It seems so long ago that I was attentively staring at my Twitch stream, praying that it wouldn’t go offline so I could see all of the tasty tidbits this year’s E3 had to offer. While I didn’t leave this year feeling like I had gotten a full plate, the main five developers—Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo, for those new to the scene—definitely served their audience a hefty appetizer. Here’s what I would go back for seconds of and what I’d scrape down the sink.
I was stunned, utterly stunned, when Microsoft started their conference by saying something along the lines of “hey guys, we’re going to talk about games this year.” Mostly because I never expect Microsoft to admit their mistakes, especially since last year they seemed much more interested in talking about how the Xbox One had cable and Netflix capabilities than discussing the games that would be on the console. Yet, true to their word, Microsoft’s entire presentation was filled with games. I’m really looking forward to Evolve, and the trailer they showed was fantastic. I’ve only heard good things about the gameplay—a new take on the Left 4 Dead premise, but this time the game puts four distinct classes (one of whom is a female person of color) on the trail of a player-controlled monster character. The classes all depend on each other for success, and if one of you goes down it’s highly likely that the monster might win. Another game that seems to take the cooperative angle—and that I’m also looking forward to—is Fable Legends. Many fans were unhappy with Fable 3, so it’s interesting to see Lionhead Studios take a step back and approach the newest game in the series from a simpler angle. Although I think that making creating the game around a D&D premise with up to four characters taking the “hero” roles and one taking the role of the villain, or the “DM” of the group, is interesting and has a lot of potential, I loathe the idea of being forced to play co-op. I love good co-op as much as the next person, but when I’m forced to do it for any reason, the game becomes that much less fun.
And, of course, Sunset Overdrive (a game I mentioned last year, if you recall) managed to make me want to actually buy an Xbox One, so good job there.
I’m incredibly worried about the new Tomb Raider game they showcased. Although Lara is a strong female character, which the gaming market needs like air, the writers seem to want to give the raider her motivation by traumatizing her as much as possible. It was a flaw in the first game and, with the trailer showing Lara beginning the game in therapy, it seems like a trend that will continue on into Rise of the Tomb Raider. Other than that, I can’t say I’m angry or disappointed by anything they showed, I just don’t care about IPs like Halo and Call of Duty.
EA hit a lot of high notes by teasing the new Mass Effect game and a new IP which they didn’t go into outside of saying it was awesome. Also, as expected, Mirror’s Edge 2 looks incredible, and I’m glad the developers seem devoted to keeping the heroine unique and true to herself. And, because you’re all expecting it by now: oh my god. Dragon Age: Inquisition looks a-maz-ing! Just… okay, I need to stop myself because I’m about to type in all caps, and you’re not here for that. I just need to mention that not only are the graphics amazing, but they also just announced their first canon lesbian love interest. Having a non-sexualized, asskicking lesbian character is so important. That’s all I’m going to say. Promise. Amidst these highs, I don’t really like how EA is trying to sell Dawngate, their new MOBA, like it’s not League of Legends or DOTA. It’s exactly like that. Stop lying to us, we can see through you.
Though I can say with a good amount of certainty that I was pleased with EA’s showing, I’m conflicted about Ubisoft’s. With each passing news report I’m becoming more and more conflicted. This is not how I want to be feeling. First: the good things. Valiant Hearts, a game from the UbiArts division (who also made Child of Light) which focuses on the tragedy of WWI through the eyes of a canine companion, looks stunning. Although the storybook graphics are inviting, from the trailer it’s clear that the game isn’t going to pull any punches narratively. I mean, when you tell your audience that all the protagonists are dead from the beginning, you know there are going to be some tears there. I also found myself surprised that Rainbow Six Siege caught my eye. I’m not really a fan of the series, but I love how the game really makes you work together with your team. It’s not on my “to buy” list or anything, but I appreciate the idea.
And then there’s Assassin’s Creed Unity. Let me be frank: I have never played an Assassin’s Creed game, but I appreciate them. What I don’t appreciate, however, is having four playable assassins and making them all white dudes with scruffy stubble. The fandom is already arguing that it’s historically accurate because the setting is 18th century Paris, but if you seriously believe that no people of color existed in Europe during that time, you need to do some more research. Badly. Also, there was no reason a woman assassin couldn’t have been used (paging Charlotte Corday). Ubisoft already had a female assassin once in Aveline; they have the ability to do it and do it well. The kicker is that Ubisoft was actually planning on having a female assassin in this game. However, according to them:
A female character means that you have to redo a lot of animation, a lot of costumes… It would have doubled the work on those things. And I mean it’s something the team really wanted, but we had to make a decision…
So, yeah. Fuck you too, Ubisoft.
On the Sony side of thing, games like Little Big Planet 3 and Let It Die have got me scrambling to pick coins out of my couch cushions so I can afford a PS4. Preferably the white one that comes packaged with Destiny. And though beautifully artistic games like Entwined and Abzu caught my attention, the game that really stole the show was No Man’s Sky.
The way I explained it to my brother was “Starbound with better graphics,” and although it might not have the mining aspects—that’s yet to be confirmed—it’s a pretty apt comparison. According to the developers at Hello Games, each player will start on a different planet in the universe, thus giving each player a unique experience. This universe is also infinite so exploration will, theoretically, never end. It’s ambitious, it’s colorful, and any game that combines space travel with dinosaurs is alright in my book.
Lastly, Nintendo charmed the pants off of me simply by having Reggie and Iwata do their thing. They could have showed no games and just talked the whole time, and I would have been happy (until afterwards when I noticed there were no games). Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly wowed by anything. Their new IP, Splatoon, looks really fun. Having a cartoony shooter where the point is to capture a certain area by covering it in colorful ink is appealing, but I can’t honestly see it having any staying power once the novelty wears off. Bayonetta 2 still looks amazing, and everything else was a little bit expected. But, I do want to talk about the new Zelda game coming out. Not Hyrule Warriors. Tumblr and other corners of the internet are buzzing with opinions on Link’s new design: a more feminine, maybe-raised-by-the-Gerudo look. However, an interesting piece of news just broke. Eiji Aonuma, the series producer of Legend of Zelda, was quoted saying, “no one explicitly said that was Link.” What does this mean? It could be a parallel universe Link, such as the route taken in A Link Between Worlds. It could be the antagonist of the game. Or, it could even be Princess Zelda. Although I’m not holding my breath that this character will actually be the first actual appearance of a Princess Zelda that kicks butt while not in a disguise of some sort, I will keep my fingers crossed for it. Maybe they heard our wishes after all.
In some ways, this year’s E3 improved upon last year’s: there were no sexist comments and very few technical mishaps. But despite this, overall I found the showings to be underwhelming. There may have been a lot of games, but there wasn’t a lot of gameplay. Seeing a trailer doesn’t really tell me anything about a game outside of the fact that it exists (I’m looking at you, Scalebound), and I can read any news site to find out that something exists. Hopefully next year the companies keep talking about their games, but really take advantage of their time slot to show their audience what the game is really capable of, and not a five minute FMV.
Disagree with me? Think I missed something important? Let me know in the comments! For a closer look at my thoughts on the individual games shown, make sure to check out my E3 tag on my Tumblr!