With E3 having been canceled this year, I was reflecting on how relevant it really still is to the industry as a whole. Personally, the last time I was truly invested in an E3 conference was in 2015, when Bethesda showed off Fallout 4 after a nearly eight-year-long wait.

Since then, there have been very few moments that captured my attention. This isn’t to say that a few interesting things haven’t come out of the annual convention, but of those classic, legendary E3 moments that used to define the gaming year to come, the only one that still stands out to me is the announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI, and it’s not for great reasons. 

The History

I remember when Bethesda finished their E3 press conference in 2018. It’s traditional to have a “one more thing” at the end of a press conference, usually something unexpected or unique to end on a high note. That year, the one more thing was, it seemed, a first look at the long-rumored Starfield.


5 Star: Fallout S2 — T-51 Power Armor – $8.79

from: Things From Another World

The trailer amounted to little more than a logo and a brief snatch of music, which was odd. It clearly wasn’t a finished game, and even according to Bethesda themselves, it was still some ways away. While it was nice to have some official confirmation,  this broke the tradition of the studio not announcing a game until it was nearly done. As I prepared to close the stream and get some sleep, they announced that they had yet another thing to show.

I thought, just for a moment, how funny it would be if it was The Elder Scrolls VI. Then I heard the music, and my heart soared, and when the logo came up on the screen, I almost screamed. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, thinking it was still years away, but it had just been announced out of nowhere. I was ecstatic, and that feeling stayed with me throughout the entire summer, even as the red flags started to pop up. The lack of gameplay and details were bad enough, but the fact that, much like Starfield, the studio confirmed the game was a long way off was discouraging.

Why had they chosen to show it so far in advance, especially when the strategy that had been used by announcing Fallout 4 just months before launch had been so successful? The answer seems obvious now, but cut me some slack; I was completely caught up in the hype. 

Now, when Fallout 76 had first been shown off by the studio at that same conference, I was cautiously optimistic. It looked like more Fallout 4, something that I was willing enough to play. By the time the game launched, and the world saw what a disaster it was, I was still holding out hope it would be redeemed, but even a year and a half after launch, the game is still underwhelming at best, nonfunctional at worst. The thing is though, Fallout 76 is no longer what’s concerning. It’s a write off, something that can be more or less ignored in the wider industry. What is concerning is what it means for the next Elder Scrolls game. 

The Fall(out) From Grace

Skyrim, along with being possibly my favorite game of all time, was a massive cultural touchstone that permeated nearly every layer of culture. A moment in my life that stands out to me is when my grandmother referenced a line from the game, and that’s a woman who couldn’t figure out email.


The Art of Fallout 4 HC – $39.99

from: Things From Another World

Through its countless re-releases, ports, remasters, and active modding community, it’s a game that’s clearly resonated with a massive audience and remains very relevant to this day. It’s already become abundantly clear that that’s not what we’ll get with the next installment in the franchise. From Bethesda using the announcement to soften the blow of what they must have known would be a disastrous year, to the fact that they were willing to devalue the brand with grotesque spin-offs like Blades, the studio has shown a disregard for what made them popular in the first place.

I’ve spoken many times about how Fallout 76 showed a fundamental misunderstanding of what people want from a Bethesda game, but you can find examples of how little they cared about the identity of the series in a myriad of places. How about when the Skyrim: Special Edition launched with notable bugs that were present in the launch version of the original game? Or the determination to shove paid mods, or some variation of them, into their games? Or the alleged ejection of longtime series composer Jeremy Soule (something that was being rumored well before the allegations against Soule came to light)? Time and time again, the studio shows a complete disregard for the artistic value of the work that it creates. 

There was a time in the early 2010’s where Skyrim was held on a pedestal as a game which enjoyed massive success without succumbing to the increasingly anti-consumer  industry practices of the time. In just a couple of years and with most of the damage coming from just one game, Bethesda has destroyed all the consumer goodwill that they’ve been building since the release of Morrowind in 2002. It used to sadden me that I would be well into my twenties before playing another Elder Scrolls game. It used to bring me joy to imagine what it could possibly offer after all the time I’ve spent waiting. Now, it’s just dread I feel, and it brings me some comfort that I won’t have to face that disappointment for another few years.

It’s been nearly three months since we’ve been locked in our homes, weathering the storm of Covid-19. In that time, a lot of people have gotten busy, using their time to learn a new skill, to get in shape, to develop a passion of theirs into something more than just a hobby. Some of us have just been playing a lot of video games. 

There’s nothing wrong with that though. Gaming has a lot of value, as an artform, and as a form of escapism. Now more than ever, I’ve relished turning on my console to get lost in a game, to get out of my small, cramped apartment without really going outside. With my newfound free time, I’ve had the time to jump back into old classics, try new releases, and finally start chipping away at the backlog that’s been building on my hard drive over the years. These are the games that have personally gotten me through quarantine, and I’d recommend anyone else try them out. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

There are a few specific qualities that you’re likely looking for in a game right now. If you’re anything like me, you probably want a good time sink, something you can throw a hundred hours at and still be finding new things to do. You’ll also most likely want an outdoorsy kind of game, something that gives you new scenery to look at beyond your walls furniture. Skyrim not only fulfills both of these two needs, but does so better than most other games of its type that have been released in the last decade. There’s a reason that this sprawling fantasy adventure is still talked about nearly ten years after its launch, and why it will continue to be talked about for years to come.  

