Tuesday 19 September 2023

RUMOUR: Bethesda were planning OBLIVION and FALLOUT 3 remasters back in 2020, along with a possible DISHONORED 3

A leaked schedule for Bethesda video games from 2020 suggests that the company was at least planning remasters for two of their older titles, as well as a new game in one of their biggest franchises.

The leak appears to have been an accidental release of information as part of Microsoft's ongoing battle to clear international legal hurdles preventing its acquisition of Activision-Blizzard. The schedule has known projects on which did eventually release (such as Redfall and Starfield), as well as unannounced games including Dishonored 3. The leak also suggests that Microsoft envisages just a three-year wait for The Elder Scrolls VI, the follow-up to the much-acclaimed 2011 title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Even though the list is official, we should take it with a grain of salt as it is very clearly outdated. The list is pre-COVID, and the COVID pandemic caused massive delays and multiple project cancellations in many companies. It's not clear which of the projects on the list remain extant (beyond the already-confirmed Elder Scrolls VI).

The list also indicates that both The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) and Fallout 3 (2008) are to be remastered, not remade. This would likely be a moderate graphical overhaul and some minor technical and UI improvements (similar to the recent, somewhat underwhelming Red Dead Redemption remaster) but otherwise leaving the games alone.

This is notable as a group of fans have been remaking Oblivion for the past decade with considerably more advanced graphics and a full UI overhaul drawing on later Bethesda games like Fallout 4 (2015, itself already confirmed as getting a next-gen remaster and re-release next year). This project, known as Skyblivion, is currently due for release in 2025 and has Bethesda's support (as well as persistent rumours that Bethesda may make it an official release if the quality is high enough). An Oblivion remaster may be redundant in that case, but it's worth noting that back in 2020 there was widespread scepticism over any of these fan remasters actually being finished. Three years later and with more in-depth coverage of the project's development, Skyblivion does indeed appear very close to completion.

Dishonored 3 is a welcome idea. Dishonored (2012) and Dishonored 2 (2016) are two of the greatest video games of the last decade and cemented Arkane Studios' reputation for great game design and fantastic worldbuilding. Deathloop (2021) - set in the same world albeit in a different game genre - also did well. However, the underwhelming commercial performance of Prey (2017) and Redfall (2023) has somewhat damaged Arkane's reputation, alongside the departure of much of the OG team at the company behind its earlier games. There will be likely scepticism that the remnants can deliver a worthwhile successor, especially as stand-alone expansion Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (2017) delivered a pretty final ending to the story of the series. Deathloop takes place in the same world and does open up some more narrative possibilities for that setting, so a further game in the series might have some legs to it.

Finally, the list suggest that The Elder Scrolls VI will follow three years after the release of Starfield. Given Starfield's two-year delay from the list, that suggests they may be envisaging a 2026 release date for Elder Scrolls VI. With Bethesda only recently spooling up full-time work on the game, that feels very optimistic. Many fans have been projecting a release date of 2028 on the low end to 2030 on the higher.

The leak is interesting, but as yet none of the projects mentioned on it beyond Elder Scrolls VI and the Fallout 4 remaster have been formally confirmed.

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