PC Gamer

It's no secret that Morrowind is my favorite Elder Scrolls game of all time, and so I very much hope that this Reddit thread, which claims to have datamined a map of Vvardenfell in The Elder Scrolls Online, isn't some sort of hoax. What it teases isn't exactly the land of Dunmer and the Tribunal as it was—there are no Imperial outposts, for one thing, because the island isn't an Imperial colony during the time of TESO—but it comes awfully close. 

The poster claims to have found "a ton of new tilesets" for Redoran, Telvanni, and Hlaalu towns, Vivec (the city, not the God-King), Dunmer strongholds, and Dwemer ruins. Seyda Neen, the town where Morrowind begins, is also in there, and apparently uses custom assets that make it look exactly as it did in 2002. Red Mountain appears to be inaccessible, and the foreign quarter in Vivec, the largest city on the island, isn't there either. (Which, like the absence of Imperial castles, makes sense: The Elder Scrolls Online predates Morrowind by roughly 1000 years.)   

But there will also be new places to explore, including Redoran and Hlaalu towns, one near the Andasreth stronghold and the other close to Caldera, that weren't present in Morrowind. Based on the development maps, it will also be the largest PvE zone in the game, even with Red Mountain cordoned off—possibly close to twice the size of the Wrothgar zone. 

It's all unverified, but as VG247 points out, it's awfully detailed for a hoax. Also relevant is that May 1 will mark Morrowind's 15th anniversary, and given that it's the game that really pushed The Elder Scrolls series into the gaming mainstream, I'd be truly surprised if Bethesda didn't do something to celebrate. Giving players a chance to return to return to Vvardenfell, even centuries prior to the Septim Dynasty, would serve the purpose nicely. 

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

If I was a betting man, I’d have put money on Enderal, the vast Skyrim total conversion, winning the public vote for ModDB‘s mod of the year. That I’d have lost all that money is why I’m not a betting man. Enderal came second behind Stalker: Call of Chernobyl, a similarly vast total conversion for the enduring Stalker: Call of Pripyat. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

SureAI’s huge Skyrim total conversion Enderal: The Shards of Order [official site], which builds a whole new game upon Bethesda’s foundations, is getting an expansion of its own in 2017. Enderal’s launch this year was dang impressive – “play this excellent mod,” said Cobbo – but a few bits were cut from the initial release. Now the game’s lead writer has picked those up off the cutting room floor and is polishing them up for Forgotten Stories with 10-20 hours of new quests and new quest lines, along with a few other nice odds and ends. Have a peek in the announcement trailer below. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Bethesda Game Studios executive producer and game director Todd Howard, the driving force behind the mega-popular Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, has been announced as the 22nd inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Howard "has created some of the industry's most success games by pioneering open-world gameplay," the AIAS said, adding that the games he's headed up "have been recipients of numerous DICE Awards throughout the years." 

Howard has been with Bethesda since the early '90s, beginning as a producer and designer on The Terminator: Future Shock. From there, he did design work on Daggerfall and Skynet in 1996, and then ascended to project leader on The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard in 1998, and Morrowind in 2002. Every major Bethesda RPG since then (which is to say, all of them) bears his name as either executive producer or game director.   

"Todd's impact on his studio, our company, and the gaming industry as a whole has been truly remarkable," Bethesda VP Pete Hines said. "When you look at the very best game developers of all time—the 21 members of the AIAS Hall of Fame—I think Todd deserves to have his name right alongside of them as the best of the best." 

Howard will be joining the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, John Carmack, Will Wright, Richard Garriott, Gabe Newell, Hideo Kojima, and numerous other industry luminaries as a member of the HOF. It's an impressive list of names by any measure, and a fitting end to a remarkable year: Howard also earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual GDC, while Fallout 4 claimed the Game of the Year award at the 19th DICE Awards, along with the nod for Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction—another accolade for Howard, who served as game director.   

"Todd is revered by legions of fans not just for his creative leadership over the years but for his humility and humor,” AIAS vice chairman Ted Price said. “Despite the fact that he’s helmed several of the most successful franchises in the history of our industry, he consistently defers praise to others and is the quintessential team player. Yet it’s Todd’s vision and strong direction that has brought Tamriel and the Commonwealth to life for millions around the world."

Howard will be presented with the Hall of Fame Award during a ceremony at the 20th DICE Awards on February 23, 2017, at the Mandalay Convention Center in Las Vegas—ironically, the setting for the one major Bethesda-era Fallout RPG that he didn't work on. 