While the game hasn’t aged well in certain mechanical areas, the sense of freedom the game gives you to live another life in such a gorgeous and well realized world is one that can’t be taken for granted these days. For those willing to push through a bit of janky combat and buggy gameplay, the content offered by Skyrim and its three expansions will be enough to keep you coming back for weeks, discovering something new and exciting in every play session. If you’re looking to explore a wide open world, this is the best you can get in my opinion. And as a bonus, this game has been ported to so many systems that you can play it pretty much any time, anywhere. 

Fallout 76

Now, I’ve had a lot to say about Fallout 76 in the past, namely that its an undercooked, lazy, buggy, unforgivably sloppy mess of a game that demonstrated such a fundamental misunderstanding of what its own fanbase wanted that it is baffling to me that it ever got greenlit. I stand by all of that too, but after spending over a year desperately forcing myself to try and like it, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finally found some things of value. Well, one thing. Kind of. 

With the release of the Wastelanders expansion, which finally added human NPC’s to the game world, Fallout 76 has begun to capitalize on the one thing it had going for it; the world. The Appalachian wasteland is a gorgeous region, arguably the best setting for a Fallout game to date. As diverse as it is hostile, I spent dozens of hours exploring West Virginia after the release of Wastelanders gave me something to do there. While adding NPC’s doesn’t even come close to fixing the litany of problems in this game, it has given reason to explore the best feature, which was enough to squeeze some enjoyment from it. 

The reasons to play Fallout 76 are the same as those for Skyrim (although make no mistake, this is not nearly as good a game as Skyrim was). The world is a fascinating one to lose yourself in, and there’s plenty of content to keep you exploring it. You’ll have to stomach a lot more bugs, and a much higher price tag, but while I can’t give a sweeping recommendation, some people may actually find some value here. 

Oh, that Country Roads cover that was used in the trailer was pretty good too. 


Fallout X-01 Power Armor Quantum Variant 1/6 Scale Figure (Previews Exclusive)

from: Things From Another World

Mortal Kombat 11

This is about as far on the opposite end of the gaming spectrum as you can get from a Bethesda RPG, but I’ve been sinking at least an hour a day into Mortal Kombat 11 for most of the last year. I had just begun to lapse with my playing habits around February, but after being locked in my apartment for so long, I was desperately craving something faster-paced, something more stimulating than my usual gaming diet of RPG’s and simulator games. I jumped back in to try my hand at the competitive tournament mode, and I’ve made sure to come back almost every day since. 

The thing about Mortal Kombat, and all other Netherrealm Studios fighting games, is that they are some of the only games in the genre that I believe can be played at any level. Approachable for beginners, playable for casual fans, and deep enough for tournament level players, there really is something here for everybody (assuming you like ultra-violent games).

While there isn’t necessarily the same amount of content here as you’ll find in some other games on this list, there is a catharsis in playing this game that I’ve been unable to find elsewhere. I have gotten the same animation in which a well-timed uppercut shatters an opponent’s jaw, launching them in the air like a ragdoll in the wind, about a thousand times, and it never stops being satisfying.


Mortal Kombat 11 – Legends in 3D – Sub Zero 1/2 Scale Bust

from: Things From Another World

This is a game that can keep you engaged with its fast-paced and relatively simple fighting game mechanics, while never demanding so much from you that it feels intimidating. At this point in time, that’s a really valuable thing to have in my rotation, and with the Aftermath expansion coming out soon, there’s never been a better time to jump in. 

Dead Cells

Speaking of more fast-paced games, I’ve also finally started a deep dive into the somewhat recent indie-darling Dead Cells. This is one that was criminally underrated in my opinion, largely because its launch was overshadowed by the IGN plagiarism controversy. This is a shame though, because from the little I played at launch and the many more hours I’ve been playing recently, this is a game that started out great and has aged like a fine wine. 

Dead Cells occupies a unique space in my gaming rotation. Generally speaking, I’m over the procedurally generated, rogue-lite indie game craze, but  this one has managed to hold my interest for a fairly long time. On a moment to moment level, the gameplay can be best equated to something like Dark Souls in that combat is focused on dodging and blocking enemy attacks, and waiting for the right times to strike. Unlike the many other games that have tried to ape the Souls game formula however, Dead Cells brings its own sense of character and charm to the table, creating something that’s gorgeous to look at, a ton of fun to play, and absorbing enough to keep you coming back for years to come. 

Firewatch

The last big thing that I’ve played since quarantine began is Firewatch, a game that’s often described (in a somewhat derogatory, but not completely inaccurate way) as a walking simulator. You play as a man looking to leave the troubles of his life behind by taking a job as a remote fire watch operator in the wildernesses of Wyoming. While out at your post for months, your only source of human contact is chatting with your supervisor by radio. It’s a short experience, only a few hours, but it has a lot to say about isolation, escapism, and responsibility, themes that I think are going to be particularly resonant with people these days. 

Don’t come to Firewatch expecting a challenge, an epic story, or a grand adventure. Instead, try to experience it the same way your character does, to get away from the stresses of the real world. Think of it as an escape from society to the wilderness, something that a lot of us have dreamed about, but would likely never do. You might just find this game speaks to you more than you would have imagined.