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E3 Impressions 2018

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 06/16/18 at 05:50 PM CT

I had no expectations for E3 once again this year. I had hoped to see a handful of titles to help justify my Switch ownership, as well as a few multi-platform titles coming to PC that the MJ Crew could play cooperatively. I was not, however, prepared for the absolute tsunami of titles shown off at E3 2018. It was tough to take notes on everything shown off during the three console press conferences, the PC Gaming Show, and the individual publisher conferences… especially when I kept running out of space in the Do Not Want category.

Microsoft:
Want: Tunic (still!)
Not Sure if Want: “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” (still!), “Battletoads”
Do Not Want: Game Pass, “Halo Infinite”/“Gears 5”/“Forza Horizon 4”/“Crackdown 3,” Touting “Exclusives” that… aren’t, Add-On Content for Crap Games (“Sea of Thieves,” “PUBG”)

Microsoft is clearly struggling, as this year’s E3 was a pale shadow of last year’s. The non-gaming company touted their purchase of several (crappy) game development studios, along with 18 “exclusives” of which nearly all will be playable on PC (making the actual Xbox consoles irrelevant). In spite of this irrelevance, MS also teased that they are indeed working on the ‘next’ Xbox, but didn’t reveal even a single detail. The Holy Trinity of ‘Halo’/‘Gears’/‘Forza’ was back in full force, with a repeat of last year’s “Crackdown 3” tagging along for the ride.

Pathetically, the only first-party things MS showed off that looked interesting to me at all were old things from previous E3s: “Tunic,” a classic ‘Zelda’ knock-off, and “Ori and the Will of the Wisps,” which I’m leery of after playing the first one. MS did have one rather unexpected surprise from Rare: A new ‘Battletoads’ game is coming, and is confirmed to have 3-player local coop. The pre-teen me wanted to love the ‘Battletoads’ IP, but the games were all so, so horrible that I got over it. The fact that the only visual tease we got to see regarding this new ‘Battletoads’ involved a speeder-bike smashed against a fleshy wall leads me to believe this new one will be just as bad.

Even worse, MS took every opportunity to slip-in subtle ads for their Game Pass subscription. Granted, if I was really into all of MS’ IPs and wanted to play through all of those forgettable 8-hour campaigns/story modes without breaking the bank, $10/month to access all of it would be a pretty good deal… but I’m not and I don’t, plus that extra covalent Live Gold subscription is just too grasping. I feel like, if I had Game Pass, I’d have to micro-manage turning it on and off every few months, otherwise the constant small monetary drain would end up costing more in the long run than buying digital games on sale.


Sony:
Want: Nothing!
Not Sure if Want: “Ghost of Tsushima,” “Ghost Giant” (VR)
Do Not Want: Poor Pacing, Long-Ass Musical Interludes, Cinematics-Sequels-Schlock

After last year’s disgraceful display of E3 remastery, Sony at least managed to show off some new stuff. Unfortunately, it’s all the kind of thing Sony’s modern fanbase loves, with very little that would appeal to someone like me who hasn’t really cared about Sony-as-a-first-party since the PS1. Also unfortunately, Sony took a page from Ubisoft’s playbook and punctuated their entire show with awkward musical interludes that absolutely killed the pacing.

Naturally, they touted “The Last-er of Us: SJWs Strike Back,” Kojima’s awkward backpack sim known as “Death Stranding,” and a new “Spoder-Mun” tie-in to the superhero movie IP for which Sony apparently still owns the rights. The closest thing to an impressive PS4 exclusive at the Sony show was “Ghost of Tsushima,” which gave me strong impressions of being a samurai-themed version of “The Witcher 3.” But that’s just an impression, and could be completely off the mark.

Sony also showed off a number of smaller titles, including Walking Sim “Twin Mirror,” a remaster (natch) of “Resident Evil 2,” a sequel to “Nioh” (because Souls Trolls will buy anything), a mental trainwreck called “Control,” and an ‘adult’ comedy called “Trover Saves the Universe” that looks to appeal primarily to those who are high, stoned, or brain damaged (preferably all three). The only small-scale game that caught my eye also happened to be a VR title, “Ghost Giant,” which appears to be a mash-up of mechanics taken from ‘The Sims’ and ‘Animal Crossing’ – not exactly exciting – but we’ll see.


Nintendo:
Want: “Daemon X Machina”
Not Sure if Want: “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” “Xenoblade 2: Torna, Golden Country”
Do Not Want: SO. MANY. PORTS. “Pokemon: Let’s Go!” w/ Pokeball Controller, “Super Mario Party” (WHY won’t this franchise die?!), “Fire Emblem: 3 Houses”

Nintendo’s E3 Direct wasn’t nearly as impressive as last year’s. The Switch definitely has a port problem, and showing off old games coming to Switch is one of the lease impressive things Nintendo could do at E3.

