A bit of this and a bit of that
With Sony out of the picture this E3, I’m left with a dilemma: normally, I cover the big three, but this year, that’s only two. So let this article serve as a middle ground. Instead of summing up 4 or 5 smaller publisher-focused conferences, I’ll just do a highlight reel of them all in one article. This won’t be every single thing they talked about, just the hits. For my own sanity, if nothing else.
EA limps along for another year. For at least four E3s now, EA’s showing has been nothing more than concept art, tech demos, and promises of “things to come.” Most of which either don’t come, or worse still end up lying broken in the gutter. E3 for EA this year was one of safe bets: expansion content for the already-proven Apex Legends, and more of the usual. More Madden. More Sims. More Battlefield. “Please, don’t leave. We’ve got so much more to show you!”
Their saving grace was the gameplay reveal of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The 13 minute gameplay demo saw our main character traverse the Empire’s occupation in Kashiyyk, helping a character from Star Wars: Rogue One free captive Wookies. Gameplay was heavily reminiscent of Raven Software’s old Dark Forces games, particularly Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy. I don’t know if any of you have gone back and tried to play those Jedi games, but they’re more than a little rough around the edges these days, with the worst habits of mid-90’s shooter design laid bare. A modern take with proper controls definitely has my interest, but I’m worried about the linearity of the environments. It seemed like a lot of clicking on obstacles to move them out of your path in between combat arenas. Respawn, the developers, promise a more “Zelda-like” experience for the final, so maybe it’ll open up. We’ll see.
I’m not alone in thinking Bethesda’s E3 conference belonged to Ikumi Nakamura, the extremely personable director of Ghostwire: Tokyo. She’s been training under Shinji Mikami for a while now, and I’m sure by now you might have heard of her resume — between Okami, Bayonetta, Street Fighter, and The Evil Within (which, despite not being a very fun game, had some FANTASTIC visual concepts). Details are still slim on Ghostwire itself, but at least the CG trailer was slick. Similarly slick was the trailer to Deathloop, Arkane’s next game. You seem to play as one of two assassins, both of which are caught in a Groundhog-Day-style loop where they cannot die. Their goal? Kill the other. The press release says there will be other targets as well, so don’t expect to be stuck hunting the same opponent for the entire game.
Most of what Bethesda had to show were softball pitches. A Commander Keen mobile game seems to have ruffled some feathers, given it appears to be a very sluggish looking competitive platformer of sorts. Doom Eternal still looks pretty cool, but I can’t shake the feeling something about it isn’t right, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s a little too tongue-in-cheek funny, a little too nostalgia-worshipping, and despite that, just not very Doom-feeling, somehow. Then again, Bethesda was notoriously terrible at promoting Doom 2016, so maybe whoever cuts together their trailers just picks bad moments to show off. I’m sure it’ll be fine. The game is also receiving a brand new multiplayer mode, where one Doom Slayer fights against a group of player-controlled monsters, twisting the now-familiar “killer versus victims” horror multiplayer game theme. Now THAT sounds interesting.
A lot of Ubisoft’s conference was dedicated to talking about the next season of all their ongoing “service” games. There are new vehicles, new characters, new maps, new modes, new everything coming for games like Rainbow Six Siege, Trials Rising, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, For Honor, and The Division 2, but the big news was of the games. This E3 saw the reveal of Watch_Dogs Legion, the third game in the series. Past games kept sort of a “near-future” vibe to them, but this seems to inch things just a little further forward, treading in to full-on science fiction territory. The hook this time around seems to be that there is no “main character” — instead, you recruit new members of your cyber-gang, DedSec, from the rebellious populace around you. It certainly opens up a lot of very interesting potential for “emergent gameplay” (as it used to be called), but you really can’t ever tell with Ubisoft games. Even when they show you gameplay, there’s no telling how much of it is being fudged to make it more marketable.
Tom Clancy was out in force, with new trailers for games like Ghost Recon Breakpoint, but also brand new games, like the mobile-only Elite Squad. Then there’s Rainbow Six Quarantine, a military zombie shooter with very few other details. Pivoting from that, Ubisoft revealed Gods & Monsters, a game some are already likening to a Greek-inspired Breath of the Wild. But the biggest news, at least for me, was Ubisoft revealing “Uplay+“. Essentially Ubisoft’s answer to Microsoft Game Pass, it promises to offer more than 100 of Ubisoft’s past games for a flat fee of $15 a month. Which is, needless to say, clownshoes. I have loved a number of Ubisoft games in my time, but not enough to pay them $15 a month. (I still have a lot of those discs!) I think I speak for us all when I say the last thing we need is another monthly subscription service to pay for, where the concept of ownership is slowly eradicated. Ubisoft was also the first company to build a Steam competitor on PC (the original Uplay), so hopefully Uplay+ isn’t a sign of things to come from other publishers.
Look, okay. Listen. Listen to me! There were lots of things shown at Square-Enix’s conference. Alright? Okay? There was something about a new Final Fantasy Brave Exvius mobile game essentially becoming Final Fantasy Tactics. I don’t know. I’m more of a Record Keeper guy, myself, and even then I’ve fallen out of that loop. And, yes, they announced a Remaster for Final Fantasy VIII, with touched up visuals. I’m in the camp that Final Fantasy VIII is where Square-Enix fell off the rails with the Final Fantasy franchise, so my opinion on that might not be trusted (or maybe that makes me super trustworthy to you, I don’t know). And I guess there’s Kingdom Hearts III DLC, or whatever.
But the elephant in the room is Final Fantasy VII Remake. Something you might not know about me: I’m a shameful FF7 mark. I mentioned playing the Record Keeper mobile game? I did that mainly to collect the cast of FF7. I played Final Fantasy Mobius to do the FF7 event. I may not agree with some of the decisions in this Remake (particularly the realistic art and the ditching of the classic, turn-based battle system) but I cannot deny that watching the trailer makes my blood rush. What’s really throwing me for a loop is the fact that the finished game, once all episodes are released, the game will apparently take up two Blu-ray discs. If you don’t know, a single Blu-ray holds around 128gb of data, potentially making Final Fantasy VII Remake one of the largest games to date. Each episode, according to Square-Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase, will be the size of an entire game like Final Fantasy XIII. If they can pull it off, it could be insane… but that’s if they pull it off.
And that’s that. See you later today for the Nintendo Direct!