Rundown (6/10) E3 2019: Work X School X Conferences

You know what the worst past of E3 is?  The fact that I cannot simply drop everything to enjoy spending an entire day in video game wonderment.  As such, since 2013 the Monday kicking off E3 has always been a frustrating affair where I not only want to watch the conferences, do a write-up, which takes time because I am a slow writer, and keep up with the news that falls between the cracks, but I need to attend college classes and do part-time office work that mostly consists of spreadsheets, filing, and processing bodily specimens.  Anyways, enough customary moaning.  The video games are here!

Before getting started with the new hotness, additional details were provided for Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the new CyberConnect2 game, via a hybrid demo and interview that gave a far better impression of what playing the game is actually like compared to the flashy E3 trailer.  But rather than making me excited for this game, it just makes me really wish it were based on OG Dragon Ball.  This extended look showed that title is made up of these empty and expansive environments that bridge the player between side quests, divergences, collectibles, and a main quest line that is all too familiar to fans of this series, all while a representative boasted about how this is meant to be an accurate tribute to the series as it meticulously recreates iconic scenes and battles.

However, a strict adherence to the source material is not a sign of a good adaptation, and Dragon Ball Z as a story has a very strong fixation on urgency.  Everything needs to be done now, the threat cannot wait, and there is very little time spent on the journey itself.  All of which was not really the case seen in the original Dragon Ball, everything before Radditz, which has plenty of room for oddball or filler-y side quests and, well, actually focuses on Goku a lot more than Z, where Goku is constantly dead or nearly dying.

Also, the decision to make the world so big yet mostly empty is technically true to how the world is seen in DBZ, and is made to accommodate the high mobility possessed by Goku at that point.  But just giving this ability to the player does little to endear them, as it is where they start.  They rarely ever need to walk on the ground or be restrained by gravity, which in turn will probably make the act of flight feel very… blasé.  It’s something that could have been avoided if things truly did begin with kid Goku, and gradually improve their movement abilities over time. The sense of escalation, growth, and evolution is one of the core appeals of Dragon Ball to me, but I guess that doing a two, or maybe even three, game series was off the table.  Lord am I going to be peeved if this does get a sequel centered around Super

Another odd end that I found was that Microsoft have announced the final batch of backwards compatible Xbox One games, as they currently lack the resources, that being the dedicated testers and technical people, needed to continue porting games forward, since they now need to ensure that every game that runs on the Xbox One runs on the upcoming hardware.  The way this is framed makes the matter of backwards compatibility seem far more complicated than I, and many other people, assumed it to be. While I think it is an absolute shame that some games will not be made backwards compatible, this seems to be a more logistical issue, and maybe they are working on making Scarlett compatible with even more games after it launches.  It sucks, but hey, they got most of the good stuff. And also Too Human… wait, how in the hell did you get Too Human on here?  And that game is now free?  So it went from a game that was recalled and destroyed to a free game… What?

With that out of the way, I should start talking about the media briefings/press conferences, and hey look, the Epic Games Store is here.  I actually want to try and like this platform for what it is, and welcome more storefronts in the PC gaming space, but… it just kinda suck.  Their storefront is bare bones to an almost comical level, their tactic of buying up exclusives is objectionable, and there are very few good things I can say about them.  Yes, they give out free games and had a very nice sale where I got Journey for $5, but… they really should have spent another few months on the storefront before launching it.  Oh, and now their sponsoring the once promising PC Gaming Show held at E3, which I have not watched in full since its debut.

As such, I will only be discussing the games that I found to be enticing or noteworthy, such as Cris Tales, a gorgeous looking western developed JRPG with a very strong fixation of manipulating the past, present, and future, somehow all at the same time.  While the developer is unproven, I am a well established sucker for a good art style and nifty premise, both of which this title seemingly nails… Though I must admit that I am a bit tired of how often games of this sort are considered love letters when there are far more blatant homages to whatever group of classics the developers are drawing inspiration from.  But gripes aside, everything I am hearing about this title strikes me as unabashedly positive, and I’m almost certainly going to keep an eye on it when it launches in 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

El Hijo is yet another recreation of a well established genre developed by a small team with a striking visual style, this time being a “non-violent, spaghetti-western stealth game”.  Or more specifically, a game about a small boy trying to avoid a scattering of goons, perilous threats, and ultimately be reunited with his mother. It all looks rather polished, striking, and overall like a fun time, and by being nonviolent, it might be the first stealth game in years that I could actually see myself liking.  In short, I obsess over doing everything perfectly in stealth games, and will save scum my way to victory if need be… unless it’s a Metal Gear Solid game, where I don’t care all too much for some reason.  Anyways, El Hijo will debut on… everything including Mac and Linux, in 2019.

