Muses: Highlights and Lowlights of E3

As E3 begins to wind down, it is time to take a moment to think about the best and worst moments of this year’s gaming media bonanza. Obviously, I’m not there in person, so coverage is based off of a combination of live streams, articles, and videos from other sources.

So I wanted to take some time here today to talk about some of what I saw following coverage of E3. We’re going to talk surprises, the best and worst, and where the companies hit their highs and lows. I also wanted to touch base about the Sony E3 Experience as this was its first year visiting Winnipeg.

The Conferences

I’ll be honest here, Nintendo and Bethesda both had nothing to show for me. Nintendo’s event was really sad. So much time devoted to a game that looked like an artsy PS3-era adventure game… there’s nothing new in it. Sure, Zelda has never had jumping or loot drops before… but adventure games have had these things for over a decade. It feels like everything that made Zelda games special in the past has been abandoned, and now Nintendo thinks they’re innovating, but they’re just so out of touch with the rest of the gaming industry since they haven’t had many good third party titles on their systems that they don’t know what games have become in the past 10-15 years. This is, of course, based off of early demos, interviews, and gameplay footage and the final game may blow this all away… but that’s all they showed us at this event, really.

As for Bethesda, there are probably people who are really excited. But the vast majority of what we saw was really boring to me. The two things that seemed like highlights to me: ESO actually looked pretty cool and Dishonored 2 made me wish, wholeheartedly, that the series was third person. That game looked really intriguing, if not for the perspective. Aside from that, I’m sad to say they had little else. I mean, one of the most awkward and boring games I’ve ever played is being remastered for PS4 and Xbox One. That’s exciting… right?

Now that we have the bloopers out of the way, let’s talk Ubisoft and EA. EA’s event had moments that probably spoke to their respective fans… but like always, few of those spoke to me and an inordinate amount of time was devoted to sports games. However, there was one really beautiful high-note in ‘Fe’. Taking place in a mysterious forest, you play as a small creature who seems to have to use what the forest has to offer to defend it. It has so much potential, and such a gorgeous art style, that I can’t help but be excited for it.

Fe

Fe

Ubisoft’s conference had its own problems. Taking around 2 hours, this monolith did feature a fair bit of interesting content, but every single announcement, trailer, or video was attached to interviews and awkward behind the scenes videos. The pacing just fell apart, and the event felt like a drag. Also, why is Ubisoft committing so hard on movies when most videogame movies bomb? Awkward. Ghost Recon Wildlands, For Honor, Division, even Watch Dogs 2… looked really fantastic. But, 2 hours of interviews and sit-down discussions and weird demos… ridiculous.

Of course, and I think prettymuch everyone agrees, our two biggies put on the best of the big E3 conferences hands down. Microsoft and Sony both put out amazing shows. Microsoft had a well-paced show, and while there was a limited amount of content that appealed to me personally, it was still very impressive to watch. The Final Fantasy XV demo looked pretty solid, was good to see it showing for XBO in stead of just PS4. The time spent on their upcoming hardware seemed a bit gratuitous, but it was obviously necessary to expose people to it now. Scalebound, though… Scalebound. That game might sell an XBO to me. It looked simply fantastic.

And then came the Sony conference. Honestly, Sony clearly blew everyone out of the water this time. They literally showed just game after game for an hour, with a live orchestra, and just enough talking that nothing felt out of place. The Horizon demo was the gameplay we all wanted to see, Days Gone showed really well, and the Last Guardian was there with a release date. The exclusive PS4 Spiderman game designed by Insomniac had one of the most interesting trailers of the week. And, although it was hardly a surprise, God of War looked really fascinating. The one thing I will say is that I wish Sony would acknowledge their amazing JRPG lineup more. Persona 5, which is one of the biggest games in terms of hype, got a tiny nose-shot in their sizzle reel. That’s it.

As a quick final mention, the E3 experience for Sony was a lot of fun. It was a fascinating experience to be watching these conferences with a relatively large number of people, and aside from some audio issues during the trailer reel before the conference started, it worked flawlessly. I will say that the loot we got was pretty bland, although free movie theatre popcorn and a 10 dollar voucher are always welcome.

