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I Don't Get the Appeal: Bethesda Games (Elder Scrolls/Fallout)

Updated on January 26, 2021
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I write classic "good vs evil" creative writing pieces with smart twists inspired by vintage action cinema, gaming, and heavy metal.

This should be the Cover Art

Game of the Year ALL YEARS!!!
Game of the Year ALL YEARS!!!

"An ocean with the depth of a puddle." A fairly common phrase uttered by Bethesda's detractors (all 3 of them) when talking about the recent installments of Fallout and Elder Scrolls; a sentiment I share and combine with my own issues with the beloved series. I am not a fan of Elder Scrolls. Since Arena and Daggerfall were released as abandonware; it was a total chore to learn and play with tons of text to memorise and process which, as a cherry on top, had complicated fantasy jargon; some see it as immersive, I see it as a needless hoop to jump through.

That and half of my attacks not connecting because of off-screen dice rolls (as justified by fans) is a bad gimmick at best and a test of patience at worst. Morrowind was no better; a massive timesink with payoff only a true, nothing better to do RPG player can appreciate; make of that what you may.


However, I can give the old games a pass, it was a novel concept at the time, the team was still getting their feet wet alongside the technical limitations the PCs of that decade had. The recent entries (Skyrim and Oblivion) is what I want to focus on considering it has been decades, technology evolves at lightspeed and competition is stiffer than ever and not just from the AAA space.

Skyrim did not impress me at all when it was released; it started to go downhill even faster after I powered through what I consider some of the worst ways to start a game; an on-rails, no-control or option to skip, glorified cutscene where you could only rotate the camera while NPCs make you feel like a translator who entered the wrong embassy; (sure you are bi-lingual and experienced but have you ever been to that respective country?) tons of jargon and foreign words thrown at you from all sides that mean nothing outside of Skyrim.

Gameplay-wise, Skyrim felt like a bad MMO; fetch quests and kill quests galore with some story quests in the mix; complete with tedious combat that had no weight or impact while requiring no skill. "Press F to win." is an appropriate description of that. Since this is an RPG, your character should evolve and become better in meaningful ways right? Well, that's not the case here; after hours of set-pieces with dragons that make the Banshees in Painkiller look hard, boring fetch quests for equally boring NPCs; I didn't feel challenged nor did I feel my character growing in power or even changing slightly.

Compare this say, to the Witcher series where swords feel like swords; there was impact in every swing and dismemberment; blocking and parrying attacks actually felt almost realistic. Skyrim's swords not only look like they are wooden toys but they feel like them too as your avatar tries so hard to convince you otherwise with over-exaggerated swing animations. Other weapons don't fare any better; even when you level up your skills: then it degrades into pure participation trophy gameplay where you are always a winner.

I played many RPGs; The Witcher 1-3, Bound By Flame, Dark Souls, Lords of The Fallen, Two Worlds 1-2, Kingdom of Amalur and back in 2007, an MMORPG called Last Chaos alongside many others. All the above had more interesting content and gameplay where the developers tried to create an interesting world, meaningful choices when developing a character and an entertaining story albeit dipping into craziness; even for fantasy standards. Skyrim's gameplay is as generic as its story, so by-numbers it could be a Unity engine asset flip. I think we can all agree that anything to do with dragons is a trope that needs to be euthanised yesterday; considering no one does anything interesting with it or tries to freshen it up. Along with generic bandit guild, generic mage guild, and generic good guy knight guild. Yawn.

After a while, I said, "Screw this!" and purged the game from my system and selling my copy at a boot sale that same year. It's an RPG that, in my opinion, fails at being an RPG; the character progression is non-existent, the story is, pretty much, pin the tail on the fantasy cliche, and there is no endgame content nor any replayability whatsoever. Finally, what Bethesda game-related content is complete without mention of mods; they are worthless. From what I saw, the best ones are graphical/visual overhauls that are well done and really impressive but, this is just window-dressing on a broken window made from rotten wood. Other mods are, putting it lightly, questionable with content that would fit into a hentai simulator; still not changing or improving the game in any way.

