Lies, overstatements, scripted gameplay footage and a lot of disgusting marketing is the easiest way to describe this year’s E3. Bombastic presentations over actual gameplay are mostly what we’ve got in what I consider the lowest point in this games convention’s history. But for a skeptic gamer this comes as no surprise, as business takes precedence over everything else and in the end it is up to the gamers to filter the information or fall into the marketing traps.
Leaving that behind, there were still good reasons to enjoy this year’s E3 as plenty of small games emerged from the shadows to fill the disappointment void left by the unimpressive AAA titles. Here’s my list filled with older and newer games that I find exciting enough to follow or to keep following after E3:
After forcing the players to be tactical in order to deal with a merciless RNG in Chaos Reborn, Julian Gollop, the creator of the original X-COM, is now returning to the genre that consecrated him. Phoenix Point, the newly announced title by Snapshot Games looks a lot like X-COM.
The game will combine the tactical turn-based combat and procedurally generated levels with a strategic layer borrowed from grand strategies into a setting with horrific creatures. Phoenix Point is one of humanity’s last stands in a world engulfed by horror and the player will be tasked to lead this settlement in the fight against the threat set on consuming the last remnants of our race.
I won’t lie, the screenshots give me a vibe of Firaxis’ XCOM, but considering how good the combat turned out to be in the latest XCOM titles I don’t mind Snapshot Games borrowing this system and if possible improving on it.
The thematic and artistic design behind Phoenix Point managed to charm me right from the beginning and while the story sounds a lot like Terror from the Deep, I’m quite intrigued to find out more. Phoenix Point won’t see the light of the screens anytime soon, but I’m looking forward towards that day, as XCOM seems to have some serious competition now.
ARMA 3 Apex
ARMA 3 is a broken game that I love and hate because there is nothing else like it (in before Squad release!). The performance problems pushed me away from the game, but change is coming with the release of the APEX expansion. A singleplayer/4 players co-op campaign, a new and more vivid map, new weapons, gear and vehicles are just some of the features that APEX is bringing to the core game. The E3 footage was lovely and the rumors of performance improvements with the upcoming patch got me tricked into playing again and I’m having a buggy blast!
ARMA 3 Apex is promising a lot for its 30$ tag price and not only in its launch features, but in the long term development that is the ARMA experience.
Mount & Blade II: Bannelord
The siege footage shown at E3 stole my heart, in all fairness, I’m in quite a mood for medieval video games, but Bannerlord had so much goodness to show that my desires didn’t even matter. I can’t remember ever seeing such a well executed and visually pleasing siege fight in a 1st/3rd person video game, the gameplay options and the combat itself looked amazing. It does look a little clunky, especially in group fights as the animation aren’t AAA material. But who cares? It’s a game that dares to extend over the limited boundaries that video games had lately and it deserves all the praising for that.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord was a game that I was following from the moment it was announced, but has jumped high in my wishlist and for good reasons. Fingers crossed so it doesn’t disappoint.
Rainbow Six Siege was accused for not justifying its 60$ price tag as it didn’t have a singleplayer campaign, an argument of late which I find rather obnoxious. I didn’t know multiplayer games which can offer hundreds if not thousands of hours of online fun need to justify their price with a cheap shot of a story that usually has about four hours of cringyness. Siege didn’t justify its price from other reasons, but I’ve never felt the need for a campaign. Needless to say, Ubisoft took notice of the complaints and For Honor, which was first presented at 2015’s E3, now comes with a singleplayer campaign which will have all the factions engaged in an all out war manipulated by a ruthless villain. The singleplayer footage we’ve seen was ok following on the footsteps of most of the story campaigns seen in latest years, including markers for incoming damage and the usual hand holding. It might be interesting to see the story of the three factions: The Legion, The Chosen and The Warborn, but more importantly, nobody can complain now that the game costs 60$.
