The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda Games Studios, maker of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, tends to be a pretty secretive place. We won't hear anything for ages and then announcements for Fallout: 76, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 come along at once and everybody frantically starts planning time off work.

The games are great but they're not, according to studio leader Todd Howard,
the greatest thing Bethesda Game Studios does. That honour belongs to something the studio doesn't shout about, a fairly private thing. Every so often Bethesda Game Studios opens its doors to terminally ill children who wish to see where their favourite games are made. It's part of the company's quiet ongoing support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"You want a reality check at work..." -Todd Howard.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

When Todd Howard announced The Elder Scrolls 6 at the end of Bethesda's E3 show, the message was clear: we're working on the game but it's a very long way away. We saw a very brief trailer of a mountainous, coastal environment, and then a logo, and that was it.

But what were we seeing? Was this the setting of the new game or a kind of red herring - a generic Elder Scrollsian scene made for the trailer? Has Bethesda Game Studios even settled on the region we'll play in yet?

I thought we'd wait yonks for an answer but as luck would have it I got one from Todd Howard at Spanish conference Gamelab this week.

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RAGE

The official Rage Twitter account was sparked into life yesterday after the website for Walmart Canada listed a sequel to id Software's 2011 shooter.

Walmart Canada set tongues wagging after listing a raft of unannounced games, including Rage 2, Just Cause 4 and Forza Horizons 5. That's right - there's a listing for a "Forza Horizons 5", which suggests Microsoft is skipping number 4 entirely and has added multiple horizons to Playground's racer franchise.

Did Walmart just spoil the E3 marketing plans for publishers the world over? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Quite a few of the games listed by Walmart are inevitable: a new Assassin's Creed (although Walmart's rudimentary box art misses the possessive apostrophe in Assassin's), Splinter Cell, Gears of War and Borderlands are certainly in the works. We might be looking at an overzealous Walmart employee having a bit of fun.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Glaives, pikes, bardiches, halberds, partisans, spears, picks and lances. Javelins, arbalests, crossbows, longbows, claymores, zweih nder, broadswords and falchions. Flails, clubs, morning stars, maces, war hammers, battle axes and, of course, longswords. If you ever played a fantasy RPG or one of many historically-themed action or strategy games, you'll already be familiar with an impressive array of medieval weaponry. The medieval arsenal has had an enormous impact on games since their early days, and their ubiquity makes them seem like a natural, fundamental part of many virtual worlds.
These items are based on real weapons that have maimed and killed countless real people over the centuries, but even though we're aware of this, medieval weapons have become estranged and distant from their roots in history. Part of this is our short memory; the passing of a few centuries is enough to blunt any relic's sense of reality. Another reason is they were made a staple of genre fiction. In our modern imagination, the blade has become firmly lodged in the rocks of fantasy fiction and historical drama, and no-one will be able to pull it free entirely.
Today, these weapons have been refashioned to serve our very modern fantasies of power, freedom and heroism. There's the irresistible figure of the hero-cum-adventurer who sets out to forge their own path. From Diablo and Baldur's Gate to The Witcher and Skyrim, the fundamental logic of violence stays the same. Battles lead to loot and stronger equipment, which in turn allows our heroes to tackle more dangerous encounters. The wheel keeps turning, and we follow the siren song of ever more powerful instruments of destruction. On the surface, they're problem solving tools, but they also promise the excitement of adventure as well as the power to dominate and enforce our will on those fantasy realms. As such, they become fetishised. Extravagant visual detail and special effects signal a weapon's rarity and power, turning them into ornaments and status symbols.

While the actual violence in such fantasies is often justified by a struggle of good versus evil, the resulting gore and savagery has also captured our imagination. Most games, even mainstream RPGs like Skyrim or The Witcher 3, can't resist indulging in an aesthetic of cruelty and barbarism by showing us the grisly devastation caused by these instruments of murder. Blood spurting from wounds and clinging on blades, heads and arms being hacked off and tumbling through the air, special killing and execution animations captured in glorious slow-motion. Their gruesomeness markedly contrasts with the sanitised, often bloodless effects of modern guns as portrayed in games, disingenuously suggesting that modern violence and warfare is somehow more civilised than that of our ancestors.

Games like For Honor, Mount & Blade, Chivalry or War of the Roses celebrate medieval slaughter with grim nihilism as we hack and slash ourselves through hordes of enemies entirely without any ethical justification. Might makes right, and the means justify the end. The same can be said about the brutal spectacle of the Total War games, whose hordes of clashing soldiers tickle some deep-seated proto-fascist lust for demonstrations of power. These games paint a "grim and gritty" picture of historical violence, the "dark ages" of popular imagination. They're a half-leering, half-wistful gaze into a fantasy version of the past when the destructive urges of our collective Id have not yet been tamed by civilisation and violence was not yet regulated by the moral codes and laws of pervasive state power. In that regard, the butcher and the heroic adventurer use their weapons to pursue the same fantasy: unfettered will and agency, the freedom to follow your impulses regardless of their consequences.

