Bethesda Softworks' E3 keynote shows PC gaming some love

Bethesda Softworks held its second-ever E3 keynote late last night in Los Angeles. As the developer of the recent Fallout games as well as the beloved Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda needs no introduction. The company's big news last night regarded titles it publishes for its partner studios under the umbrella of Zenimax Media.

After a short intro featuring a mock-up of a DOS prompt, the Quake Champions trailer opened the show, and rightly so. After the massive success of the company's reimagined Doom just a month ago, Id Software fans turned their hopeful eyes toward the Quake franchise. Bethesda unfortunately didn't say much about Quake Champions, but we know it will be a multiplayer first-person shooter with an emphasis on character-specific abilities, similar to recent titles like Overwatch and Battleborn. Still unknown are platforms (besides the obvious PC release), release date, or really much of anything else. We expect more information on this title later in the year at Quakecon.

Speaking of Doom, Bethesda also announced a bit of information about forthcoming updates to the new release. The game's Snapmap feature is getting major updates, including support for proper single-player levels and a Hell-themed tileset. Doom's somewhat lackluster multiplayer mode is getting a shot in the arm with five new game modes, too including the return of Deathmatch to the game that invented it. The first multiplayer DLC is on the way too, titled "Unto the Evil." It'll offer three new maps, a new playable demon, and a new weapon.

Besides Id Software, Bethesda's other big partner studio is Arkane, which has a legacy of first-person action titles infused with RPG DNA that dates all the way back to Arx Fatalis in 2002. Arkane's most recent title—Dishonored—came out in 2012, and it was the company's biggest success yet. Players praised the game's storytelling as much as the first-person stealth action gameplay. Dishonored 2—which was actually announced at last year's E3—got a new trailer last night, showing gameplay for the first time.

Dishonored 2 is set fifteen years after the first game, and offers players the choice of Dishonored protagonist Corvo Attano or former princess Emily Kaldwin as playable characters. The new title has a focus on exploration, and the two characters each have their own unique abilities and story paths to follow. The game is being developed using a custom engine called the "Void Engine," which increases the tally of unique game engines in use at Bethesda to three. Dishonored 2 is coming out November 11 this year on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

In a surprising announcement, Bethesda also revealed that Arkane is working on a re-imagined Prey game. The original Prey, which released in 2006, was a bit of a sleeper hit, and the promising sequel shown at E3 in 2011 was unfortunately canceled in 2014. This new game, then, has little in common with the original title, but the trailer showcases a first-person shooter with cutting-edge graphics and an interesting near-future setting that recalls System Shock. Director Raphael Colantonio says the game is an open-world affair, and it's set for a 2017 release.

Bethesda had some news about its own games, too. Elder Scrolls: Legends, a spin-off title in the long-running series, is a digital card game in the vein of Hearthstone. Comparisons to Blizzard's Warcraft-inspired card game abound, but the title has as much in common with Magic: The Gathering or even The Witcher's Gwent. Like Gwent, Legends' game board is divided into lanes, although it only has two such slots versus Gwent's three. Players expend Magicka to summon creatures and cast spells in the grand tradition of card game dueling. Elder Scrolls: Legends is coming to Windows, Android, and iOS devices later this year.

In other Elder Scrolls news, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is getting a re-release on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. The so-called Skyrim Special Edition features updated visuals, integrated DLC, and mod support on consoles, much like Fallout 4. Surprisingly, PC gamers who own the original release and all of the DLC (or Skyrim Legendary Edition) on Steam will be able to grab the Special Edition for free. Unfortunately, Bethesda didn't offer so much as a whisper about any brand-new Elder Scrolls games.

Finally, possibly the most interesting piece of news to come out of Bethesda's E3 presentation was that the company has sprouted a new branch dedicated to developing VR games. The first project from the new division will be adapting Fallout 4 to the HTC Vive as a room-scale game. Rather than a simple tech demo or preview, executive producer Todd Howard was on hand to assure us the whole game would be playable. The company says Doom is coming to VR in some form as well, which could make for a gloriously nauseating experience.

Most importantly, everything Bethesda showed last night is coming to to the PC. All three major Zenimax studios (Bethesda, Id, and Arkane) are historically PC software developers, and the company seems to be embracing that history with gusto. We look forward to QuakeCon for more information on Quake Champions and Dishonored 2.

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