My interest in For Honor is multiplayer related as I’m expecting a better Chivalry or War of the Roses, but sadly E3 didn’t have anything in store for those who have the same interests as me. We did get to see the latest version of the Art of Battle, For Honor’s combat system, in the singleplayer footage and it seemed a bit slower paced, but that was it.
In the last couple years Ubisoft has been on a destructive path with their games, most of them turning out to be downgraded and incomplete. I’m hoping that the latest heat the company got from their fans has put them on a better track and For Honor will be positively affected by this. One can only hope…
Tyranny has one of the most interesting RPG story ideas I’ve heard in a while. As the evil faction has won the war and it’s now reinforcing its law over the war-torn world. The players will serve as an officer in the army of the evil overlord Kyros and are empowered to serve as a judge and executioner, exercising these powers over the conquered populace.
With this new and original setting, Obsidian is creating an old school style RPG featuring branching narrative with choices that (hopefully) matter and an improved real time with pause combat system (Pillars of Eternity didn’t really do well on this aspect). The 2D graphics with 3D characters are delightful reminiscing the Infinity Engine games the same way Pillars of Eternity did.
Tyranny’s strongest point and uniqueness comes from its story and setting. We rarely get to see a world after the battle between good and evil and even less often that battle is won by evil. The story is extremely promising, but considering the premise, it is also so easy to screw up. With Chris Avellone gone, I’m not so confident in Obsidian at the moment, but there are still a lot of very talented people there that can easily impress and I’m waiting to be impressed.
We Happy Few
Bioshock meets roguelite is the easiest and most accurate way to describe this game and as a gamer that loved Bioshock (1) and enjoys roguelites, We Happy Few seems like a dream coming true.
The action takes place in a retrofuturistic world depicting an alternative 60s England fuelled by a drug that induces happiness to feed a joy obsessed population with disillusions. The player wakes up from this drug induced state and has to sneak and fight his way out of this mess through a procedurally generated world designed to make each playthrough feel unique.
The E3 footage has reinforced my opinion about this game, it’s creepy, weird and at the same time lovely. We Happy Few does seem to target a wider audience as it promises to launch with a story and a sandbox mode, satisfying the needs of both the fans of singleplayer story driven titles and roguelites alike, but that can only be good for the game.
We Happy Few is launching to Steam’s Early Access on July 26, let’s just hope it won’t get stuck in this purgatory that ruined a lot of promising games.
Cliffy B, the creator of Unreal Tournament, is returning with a new game that is part arena shooter part hero shooter in a market that is currently dominated by Overwatch. LawBreakers is supposed to be a fast paced shooter, faster than most of the games we got lately, as it targets to resemble its spiritual father, Unreal Tournament.
Set in a futuristic America after a devastating seismic event that changed the landscape forever, Lawbreakers has the players fighting for or against the law in a world where gravity is out of control. Players will be able to choose from four different classes, each with a unique arsenal and set of skills designed for a certain play style. The maps will feature a lot of verticality and Zero Gravity zones where players can float around while battling for objectives.
LawBreakers selling points are its fast paced gameplay and a high skill cap in the trend of the old school arcade shooters Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. Considering the mastermind behind this game the expectations of recreating the magic of old in an era of slow paced (almost spoon feeding) online shooters is something that might interest many players.
Dawn of War 3
Dawn of War 3 is coming with a new look. The unexpected change to a cartoonish graphics style is surely a turn off for a game that should depict the grim darkness of the far future, but this is Warhammer 40k Dawn of War after all, it’s hard not to get at least a little excited about it.
Dawn of War III is turning to its RTS roots, a change I don’t agree with as I consider the RTT style of the second installment was a closer representation of the tabletop game. But there are more strategy fans of building and macromanagement than pure tactics out there, so I can’t blame the developers for their change in heart. Blood Raven’s Chapter Master Gabriel Angelos will make a return in the campaign as a playable character, leading his chapter against the forces of Eldar and Orks (Chaos DLC?!). The game will feature massive battles in the style of the first Dawn of War and a revamped cover system. Some pretty epic units have been showcased in the gameplay videos including an Imperial Knight.