There were still plenty of new first/second-party offerings on display, but Nintendo spent the vast majority of the Direct on one of the less impressive ones: “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” Nearly half of the Direct’s runtime was dedicated to Sakurai (*laughs*) talking about how EVERY character and EVERY stage will be included this time. Yay? You finally figured out what you should have been doing for over a decade? *pats Sakurai on the head* Having sunk far too many hours into all of the previous ‘Smash’ games, I really have no desire to do it all over again if “Ultimate” doesn’t have comprehensive and compelling single-player content (which was decidedly lacking from the 8th Gen ‘Smash’ game for WiiU and 3DS).

Nintendo’s other first-party offerings were mostly quite dismal, so it’s no wonder they were overshadowed by ‘Smash.’ There’s a new ‘Fire Emblem’ coming, but Nintendo squandered their opportunity to really build that fanbase by not releasing the NES/SNES titles States-side, leaving a schism between people who might be interested in a TRPG and those who just want to pet anime waifus. “Pokemon: Let’s Go!” is NOT the ‘core’ ‘Pokemon’ game we’ve been waiting for on Switch, but a tie-in for the “Pokemon GO” mobile app. After the egregious 2 years of effort it took me to catch decent Pokemon in “Pokemon GO,” there’s no way in Hades I’d want to transfer them into what amounts to babby’s furst RPG. Then there’s “Super Mario Party,” which exists for reasons beyond my comprehension. I really hoped that the stupid Party mini-game collection genre was well and truly dead, but Nintendo seems adamant in reanimating it.

There is some good news, though. First, “Xenoblade Chronicles 2,” which I have not bought or played yet, is getting a DLC! BOO, DLC SUCKS! But wait! This DLC is a stand-alone game that comes on its own physical retail game card! I’ll have to see if the first part is enjoyable before I commit to buying the second, but when a DLC expansion gets a physical release on a console, it’s a sign, perhaps, that things aren’t quite as woeful in the industry as they seem. Perhaps.

Lastly, the show-stopper for me in the Nintendo Direct was the game the company opened with: “Daemon X Machina,” a mech game with designs that immediately gave me flashbacks to my once-beloved ‘Armored Core’ series (before From Software… From’ed it up and beat it into the ground). It turns out that several of the team members who worked on the older ‘Armored Core’ games have formed their own studio to work on this spiritual successor together, which has been confirmed to contain the classic customization mechanics ‘AC’ fans know and love. I’m really hyped to play this one… once Nintendo publishes it in 2019.

PC Gaming Show:
Want: “Valkyria Chronicles 4,” “Stormland” (VR)
Not Sure if Want: “Sable”
Do Not Want: BattleRoyaleBattleRoyaleBattleRoyaleBattleRoyale… EVERYWHERE, Lots of Crappy Indie Titles, Lots of Crap in General

The PC Gaming Show’s corporate sponsorship was decidedly toned-down from previous years, and furthermore, much of the idiotic Master Race behavior was toned-down or missing altogether. Perhaps the people who put this show together have figured out that PC gaming has evolved?

Despite the fact that the PC Gaming Show ended up with a total runtime nearly twice as long as even the most long-winded console company show, they managed to show-off even less of interest. There were a ton of games shown, and I’m not going to re-list all of their titles here. But, damn, were they unimpressive. Out of that whole steaming cesspool of titles, three rose to the surface for me.

“Valkyria Chronicles 4” is coming to PC as part of a further commitment by Sega to keep bringing their stuff to the least oppressive platform. I had initially intended to pick-up “VC4” for the Switch after it was announced to be skipping PC, but now that Sega has corrected their oversight, I’ll be grabbing it on Steam.

“Stormland” looks to be a very ambitious VR game. Developed and published by Insomniac Games (best known for their Sony-exclusive ‘Ratchet & Clank’ series), this will be an open world Sandbox starring a modular robot who can replace/upgrade his parts as he travels. If more people are going to be convinced to buy into VR, more ambitious titles like “Stormland” need to start happening.