Those were the only games that caught my eye, though I also feel the need to make note that neither of these two titles are Epic Games Store exclusives, but there were quite a few games that have been afflicted with the ire of the dedicated PC gaming community.  Such as the recently announced Chivalry II, the successor to a widely popular semi-realistic medieval  battle simulator, Dontnod’s upcoming adventure game Twin Mirror, and Shenmue III… What?  Yes, after one of the most successful video game Kickstarters of all times and openly selling people on the fact that the game would be coming to Steam, it was announced that the game is exclusive to the Epic Games Store on PC, period.  

No mention of a time limit was given, all physical PC copies will just be boxes that contain keys for the Epic Games Store, and as somebody who backed the game as a larf, I’m honestly upset at how the people behind this game broke a promise like this.  Especially after THQ Nordic, the parent company of Deep Silver, Shenmue III’s publisher, announced that they would stop indulging in these exclusivity practices after the Metro Exodus fiasco.  Why is it that everything related to the Epic Games Store, other than the free game deal they will continue to push through the end of the year, has to be laced with so much rubbish?  

Edit: Turns out that Shenmue III will indeed come to Steam at a later date, but still, this is a really boneheaded and bad move for such a high profile game, and as a backer, I was still promised a Steam key, so I want a damn Steam key.

Moving on to the second conference, I once had some degree of fondness for Ubisoft back when they were announcing more creative and nifty projects that shone amidst the difficult to distinguish population of AAA live service.  Then the company discovered a formula to make games that review well, sell well, and are, at worse, accepted by the broader gaming community. However their focus on these titles has largely left me uninterested in whatever new offerings they have, as it simply is not for me.  Which is fine, but they are a massive games developer, employing more people than any other games company in the world, and I would like to see their library feature more titles that fancy my interests, even if they might not be the most profitable of investments

Skipping over the usual iterative fluff, cross media kerfuffles, presentation awkwardness, and pushing the games aside for a moment, halfway through the conference Ubisoft announced UPlay+.  Yes, Ubisoft is getting a subscription service that provides players with access to much of the publisher’s library, including the premium (all DLC and expansions) versions of all upcoming titles, which is seemingly the justification used for why the service will cost $15 a month when it launches in September.  Then in 2020, the service will become available for Stadia, a move that seems to imply that people will be able to just stream Ubisoft games via Stadia without having to pay Google anything, which would admittedly make this service seem like a pretty good value. Honestly, all of these subscriptions are starting to look like an increasingly good value, but I do hope that, going forward, all of them are understanding about people cancelling subscriptions, renewing them a few months later, and leapfrogging to play the games they want to play.  That seems like a minor thing, but I can see people getting so goldarn annoyed with subscription juggling

Moving to the various games you will be able to play for “free” as a UPlay+ member, the showing kicked off with Watch Dogs: Legion, a title set in a not-so exaggerated rendition of near future post-Brexit London where the city is under constant control by a repressive regime and it is up to the elite hacker group DedSec to converge the abused populace and take this city back with the purest form of justice there is.  Terrorist justice! Now, the core appeal and differential of this game over the prior entries in this series is the ability to play as anyone by having them join up with DedSec and offer their lives to the greater good. A concept that, having watched the staged gameplay walkthrough, perplexes me.  Because I’m pretty sure that this entire scenario is one big exaggeration.

In short, there is far too much reactive in-game dialog shown here and I honestly struggle to believe that there are actually hundreds or thousands of unique characters, and am actually quite curious as to how they will be handling the idea of one’s player characters being avatars with their own unique skill sets and capabilities that are also susceptible to permadeath.  Also, and I know this is not anybody’s fault but my own, based on the leaks that surrounded this game I was basically hoping that the player could hack into people’s minds and use them for their own purposes, but I guess that such a malicious fantasy is too creepy for a media conglomerate like Ubisoft to make. Oh well. Anyways, the game is due out on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia on March 6, 2020.