The game is set for release in 2017 and besides the expected singleplayer campaigns and the competitive multiplayer, Dawn of War III will also feature mods support and hopefully an improved version of the popular Last Stand multiplayer mod.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was one of my most anticipated games this year, but after the E3 presentation my interest in the game diminished a great deal (not as much as some games that didn’t make it on this list). While the gameplay shown at E3 looks great and full of options, the graphics seem to have taken a noticeable hit and the original screenshots (or the consoles version looks that much worse). Washed up textures and a poorly animated Adam Jensen make it look outdated, ironically, considering I’m talking about an unreleased game. The technical issues don’t stop here, as the Dubai mission that was showcased had some questionably stupid AI for a game of this caliber.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided still looks promising and I’m eager to play it, but it doesn’t seem to rise up to the expectation level of a title from this legendary franchise. Maybe I’m wrong, but we will find out in less than two months.
State of Decay 2
State of Decay was a survival game with a poorly technical execution and with a gameplay heavily influenced by consoles, yet it was still one of the best zombie apocalypse survival games I played. This year’s E3 has brought the long expected announcement of State of Decay 2, which, contrary to the fans’ expectations, it isn’t an MMO. But it used to be (hopefully it won’t suffer from the same problems that come with this change, as Dragon Age: Inquisition did).
State of Decay 2 retains the same combination of survival and RPG elements with the addition of a drop in/out 4 player co-op mode. Another change which might be for the better is the embracement of Unreal Engine 4. The few sequences of gameplay that were seen at E3 looked familiar, but with visibly improved graphics and more fluid animations.
We will have to wait for Undead Labs to provide more details about the game, including if and when it will come to Steam as games published by Microsoft seem to be tied to Windows 10 lately.
We finally got to see some actual gameplay of Dishonored 2 and it’s looking good, not like I was expecting otherwise considering the first title did quite well in this department. The story is what worries me when it comes to this game, but having the choice to play either as Corvo or Emily I think it opens up all kind of options when it comes to the storytelling and I bet the writers did take advantage of this.
As a sequel, Dishonored 2 pretty much follows in the footsteps of its predecessor with a slightly improved and more varied gameplay, an intricate level design and a lovely artistic style that greatly resembles the first game. The graphics are better, though not by much, but hopefully more work has been put into the AI, something that today’s gamers tend to ignore.
Arkane Studios have demonstrated their talent with each game released and by the looks of it Dishonored 2 makes no exception from this rule. The game got more expensive, being priced as a AAA, but aside of the graphics, the production value seems to be top notch. Dishonored 2 is set to release this year on November 11.
Despite its never-ending performance problems, Arkham Knight was one of my favorite games of last year, a game that opened up my appetite for more DC/Batman (if I can’t get a proper Green Lantern game…).
Telltale’s taking on the challenge of making a Batman game was well received by the gamers, myself included. The fist screenshots emerged at E3 and it looks good. It seems like Telltale did their homework on the subject and we can expect a game that captures the essence and atmosphere of the comic books. The game will focus both on Bruce Wayne and Batman, something I’ve wanted to see explored in the Arkham series, showing the depth of this beloved superhero.
Telltale’s Batman first episode is coming in September and the entire game will be complete by the end of the year.
Styx: Shards of Darkness
I avoided playing the first Styx until now because of the technical issues it had at launch, but I can’t say that I wasn’t intrigued by the E3 trailer for Shards of Darkness. The huge and awesome looking environments powered by Unreal Engine 4, the plot teasing and an ending with a creature taken from Lovecraftian nightmares seem like a great cocktail for an infiltration game. I’m expecting from the sequel at least the same quality of level design that people have been praising in the original game and a bunch of cool new mechanics to refine the gameplay (grappling hook!).
Styx: Shards of Darkness is developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive and is coming out this year.
