At this point, there are a fair few tables available for Zen Pinball 2, most of which are based on licensed properties such as Star Wars, Spider-Man, or even Bob's Burgers. While we're a very long way from Zen Studios releasing the Antiques Roadshow table this reviewer has been holding out for, the firm continues to seek out the sorts of properties that'll help entice players to check out their newest additions. The Bethesda Pinball pack seems perfectly primed to do this by offering a set of tables based on the publishers most popular properties: DOOM, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Fallout.
As ever, Zen Studios has put a lot of effort into making these tables reflect the sources of their inspiration very well, and whether it's the characters populating the table, the artwork, or even the music and sound effects, each successfully captures their essence as much as you could reasonably expect for a pinball table.
If you're reading this review, then you probably already know if you like Zen Studios particular brand of ball flipping or not. So, the real question is how these tables rate in the Zen Pinball pantheon, and do they manage to do anything new and exciting?
Well, the most obvious new additions come in terms of some gameplay mechanics that appear on both the Skyrim and Fallout tables, where the introduction of a few RPG inspired elements attempt to add more depth to the gameplay. Not only will you fiddle with a rudimentary character creation and upgrade system, but you'll also be joining a familiar roster of factions, or even visiting a shop to buy items.
While these additions can certainly be described as different, they add even more complexity to tables that were already getting dense. When the table guides have become required reading and you can't just work things out for yourself as you go, then maybe its all gone a little too far. On top of this, the number of menus you end up cycling through really hurts the pace of the tables, and when you find yourself in a shop or faction menu for the third time in less than a minute it starts to be a touch annoying.
With the Skyrim and Fallout tables at best being described as average, the standout from this pack surprisingly ends up being the DOOM table, which is quite apt given the unexpected critical success actual DOOM enjoyed earlier this year. Taking a much straighter forward approach when compared to the others in the pack, the main gimmick of this table are the two difficulty settings you can select – appropriately named 'Hurt me Plenty' and 'Nightmare' – one of which removes any of the assists you'd normally enjoy.
Without ball saves, kickbacks, or extra balls, you'll need to be on point as games can be over in no time at all, but in exchange for the added risk you'll be rewarded with an even greater score should you manage to keep your balls in play. This makes for a fun challenge and playing without any of the usual safety nets makes this a really enticing table for Zen Pinball 2 veterans.
The table loop also turns out to be very strong, maintaining a good pace by not interrupting or distracting the player very often with needless diversions. As you activate missions, kill demons, and build your arsenal of iconic DOOM weapons – charmingly referred to as 'Big Fancy Guns' in the table guide – you'll find a lot to like about how it ends up playing. So much so, you shouldn't be surprised to find it making its way onto your list of favourite tables released for Zen Pinball 2 so far.
Unlike the games the tables are based on, the Bethesda Pinball pack misses more than it hits. While the DOOM table will likely become a firm favourite with many, those based on Fallout and Skyrim feel far too complicated for their own good, which gets in the way of the pace of play far too often for you to want to spend that much time on them. It's a shame, then, that with so many great machines already available in Zen Pinball 2, it's hard to completely recommend this add-on, especially since the price is a bit steep for the single table that's well worth your attention.
Are you planning to take these Bethesda Pinball tables for a spin? Are you getting a bit tired of Zen Studios' increasingly complex table designs? Kickback in the comments section below.