E3 2017 Analysis: Not Very Surprising, Except For The Insane Surprises

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I emerge, eyes red and tear-stained, from my E3 bunker. I have watched every presser. I watched every reveal. I even saw that panda dab. I gazed into the Great Abyss and drew the attention of Gods New and Old, and with my very sanity stretched thin by knowledge most Eldritch, I have peered into the future. The future of video games.

So yeah, E3 this year is weird. I feel like last year and the year prior were real strong for the show, with lots of great announcements. Last year we got Death StrandingResident Evil 7God of WarPrey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Quake Champions. The year prior was even bigger, with Fallout 4Dishonored 2The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy 7 remaster, Shenmue 3Nier: Automata….it was really almost a cacophany of announcements.

And this year was…well, it was mostly a bunch of trailers for games we already knew about, wasn’t it? To be fair, some of that was due to significant leaks (notably for Assassin’s Creed Origins and Mario + Rabbids), but another major part of that is developers’ increasing nonreliance on E3 to make announcements. Following a path that I think was lead by Nintendo, many studios are just announcing things on their own terms, instead of trying to compete in the Major League Headline playoffs of mid-June. Like I said, it was kind of a cacophany. Now, especially if you’re not announcing some-AAA game that already has a massive following, it’s probably best just to announce it on, like, some Tuesday in March and not even worry about competing headlines.

So, with no real rhyme or reason to the ordering, here are my thoughts on the more interesting things I saw from E3 2017.

Bioware Presents Destiny

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Anthem was the only thing out of EA’s otherwise usually boring presser that I found remotely interesting, and even then I have reservations.

On one hand, I do really like Bioware, even still, and knowing that this is, presumably, the Bioware A-team working on it (since we know that core Bioware wasn’t working on Mass Effect Andromeda) gives me hope. I’m also a sucker for games with really good traversal mechanics, and being able to fly around in a sick robot suit could be really fun, especially if you get to use that in combat as well as simply for traversal. Customizing those suits sounds really cool too, like having Tony Stark’s collection of Iron Man suits. If those suits feel distinct (which, certainly, that big tanky one felt distinct in the trailer), having that playstyle variety could be fun.

But, on the flip side, this trailer was a little light on story and seemed to pretty heavily infer a Destiny-esqe, MMO-inspired sort of minimalist story structure. While it’s kind of ridiculous to infer a whole game’s structure from an E3 stage demo, there was a lot of talk of “finding your own adventures” and “making stories with your friends”, and not a lot of mention of characters, which are kind of what I go to Bioware games for. That’s not to mention the prominent display of loot, mic chatter reminiscent of raiding, and what appeared to be a raid, giving me sort of a sour feeling about the structure of this game.

After A Year, We Finally Have An Assassin’s Creed Game That’s Totally The Same

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I miss being excited for Assassin’s Creed. The first game had a really cool premise and unique gameplay mechanics for stealth and parkour. The second gave you a really full open world full of stuff to do, added mission variety and stronger characters, and refined the combat. Brotherhood stitched the world together into a more cohesive whole and even added some surprisingly good multiplayer. The third, which a lot of people poop on but I like, added even greater variety to the missions, naval combat, a wilderness, ranged combat, and the most fluid combat in the series.

And then after Assassin’s Creed 3, my interest in the series waned severely. Black Flag just doubled down on the naval combat without adding anything significantly new, and Unity was a buggy mess. I’ve heard Syndicate is actually pretty good, although the introduction of a heavy focus on gear and XP by this point in the series, I felt, was a band-aid on a severed leg. The Assassin’s Creed gameplay needs an injection of creative life, something new, a step equal in scope to the difference between the first and Assassin’s Creed 2, or 2 and 3.

Origins does not look like that leap. Instead, it looks like, well, some more Assassin’s Creed. You jump off of buildings and stab dudes, you hide in bushes, you strafe around dudes and parry them. There are cool additions, like being able to control arrows mid-flight (???) and the eagle, which allows you spot enemies and cool stuff in advance, but nothing revolutionary. In fact, the most different thing I noticed was the fact that you have to manually aim the bow instead of locking on.

Look, I want to like Assassin’s Creed Origins. Real bad, actually. But I need something significant, something new. I know fanboys have been banging this drum for, what, like 7 years now, but maybe if you refocused on the actual assassinations, on gathering intel and scoping out settings, or maybe if you fleshed out the guild leadership elements, maybe I’ll be back in on this series? But for now, I can’t help shaking the feeling that I played this game back in 2012.

However, side note, I’m super genuinely happy for Ashraf Ismail. Dude seems super stoked to be heading this project, and I’m genuinely happy to see people get the reins on a series that they love, and I hope I’m totally wrong and this game is awesome. Also, having an Arabic creative director for a game set in Ancient Egypt is a good thing.

Historically Accurate Russia Simulator 2017

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I…should probably play the Metro games. This looks really cool, although I’m curious to see how it differentiates itself from other open-world survival-themed first-person shooters. Although, since I haven’t played the Metro games, maybe that’s a stupid question. I definitely like the theme and aesthetic, though.

Bethesda’s First Bad Press Conference

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This is Bethesda’s third E3 press conference, and, well, they’re 2 for 3, I guess?

Bethesda came out super strong their first year. A massive Fallout 4 reveal, combined with the Dishonored 2 announcement and the first big public appearance of DOOM generated a lot of hype, and all three of those games ended up extremely strong.

