Bethesda Software’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still considered to be one of the best and largest high fantasy role-playing games of all time. But that title is now receiving a proper challenge, in the form of Avowed.
The announcement came during july’s Xbox Games Showcase. Avowed is set to be a large first-person RPG that takes place in the world of Eora, the setting for Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity. Along with Avowed, Obsidian announced DLC for The Outer Worlds, “Peril on Gorgon,” and the full release of their multiplayer game, Grounded. Avowed is to be released on Xbox Series X, Xbox Game Pass and Windows 10.
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Despite encountering financial difficulties, the company has garnered a loyal following. Mainly those who remembered Obsidian and its predecessor Black Isle Studios, for creating the original Fallout video games, as well as Fallout: New Vegas. This was most evident when Obsidian managed to create the first Pillars of Eternity, with the help of over 77,000 Patreon donations, bringing in $4.1 million. The game was praised for its characters, mature storytelling with meaningful choices, and was regarded as a spiritual successor to classic RPGs like Balder’s Gate. With Avowed in the works and being funded by Microsoft, Bethesda has earned an actual rival.
But how and when did this rivalry start between the two companies? Before Obsidian was formed, many of its employees once worked at Black Isle Studios, a division of Interplay Entertainment. Though their games were well received, the company suffered financially and eventually shut down, selling the rights to all their IP’s in the process. This included Fallout, which was purchased by Bethesda.
Bethesda’s games have been commercially successful; however, the company has made many blunders and mistakes in recent years that have all but alienated their fan base, the best example being Fallout 76. Controversy surrounded the game from when it first released, with players accusing Bethesda of releasing the game in an unfinished and buggy state, easily hackable, little to no storytelling or role-playing on display and the infamous canvas bag debacle. Even before 76, many of the games developed by Bethesda have increasingly become more focused on gameplay and graphics than stories, characters and player choice.
This is not to say the company doesn’t have its strong points. Many of the worlds they create are expansive and beautiful, encouraging players to explore as many new locations as they can. Making their games more casual has allowed them to reach out to a broader audience, giving even more people the chance to experience the worlds and games they create. There’s a reason why so many gamers know about Skyrim, after all.
After the success of Fallout 3, Bethesda approached Obsidian, asking if they would develop the next Fallout game, as their development team was busy making Skyrim. The two companies arranged that if New Vegas received a Metacritic score of 85 or above, Obsidian’s team would receive a large bonus payment.
The development time was only 18 months, which is a short amount of time to develop and polish a game of that scale. It is speculated that Bethesda implemented a time crunch on the New Vegas team, forcing them to remove many ideas they had to meet the deadline. When released, it received positive reviews just under the minimum requirement that Bethesda imposed. This was considered a massive loss for a small company like Obsidian, leading to numerous layoffs. Were it not for the later success of Pillars of Eternity, it’s likely the company would have been forced to shut down.
Despite Obsidian’s stated desire to work on another Fallout game, Bethesda no longer seems inclined to collaborate on any future projects. This is mainly due to Obsidian not being a developer company that they own. Obsidian has always catered to a certain crowd that is into immersive RPG’s, to the point that they are close to being Dungeons and Dragons adventures. And as said before, Bethesda has become much more casual, catering to as large an audience as they can, making more profit because of it. Who can blame Obsidian for attempting to take Bethesda’s mantle for themselves?
While there is not much information on either Avowed or Elder Scrolls 6, Obsidian’s new IP likely has a head start. Time will tell if Bethesda can accept this challenge and create a genuinely awe-inspiring game that returns them to their roots.
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