Regardless if you’re a hardened vet or a complete newbie to the show floor; E3 is, and always has, been about the games. At least, that’s what the endless parade of publishers and developers promise the equally endless parade of journalists (and Gamer badge-wearers!) streaming in to experience as many of them as possible. Despite having a vastly reduced footprint than shows past, E3 2019 was no different.
When not making your way through crowds on the show floor, you’re playing games or watching others play games. A wide variety of games from companies large and small all had some interesting things to say and do. While I wish I could go into great detail about all of the games I saw, played or chanced upon during the show, it’s safe to assume not everyone wants to spend hours reading about games they can’t play right now.
So, in no particular order, I’ll touch on a selected bunch that either impressed me, bored me, or those I felt deserved a little extra attention.
Code Vein (Bandai Namco)
I’m always excited for more games similar to the Dark Souls series. It’s something I’m passionate about and I love the challenge. Code Vein seems to be taking the inspirations and running with it unashamed of the similarities. It could be because they share the same Bandai Namco label, but you have everything you’d want from a Souls-like here. A bonfire equivalent, lock on targeting, measured attacks, the list goes on.
I walked away from Code Vein thinking that it’s the one game at the show that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on to play more of. It felt just right and looked like it were a Dark Souls with anime characters. It’s going to be interesting to see if it’s capable of standing on it its own or if it will just be a successful clone.
Boyfriend Dungeon (Kitfox Games)
While not incredibly unique in terms of gameplay, Boyfriend Dungeon was the first game that I played at the show that charmed me enough to get its hook in early on.
In the small bit I played, I played as a character who began to date her weapons. All weapons in the game have the ability to transform into human figures and you’re able to date them. Obviously. So it’s essentially one part dating simulator and one part dungeon crawler. While both of these separate or blended together are not unique, the way the story was presented and written was charming and engaging to the point where I was bummed to have to step away from the game.
Which is saying a lot because dating simulators are something that I tend to dislike a great deal. With each weapon having its own unique personality and level, I’m looking forward to spending some more time with my boyfriend weapons.
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash (Natsume)
Some games are designed to be addictive and Harvest Moon was described to be in the best possible way: “It’s like Overcooked. If Overcooked breaks up relationships, then Mad Dash brings them back together.”
Being told this mere seconds before playing was the perfect way to sync my brain up with what it was about to endure. What followed was a mix of Tetris and Overcooked (with a healthy dash of Bomberman) set in the Harvest Mooniverse. You and your co-op team will have to put together plots of land (in the vein of tetromino-like shapes) in order to grow larger plots which you will then need to harvest to meet various goals. You keep doing this until time runs out. The more you collect the higher your score.
The difficulty rises when you have more obstacles and even enemies introduced to the playing field. Barrels block your way, pigs can trample you and any crops, and cows need to be fed. The challenge involved seems steady enough but still easy to maintain. I’m looking forward to getting to the rougher ones when it comes out later this year.
Autumn’s End (Sundae Month)
As someone who has spent countless hours with point-and-click games, I can spot one out in the distance from a mile a way. Sometimes these don’t demo well but sometimes they do. Autumn’s End did. Developer Sundae Month (Dad Quest) showcases a beautiful art style that draws quick comparisons to 2017’s Night in the Woods, but it goes beyond that and creates its own identity with how quickly it reminds us of being a child.
The little bit I played had me essentially packing things in my room as I got ready to move. The writing was charming and childlike. The devs promised that the story goes into some surreal and dark points while maintaining its lighthearted nature so I’m interested to see where it goes from there.
Reel Fishing: Road Trip Adventure (Natsume)
I’m a sucker for things that are basic in concept but have far more depth than there should be and Reel Fishing seems to be just in my wheelhouse. The first thing I noticed, and the first thing described to me, was how much the game bears a resemblance to the Persona series in UI motif and design and it’s very apparent with its thick black outlines and bright colors.
But strip away the style and you’re left with a solid fishing game that has crafting and secrets with a ton of fish to catch. In 2019, I shouldn’t want to play a fishing game, but here I am…and I certainly do!
Here’s a game that does not demo well. At first the art style was cute and adorable but after the 100th line of dialogue passed the screen without any control to the character I was getting a bit antsy. Keep in mind that when I’m not pressed for time, I love a good story. But it’s difficult to get a sense of what a game is when I’m subjected to tons and tons of dialogue right out of the gate. To make matters worse, the gameplay itself is one of those passive-style RPG games so even when I had access to the controls, I couldn’t actually control much.
