Recapping E3

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In a nearly week long wave of hype, the Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went. The press conferences began on Saturday 6/9 with EA then continued over the weekend through Tuesday with Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, PC, Sony, and finally, Nintendo. Following Nintendo’s digital conference (known as Nintendo Direct), the showroom floors opened and so commenced the live demos, deep dives, and interviews with the developers which carried on through Thursday 6/14.

There was a lot of negativity from the gaming community as each conference concluded. Between bad pacing, awkward deliveries, missing games, and missing release dates, it’s understandable that not everyone was pleased at first glance. It certainly didn’t help that there were so many leaks of big game announcements prior to the event, games that would have made great surprises otherwise.

Taking a step back, however, to digest and take stock of everything that was shown rather than just waiting for the next big surprise, should leave gamers feeling better about the coming year. Looking back, nearly every conference had a little something for everyone and a whole lot to look forward to. Some of them even launched games directly following their conference! There was way too much information to cover it all now so I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite games and announcements from the week. You can see more of Level Grind’s favorites from the show including Spiderman and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate here.

Bioware’s new title, Anthem, looks to be perfect for those who enjoy multiplayer exploration, team based combat, and want to fulfill a fantasy of being Iron Man. Anthem contains what appears to be a massive, shared, open world full or lore and mysteries. Players can choose and customize their exosuits (Javelins) to fulfill different roles in the team with gadgets and armaments that not only affect how you play but can also be used to set up combo attacks with other players. Javelins can be changed between missions to fill different roles as needed. Anthem is sure to draw comparisons to Activision’s Destiny as the latter has certainly been an extremely major influence on the team exploration shooter genre but it’s clear Anthem will have a lot of systems and mechanics to make it unique.

Octopath Traveler is being published by Square Enix and is coming exclusively to Nintendo Switch on July 13th. This was dubbed game of the show by Level Grind contributor, Stephen. A prologue demo was released during the week of E3, allowing players to try all eight characters’ opening chapters. I’ve spent a lot of time with this demo and will be covering more in depth soon.

Speaking of Nintendo, remember earlier when I mentioned there were some games that dropped immediately after the conference ended? This happened after the Nintendo Direct, releasing long awaited port of Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight to the Nintendo Switch. I’m a big fan of games in the Metroidvania genre so this was a huge announcement for me. I’ll have my review on this coming soon. In other Nintendo-releasing-games-after-their-direct news, Fornite’s Battle Royale mode was also released for the Switch immediately which isn’t big news for me personally but will be a huge boon for the system- offering console quality visuals and control on the go. Nintendo ALSO bumped the release of their Splatoon 2 “OCTO Expansion” from mid July up to June 13th, giving it a new launch date during E3! Hands on impressions coming soon!

Upcoming indie game Indivisible by Lab Zero Games received some new gameplay and details in a developer interview at the show. I remember seeing snippets of this game previously but it had fallen off my radar until this deep dive. Based on gameplay and the developer commentary, this seems to be a 2D platformer with Metroidvania elements but rather than fighting enemies in real time, when you encounter an enemy in the environment you enter a turn based RPG battle. The art style and characters look great. I can’t wait to see more information on this.

My Game of the Show: Of all the games and gameplay shown throughout the week, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima really blew me away. We covered this a bit in a previous post but the game centers on the Mongol invasion of Japan. The protagonist is a Samurai who must evolve beyond typical Samurai tradition to become a force the Mongols would never expect. The game is one of the most gorgeous to grace any console to date. Ghost of Tsushima was first shown in a teaser trailer back in December during Sony’s Playstation Experience event. Sucker Punch has been mostly known for their Infamous games which feature characters with super human abilities that must make choices to serve the people or serve themselves. Although the decisions are mostly superficial during the majority of the game, the end game decisions seem to carry a lot more weight. It will be interesting to see what skills, character progression, and decision-making elements we’ll see in their newest title. We still don’t have a release window but maybe we will know more by the time this year’s Playstation Experience comes around.

