First Look at Bethesda's Line-up
We will continue our little tour of the publishers present at last E3 with one of the kings of open world games, Bethesda Softworks. It is then no wonder that the three titltes we saw behind closed doors all featured a very large open environment. The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, the impressive Rage or even Prey 2 had all very promising things to show. You want to know more, follow me inside!
For the first time in my life during a presentation, all I could think of was to steal the controller from the hand of our host. Even though the game clearly was not the best-looking title of this year's E3 (the award goes to Rage by far), the level of details is still rather impressive. Indeed, it is very easy to just lose oneself contemplating a flowing river, or the effect of the wind on the surrounding vegetation. The environment is so lively that even the developer demoing the game was surprised when a fox just jumped out of a bush without warning. Note for later, you don't want to catch a developer off guard when his avatar is holding a sword. The fox learned it the hard way believe me.
During our little walk, we could see beautiful mountains in the distance as well as a running stream just ahead of us. We then headed to a nearby village in which a few merchants offered jobs to anyone willing to make a little money. It includes the main character, obviously. Leaving the village behind, we took a small path leading towards the snowy peaks. Alas, two or three bandits decided to assault us so we could see the new combat system in action. It is now possible to hold a weapon in one hand and cast spells with the other. Different combinations are possible depending on what you prefer of course; you can use two melee weapons to increase the speed of your attacks or you can combine two types of spells to cause more damage.
Once we got rid of our assailants, we headed towards the entrance of a spooky-looking cave. We had barely time to reach the place when a dragon popped out of nowhere to attack us. That sequence was most probably scripted but it was nonetheless impressive. As we did not have time to play hero, we rushed inside the cave to avoid confrontation. After exploring the cave a bit, we finally got to a mysterious gate. No signs of any type of mechanism to open it, except for some strange symbols. A code unlocking the gate? Lucky as we were, we seemed to possess the necessary item to crack that code. First things first though, we observed this item thoroughly using the new 3D inventory. This new feature allows to look for clues by manipulating objects, or read books by actually turning the pages.
After we found the proper code, the gate opened, shaking the ground of the whole corridor heavily. A blue glowing light appeared in the room behind and we soon discovered it was coming from the powerful artifact we had been after. These stones contain the knowledge of the Dragon people of Skyrim. Thankfully, the main character is one of the very few humans to be able to learn the content of the stones instantly. In fact, dragons are intelligent creatures and they even have their own language. The hero's task is to try to understand everything about them. Why? That we do not know yet. Unsurprisingly, this quest does not make dragons very happy, which is why they will attack in a completely random manner.
The demo continued after we left the cave, when, in the middle of a prairie, we ran into a herd of mammoths. At that moment, we could feel nothing but respect for the gigantic animals. A feeling obviously not shared by our host who started to attack one of them. Quite logically, the wounded animal fought back and tried to impale us with its tusks. All of a sudden, a dragon came out of the blue and grabbed the mammoth before taking him away up in the sky. Again, it's probably safe to assume that the scene was somehow scripted for the presentation, but it worked pretty well. The dragon was not done with us though, so it came back spitting fire and screaming words in an unknown language. The battle was fierce, with the hero using his thunder spells to hit the flying beast. After a few minutes, the dragon came back to continue the fight on the ground. A fight that did not last long as a critical hit sent it to a dying agony, its screams sending another mysterious message. Each dragon you kill gives you access to new knowledge after you absorb their soul.
This new episode in the Elder Scrolls series could very well make the previous games pass for mere DLC. We only had a short glimpse of the map, and given its size, hundreds of hours will probably be necessary to unveil all its secrets. Even if the game does not look that impressive visually speaking, the possibilities are so many that the graphics should not be much of an issue in the end. Dragons will obviously have a central role in the main plot, but it is also evident that random encounters will have huge consequences on the player. Many new ideas like the 3D inventory or the new combat system are welcome additions to the franchise. Provided the main quest manages to be more interesting and better paced than Oblivion's, Skyrim could become our long-awaited dream game.
