In context: The Bethesda Softworks we know today is a very different beast than it was three decades ago. Talent has arrived and left, and the developer’s priorities and approach to game design have shifted substantially. Instead of making old-school RPGs catered to a niche audience, Bethesda develops AAA experiences designed to appeal to as many people as possible.
If you weren’t gaming back in the 90s and early 2000s, you might have missed this shift at Bethesda. Perhaps the gentle, rolling hills and lazy rivers of Oblivion or the alien atmosphere of Morrowind are what you grew up with.
If so, you might think it’s too late to experience the classics — but you’d be wrong. Bethesda offers several of its oldest games to the public for free, including greats like The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. If you weren’t aware of this, don’t feel too bad. They were available through Bethesda’s controversial Bethesda.net game launcher, which is shutting down this year; presumably since nobody really used it.
Since the launcher is shutting down, Bethesda needs another convenient way to distribute these games. Instead of relying solely on its website as it has in the past (you can grab DRM-free copies there), the company has decided to bring Daggerfall, Arena, and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory to Steam, along with the Creation Kits for Fallout 4 and Skyrim: Special Edition.
This is fantastic news for modders and players alike. While I’ll be the first to admit that Arena and Daggerfall don’t exactly hold up well in the modern era, they’re still worth preserving. They represent a different era for RPGs and the gaming industry as a whole. Besides, who knows? Maybe you’ll actually enjoy them if you give them a chance.
Daggerfall, in particular, is still surprisingly fun. I played the Unity version of the game (a project by a third-party modder) and sunk a couple dozen hours into it before growing bored. If you, like me, are used to retro RPGs with clunky interfaces and even clunkier combat systems, give these games a whirl. Daggerfall, Wolfenstein, and Arena are totally free and don’t take up much space, so you have nothing to lose.
Have you played these three games before? If so, did you enjoy them? Let us know in the comments.