Lastly, “Sable” is another open world exploration game, this time by an Indie developer. The most stand-out thing about “Sable” is its striking art style, which immediately invoked memories in me of “Nausicaa and the Valley of Wind” by Studio Ghibli… and unsurprisingly, the developer of “Sable” cited Studio Ghibli as a big influence. The gameplay might not be there, though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

The Rest:
Want: “Anthem” (still!), “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey,” “RAGE 2,” “Elder Scrolls 6,” “Starfield,” “Dragon Quest 11” (still!), “Octopath Traveler” (still!), “Metro Exodus” (still!)
Not Sure if Want: “Unravel 2,” “Beyond Good & Evil 2” (still!) “Fallout 76,” “Babylon’s Fall,” “Cyberpunk 2077”
Do Not Want: Subscriptions, Live Services, Toys, Battle Royales, e-Sports, Crappy DLCs for Crappy Games, “Kingdom Hearts 3,” “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” “Just Cause 4,” “Captain Spirit”

Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Bethesda Softworks and Square-Enix all showed off their wares in dedicated shows, while a number of other third-parties had their multi-platform titles slipped into console-specific shows (specifically our Eastern European friends from CD Projekt and 4A Games hid themselves under Microsoft’s umbrella of sadness). The sheer quantity of stuff shown-off by these third-parties guaranteed that they’d have something to appeal to everyone.

EA proudly showed off “Anthem” – again – their BioWare-developed let’s-pretend-this-is-an-RPG-when-it-is-clearly-a-Shooter, and even more proudly confirmed that it will have none of the Loot Box shenanigans for which the company has become infamous over the past year or so. The MJ Crew could do for a new MMO, and “Anthem” seems like it will be a good fit for us. The new trailer made the game look thematically similar to “Xenoblade Chronicles X” for the late WiiU, which intrigued me. Aside from “Anthem,” though, EA failed to impress, showing of gobs of Sports (my civil servant friend Andy will piss himself when he learns that ‘Madden’ is coming back to PC after years of absence), gobs of PvP e-Sports/BattleRoyale idiocy, a bit of bland Indie-ness under their EA Originals banner, all while trying to coerce the audience into subscribing to Origin Access Premier, which is apparently better than subscribing to regular Origin Access.

Ubisoft, naturally, showed off a lot of sequels, because that’s what Ubisoft does. Out of the morass, “Beyond Good and Evil 2” caught my attention with the brief mention of being a coop title (we ALWAYS need quality coop for the MJ Crew), and “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey” has finally convinced me to buy my first ‘AssCreed’ game simply due to the setting. Perhaps I’m weakening, or perhaps there’s something wrong with me, what with my sudden interest in the 5th ‘Far Cry’ game and this umpteenth ‘AssCreed’ game… or more likely Ubisoft has finally had to get creative now that the easy/lazy sequels with the bland settings have already been done. Honestly, I’m not even sure why “Odyssey” has ‘AssCreed’ slapped in front of it. Moving on, the company is also releasing a DLC pack for “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle” (which I loved) starring Donkey Kong… but it’s only getting a physical release in Europe. BOO! The only original non-sequel, non-DLC things Ubisoft had up its sleeves were “Starlink” – a toys-to-life SHMUP, now with ‘Starfox’ crossover content – and “Skull & Bones” – a more gritty version of Microsoft’s “Sea of Thieves” Live Service – both of which are old news from last year.

Like the other, more established E3 third-parties, Bethesda showed off a wildly mixed bag containing some delicious pieces of candy resting atop a mountain of poop. The company confirmed “RAGE 2,” which was leaked early by a retail store, with a mind-blowing trailer. I may be the only person on Earth who thinks the original “RAGE” is the best id Software game, but this sequel looks even better. While Chris thinks it looks like Bethesda combined “Bulletstorm” and “RAGE” to get “RAGE 2,” I think it looks more like a combination of “Shadow Warrior 2” and “RAGE,” but either way it looks like a compelling FPS. Bethesda also gave us barely-there teases of both “The Elder Scrolls 6: Subtitle Still Needed” and “Starfield,” which is essentially a sci-fi take on their open world Sandbox formula. (The best thing about the “ES6” reveal was the self-deprecating spoof of “Skyrim: Very Special Edition” where Bethesda jokingly said that they were porting “The Elder Scrolls 5” to Amazon Echo and Samsung Smart Refrigerators, among other things. That was a joke, right? RIGHT?!) Bethesda is also planning to milk all of the other id Software IPs, with sequels to ‘DOOM,’ ‘Quake,’ AND ‘Wolfenstein.’ While I can at least understand the appeal of the modern ‘Wolfenstein’ games, the new “DOOM Eternal” and ESPECIALLY “Quake Champions” (an e-Sport platform) don’t deserve to exist. And neither does Roguelike mobile app “The Elder Scrolls: Blades” or Live Service garbage like “The Elder Scrolls Legends” (which is getting a relaunch). Perhaps the most egregious abuse of live services coming out of Bethesda will be “Fallout 76,” which looks to merge the well-done FPS-style post-Interplay ‘Fallout’ games with the odious and relatively new online survival genre – exemplified by games such as “Rust,” “Conan Exiles,” and “ARK.” It has been confirmed that “Fallout 76” is an always-online title with 12-player instances and open PvP. Though the presenter who talked about “Fallout 76” nearly bent over backwards trying to distance the game from its archetypes – calling it ‘softcore’ survival and beating the drum that being killed doesn’t cause the loss of progress – the preview footage itself showed a PvP battle where a number under the defeated player decreased, so I’m not sure what to believe. It’s possible the MJ Crew could get something out of this as a coop experience, but considering how cheap we are, by the time we get around to it, it will either be completely depopulated and we won’t have to worry about the other 8 randos in our instance, or it will be crammed with OP super-mutant walking arsenals who can kill new players just by thinking about it.