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Dishonored

If you're looking for an expert on immersive sims, speak to Randy Smith.

The 43-year-old American game designer, who lives in Austin, Texas, cut his teeth on the Thief series while working at both Looking Glass and Ion Storm, the two studios considered to have birthed the genre.

After Thief, Smith collaborated with Half-Life 2 art director Viktor Antonov at Arkane, developer of the recent Dishonored and Prey immersive sims, on projects that never came out. Meanwhile, in 2008 Smith, alongside fellow designer David Kalina, founded a new studio called Tiger Style, and designed indie games Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor (2009) and Waking Mars (2012), before a Spider sequel, subtitled Rite of the Shrouded Moon, hit Steam in 2015. But unlike the first Spider game and Waking Mars, Rite of the Shrouded Moon flopped.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda has announced that Skryrim VR will be coming to Steam on April 3rd.

Skyrim VR, which originally launched on PSVR late last year, sees Bethesda's classic open-world fantasy epic rejigged and reworked for virtual reality headsets. As was the case on PSVR, the Steam version of Skyrim VR will include the celebrated base game, alongside the newly VR-ified Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn expansions.

Skyrim is pretty ubiquitous at this point in time, having appeared on six different platforms and in three different guises since its release in 2011 - but Bethesda's thorough virtual reality update, which includes support for VR controllers, is easily one of its most impressive.

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Eurogamer

Fallout 3, which will be 10 years old this year (good grief!), is being remade using the Fallout 4 engine for the Capital Wasteland project.

It's making good progress judging by a new video, which shows the player meeting the Brotherhood of Steel paladins at Tenleytown Station and going on to take down a Super Mutant Behemoth. It doesn't quite have the crumbly atmosphere of the original game but it looks undeniably more up to date.

Here's the Capital Wasteland footage next to relevant sections from the original Fallout 3 game.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It's been six months since E3 2017, when Bethesda announced its intention to add a Creation Club to Skyrim and Fallout 4, their massively-successful mega-RPGs known for their breadth of content and emphasis on player freedom. This club would task third-party developers with producing new pieces for the publisher's two marquee games, which players could then buy from an online storefront with real money. While some decried the service as yet another attempt to introduce paid mods to the single-player gaming ecosystem, Bethesda insisted the market for free fan-made content would remain unaffected. "We won't allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club," reads the FAQ. "It must all be original content."

Following this, in late August Bethesda revealed the initial line-up for Creation Club, which included the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit, both priced at $5 and inspired by similar items introduced in the various expansions for Fallout 3. There was just one little problem - if you searched the Nexus, the massively-populated home of free mods for Bethesda's games, among others, you'd find both the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit already on offer for the low, low price of nothing.

A mild furore erupted. Press pounced on the revelation, which fed the already-boiling fan frenzy over what were considered outrageous prices for sub-par content. Paying $5 for a piece of armour was bad enough, but when the free alternative is superior, the bad deal starts to seem like an out-and-out ripoff. For Road to Liberty, the mod team behind the two projects, it was a confusing development, and one they worked with Bethesda to try to avoid.

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Dishonored


There may be spoilers for the Dishonored series of games ahead.

"The Void is unspeakable. It is infinite and it is nowhere, ever-changing and perpetual. There are more things in the endless black Void, Kirin Jindosh, than are dreamt of in your natural philosophy" (Letter from Delilah). Despite the best efforts of natural philosophers, the world of Dishonored is defined by occult, unknown influences. Here, we performed dark magicks, battled witches, conversed with spirits, and even traversed the distance in-between worlds during our vendetta-fueled travels through Dunwall and Karnaca.

Any inquiry into the metaphysics of Dishonored stands and falls by the Void, that shadowy realm that is the source of all magic, witchcraft and arcane knowledge. Even the Outsider, who appears as an ancient god that grants his arcane mark to the player, ultimately derives his powers from the Void, not the other way around. But the Void is an elusive place that doesn't give up its secrets readily, and we as players don't understand it any better than the seekers of Gristol or Serkonos who struggle to catch so much as a glimpse of it. So, what exactly is the Void, or rather, how should we think about it to make sense of it?

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Nov 26, 2017
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition

When does a console generation arrive?

Most people would agree that the seventh gen started when the Xbox 360 launched but that answers a different and thoroughly less interesting question.

It isn't unreasonable to say that the 360 era arrived on the carrier wave of Patrick Stewart's Royal Shakespeare Company tones announcing the final hours of the life of Uriel Septim 7, god-emperor of Tamriel, whose death serves as the starting gun for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion and quite arguably the golden age of western RPGs that followed. A golden age that includes The Witcher 3, as if anyone needs to be reminded.

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