All that being said, the story itself seemed interesting enough with you going to an RPG-themed Theme Park. If this kind of game is your thing, Heroland might be worth checking out, but the time I spent with it, graphical cuteness aside, left a sour taste in my mouth.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (Bandai Namco)
I am not a fan of Dragon Ball Z. I never watched an episode of it, nor do I have plans to. That being said, the trailer for Kakarot seemed to be a bit more engaging than other Dragon Ball games I’ve heard of so I was excited to get my hands on it.
Described as a semi-open world experience that takes you through the biggest highlights of the series with some extra content that blends the main story and its prequel series. I immediately noticed how powerful I felt. Speeding through the map, ripping up terrain as I fly by at extreme speeds. It felt great.
Then I went up to the bad guy I was supposed to attack and I got stuck in an endless loop of combat for what felt like an eternity. Though, based off what I have seen, maybe that’s the most true to form aspect the game shares with its Anime counterpart. While it may not for me, I can see Dragon Ball fans getting a lot of this title.
Bless Unleashed (Namco Bandai)
A free-to-play MMO in the style of a Monster Hunter or Dark Souls seems intriguing to me. The demo I played had me selecting a class and I chose the Ranger. I chose that class because I normally go that route for games like Elder Scrolls, but I didn’t know what Bless Unleashed was until I started playing it.
It seemed to me that the Ranger class needs some serious overworking. The build I played had the developer confused because my soft target locking wasn’t working until he remembered that they had removed it for the Ranger because the class was “too OP”. I was still able to make it work but quickly understood that, playing by myself would cause some difficulty because, obviously, the ranger class is much more support than one to be right in the thick of it all.
Bless Unleashed, despite its unbalanced issues and the time I made my character glitch into a crab walk, seemed to be fairly polished for what’s destined to be a free-to-play MMO on Xbox One. The small bit I played had me looking forward to checking out the final project.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood (Cyanide Studios)
Set in the World of Darkness, a tabletop RPG universe that also includes Vampire: The Masquerade, you find yourself playing as an Eco-Terrorist werewolf with the ability to transform into and out of a wolf and werewolf form for exploration and combat purposes.
What I saw being played was a small snippet of two separate chapters in the game to demonstrate the different areas you’ll get to visit. The game looked nice as a whole, but there was plenty of work that still needed done before this beast could be unleashed.
I didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I got certain Prototype vibes from the combat and overall design. Is that a knock? Not necessarily, but it does feel a slight bit outdated. That being said, the concepts behind Werewolf had me looking forward to sinking my teeth in when it launches soon.
Undying is a survival game that has crafting and exploring through a zombie-infested landscape. So far, so good. You play as a mother who has been infected and is running out of time. You chose to use this time wisely by teaching your son the rules to survive. The demo I played had me scavenging for medicine, fixing a broken handgun and teaching my son to shoot.
The game itself seems to mix Telltale’s The Walking Dead, State of Decay, and The Flame in the Flood into a strange zombie cocktail that could be something special. With the hopes they take some time to work on the animations and combat (guns are hard to aim and blunt weapons feel floaty), there might just be room in the crowded world of zombie games for one more.
Tunche (LEAP studios)
Tunche is a beautifully designed, hand-drawn, 4-player co-op brawler that uses Peruvian folklore to help drive its roguelike gameplay. That’s just not something you see every day. I managed to play a short bit with one of the developers from LEAP Studios and had a ton of fun with it. The game is being touted as a return to more traditional 2D beat ’em ups, and from what I saw – and experienced – I can’t really argue with this.
Controls are tight and responsive for the build I played and I can only imagine them getting even tighter closer to the release (at least, I hope so). It’s worth noting that Tunche is the first successful Peruvian Kickstarter and I can’t wait to get back into playing some more of it.
Marvel’s Avengers (Square-Enix)
Behind closed doors left just as much confusion as to what Square-Enix’s new Avengers game has to offer. Despite fan distaste for the lack of likeness to Disney’s now-iconic versions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Activision made sure to distance themselves as much as possible from what we’ve come to expect. While the main characters seem to be similar in identity to their famous movie faces, you won’t be seeing Chris Evans or Scarlett Johansson’s likeness in here. Instead, we’re treated to somewhat generic interpretations of them.