So far, we covered how generic the whole package is in terms of gameplay structure and lack of true progression in terms of character and challenge; prepare for round 2; overall presentation. A good musical score builds atmosphere and adds value to a game; the first Deus Ex had a moody, dark synth score, UnreaL had a techno ambient score with tribal overtures and a few guitar riffs; Skyrim has cookie-cutter fantasy ballads made by sticking Finntroll, Nightwish and Dio table scraps together with Hanz Zimmer-esque mind-numbing, self-indulgent orchestral parts that go nowhere; mistaken as "good" by everyone and their dog; if millions of YouTube covers are any indication. Next to the Dovahkiin song (or whatever the main theme is called), Rebecca Black doesn't sound so bad anymore. Speaking of real-life references, it's just as bad and cringy as the games themselves; "Arrow to the Knee" jokes "War, war never changes" quotes and just references to said franchises need to be buried next to Gangnam Style, Trollfaces, music of Chris Brown and rage faces while those who utter them need to avoid me or I'll do my best Postal dude impression. (A shovel will be involved)

UnreaL OST - Listen to THIS!

Fall-Flat 3, Old Engine and 4x the Same

So Skyrim is desecrated and every Dragonborn is dead, let's repeat on Vault Dwellers now. Fallout, unlike Elder Scrolls, is a series I enjoyed albeit out of order; starting from Brotherhood of Steel, then the first game and the second; it was a fun time. I heard many things on the web, how a proper isometric Fallout 3 was ready to go and how Bethesda scrapped it, how Bethesda only knows how to make Elder Scrolls (I agree) and how they were chasing a trend that year when Call of Duty took off and FPSs really gained steam.

Screech all you want but Fallout 3-4 is just Elder Scrolls with guns with twice the glitches and slightly more interesting enemies. (Credit where due) Fallout 3 was a nightmare to play in terms of technical issues and gameplay itself; the world had nothing worth doing. Exploration; walk around empty wastelands to find a few houses full of junk and cockroaches. Combat? Waste all your ammo as bullets fly past your enemies for no reason or waste your time on a stupid VATS mechanic that admittedly looks cool from the side. Fallout 4 tries to improve the shooting but still fails in my eyes considering the guns are peashooters.

So Fallout fails as a shooter because its not fun to shoot and fails at being an RPG because character progression is recycled from Elder Scrolls i.e. it doesn't exist. Murphy's Law says: Trying to please everyone, you please no one. Every issue Elder Scrolls has, Fallout has them too considering its technically the same game with a different skin; Bethesda just recycled everything here and will continue to do so as long as their loyal fans keep eating it up while attacking those that dare criticise the games in question.

Sure Fallout has a few interesting quests but they don't redeem the game in my eyes considering they are an exception, not the rule; especially when it goes back to the empty sandbox with useless weapons and an insomnia cure for a story; complete with one-dimensional choices and replayability that's playing limbo with ants.


Overall, I don't see the appeal of Bethesda games because they are simply weak and without all the hype and rabid fanboys keeping it alive; they are terrible shooters/action games with RPG window-dressing. These digital blunders are carried by an old, outdated engine that's begging for the release of death as life-support wires dangle from its withering body. This poor, tortured soul is then rifle-butted onto the Todd Howard prison train towards the Elder Scrolls hard labor camp to manufacture yet more Elder Scrolls clones under a different name and IP.

I played both games when they were new, something cited as being the "right" way to play them, and while gaming press and gamers alike called in sick to work blaming "Skyrim flu;"I wanted my time, money back and an appointment with Todd Howard so I can deck him in the face for being a snake oil salesperson who not only ruins the RPG genre but is also in control of millions of RPG nerds willing to bankroll his company's incompetence.

Bethesda only knows how to make Elder Scrolls and will continue to do that no matter the IP or marketing buzzwords we hear at E3; to think Call of Duty get's blasted for "releasing the same game yearly" while Elder Scrolls did that BEFORE it suddenly became trendy to regurgitate this trope of game discussion; getting off being endlessly praised as "OMG BEST GAME EVARRRR!!!!!1111!!

Not only that, but ES ruined other franchises by injecting itself into them - remove the guns from Fallout and it would become ES with mutants. Both these series are as tired as "Dovahkiin song" covers and "Arrow to the Knee" memes. Fallout is just Elder Scrolls with guns and rejected Mad Max extras without a good story or a likeable cast of characters; forced into an Elder Scrolls prison hoping to catch the FPS gravy train.

Bethesda Fans after reading this.

Play THIS instead!

What it REALLY is
Why it Sucks?
Elder Scrolls
Combo of every tired fantasy cliche
Empty world, Glitches, Boring Gameplay
Terrible Shooter
Empty world, Glitches, Boring Gameplay

See the pattern? Bethesda games are recycled garbage.

© 2018 Jake Clawson


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