The Games

I’ve mentioned a few of the games up above, but to go into greater detail… of all of the content I watched from E3, the below are the six games who stick in my mind for the event. It’s hard to leave the Last Guardian off this list, but the truth is that we’ve been waiting for it for so long that the anticipation is mostly gone. Don’t get me wrong, I want to play it and fully intend to. But news about it no longer has as much impact, and they’re being – rightfully – circumspect about what they show in trailers, so they just aren’t that impressive.

Days Gone

Days Gone had probably the most impressive reveal of this year’s E3. There had been rumours, but this game wasn’t officially announced in any capacity until now. And man it left a mark. There were a lot of elements that reminded me of The Last of Us, but with a bit of a sense of humour. If this game lives up to the expectations of what Sony showed us, you can bet this will be a contender. It may even have the potential to become franchise material, as zombie infested worlds are rife for telling new stories.

Nier Automata

Nier showed off a few new trailers this year, including a boss trailer that looked utterly fantastic. It really does feel like Platinum understood what Nier was when designing the gameplay of Automata… they’ve taken their almost trademarked high-action gameplay design and mixed it with elements of other genres to keep that odd and unique flair that the original game had. The other thing that felt almost nostalgic was the music. Nier had one of those timeless soundtracks, the type that is immediately recognizable and you always remember. These trailers gave me the distinct impression that Automata will live up in that regard as well.

Nier Automata

Nier Automata

I Am Setsuna

I Am Setsuna just keeps drawing me in. Every time I see it, there’s something about it’s understated music, it’s charming yet simple art style, and it’s homage to a time when JRPGs were king that just makes me smile. E3’s trailer did something a little different… E3’s trailer showed me the game’s solemn and somber depth. This is not going to be a happy story, and that’s all for the better since it is through a character’s trials that we come to bond with them. A lot of mainstream JRPGs have forgotten how to make characters impactful lately. It will be a good lesson for the rest of SquareEnix to relearn from this tiny little team if it’s successful in the way that I hope it will be.

Scalebound

From solemn JRPG to dragonriding insanity. What a segue we have going on here, right? If it is possible to get me to buy an Xbox One, Scalebound will be the game to do it. The dragons looked awesome, the combat looked exciting, and the bosses looked epic. I also really like the thought of a game that is seamlessly multiplayer from start to finish, without being solely multiplayer. Here’s hoping Scalebound lives up to its promise because, if it does, I’m likely to end up with another box in my basement to stream from.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

I’ve made no secret that Horizon is a game I am extremely excited for. The post-apocalyptic world with its amazing dichotomy of ruins and reptilian robots is a story that is practically irresistible to me. And the main character uses a bow, which is always a surefire way to catch my attention. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to me when I saw just how fun the game looked. I can’t wait to ride small mechanical dinosaurs shooting explosive arrows at giant mechanical dinosaurs and, apparently, crafting new stuff over time. We haven’t seen the crafting, but we’ve sure seen the materials in the trailers.

Persona 5

What could possibly deserve this final mention other than Persona 5? This game looks so polished, and the jump from P4G to P5 looks to be massive. The graphics look clean and smooth, the art direction looked unmistakably Persona, and the environments looked thoroughly inhabited. Don’t get me wrong, it made sense for Inaba to have a lot of open spaces as a fairly small town… but P5 is in Tokyo, and it looks it. It was so good to see a gameplay showcase of this game showing to everyone that it really does look like Persona. And, in the end, that’s all they had to show… because that’s what we need to know.

Final Thoughts

If E3 is telling me anything, it’s that the gaming industry is finally getting the hang of these new consoles we have. For both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 we saw crazy lineups of fascinating titles for prettymuch every genre. I hope we continue to see this quality of showings from all sides – and that Nintendo is able to catch up in time, because I don’t want another year like last year… and if E3 is any indication, next year’s lineup is going to be like this year’s: overwhelming.

 

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