Square-Enix was back in a big way after their no-show performance last year. The company that was built on quality RPGs has two coming soon: “Dragon Quest 11” and “Octopath Traveler” – both of which we’ve known about for a long time already. I still really want to play them, though! The big new thing Square-Enix revealed was “Kingdom Hearts 3,” which is somewhat surprising. I figured ‘Kingdom Hearts’ was dead, especially since the fanbase really should have grown out of their obsessive love of all things Disney by now… but nope, it’s coming and looks to include a number of much newer Disney IPs, alongside the same old annoying anime trope Square-Enix characters. Square-Enix and a number of first-parties also seem to think “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” is something to get excited about, but they’re over-estimating the narrative quality of the IP. A “Life is Strange” spinoff about an imaginative kid, “The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit,” looks dreadful, while “Just Cause 4” looks like a pandering attempt to woo-away some of Ubisoft’s ‘Far Cry’ audience. The biggest unknown quantity at the Square-Enix show was a new IP called “Babylon’s Fall,” which looks like a Fantasy game based on the armored people shown in the trailer, but with no gameplay, any other commentary would be pure speculation.

Finally, small-time studios (heh, calling CD Projekt, the owner of GOG.com, ‘small’) from Eastern Europe managed to impress with their lone titles. 4A Games, under the wing of Deep Silver, will be bringing the third (possibly final?) ‘Metro’ game, “Metro Exodus” to multiple platforms. When I saw the reveal of “Metro Exodus” last year, I hadn’t yet played the first to games in the series. I have now, and the new trailer makes it look like this sequel will improve on its predecessors in every way. I nearly needed a change of pants when I saw Artyom building a gun from components in his backpack! Chris, however, insists that CD Projekt’s “Cyberpunk 2077” is the game of the show, despite the fact that there was no actual gameplay shown publicly. Chris claims to have seen an hour of leaked gameplay footage though, and that he nearly needed a change of pants afterwards. While I don’t worship CD Projekt’s efforts with ‘The Witcher’ trilogy like some people do, I’ll be eager to gobble-up any tidbits of info about “Cyberpunk 2077” as they appear.


Conclusion
For E3 2018, I’m handing the trophy to the squirming morass of Third-Party Publishers. While the platform holders are all floundering, the third-parties, while they may have their own self-interest in mind, managed to show-off a tidal wave of impressive stuff. (Let’s just ignore the extinction-event-caliber meteor or crap behind the tidal wave of good stuff, shall we?)

My Game of the Show award goes to both “Metro Exodus” and “RAGE 2.” Other candidates may be more worthy, but the footage shown of these two was the most impressive.

The Booby Prize goes to Subscriptions. Both Microsoft and EA pushed heavily on the Live Services Skinner Box button, which is bad enough on its own, but when the Live Service has a monthly fee attached… BLEH. Microsoft should feel especially ashamed, considering that their Game Pass is a double-dip on top of their Xbox Live Gold subscription that’s required to even make an Xbox work properly. Clearly as the biggest corporation and the one least intimately tied to gaming, MS is testing to see if private consumers will adapt as readily to paying perpetual fees as huge corporate Windows licensors have. Let’s get this straight, MS and EA: You want your target DudeBro audience to pay over $200/year to maintain access to your combined libraries? I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The reason Netflix flourished was because it had EVERYTHING for ONE small fee. Chopping up the videogame ecosystem and charging $10-$15/month for multiple environments adds-up fast and quickly exceeds the reach of kids and the less affluent.

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Chris

Wrote on06/16/18 at 06:26 PM CT

The Cyberpunk 2077 50 minutes of gameplay was only shown behind closed doors to the press - so that's why there is no video, but only reports from said press. Sorry about the mixup, but it still looks awesome! I really wanted Rage 2 to be multiplayer as well, but I'll take a more robust single-player game over cramming in half-baked multiplayer.

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