The E3 conferences have ended! The news deluge is over! Here are the most interesting games, as officially chosen by me.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
The best experience at E3 is when something completely new and original comes along and just blows your socks off. Yes, the sequels and long-awaited unveilings are good, but that’s what I always hope for every year. It seems like it’s been happening increasingly rarely as the years go on.
But this year it did happen! The creators of tiresome space-Nazi franchise Killzone unveiled a game about post-apocalyptic tribes fighting robot dinosaurs, or something. I don’t know. It looks amazing and I want it.
Just as the rumors indicated, Bethesda showed off a CG trailer of Dishonored 2. Now, if you haven’t played the first game the following sentences will be completely incomprehensible, but bear with me here.
So it’s set 15 years after the first game and the setting is moving from Dunwall (aka not-London) to Serkanos (aka not-the-Mediterranean). And you play as Emily Kaldwin! She’s an adult now and apparently turned into a total badass since the events of Dishonored. That makes sense, since it was previously established that Corvo had already started training her in some basic combat techniques since the age of ten. Oddly, you can apparently also play the whole thing as Corvo (I’m not going to, because seriously look at that coat she’s wearing in that screenshot), which immediately made me assume there’s going to be co-op but the developers already shot that down.
(Incidentally I didn’t say it previously, but I’ve been guessing for the last year that Dishonored 2 would take place in Serkanos and feature a woman as the protagonist)
As cool as the whole thing looks, I do have some concerns. The setup- Emily being usurped from the throne and what looks like another supernatural plague- feels like a bit of a retread of the first game. I also hope that Arkane aren’t tempted to pull the curtain back too much on the game’s world. Dishonored is one of the very few pieces of media where I got seriously invested in the setting and lore, mostly because all of that was kept very ambiguous. I hope that trend continues.
Bethesda’s whole press conference was very well done overall. Each game was given the appropriate amount of time, unlike very other E3 exhibitor ever they clearly knew which games the audience was super hyped for and focused on those, charisma-free executives were not expected to deliver elaborate comedy routines. They clearly knew what they were doing, so bravo for that.
Very few things at E3 genuinely make me sit back in my seat and say “what?” anymore. But a game made by Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and the people behind Metroid Prime? What? Whaaaaaat?
The trailer for this was CG but apparently it has a girl and a robot dog and you can take the robot dog’s core out and put it in other robots. Seems neat, although unfortunately the trailer was just CG, like a lot of videos at E3.
So Media Molecule (the guys behind Little Big Planet) got to the stage at the Sony conference and revealed… something. I’m still not entirely sure what this thing is, but apparently you can paint stuff with your PS4 controller and make fluffy colorful dreamscapes?
This one’s kind of a mystery but the footage they showed looked really cool. I’ll keep an eye on it.
Sea of Thieves
If something at E3 looks too good to be true, it probably is. Publishers have always resorted to unscrupulous “target renders” (remember that Killzone 2 trailer when the PS3 was announced?) or demoed games years before the developers even knew the capabilities of the hardware they were going to release on.
So I’m deeply skeptical that this first-person pirate MMO for the Xbox One is actually going to look and feel anything like how it does in this video, but damn it I want to believe.
EA won the “most awkward moment during a press conference” award for their unveiling of Unravelled, whose creator got on stage to talk about love and stammer nervously. It was both adorable and intensely painful to watch.
But! The game itself looks utterly beautiful. Yes, it’s yet another indie-arty sidescrolling platformer, but look how gorgeous it is I want to eat it with my eyes. I hope the yarncat doesn’t die at the end. He probably will.
The Last Guardian
Yes, it finally happened. Sony kept saying The Last Guardian wasn’t cancelled, and they finally put their money where their mouth is.
As happy as I am to know that the third game from the creator of Ico and Shadow of The Colossus is going to be a real thing and not vapourware, I kind of worry that the game’s time has passed. What we saw at Sony’s conference was basically the same as before it vanished in 2011, and the gaming landscape has moved on since significantly in that time. In an age of ever-increasing spectacle the idea of interacting with a huge creature is no longer as impressive as it once was.
Still, the aspects of this game everyone’s really excited about, like the atmosphere of the world and the emotional resonance of the interaction between the characters, are timeless. I’m excited to finally get my hands on it next year.
(Incidentally: in hindsight, the idea that this game was ever going to run on a PS3 is kind of ridiculous)
It seems like the narrative around games is increasingly becoming that indie games are where the real creativity and interest is. I feel like that’s starting to change as the big developers get out of their Call of Duty creative rut, but it’s still true that there are a lot of really cool indie games at big trade shows these days. Here’s some of them:
I don’t know what this is but it sure looks pretty! Apocalypse sky whale!
This was a nice breath of fresh air during Microsoft’s press conference. It’s been in development for a long time, so it’s nice to see it getting a spot on one of the biggest stages in the industry.
This wasn’t shown at Sony’s conference, but apparently it’s going to be a Morpheus game. Seems nice! I like that VR headsets are being used for more than just shooters.
This perhaps doesn’t belong here, because it was announced ages ago and we didn’t really see any more of it in this trailer than we have before, but I’m going to talk about it anyway because I can’t wait to play it. It’s like an indie superteam came together to make the most ambitious narrative-exploration game yet.
By the way, can I just say how much I love it that Gone Home seems to have launched that as a viable genre?
This is a strong contender for the best E3 since I’ve started following the event.
The sheer breadth of games on display across just the consoles is staggering. We’re in a golden age when it comes to the kinds of genres and experiences that are being made and that are being advertised on the biggest platforms. Just a few years ago the entire industry seemed to be rapidly vanishing down a black hole of gritty military shooters; now the landscape is a riot of colour and creativity.
During the last few years there’s been a major push for more diversity in gaming. The focus has largely been on representations of gender in games, but more recently I’m seeing those talking about race and representation in game development get the signal-boosting they deserve (see for example this piece of Tauriq Moosa, which seems to have become something of a flashpoint). And there are signs that developers are actually listening- this show was still dominated by white dudes both on screen and on stage, but there was a noticeable uptick in diversity on both fronts. The effort is paying off.