Rage was the only playable game at Bethesda's booth. When I first saw it, I figured this had to be the PC version of the game. Little did I know it was in fact the Xbox 360 build. The developers of ID Software undoubtedly know what they are doing, as the game looks absolutely stunning on Microsoft's console and I can only imagine how incredible it looks on a high end PC. Textures are unbelievable and only a few minor glitches could be seen in the distance once in a while. The mission we got to try asked us to retrieve an engine part which was missing in the main character's buggy. Fortunately, we did not have to go on foot since we had a quad at our disposal. The first words we exchanged with the locals allowed us to enjoy the typical American accent from the westerns of the 60's. Once outside, we could really feel the heat that came from the burning sun, thanks to nice dynamic lighting effects.
If you cannot expect the size of the map to be as huge as Skyrim's, it appears there is still plenty of open spaces to drive through. Some places are more welcoming than others so you should always be prepared in case you run into a bad crowd. Exploring the environs on wheels is immediately a lot of fun and it is very tempting to stop in the most intriguing areas. Unfortunately, the demo did not give us much freedom as many places seemed locked. The sensation of speed is good, emphasized by the motion blur effect of the vehicle's boost. Also worth noticing is the fact that GPS have survived the cataclysm and still work to point us in the right direction.
After a short ride, we arrived at our destination and continued on foot. We walked down a winding path in the middle of a canyon to a nearby derelict building.. Just our luck, the place was heavily guarded by an angry bunch. Time to let the guns do all the talking. A few gunshots later, we were finally inside and, again, we were stunned by the very detailed rooms. Many objects could be picked up, so we started to look for explosives to blow up the door leading to our objective. Once it was done, the remaining bandits tried to offer resistance but what were they to do against a powerful shotgun? It did not take long to find what we had come for and that's when the demo ended.
To find out what happens next, we will have to wait, just like you, but one thing is certain, rage is a lot more exciting than some might have thought. The world seems rather big, the game looks gorgeous and actually narrows down the gap between consoles and PC. The only downside we found was the AI which was not always at its best. There is still time before the game is released in October so let's hope it will be improved. Exploration on foot and on wheels seems promising and we can't wait to see more. Definitely one of the good surprises of this year's E3.
Usually, when a title is followed by "2", it makes sense to assume it is going to be a sequel. Things aren't that simple when it comes to Prey 2, as it is clear that the two games only share their common name, nothing more. In Prey 2, you play the role of a bounty hunter whose main motivation is to make loads of money. Set in an open-world futuristic extraterrestrial environment, the story will take you from one contract to another, with a good share of gadgets and alien-made weapons. The city you evolve in seems pretty big and very lively. It is obviously not built like human cities as it spreads in about every direction. You can walk freely anywhere you like and decide to interact or not with the world, choosing whether or not you want to intervene should a random event occur. For example, you can run into a poor fellow who gets beat up and either save him, help the others finish the job, or even kill everyone so they all get their share of love from you.
If you prefer to focus on more specific tasks, you can accept new contracts and track down your prey. Some guys are pretty easy to capture, others require a more methodical approach. When your target is protected by bodyguards, you need to find the best solution to get to him/her. You can either try to bribe one of the guards, sneak in, or simply use your firepower to get in. Should you use the latter solution, your prey will most likely try to run away, but it is not really a problem considering your free runner skills. As a matter of fact, the main character can run faster than most people, jump off from impressive heights and climb just about anything that stands in his way. A gadget even allows to hover for a short time to cross larger gaps. When you capture an enemy, you can either decide to kill him or let him live, but negotiating with him is still an option if you want to make more money. Delivering your prey alive to your client is achieved thanks to a very useful teleporting device, but you may also have to torture the prisoner in order to get more information. be careful though as Jack Bauering someone is bad for their health.
One may wonder why the development team decided to entitle their game Prey 2 when it has so little in common with the original. That being said, the new open world aspect of Human Head Studios' title seems really promising in terms of gameplay. What's more, you don't get to play a bounty hunter that much in video games. I may be mistaken but the last game I remember was Star Wars Bounty Hunter on PS2. Keep a close eye on this one then, as we sure liked what we saw.
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Driftwood GSY is getting some nice content at 3 pm CEST with our July podcast and some videos of the Deus Ex Mankind Divided preview build. :) (> 3 Months ago)
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