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Have You Played: Bethesda's Terminator: Future Shock?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

If you want an origin story for Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout RPGs, look more to Future Shock than to the first Elder Scrolls itself. This semi-open world (it wasn’t a sandbox, but the huge size of the maps meant it did feel so) first-person shooter was very much about exploring, scavenging and getting yourself into a whole heap of trouble, a concept revisited and refined in The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall and then Morrowind, and maintained (if not reduced) all the way up to last year’s Fallout 4.

Tellingly, it was Todd Howard’s first design gig (having previously been a mere producer on The Elder Scrolls: Arena), and many of the values and concepts he laid down then continue to this day.

Famously it also did 3D enemies and mouse controls before Quake did, but id impressively managed to steal all of Future Shock’s thunder despite not having one of the biggest licenses in the world (at the time) attached to it. Future Shock also did a good job of making and keeping Terminators hard-as-nails and terrifying, in a time when arcade games were happily making them mere cannon fodder.

Future Shock’s not quite a classic, but it’s an important historical document if you want to see how Fallout 4 ended up being one of the biggest games in the known universe. It should also be thought of alongside Star Wars: Dark Forces in terms of games which were smart about their source material despite having only limited technology at their disposal.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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