I really want to stop criticizing Bethesda. I really do. This is a company I grew up with. Their games have been a part of my life for the majority of it. I want to sing their praises to the world, to tell everyone about the deep, metaphysical lore of THE ELDER SCROLLS. Everyone should experience the zany, retro-futuristic world of FALLOUT. I want this company to do well.

But they’re making it so hard for me.

Amidst the fallout of the Creation Club, Bethesda introduced a new survival mode to SKYRIM. Now, I love survival mechanics, especially in RPGs. They add realistic stakes to the experience and immerse me into the world. All of a sudden, I’m not just adventuring for the sake of it.

I’m trying to put food on the table, to put a roof over my head. If I had it my way, every RPG would have a mode like this. So, all things considered, I should love this new addition to the game. Well, there’s one problem:

Bethesda’s charging $15 for it.

Considering this is nearly the cost of a full expansion, many are left questioning the value of this feature. Now, technically the cost is about $8, but we’ll get into the details below.

So what’s wrong with charging this much for a new game mode? What’s Bethesda’s logic here? What effect will this have on their reputation? Well, let’s take a look!

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Mods do it better

The more I look into survival mode, the more it looks like a bastardized version of the immensely popular Frostfall and iNeed mods. On the surface, they seem almost identical. Like Frostfall and iNeed, it tasks the player with surviving in the frigid world of SKYRIM.

You need to worry about food, disease, and of course: the cold. Warmth is a precious, scarce resource. Swimming in frigid water is a death sentence, and you need to maintain a healthy diet to survive in the wilds.

Bethesda Skyrim Survival
In Bethesda’s survival mode, you’ll need to look around for a pre-made campfire if you want to warm up. There’s no camping in this mode.

This is all par for the course, however. You can only get so creative with survival mechanics, and intentional or not, Bethesda’s version was bound to be similar to existing mods. But you quickly realize Bethesda’s version is inferior in every way.

In Frostfall, there are numerous climates and weather conditions. Region, elevation, wind, and shelter are all factored into the experience. Standing in glacial canyon blocks the wind, allowing the player to warm up in an otherwise freezing environment. On a mountain-peak, the player has no such protection and will freeze to death in minutes without adequate warmth.

To survive in the cold, you need to plan ahead, cutting down lumber to make firewood, skinning animal pelts to make a campsite. These mods revolutionize the game and offer substantial content for free.

It’s a stripped-down ripoff of better products.

From what we’ve seen so far, Bethesda’s survival mode has none of these features. There’s no camping, no ability to create a campfire, and the climate is stripped down to its most basic elements. They couldn’t even be bothered to add drinkable water to the game, so there’s no element of thirst.

Once you compare Bethesda’s version to third-party mods, the lack of value becomes clear. Quite frankly, there is no reason to buy this when you can get a better version for free.

There’s No Value Here

The most obvious issue here is the lack of value.

Like most companies, Bethesda uses a virtual currency system, where instead of buying things directly you pay for a fixed amount of credits. A common tactic in the industry is to set the price of an item between these fixed amounts, forcing players to pay more than the listed value.

For example, an item may cost 500 credits, but credits only come in packs of 200 and 1,000. If you want the 500 credit item, you’ll ultimately have to pay for 1,000.

Bethesda Skyrim Fallout 4 Creation Club
Seen here: how publishers game the system.

This is how Bethesda charges $15 for what’s ostensibly an $8 product. Unless you have some extra credits lying around, you’ll need to buy the $15 credit pack.

This Mode Was Free In Fallout 4

This is perhaps the most damning aspect of the price-tag. In FALLOUT 4, a more recent game, this mode was completely free. So what separates SKYRIM’s survival mode from FALLOUT 4’s? What’s changed between then and now?

The Creation Club.

Yes, Bethesda’s controversial paid mod program is rearing its ugly head yet again. Now that Bethesda has a platform to nickel-and-dime the consumer, they’re not going to pass up a chance to use it.

This is the real goal of the Creation Club: to ease consumers into a microtransaction-based economy. The only reason survival mode was free in FALLOUT 4 was because Bethesda had no platform with which to sell it. Ever since the horse armor fiasco of 2006, Bethesda’s DLC has been limited to substantial, content-heavy addons. But now that microtransactions are part of the Bethesda experience, it only makes sense to charge $15 for something that should be free.

Put simply, we’ve caught a glimpse of Bethesda’s future, and I don’t like what I’m seeing.

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The Point

This is a microcosm of Bethesda’s fall from grace: shoddily replicating the ideas of others and adding new paywalls to a 6-year-old game. It’s everything they’ve done wrong this month distilled into one final slap in the face before October rolls in. I said this in the last article, but I’m literally beginning to wonder what Bethesda’s thinking. What makes them think they can afford to be this out of touch? Are they convinced their brand can never be damaged?

Maybe years of letting their behavior slide, of viewing them as the passionate, if unrefined underdog, has left them feeling invincible. Years of ignoring their buggy games. Years enduring their shoddy narratives as they run on the steam of writers past. Perhaps this was bound to happen. Maybe we’ve enabled Bethesda.

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