Since Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines I’ve been waiting for another (good) game with vampires. The cinema and TV industry has exploded on the subject in the last decade, but that only diminished my interested in the subject matter. The acquisition by Paradox Interactive of White Wolf and implicitly the World of Darkness license has brought hope of a new game set in this amazing universe, but no news as of now about that. Hope actually comes from DONTNOD Entertainment, the creators of Life is Strange, with a new video game called Vampyr.
Set after the First World War in a London devastated by the Spanish flu, Vampyr has as protagonist a formal medical surgeon by the name of Jonathan E. Reid, who become a vampire against his own will (as one usually does).
Aside of its thematic and setting, the most attractive feature of Vampyr is the system of choices and consequences that ties into the protagonist’s need to feed on the living. The developers have said that everyone can be killed in this world and each NPC death will have an impact.
The E3 footage had some actual gameplay in store for us showing interactions with other NPCs, exploration and some combat sequences which seemed a bit rough but not at all unenjoyable. Vampyr, as most of the games on this list, is set for release in 2017.
Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Martyr
The Hack & Slash subgenre has some good active titles, but Neocore Games, the creators of Van Helsing, are set on changing the landscape from the fantasy oriented games to the futuristic universe of Warhammer 40k (and this time the future actually looks grim). But the scenery is not the only change brought by Inquisitor – Martyr. With a heavily destructible environment, a cover system and a slower paced combat, Inquisitor – Martyr is shifting focus to what seems to be a rather tactical approach to a subgenre that was more about facerolling enemies. I’m quite curious how the gameplay will turn out and not only because I love the 40k universe, but also as an adept of innovations.
Sea of Thieves
Probably the biggest surprise at this E3, Sea of Thieves is an upcoming online action adventure game (which looks a lot like an MMO, but isn’t according to the developers) with and about pirates. With vibrant cartoonish graphics, yet a conflict oriented gameplay, Sea of Thieves stands out as a different game than most of what we’ve seen lately and the pirate theme surely helps. Naval combat, seafaring voyages, treasure hunting and much more are mechanics meant to delight and immerse the players into this new wonderfully looking world.
The E3 presentation has focused on PvP naval combat and it looked great, realistically enough to seem believable and require a coordinated team to work, but not too much to be a nuisance for a game that is focused on being enjoyable. I fell in love with this game from the moment I’ve seen its trailer, but sadly there is a long way to go until its release not to mention it might be tied to Windows 10.
Two things stroke me while watching the E3 videos of Syberia 3: the outdated 3D graphics with weird animations and the fact that Kate is dying. Yes, Kate Walker is apparently on her last quest in the mysterious lands of Syberia and in general.
Syberia 3’s gameplay footage wasn’t visually impressive, but I did get a weird feeling watching it, like I went back in time when I was young and I didn’t know English very well and I struggled to solve the first game’s beautifully designed puzzles and that’s got to count for something. Syberia 3 is still a work in progress and much can change visually, but even if it’s not the most beautifully looking adventure game out there, it does resemble the old and that’s probably what the fans want to see.
After a long wait and a period of complete silence we now know for sure that Below is coming and it’s happening sooner than I thought, releasing this summer. The procedurally generated roguelite survival game with a freakishly distant camera and a beautiful art style promises to delight the players with its creepy atmosphere and an isometric adaptation of a Dark Soulish combat system. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time and I can barely wait for its release (Oh boy, if I’m not setting myself up for disappointment…).
Blooper Team didn’t take time off after their success with Layers of Fear and are now working on a new adventure horror game called Observer. Set in a cyberpunk world with influences from Eastern Europe, the game has the players taking the role of Dan, a member of the special police called Observer, which the ability to hack the minds of human beings.
