Yesterday we previewed Bethesda’s The Evil Within, a gruesomely atmospheric survival horror game coming to Xbox One and Xbox 360 in 2014. As it turns out, publishing giant Bethesda has two more titles in store for the Xbox One. In the fourth quarter of this year they’ll release Wolfenstein: The New Order for both the One and Xbox 360. Then in spring 2014 the eagerly anticipated The Elder Scrolls Online comes along.
We saw and played both games at E3 2013 last week. I can safely say that fans of each series will NOT be disappointed with either installment. Read on for previews and the latest trailers!
Wolfenstein: The New Order for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC
The latest game in the venerable Wolfenstein series (widely credited as the PC game that popularized the first-person shooter genre) comes from Swedish developer Machine Games. The studio was founded by former members of Starbreeze Studios, makers of the Xbox 360 hit Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
The development pedigree shows because this latest Wolfenstein looks and plays great. Xbox 360 veterans might remember that 360 launch FPS Quake IV suffered from a poor frame rate and generally underwhelming visuals. Not so with The New Order. It runs on the id Tech 5 Engine first used in Rage. The 360 version that we played runs perfectly smoothly, so the Xbox One game should perform even better.
Wolfenstein games don’t generally follow a strict chronology; most take place in their own little World War II universes. The New Order jumps ahead to a fictional 1960s era in which the Nazis won the war with the aid of mysteriously advanced technology, conquering the entire world. Series protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz awakens from a coma into this nightmarish setting and joins the resistance.
Trains, robots, and laser guns
Early in the game, B.J. and his partner Anya go undercover as passengers on a train filled with Nazi soldiers. While fetching coffee for Anya, B.J. catches the notice of Frau Engel, a high-ranking officer and one of the game’s primary antagonists. She calls him over and he has no choice but to comply thanks to the ceiling-high mech standing at the end of the car (“Don’t worry; he’s not dangerous” she claims).
A tense scene follows in which Frau Engel tests B.J. to determine whether he is a Jew. She places a gun just out of arm’s reach on the table and begins showing him pairs of photographs. The player must select which picture he or she prefers out of each set – supposedly, this will reveal whether B.J. is a member of the Nazi’s most hated race. But once B.J. chooses the final picture, Engel discards them and reveals the real test was whether he’d reach for the gun or not. The woman radiates playful sadism.
Flashing ahead to a run-and-gun sequence later in the game, a train (the same one B.J. and Frau Engel shared?) has crashed along a bridge over the sea. B.J. must climb down through an upheaved train car. When he can’t squeeze through a gap, he changes to a gun whose secondary fire can cut through certain obstacles and makes a man-sized hole to pass through. Soon he crossed a portion of the ruined bridge where Nazi soldiers and their impossible mechanical creatures will soon detect and attack him.
The use of various guns’ alternate firing mechanisms to solve light puzzles and reach new areas is a new mechanic that adds a bit of depth to the traditional fast-paced shooting. Make no mistake though, even with an unsettling new world and highly original story, The New Order still feels very much like a Wolfenstein game. The series has always had little sci-fi touches such as The New Order’s cat-like Nazi robots that keep it from being just another WWII shooting franchise.
Titanfall and Battlefield 4 will obviously be the multiplayer FPS games to beat when the Xbox One launches at the end of the year. But Wolfenstein: The New Order will provide an extensive single-player alternative for series fans and less competitive gamers.
The Elder Scrolls Online for Xbox One and PC
Wolfenstein and The Evil Within are both single-player games, but Bethesda does have one whopper of a multiplayer game in store for us as well. Just as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion served as the first RPG for the Xbox 360, The Elder Scrolls Online will be the first MMORPG for the Xbox One! Considering that Square Enix’s MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV is Playstation 4/PC exclusive, Xbox gamers should be thankful that THIS game won’t pass us by.
The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) takes place a thousand years before Skyrim, just before the coming of Tiber Septim, the first Emperor of Tamriel. While three alliances vie for supremacy over the Imperial City, a Daedric Prince named Molag Bal marshals his own conquering forces. The Daedra are godlike supernatural beings from the realm of Oblivion, and evil ones like Molag Bal pose a major threat to the entire world.
Previous Elder Scrolls games have always been massive open world RPGs; TESO marks the first multiplayer game in the series. You’ll start out by choosing one of nine races ranging from different kinds of humans to catlike Khajits and even Orcs. Each species belongs to one of the three main factions, so your choice of race determines which side you’ll join as well. After making your choice, you’ll customize your appearance and abilities as with any Elder Scrolls game.
Adventuring with friends
If your MMO experience is limited to aging games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI, you’ll be amazed by how much more vibrant and dynamic TESO is. Of course you’ll run around cities populated by NPCs and other players, taking in bits of story and accepting traditional RPG quests. The cities are just as expansive and beautiful as in previous Elder Scrolls games, and series fans will love visiting famous locations like Daggerfall once again.
Outside of the cities, you’re free to roam, hunt animals and monsters, and deal with any random NPCs and players you might meet. The demo we played only offered a third-person view as opposed to the series’ traditional first-person perspective, but Bethesda says the first-person view will be ready soon as well. Even in third-person, combat feels as fast and action-packed as in Oblivion and Skyrim. This won’t be a plodding RPG at all.
In other MMORPGs, playing with your friends can be a huge ordeal due to the existence of multiple servers. Players from one server can’t just interact with another. You have to switch servers, usually paying a fee in the process. Instead of many separate servers, everyone plays on the same Megaserver in TESO. You’ll automatically be matched up with friends, guild mates, and people you’ve encountered before with a minimum of hassle. Note that each platform gets its own separate server, so Xbox One players won’t be interacting with PC or Playstation 4 adventurers.
Sign up for an epic beta
Bethesda has yet to announce The Elder Scrolls Online’s payment model, so we can’t say whether the game will require a monthly fee or not. After the massive failure of EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, let’s hope not. As long as TESO is monetized wisely, Elder Scrolls fans will flock to it in droves next year.
You might not need to wait till next year to play it though! Sign up for the beta right now at ElderScrollsOnline.com and indicate which platforms you’d like to play it on (I chose PC and Xbox One) and you might just gain early access to the online world of Tamriel.