E3 2018 Hype

It’s that time of year and the hype train is accelerating to full speed. It’s Christmas for us gamers and I wanted to take the time to reflect on why E3 2018 might be the greatest E3 in recent memory.

E3 has had its great moments, the Playstation conference in 2015 with the trifecta of Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake let everyone know that dreams do come true. The Twilight Princess reveal for the Gamecube is fondly remembered as one of the greatest trailers of all time. 2018 however, is poised to be the greatest lineup ever. With this generation of consoles coming to full maturity and the gaming audience bigger than ever, I think we will see closures to stories started years past as well as new reveals that will make this E3 great. Without further ado let’s make a list.

 

Confirmed:

  • Fifa 19 – Fifa 18 was a complete letdown to the community. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of changes are made for this annual series.
  • Battlefield V – I don’t personally love the BF series, but it’s hugely popular and the return to WWII is highly anticipated.
  • Anthem – We know very little about this game, and recently the “deaths” of Mass Effect, Dead Space, and Dragon Age does not bode well for this new IP, but it’s going to be the biggest game at EA this year.
  • Fallout 76 – So much teasing, decent amount of rumors. The Fallout series is always solid.
  • Rage 2 – Rumored to be a reworked sequel to Mad Max. Rage and Mad Max both had interesting ideas – we can hope they mesh well.
  • Tomb Raider 3 – Polished and solid, we will see more of this game at E3.
  • Kingdom Hearts 3 – Demos and trailers are dropping, 2018 is the year this game finally comes out.
  • Final Fantasy 7 – Will we get the first update since 2016?
  • Dragon Quest XI – Already out in Japan.
  • Spiderman – Sucker Punch has been working on it all generation. Marvel hype is high now, time to ride it.
  • Last of Us: Part 2 – The best game of last generation, Naughty Dog hasn’t let us down in decades.
  • Ghost of Tsushima – Will it play like Onimusha? Nioh? Lots of mysteries to unveil this year.
  • Dreams – Media Molecule’s creator game. Very curious about the possibilities.
  • “Shadows Die Twice” – From Software’s next big game. If it’s anything like Bloodborne or Dark Souls, it’s going to be amazing.
  • Valkyria Chronicles 4 – Acclaimed strategy game, demo already exists, we need to see more.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – We haven’t seen any gameplay yet. We need to see it.
  • Death Stranding – Hideo Kojima’s first venture away from Konami. We’ve seen a lot of trailers already. We’ll get another one.
  • Super Smash Bros Switch – Somehow this game might below away everything else on this list.
  • Bayonetta 3 – Teased at the Game Awards, Nintendo needs to bulk up it’s lineup for 2018.
  • Metroid 4 – Is it time to see gameplay of this game? Hope so.
  • Star Fox: Grand Prix – This game is pretty much confirmed, but what is it?
  • Days Gone, Yoshi, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, etc.

Rumors:

  • Doom 2 – The first game on this list that’s not confirmed. The first Doom was a runaway success and now is the time to announce this game before this generation ends.
  • Halo 6 – Xbox needs to bring it’s big guns.
  • Gears of War 5 – Same as above, although the series is getting very stale. Needs a change like God of War.
  • Rocksteady’s next game. Will it be about Superman as rumored?
  • Hitman 2 –  The first Hitman was a huge success, time to cash in.
  • Avengers – We all know that Square Enix has been working on this. With Infinity War coming out this year, this game needs to come out before Robert Downey Jr.’s career as Tony Stark comes to an end in theaters.
  • Devil May Cry 5 – The return of Dante for the first time in this generation
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – CD Projekt Red is an amazing studio and proved it with the Witcher series. A step to the future will be amazing.
  • Animal Crossing Switch – It’s been a while since the last AC. The Switch is the perfect console for this type of experience.

 

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but even if only the confirmed games make a showing this would be an amazing E3.

Let’s Talk About RiME

I downloaded RiME as part of my video game grieving of God of War. After playing through a AAA masterpiece, it’s common for me to feel like other high budget games don’t quite meet my expectations. This included Watch Dogs 2, Last Guardian, and Final Fantasy XV – all great games that I want to finish at some point, but as soon as I booted up realized they did not have the polish and delivery of God of War.

So instead, I looked towards some indie games I had acquired through the PS Plus membership. ABZû was the first game for me to boot up as I remembered it being basically Flower underwater. I continued on from where my roommate had left off, and to our surprise, after about 20 minutes the credits were rolling – he had essentially beaten it before and hadn’t finished. It was a beautiful 20 minutes, but I do not have a lot to say since I didn’t really get to experience the game.