Last year’s presser, while not quite so star-studded, still had a solid line-up. The “surprising new reveals” slots were taken up by Arkane’s excellent Prey reboot and the somewhat controversial Quake: Champions, with a solid back line of Fallout 4 VR and Skyrim: Special Edition announcements. Even if it wasn’t as surprising, they were still showing some games people loved, as well as new stuff.

And this year, we got…Fallout 4 VR again? Which is definitely still happening, I guess, but it’s not all that exciting now. We’ve got another Skyrim rerelease on the way, which is great, I guess. There’s a Dishonored 2 DLC pack expanding on a character I really like from the base game, but it got so little airtime that I had to Google what it actually was. The only real exciting announcements were sequels to The Evil Within and WolfensteinThe New Order, which while interesting, weren’t able to generate the same excitement as older reveals. The New Colossus looks cool, but in the end, it also looks like another MachineGames Wolfenstein game.

So, I guess I’m just sad this presser didn’t have more surprises, more things that left me begging for more details. It was just a lot of stuff that looked like stuff we’ve seen before.

“I Will Never Be Excited For A Fucking Mario/Rabbids Crossover” – Me, Incorrectly, A Week Ago

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Ok, I’m sorry, what? The biggest franchise in video games teams up with Ubisoft’s weird proto-Minions, who haven’t had a game on this console generation other than a basically unnoticed TV show tie in, and they all get guns, which is weird enough. I think all of us saw these leaks a week ago and went “This is totally unnecessary, who cares?”

Then the gameplay comes up on the screen and this thing is a goddamn turn-based strategy game a la XCOM and I literally got on my phone to see if Switches were in stock on Amazon. What? Fucking what? It’s a squad-based tactics game??!?

Sold. Deal. Ignoring the fact that the encapsulated turn-based fights of an XCOM sort of game could be great for taking on the go on the Switch, just the idea of incorporating platformer elements, of incorporating Mario gameplay into one of these sorts of games is super interesting to me. I hope they go super weird with it, and I hope they manage to keep that Mario feel through the genre shift.

The most amazing thing about this game is that it was only the second weirdest Mario reveal this E3.

Far Cry 5 Is Definitely A Far Cry Game

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I’m very interested in the characters, world, and new gameplay mechanics of Far Cry 5, which were completely ignored in its E3 outing in favor of showing some tried and true Far Cry: tagging enemies, stealth, cars, guns. Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb postulated that this trailer was way more focused on the dumb parts of the game to draw attention away from the political controversy this game inspired, which might be the case, but it’s a shame, because that controversial stuff, about the perversion of middle America, is what I was interested in.

This trailer does hint at something reminiscent of the buddy system from Far Cry 2, and if that’s the case, I’ll definitely be paying attention to this game. I’d love an evolution of that system, but I’ll have to wait and see.

The World of Beyond Good and Evil 2 Is Dope

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Ubisoft talked so little about what the actual gameplay of Beyond Good and Evil 2 is, that I don’t really wanna talk about it for long. However, I did want to call out that the art direction for this game, especially the above scene, is fantastic, and I really hope the gameplay is as creative as that cinematic trailer implied. I would love to be a Cockney monkey Bionic Commando.

Please Stop Making Me Uninterested In Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

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The trailer for Marvel vs Capcom Infinite shown at E3, unfortunately, seems to continue to validate the disappointing roster which was supposedly leaked earlier this year, with the inclusion of the predicted Gamora, Thanos, Doctor Strange, and Arthur. Also consistent with the leak is the lack of any X-Men, probably due to the licensing feud between Fox and Marvel’s cinematic division. Although, I will note that the story trailer does include Zero, who is not listed among the leaked characters (albeit the leak does note that a single Capcom character is yet unidentified), and Black Panther, although neither is shown in actual gameplay.

Look, I love this franchise a lot, and I want it to be good, but if the roster is as slim as the leak insinuates, and consists of so many returning characters, I’m going to be much less interested. On top of this, the characters that make me love Marvel vs Capcom are those obscure characters, the weird ones like Phoenix Wright, MODOK, Frank West, and Doctor Strange. Having Infinite serve singularly as an advertising vehicle for the MCU means less of those fun, obscure heroes, and that seriously bums me out.

Nintendo Makes Me Want To Buy A Switch In Five Minutes

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This year, the theme for Nintendo’s Spotlight event was “Announcing Things You Love At Bewildering Speed”. Disappointed that we didn’t announce a mainline Pokemon for the Switch at our Treehouse last week? Well, we’re doing that! Want more details? Well, fuck you, because we’re already talking about how we’re making a new Metroid game, a Metroid Prime game no less, after you all thought Metroid was dead and gone! That announcement’s going to be twenty seconds long, though, because we need to make room for all of this charming and adorable Kirby and Yoshi footage!

Literally, Nintendo went from having 2 core franchise releases for the Switch to, what, six? Especially considering that Breath of the Wild was such a blockbusting release, this speaks really well to the line-up for the Switch. Oh, and speaking of which…

SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY IS A FUCKING BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE

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Mario’s hat is possessed by a magic hat ghost that allows him to possess, via hat, things that he encounters on his journey on his world-hopping airship on his quest to rescue Peach from Bowser and his team of evil wedding planners. On this journey, Mario will journey on worlds ranging from a regular metropolitan city to an icy wonderland to a Latin-inspired desert, and be able to assume the forms of such allies as: a taxi cab, a T-Rex, electricity, and a fucking normally proportioned human, in a magic ritual which bestows upon its target a Mario hat and mustache.  There’s also some sort of fashion mechanic to the game and, just to reiterate, the New York-style metropolis is still called New Donk City.

NONE OF THE WORDS I TYPED ARE JOKES.

….I have to buy a Switch, don’t I?

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