As with Layers of Fear, Observer will focus of environmental storytelling and narrative as the players will explore the nightmares of the human mind. The game is a work in progress and it probably won’t come out anytime soon, but it sound very intriguing and the SOMA vibe I got was more than enough to put this game on the list.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
The crowdfunded JRPG not developed by a Japanese studio made an appearance at E3 showing some new gameplay footage which, as expected for a game on this list, it looked pretty damn good.
The game is developed by Airship Syndicate, a studio created by the two co-founders of the regrettably Vigil Games, and is set in the universe of the Battle Chasers comic book. With the Darksiders-esque art style, the Final Fantasy like combat system and a story driven by world exploration, Battle Chasers seems like a wombo combo of a particular style of RPG goodness that we don’t get very often on PC.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar has passed through Steam’s Greenlight and is expected to be released sometimes in 2017. The game is also accompanied by a three issue arc for the starved fans of the comic book.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Aside of the interview I had with Warhorse Studios, I think I talked about my interest in Kingdom Come: Deliverance in at least three distinct articles over the course of the years and the game still hasn’t been released. In fact, Kingdom Come was postponed for 2017, which might be for the better considering the state of the game in the latest Beta. While the game is stuck in a tech demo state for quite a while, there is visible progress in the developer’s work and the high aspirations for a realistic medieval RPG haven’t changed keeping me interested in even after two years of postpones.
This has been a good year for strategy games. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada and Total War: Warhammer have been entertaining the fans of a genre that hasn’t been very popular for a long time. But the year is not over and Cossacks 3 says that the crown hasn’t been handed yet.
The modern remake of the 2001 classic promises an RTS experience of old but with the technological advancement of today. Cossacks 3 will feature large scale battles with thousands of units engaged in combat and realistic physics that will influence the tactics available. The E3 trailer has teased these features in one short and glorious battle that made me confident in the game’s potential.
With 12 playable nations, five historical campaigns, huge battles including naval warfare, a competent tech and many other interesting features, Cossacks 3 sounds like a dream coming true for the RTS fans, but only time will tell.
Call of Cthulhu
It’s been over a decade since the last (good) Call of Cthulhu game and I think it’s about time for this to change. Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Interactive have teamed up to transform Chaosium’s pen & paper RPG into a video game. Build using the Unreal Engine 4, Call of Cthulhu is a combination of RPG and investigation featuring stealth and the much expected psychological horror.
As the detective Edward Pierce, the players will travel to Darkwater Island to investigate the death of Sarah Hawkings. The island is the home of unspeakable horrors that await the awakening of the Great Dreamer.
Call of Cthulhu is set to release in 2017 and while there aren’t any gameplay videos, the screenshots and the teaser video from E3 seem to capture the right atmosphere.
Shadow Warrior 2
The Shadow Warrior remake was a corridor shooter filled with cheesy jokes, a good combat system but a rather repetitive gameplay. It was a fun game for a while, but that fun didn’t last long. Shadow Warrior 2 seems to have learned from its predecessor’s mistakes switching from the linear level design to procedurally generated areas which can now be played in singleplayer or 4 player co-op. The combat looks as enjoyable as ever but with more options when it comes to the arsenal and an upgrading system that resembles Hack and Slash games. The gore, the violence, the vulgarity, the hordes of enemies and last but not least the Wang jokes are still at the heart of the game but with a greatly improved gameplay which makes Shadow Warrior 2 a tempting title for some good old school fashion fun.
Looking back on this article, maybe this year’s E3 wasn’t so bad, but then again, most of the titles I’m following have been announced for years. Anyway, it’s not really the number and the presumed quality of new games that I’ve seen that bothered me (but it didn’t help), it was the way the big presentations went. The scripted gameplay and the cringy moments were overly annoying to the point that even the audience was visibly bothered. But it seems like the publishers never learn or maybe they just don’t have to as this charades probably get the money flowing like nothing else. I guess this is what happens to any industry when is worth billions of dollars, still, this wouldn’t be the case if the gamers attitude was different. But that might be harder to change then how the publishers work.
Maybe Gamescom will turn out better.