From Oblivion: Looking Past Fallout 3

In Video Games on July 16, 2009 at 3:21 am

Fallout 3 can and should be viewed as Oblivion’s successor, even if only in the spiritual sense; the games use the same engine and all of Fallout 3’s flaws are Oblivion’s flaws as well. Through an analysis of the journey from Oblivion to Fallout 3, we can project the kind of game the next installment of The Elder Scrolls will be, even though all that has been announced is that it is in development, and will be released in 2010.

The first major question is whether Bethesda will produce an all-new engine for the project; the answer is slightly more complex than you’d imagine. While it is true that each Elder Scrolls game has released with a new engine, consider the timing of each of their last few releases. Morrowind and her associated expansions, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, were released from 2002-2003; well within the lifespan of the original X-Box. Oblivion and The Shivering Isles came out in 2006 and 2007, respectively, which places them under the reign of the current generation of consoles. Fallout 3, released in 2008, uses the same engine as Oblivion, though it has been heavily modified. Still, its release was contemporaneous with the 360/PS3’s lifespan(s).

With a scheduled 2010 release, TES: V will just be on the cusp of the expected announcement regarding the next Microsoft console, snarkily referred to as the X-Box 720 in some circles. Regardless, that does put it within the lifespan of the current generation of consoles, as well as within the current hardware limitations for the majority of PC gamers. As such, we can reasonably expect that TES: V will likely be on another iteration of Oblivion and Fallout’s engine, named Gamebryo. But how does that impact our expectations?

For starters, the world will be much less randomized and level-appropriate than Oblivion. Replacing the narrow selection of generic ruins ought to be a series of meaningful locations, each well-detailed enough for the average player to realize that the vaultless dregs of humanity vainly sought shelter in the subway tunnels beneath the city, granting themselves a slow death due to starvation and radiation poisoning. Factions will be distinct and reasonable enough to the point where we will see randomized, large-scale interaction between them. Additionally, ranged weapons and magicka will hopefully pack much more punch with viscera and entrails flying about from a successful critical hit. Ideally, the story will be much more personal than Oblivion’s, “You’re standing next to the guy faited to save Tamriel,” affair, but offering in a greater variety of choices than Fallout’s, “Are you Saint Theresea or a fusion of Hitler and Skeletor,” but that particular trope is the game industry’s problem to share and not the sole providence of Bethesda.

All of this is pure speculation, of course. However, I’m enheartened to state that it should be taken as somewhat less speculative than most will likely treat it.

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