PC Gamer

Oblivion fans, this is sure to tug on your strings. Skyblivion, a modding project aiming to recreate the entirety of Oblivion in Skyrim, has released a new teaser trailer highlighting another year of hard work. Above, feast your eyes on a number of locations from Oblivion (including the entrance to The Shivering Isles). Set to the Oblivion soundtrack, the four-minute teaser provides an enticing look at Cyrodiil through the lens of the more recent Elder Scrolls RPG.

We don't yet have a release date for this expansive mod, but in an email modder Kyle Rebel told me, "Now that the base game is done we can focus on implementing the quests, voice acting and finish all the weapon and armor sets." That's a considerable amount of work still to do, but it's hard not to marvel at the progress that has already been made.

The Skyblivion team is also looking for volunteers to join the effort. If you're interested, you might want to pop them a tweet or join the forums at their website.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

As another year ends, it’s time to reflect on all that’s been done and all that’s still to come. So they tell me, anyway; I try to drink away any concept of the past or future. But bless ’em, the gang remaking The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion have worked hard and are proud of their work. A new trailer shows off Skyblivion [official site] as it stands now and yep, that’s looking a lot like Oblivion rebuilt in Skyrim. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

DOOM, Skyrim and Fallout have been recreated as Pinball FX2 [official site] tables. Because nobody else at RPS has the flippin’ guts to take on such a massive task, I’ve spent a couple of hours with each, and have now judged them. Short version, I like them about as much as I like the games they’re based on, which means one is great, and the other two are a bit of a ballache. To find out precisely what I mean by that, join me below.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

I’ve been playing a fair bit of actual physical pinball lately, having discovered a half-dozen machines across nearby pubs. My favourites put their themes into motion, like the NBA table where I get to launch the ball at a hoop (aided by mystical magnetism). The selection isn’t ideal, mind; I’m not much into basketball and Monopoly is so undesirable. No, digital pinball is a far better way to #engage with your favourite modern #brands in #brandball. Look, here come three new Bethesda-y DLC tables for Pinball FX2 [official site], plinging balls into Skyrim, Fallout, and Doom. Come see! … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

Black Friday 2016 is finally here, and it’s of course the biggest day for deals yet. We’ve rounded up the best below, so if you’re looking for great games or PC hardware, step inside.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Skyrim turns five years old today, and what better way to celebrate its anniversary than by talking about its predecessor, the ten-year-old Oblivion, and why it s a better game. This isn t meant as some big diss on Skyrim, which is a great RPG I ve spent over 200 hours playing. But Oblivion is still better, and here s why:

The guild questlines

The guild storylines in Skyrim had strong stories and enjoyable adventures, but they absolutely pale in comparison to Oblivion s. Oblivion had the Fighter s Guild questline and its gut-wrenching reveal after you wipe out a group of goblins, the Mage s Guild story filled with intrigue, necromancers, and a surprising amount of destruction, and the Thieves Guild quests which culminate in the thrilling theft of an Elder Scroll from deep within the Imperial Palace.

The best, of course, was the Dark Brotherhood questline (spoilers to follow). Taking a nap after killing someone who perhaps didn t deserve it resulted in a recruitment pitch from a member of the Dark Brotherhood, Lucien Lachance. Join the guild and you ll be dispatched to eliminate a series of targets as you work your way up the Brotherhood s ladder.

The story includes an amazing mission to visit a party where you re assigned to kill everyone in attendance, with a bonus goal of making sure no one ever knows you re the killer. You can talk to your targets, discover the best ways to isolate them from the rest of the guests, and bump them off one-by-one, always deflecting the suspicions elsewhere. You can even convince one of the two remaining guests to kill the other, making your job that much easier. Brilliant, bloody fun.

And there s a fantastic twist to the Brotherhood questline. Midway through a series of dead drop assassination missions, Lucien suddenly appears to ask just what the hell you ve been doing. It turns out the dead drops you ve been receiving orders from have been compromised, your instructions have been replaced by an interloper, and you ve actually spent the past few missions murdering members of the Dark Brotherhood s inner circle! Ahh delicious.

Lucius winds up being blamed for the mis-killings, tortured, hung like a side of beef, and even partially eaten. It s a truly shocking and dispiriting moment to see him strung up naked, dead, and mutilated. Lucien was the slickest and coolest dude in the game, someone far too cool to wind up dangling upside down with half his face gone. That kind of thing doesn t happen to cool people, does it? In Oblivion, it does. Man. What a fantastic story.

