Opinion: The Bethesda Betrayal

Allow me to take you back to the 11th of November 2011. Not only was it a date that was extremely satisfying to write, but it was also one of the most electrically charged and exciting days ever if you were at all a gamer. Yes, this was the day that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released. I was a teenager at the time and my bountiful free time allowed me to play the living daylights out of games like Fallout 3 New Vegas as well as my first big RPG love, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. To say I was excited about this game would have been a gigantic understatement. I was camped in front of my local retailer at 7 am on release waiting for them to open so that I could snag this game as quickly as possible. I fondly stared at the game case all the way home and experienced pure gaming euphoria when I put the disc into my console and proceeded to lose my life to a fantasy realm. It was magic.

That magic is now dead.

Bethesda Game Studios has been one of my favourite developers for as long as I can remember. Their experiences essentially shaped me into the gamer you see before you today and they played a central part in my now fond love of Western RPGs. In my head, they could do nothing wrong. Sure, their games had a ton of bugs on release, but that’s fine for open-world games of such prodigious size and not much you can’t chuckle at and move on. Sure, there were some pretty big flaws that arise from using the same wonky engine all the time, but you got familiar with all the quirks throughout your marathon playing times. I was a blind defender of this developer for the simple reason that I absolutely loved their games.

But with the release of Fallout 76, any defence I can come up with is instantly null and void. What they did is absolutely inexcusable and a complete tragedy for gamers as a whole. Most importantly, it was a personal betrayal for me. Everything I loved and admired from this once prestigious developer was thrown out along with the baby and the bath water. It’s similar to the feeling you get from a girlfriend cheating on you with five different guys or vice versa.

Let’s be clear, this betrayal isn’t just because the game is a giant stinking pile of garbage in terms of quality, even if that is still a big factor. It’s more to do with Bethesda completely abandoning their morals and design philosophies in favour of blindly following the worst that this industry has to offer. They genuinely dove head-first into the most deplorable pool of greed and sheer disregard for the well-being of their fans. It was so jarring that I didn’t quite parse it at the time it happened. It was like seeing Han Solo shoot Luke Skywalker in the head and joining the dark side. Completely out of nowhere.

Fallout 76 wasn’t an attempt to “try something new” or “go where we haven’t gone before” as Todd Howard said on Bethesda’s E3 stage, it was a cynical cash grab capitalising off the vapid trends that the gaming industry has set. Microtransactions litter a game that had its history in pure and vast singleplayer experiences. It’s an always-online multiplayer title that nobody really asked for and was implemented so poorly that you’d jump on a Fat Man nuke to prevent your friends from playing with you with the hope that their lives won’t be ruined as well. The game was clearly rushed out of the door and game-breaking flaws littered the game on release.

They even went above and beyond with the awfulness outside of just the game releasing. People playing the Beta had to redownload the whole game multiple times because of some oopsies on their side and the ridiculously expensive Collector’s Edition was a pretty egregious display of false advertising with their “canvas bags” being made out of cheap nylon. They even leaked private customer information as the rotten cherry on top of the whole fiasco.

The end result of all this? The game is now 80% cheaper than it was at launch despite barely being around for a couple of months and my trust in Bethesda has been completely shattered. We saw the cracks in the armour with Fallout 4 being relatively shaky despite being reasonably good and their push into mobile with Fallout Shelter. The thing is, it’s probably not all the fault of Bethesda Game Studios, but rather the publishing arm of Bethesda. The publisher has been making some strange decisions for a while now and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that some of the suits up in the main office wanted something more profitable in the long term.

The game has all the hallmarks of a product that was rushed out the door. If I was a developer and was proud of my work, I wouldn’t have allowed Fallout 76 to release in the state it has. A blind person could see that it wasn’t ready for public consumption yet it was pushed for a November release even after we got wind of all the faults in the game’s Beta. Every aspect of this is baffling to me. Even the apologies for the myriad disasters have been a disaster such as giving away $5 of microtransactions to the people who got the crappy nylon bags.

So, where do we go from here? The broken trust needs to be amended and outside of the game receiving a gigantic overhaul overnight, there isn’t much that they can do anymore. All apologies and promises fall on deaf ears and all of their future projects will now be judged much more harshly in the future. Bethesda has unfortunately dug their own grave and to dig back out will take a lot more than shovels.

But all this has done is left a void in my heart and memories of what was once magic.

I am way too tall, played way too many games and I love to write about what we love about games. In the end, I'm just being #Thabolicious

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