Most anticipated game: Although the personal game of the show “awards” were varied, here at Level Grind and our friends agree that we are most eager for CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Most known for The Witcher series, CD Projekt Red leaves high fantasy behind for an 80’s inspired vision of a cyberpunk future. There was a 50-minute behind closed doors gameplay demo for select attendees at E3 (I’m so jealous). It has been said this will be a first-person RPG with some shooting elements. Had I been able to see the demo, I’m sure this would have been my game of the show. I can’t get enough of the trailer. The style and music just set the perfect mood and everything in that trailer is set during the day, imagine what the city looks like at night! I can picture all the neon now. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, take a look!

 

Favorite non-game moments: First off, the Nintendo Treehouse team covering the demos from a large number of games shown off during the Nintendo direct was almost always entertaining. They were my go-to channel for a good portion of the week due to their extensive coverage and quality of content shown. Sort of game related but not game specific was all the “and it’s released today” moments from the show. Often this was for smaller titles or indie games but it’s still great to get something instant while enjoying the shows. Lastly, Andrew W.K. opening the Bethesda show with a musical performance for Rage 2 was pretty awesome. It went a little long but it’s hard to not enjoy Andrew W.K.

What games were missing? Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square Enix’s Avengers game, Animal CrossingBloodborne 2. Given everything else that was shown/announced it’s hard to be too broken hearted. As nice as it would have been see these games, we will have more than enough to play over the course of the next year.

How did I do with my predictions?  Pretty terribly. As mentioned above we did not see Animal Crossing, Avengers or Bloodborne 2. In fact, just about the only thing I got right was the Elder Scrolls VI announcement and even that didn’t contain the subtitle, location or any gameplay. We likely will not see it until the next generation of consoles show up.

Well, it was a bit long winded but that’s pretty much my recap of E3. There’s still so much more that happened and with all the games mentioned throughout the expo I’m sure we will be talking about it plenty going forward. Keep tuned for more and of course…

Keep Grinding

Gaming’s Greatest Two Weeks

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The last two weeks were stuffed full of new content and creations from Dungeons & Dragons, plus console and PC game developers. Some of it was good, some of it bad (Command & Conquer Rivals), and some of it was weird. But this isn’t a critique, it is rather a show of what the gaming industry has in store for us this fall and winter.

If any one thing is apparent from the Stream of Many Eyes, Dungeons & Dragons is in a renaissance period. With the drop of 5th Edition came a slew of updated lore about Faerûn and the Forgotten Realms, plus a pile of streaming games on Twitch and YouTube. Faerûn is the world that all the most popular D&D video games and books are set. I’m the DM for two teams and they adventure in Faerûn. Still, after about 17 years of DMing, I still haven’t used half of what is available in this world. And now it is about to get deeper.

On June 1-3, D&D brought us the Stream of Many Eyes. Twitch streamers of D&D descended upon the Waterdeep set and role-played new content.

In the fashion of D&D in our time, the release of new content was celebrated over a 3-day period, where some of the most popular players and DMs from the D&D streaming community came together and presented different stories set in the latest focus for the developers. The event included a massive set, composed of a full market and tavern filled with shops and role players dressed their parts.

Along with a full live action role play, the event was filled to the brim with classic table-top play, sometimes involving some famous folk taking on the role of characters in this adventure. One actor, from Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, DMed one of the best games of the show in the Witch of Briarcleft. Cosplay and imagination abound, with a few cringe worthy moments that kept it grounded. The whole event is available to watch now on YouTube, and I encourage you to check it out after this. If anything, to check out the extremely entertaining Jocks Machina.

The content being announced was a new adventure that takes place in Waterdeep. Based on the first look presented during the streaming event, this will be a more in-depth look at Waterdeep than we have seen in the past. It is an adventure set up to really draw the player into role-playing, versus the standard dungeon diving and wilderness exploration found in the rest of the Realms. There will still be opportunities for a brutish barbarian to slam some poor schmuck, but the idea is to role-play your way through the city. The goal is to go through a full-blown heist, and your group will be working against (or with) some of the most underhanded and powerful organizations and people in the Realms.

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From Dungeons & Dragons, the new adventure gives the dungeon master even more content to keep adventurers busy for months to come. 

