing Bethesda. Sure, they will still make a ton of cash with the inevitable Elder Scrolls VI, but they are still going to have to deal with the controversies currently plaguing them. Bethesda used to be a company that I could turn to for a good game, for something solid and something entertaining.
Nowadays, their great games tend to get overshadowed by their shady business practices. I like to support game studios when I can, however Bethesda has proven themselves to be rather untrustworthy as of late. Once you tarnish your reputation enough, it can be hard to repair it. Will I support Bethesda any time in the future? If they get their act together, then I definitely will. Unfortunately, I highly doubt they will. If a company scams it’s audience and gets away with it, they’ll most likely continue to do so.