Next, I ended up starting RiME. The biggest draw to the game came from its calm music. After finishing God of War, I looked around to change my PS4 theme in boredom (it had been set to the God of War theme) – I happened to have the RiME theme for some reason (or maybe it was free?) so I tried it on and liked it for its music, ocean view, and the cute fox.

Upon starting the game, I was immediately greeted with some exceptional scores. The game begins with the player, a boy, drifting ashore to an island. The island is relatively unoccupied save some pigs, birds, and statues that respond to the boys singing.

The game does not hide it’s flaws. It’s mechanics are simple, there’s no combat to speak – some light platforming and puzzling exists. Lighting is hit and miss sometimes and the narrative is light.

However, the game successfully delivers on its goals through its thematic, symbolic presentation and music.

Spoilers ahead:

The game explores the concept of grieving. The relatively short game goes through the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. At first this was not very obvious. In fact, it was not very obvious what the story was about. There is a mysterious man who appears and disappears and a fox that leads the way. There are abrupt changes in the tone of the game as the chapters continue as well causing some confusion in the continuity.

But upon reflection, I think this game would have a profound impact on someone who has dealt with death in a loved one. It’s a careful representation of the 5 stages and captures the general emotions quite well. While it faces some technical problems, it’s one of those games that help elevate the genre to an art form.

 

 

Let’s Talk about God of War (2018)

The video game industry tends to hit its stride around the 4 to 5 year mark of a console generation. Since the PS4 launched in February of 2014, we are now beginning to see its peaks. God of War may be the first of the many great games to come in the next 2 to 3 years.

In what is now becoming a kind of corporate identity – the new God of War shifts the top down hack-and-slash style of the previous God of War entries in favor of a closer camera perspective. It seems like the success of games like The Last of Us may have encouraged many first party studios to introspect their existing franchises to bring a more realistic and mature experience.

This is a welcome change to the God of War franchise, a series that saw the formula fatigue quite a bit with the mulled reception of the previous entry God of War: Ascension. Cory Barlog and Santa Monica studio instead brings a captivating tale (by video game standards) of Kratos and his son, Atreus, navigating an unfamiliar Norse region.

Back during the first announcement at E3 2016, the decision to step away from Greek mythology to adopt Norse mythology was a curious, albeit an exciting one. Having grown up watching Disney’s Hercules as well as being exposed several Greek myths growing up with names like Zeus, Hades, and Hydra being familiar, the God of War series had felt comfortable in terms of world building.

Overall, the game does a great job celebrating the Norse mythos. In fact, for the uninterested, the heavy use of unfamiliar terms and names like Jötenheim, Jörmungandr, and Tyr may be off-putting and make the story harder to remember in the end. But to those slightly interested, I believe the game has done a great job introducing the deep lore of Norse mythology, one that now I see has heavily influenced a variety of western culture including the Lord of the Rings series and Marvel comics.

One thing that the game does exceptionally well is its combat design. The relatively sparse weapon options are well supported by a variety of runes that adjust Kratos’s attacks. The use of Atreus in combat feels deliberate and genuinely helpful. And unlike many Naughty Dog games, the lack of true stealth sections as well the fact that Kratos is in fact a god, makes he’s powerful nature and inhumane platforming abilities more believable. (Although the climbing sections where Kratos scales cliffs that protrude out seems ridiculous even by god standards).

Time will tell if this game is remembered as a classic. I do think that the story will fail to resonate as strongly with players who have yet to become fathers. I have noticed that many of the game’s reviewers have praised the writer’s handling of the parental dynamic, one that I am sure Barlog was able to leverage from first hand experience of being a relatively young father. Still, even for myself (who is not a father yet), the story succeeded in delivering a balanced and believable tale of parents who are struggling to communicate properly to their children and how lessons are sometimes taught by the children.

As Barlog says, the story is one of identity – how do we define ourselves. Are we defined by who our parents are? Are we defined by our actions?

I hope that the next God of War is not too far in the horizon. With the engine built and the AAA game industry largely unable to produce iterative games as it was a norm during the PS2 era, I hope Santa Monica studios breaks this trend as they have many other trends with this game (lack of DLC and loot boxes). A 2020 or early 2021 PS4 sequel would be an exciting way to end this console generation and this chapter of Kratos’s story.