Spellcrafting

Perhaps as a way to streamline Skyrim a bit to appeal to more players, some of the complexities of Oblivion were left behind. In particular, the ability to craft spells. Using an Altar of Spellmaking opened a pane where you could select the magical effects you had learned and were able to cast, and use them to create custom spells. You could set the range of the spell, the area of effect, and the duration, the parameters of which were determined by the Magicka cost and your skill level. You could mix, match, and combine effects, stack spells, and even name them. It was a fantastic feature, and its absence from Skyrim feels especially odd now, since crafting has become such a big element in games the past few years.

Daedra are better than dragons

I ll admit the main storyline of Oblivion isn t especially great. Closing those damn Oblivion gates, one after another after another, becomes a real slog. But if you ask me, battling the Daedra in Oblivion is still better than battling Skyrim s unending and frankly boring parade of dragons.

The first time you see a dragon in Skyrim, it s very cool. The first time you fight one, it s extremely exciting. Then you fight another. Then another. Eventually it becomes dull, and then simply a nuisance, something that makes you wearily climb off your horse for a minute or two. Now, I just let out a sigh when one appears circling overhead, and many times I ve killed it and stripped it for parts so quickly that I m already selling its bones to an unimpressed shopkeeper before I ve fully finished absorbing its soul.

I prefer the Daedra because they don t swoop down on me when I m hunting deer or walking through town or picking Nirnroot by a riverside. Plus, there s the added bonus of discovering Mythic Dawn agents in Oblivion, townsfolk who secretly worship the cult. In Skyrim, did you ever discover that a dragon was disguised as an average citizen? No. It would have been cool, though.

(Slightly) Better expansions

This is almost a tie, but I give the edge to Oblivion. Skyrim s expansions were a mixed bag: Dawnguard gave you the chance to become a vampire lord, but didn t provide a heck of a lot of adventure, and Hearthfire let you build a house perhaps serving as a precursor to what would eventually become Fallout 4 s settlement building feature but it wasn t much fun. Dragonborn was very good, though the selling point, dragon-riding, was a big disappointment.

Oblivion s expansions were Knights of the Nine, which wasn t exactly sprawling but had a great main quest, and Shivering Isles, which provided a couple dozen hours of exciting and bizarre adventures as you meet the Daedric Prince of Madness, become his champion, and eventually wear his crown. Most of the rest of Oblivion s DLC was forgettable (except for the Horse Armor Pack, which no one will ever forget), giving the player a couple of quests to claim new headquarters, but Mehrune s Razor stood out by providing a surprisingly large underground area to sneak and stab your way through if you happen to be an assassin (which I was at the time). Good stuff.

Enemy scaling

I know a lot of players didn t care for the fact that the enemies in Oblivion scale alongside them as they played, and I can see the downsides of it myself. There s a certain satisfaction in evolving into an immensely powerful being who can easily wipe out scores of enemies, the same enemies that gave them trouble when they were low-level. It s a reward for progress: those skeletons you had trouble fighting as a beginner now shatter with one fearsome swing, and it feels good.

Oblivion didn t work that way, and I admit it was a bit weird. At low levels, you might face a desperate highwayman wearing rags, or be attacked by a couple of wolves. Once you ve gained some levels, you ll notice the highwayman is wearing better gear and the wolves have been replaced by much meaner boars. Gain more levels and the robber will be decked out in expensive glass armor and the boars are now fearsome mountain lions. You never get a chance to mow down those simple skeletons when you come back as a high-level character, because those skeletons are gone, having become high-level wraiths and liches. It doesn t make a whole lot of sense.

There is an upside, though, a big one, and it s found in the immense freedom the game gives you the moment you finish the tutorial. You can wander anywhere on the map, absolutely anywhere, and find an appropriate challenge. You don t have to worry about being gutted in a heartbeat just because you re level 2 and you wandered into an area with level 20 monsters. The world is yours to explore, every inch of it, right from the start. Less realistic? Less immersive? Yeah, I would say so. But you get so much more freedom, and each time you begin a new game you can start anywhere you like.

Bonus sixth reason

The Adoring Fan. You pretend to hate him, but you love him and miss him. Go on back and play Oblivion. He ll be waiting.

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