While some might find issue with this, it doesn’t necessarily affect me. I have seen these characters a dozen times over and it wasn’t until the Goliath blockbusters did I have continuity between the actors portraying them. People seem more upset about their loss of Chris Hemsworth but I see it more of a Bond scenario. Anyone can play Tony Stark, it doesn’t need to be one singular person.
All that out of the way, what is Square-Enix’s interpretation of Avengers? What kind of game is it? Hard to say. The trailer shown at the Square-Enix’s press conference was vague but their behind doors demo was only slightly less so. From what I gather, they seem to be building a single-player campaign designed to get players used to the way each character controls, plays and feels. Then it will break off into something where players will team up in online co-op. It feels reminiscent to Anthem but with a sturdy introductory tutorial campaign to kick things off.
The demo had small snippets of each of the five main characters (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk and Black Widow) as they attack forces who have taken over the Golden Gate Bridge – a popular destination of destruction in fiction. It’s apparent each character was designed to feel separate from one another. Thor looks to play like Kratos from God of War as you slam Mjolnir into thugs like gnats to baseball bats. Black Widow seems to be more analogous to Insomniac’s Spider-Man as her speed and attacks are fluid and quick. Iron Man and Hulk play how you’d expect as well as Iron Man flies around and juggles characters and Hulk…well hulk smashes things.
What’s curious is that through first impression, Captain America seems extremely overpowered in the footage; throwing his shield is devastating to those in his way and he seems unstoppable. Until, we see him fall in combat. The words “Five Years Later” appear on screen and we see that we’ve lost Cap to the battle. We all know that heroes are seldom lost for good in comics and it seems that while he may be gone, it serves as a purpose to narrow the avengers down by four; the perfect number for online co-op shenanigans.
It’s hard to know what Activision is doing exactly with Marvel’s Avengers but it seems they have a plan in mind and I am certainly intrigued with what I’ve seen thus far. I look forward to seeing more before playing more when it launches in May 2020.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Reboot (Activision)
Speaking of Activision, ever since the last Call of Duty fans have been wondering if there was going to be any campaigns for any future titles. With the exclusion of a campaign in last year’s Black Ops 4 it seemed plausible that they would try continuing with the trend of a multiplayer focused package.
Luckily, it turns out that we will be getting a campaign for the next major Call of Duty release, but this time around developer Infinity Ward is doing a “reimagining” of their Modern Warfare campaign. Some might be disappointed by this news, but the developers certainly seemed that it was a good time to retell the story of Captain Price, Soap McTavish and crew.
They made sure to stress that this was a reimagining and, from what I saw, it seems to be just that. Instead of grabbing all of the same story beats and set pieces and making them prettier, the entire game appears to have been reworked to tell the same story, only spruced up with a fresher, more relevant driving force. And much better visuals.
The peak I got to see behind doors was a small chunk of the game being played early on in the campaign. After a huge attack on London, you and a small task force are heading through a building that houses known assailants in connection to the attack. Your team scans each room carefully and precisely through the cover of dark to take out all hostiles one by one.
What followed in the demo was fairly controversial with some, though whether this was exaggerated or not remains to be seen. I’ve heard on multiple accounts that the demo shown was far too violent and disturbing; some have flat out said they refuse to play the game if it was going to be sticking with the same tone. In my opinion, what I saw pales in comparison to the infamous “No Russian” segment from Modern Warfare 2. During the introduction of the demo, the developers themselves explained their intentions are to display a realistic sense of war. “This is our most realistic game yet.”
Truth be told, there’s not a whole lot different from what I saw in the demo and any other Call of Duty game – or any other shooter. It’s possible that I’ve just found myself desensitized from violence to a certain degree from movies and television, but this fresh take on Modern Warfare never ventured into anything I would consider to be overtly shocking – even when it steadfastly stuck to a sense of grounded realism I appreciate.
The whole demo felt like a perfect way to showcase all of the smart AI actions, the improvements to the physics and lighting, scripting, and it’s realistic approach to shooting through walls. But it might have felt a bit too scripted in points. How this scenario will play once we get our hands on it remains to be seen. But the way the developers have attempted to attack realism has me excited to see what’s in store when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare debuts this October.