Moving on to game number two, Rainbow Six: Quarantine is a 3 player co-op tactical FPS that seemingly centers around eliminating an alien parasite of some sorts in isolated quarantined instances, effectively making the player characters a sort of special force sent to contain intergalactic bioterrorism, which sounds far cooler than what the trailer seems to imply.  It was just a brief CG tonal teaser that showed one player character almost getting infected, or actually getting infected, before another saved them. Yet despite this the game will supposedly be out in early 2020 for the expected PS4, Xbox One, PC, but not Stadia, weirdly enough.

It also serves as something of a tonal opposite to another tactical 3 player co-op game in the form of Roller Champions, a vibrant and energetic game that aims to do justice to one of the coolest sports in existence, roller derby!  THough despite the inherent coolness of the sport, the game just amounts to a gaggle of 6 eccentrically dressed and fairly lanky chaps skating around in a circle while a crowd of thousands goes absolutely bonkers as these wackos dunk balls into giant rings.  As a whole, the game looks like a very Ubisoft affair, being somewhat cartoonish and colorful, but overall very palettable, and while I am a bit curious as to what the publisher will get up to given how the game is a free-to-play title, I am still glad it exists… even though I will almost certainly never touch it.  The game was only announced for PC, and an alpha build is currently available for those who want to serve as volunteer playtesters.

To close things off, Ubisoft announced yet another new IP, while only providing a vague idea as to what the game would actually be.  The game, Gods & Monsters, is a colorful Zelda-looking action adventure title about saving the Greek gods from assorted monsters and baddies based on generalized mythology.  All while the player character grows in power, gaining abilities from the gods they rescue, and explore an expansive world. It sounds like a more freeform version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that disregards history in order to provide a fantastical adventure, and while I am not too keen on yet another open world, I am interested in seeing more of this game… namely in terms of gameplay, and not a brief CG tonal cinematic followed by some screenshots.  Anyways, the game is due out on February 25, 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch (of course), PC, and Stadia (of course again).

That about covers it, and while I did not get to watch it in full, the conference seemed like fairly standard Ubisoft stuff.  Not bad, not great, just a showcase of what games one can expect from the publisher going forward, and hey, they announced two new IPs.  Again, nothing I will likely check out, unless Watch Dogs: Legion actually does wind up fulfilling my weird body jacking fantasy… I like how I am not even trying to repress or hide my creepier tendencies at this point.

Moving onto the final showcase of the night, Square Enix is a company that I believe most people feel as if they should like due to the immense clout, fondness, and nostalgia that SquareSoft developed during its tenure, and a number of high quality externally developed titles the publisher has put out since its establishment.  Since becoming Square Enix though, their internally developed games have fluctuated wildly in quality over the years, and their flagship Final Fantasy series has often languished over the past decade.  

I mean, the XIII trilogy, the original release of XIV, the mixed reception of XV, the cancellation of its DLC, and the developmental restart of their trump card, FFVII Remake have all bred discontent of some sorts.  Then there’s the fact that Kingdom Hearts III took about 6 years to come out after it was properly announced back in 2013, resulting in a fairly lopsided final product, somehow.  But hey, they released The World Ends With You: Final Remix, Dragon Quest XI, and Nier Automata over the past 3 years, and those games were all fantastic, so I guess things are going pretty good for them… maybe.

Cynical airing of grievances aside, Square Enix did show quite a bit, by which I mean they showed just about everything they have previously announced, and a few other small tidbits as well, but they began things with what most people came here expecting to see, Final Fantasy VII Remake, offering one of the first extended looks at this game… after it had to be remade from scratch.  First off, the game will indeed be divided into multiple parts, with the first part, simply called Final Fantasy VII Remake, being a two Blu-Ray Disc epic (yes really) that only covers up to the reimagined Midgar, ending at what would be well before the 10 hour mark in a newcomer’s playthrough of FFVII.  I emphasize reimagined because I feel that the name Remake may be a bit of a misnomer, as the game is very clearly changing a lot of things, and not adhering to the original as much as I’m sure some people want.

However, what was shown does look pretty good as far as I’m concerned.  Everything has this very industrial sci-fi grimeiness towards it, being this compelling mix of cutting edge technology and antiquated cheap garbage.  The battle system is driven by basic dodging, blocking, and slashing to build up the ATB meter that allows characters to use magic, items, or special attacks.  Every character is controllable and has their own unique moveset and strengths, and the entire game looks to have a compelling combat system with some potential legs to it.  Also, Tifa’s redesign was revealed and… it looks like Tifa, but now she has a black undershirt to go with her white tank top and… I think it looks nice.