Now, once your adventurers steal all the gold in Dragon Heist, one of the most ingenious and diabolical dungeons awaits them. And that dungeon is none other than Undermountain. A powerful wizard constructed Undermountain ages ago, and the lore presented hints that the creator still wanders the dungeon to this day. Beyond that, the Dungeon of the Mad Mage source book is packed with lore and monsters for this procedural dungeon. The dungeon changes and becomes more dangerous as the adventurers go deeper, and it is never the same twice.

The challenges that await them below Waterdeep come from all over the universe, and there is loot beyond anything your players have ever imagined. Between the Waterdeep adventure and the Undermountain source material, DMs will be able to give their players a level 1 to 20 campaign.

Video game developers followed on the heels of the Stream of Many Eyes with the always anticipated E3 conference. And this year, none of the presenters disappointed. Unless you count yourself in with the Final Fantasy 7 Remake or bust crowd, SquareEnix dropped more information and game-play on some of the most widely anticipated games this year, like Tomb Raider and Kingdom Hearts 3. While these and Just Cause are not my cup of tea, the game play and cinematics presented were gorgeous and fanciful. Certainly, these games will not disappoint fans.

Even EA, with a history of disappointing gamers, came out with a healthy mix of games, which included Anthem. BioWare is the studio on this, and they are putting together another RPG masterpiece. Announced last year, Anthem came back to the EA stage with new game-play and a playable floor demo during the event.

There was plenty more that EA showed, but one of the most exciting pieces of news from EA involved their long-troubled Battlefront series. It is poised to receive a free Clone Wars update. The update will include General Grievous, Anakin, and Obi-Wan as heroes. It will also include a new mode that allows for space combat between hero starships. With the adjustments to progression made after launch, and this new content drop, Battlefront II can easily make a case for itself as a must own.

Along with these games, I have a list for you. A short list of five games that you should get onto YouTube and check out if you haven’t already. They are my notables from E3 2018 and deserve some attention.

Ghost of Tsushima

This game is set in feudal Japan, during a time when the Mongols are invading, and we the players will take on the role of a samurai. The first look game-play video is one of the side quests available in the massive open world samurai adventure. It is gorgeous graphically, and the samurai movie cinematics and ensuing battles really drive home the fact that this is new. Who doesn’t want to be a samurai in an open world?

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Sony dropped this beauty of a game during their press conference at E3. The combat and open world environment are set to make this one of the greats.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown is one of the greatest open world smash ‘em up games ever conceived. The brilliant backdrop and over the top action are just too fun to pass up. And this time around, we get Terry Crews firing us up as we rip through the city. There is even a tank. If I can’t have a new Saints Row, then give me Crackdown 3.

Spider-man

Speculation of the Sinister 6 plaguing Spidey’s New York are all but confirmed at this point. And the open world game-play paired with the web-slinging action of Spider-man, there is no wrong here. This is a solid pick up this year, with plenty of room for expansion into a new Marvel game universe. I hope.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Dragonball what? Mortal who? Which Street Fighter are we on again? That’s right. I did that. Because the best fighting game to ever grace us on this planet Earth is back, packed full of everything any Smash Bros. from the past ever had. Game-play has been tweaked, characters are returning, and maps old and new are jammed into the most complete Smash Bros. ever. But what about Waluigi? Well, he must not be able to fight, because as of right now he is a no-show. But the Ice Climbers are back, and Saffron City is making a return.

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Nintendo just ended any competition for a fighting game. Get in my library.

Game of the Show – Octopath Traveler

Among all the games presented this past week, Octopath Traveler grabbed me by the eye holes and didn’t let go. I couldn’t get enough on this game, and the demo is live right now on the Switch. Taunting me. Not owning a Nintendo Switch hurt me this week. Which is why I will be getting one “for my kids” for Christmas, or a birthday, or Halloween. Any occasion really. Octopath Traveler makes me want a Switch in our household.

There was plenty more from the last two weekends that I’m sure to jump into as I digest all the great content. Keep your browser bookmarked to Level Grind, as there will be more to come from E3 and Waterdeep.

Did you watch E3? Tell us what you think, and what games caught your eye. How about the press conferences themselves? Who do you think won? Did you watch any of the Stream of Many Eyes? Do you even table-top? Let us know in the comments.

Keep Grinding.