Yes, some of the story changes, such as the ghosts and Sephiroth visions, are a bit questionable, but it’s a new game, and I think they should feel comfortable with deviating… but if they remove the crossdressing side quest, then they should probably scrap everything and start up development a third time.  What? I like the idea of an emaciated-looking effeminate man being dolled up and presented as a prostitute to a fat pervert… and I also hope that the dress will be an unlockable costume for Cloud. Hopes and dreams aside, Final Fantasy VII Remake (Part 1: Midgar) will release as a PS4 exclusive on March 3, 2020.

Following this Square Enix trotted out a bunch of familiar titles that the gaming populace already knew about, along with a section devoted to the latest Final Fantasy XIV expansion before making three announcements that I’m actually quite happy to hear.  The announced localization of their Romancing SaGa 3 remaster, which much like its predecessor is a much acclaimed and spiffy looking SNES RPG that never left Japan until now, and is coming to literally every relevant platform there is, including Vita.  Followed by the very long awaited localization of SaGa: Scarlet Grace, a highly praised late Vita exclusive that previously made its way to a variety of platforms last year in Japan, but is only now receiving an English release on PS4, Switch, PC, and mobile.  No release dates for either game were given, but they’ll presumably be done sometime soon.

As for the third game, when it was announced that a slew of Final Fantasy games would be heading to Switch and Xbox One last year people either mocked or questioned the omission of Final Fantasy VIII, inspiring many people to come out and state that Square Enix really could not re-release the game on account of losing its source code years ago.  Well, they apparently found a workaround, as they announced Final Fantasy VIII: Remastered, a visually enhanced version of the lover it or hate it entry.  Honestly, I am very happy to see any game be better preserved, so this makes me immensely joyful, but this really just makes me want a proper re-release of Final Fantasy V and VI, which I really hope get Romancing SaGa-esque remasters one of these days.  For now though, Final Fantasy VIII: Remastered will arrive later this year for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC… because I guess this is a better version than the 2013 Steam release.

That about covers it but… oh, right, Square Enix also bought western divisions a decade ago and they announced an Avengers game back in January of 2017.  Yes, after an immensely long wait Marvel’s Avengers was revealed as a lavishly produced cinematic 4 player co-op action adventure game positively brimming with bombast.  Also, it is a Live Service that they openly announced that the game would not have loot boxes or pay to win elements and would regularly be updated with new playable heroes, who will be available for free.  The game itself looks like it was forged by an immense amount of wealth, and appears to be doing something a bit different with its plot, casting the Avengers as outlaws after a disaster struck, only for a dastardly threat to appear from space and cause the group to gather together to protect the Earth from devastation, or some such thing.

While I am being a bit snarky (it’s late), the game does look good for what it is, will almost certainly drum up an excess of hype leading up to release, and seems to appeal strongly with the audience who deeply enjoys the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite this game being totally disconnected from the films.  Those who want to really feel like *insert hero here* will need to wait a bit until the bizarrely precise date of May 15, 2020, when the title will assemble onto the PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia storefronts.

Ultimately, I think the presentation wisely sandwiched itself between its two biggest titles meant to appeal to a wide audience of people, boasting a lot of excitement, but the rest of the show wasn’t really worth watching, beyond the trio of actual new announcements.  And there was also some shooter that I would have mentioned if I could tell what it was going to actually be watching the trailer. I honestly think that Square Enix should have stuck with a cheaper and more controlled digital showcase, like they did last year, as it would have been a far more effective way to share information, and been shorter by not having the real time Japanese to English translations.  

Or in summary… this day of E3 was rousingly okay in my book.  Nothing all that mind blowing, a few cool things, some more nifty indie stuff, and a load of things that were leaked beforehand.  It’s the final year where this generation is the major focus for companies, the next, and possibly final, generation of hardware is on the horizon, and there are still plenty of promising titles to look forward to before people get hyped about new hardware before whining about how their new toy has no games.

Oh, but we still have a gaggle of stranglers, and of course, Nintendo, whose Direct will be the talk of the town when it airs tomorrow!  Or, rather, 5 hours after this post goes live.

Header Image comes from Silicon Magic ~Umareru Mae Kara Anata Sen’you?!~

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