Wednesday, May 7, 2014

E3 2014 Preview

The Electronic 3rd is nearly upon us!

E3, the biggest video game convention of the year, is only a few short weeks away. That means that it's high time I start talking about my expectations for what we may see this year. 

2013 felt like a bit of an off year for E3; the show was mostly focused on Sony and Microsoft hammering out the final details for their consoles before launch. Which was famously followed by a lot of backtracking on Microsoft's part due to the backlash they received over a number of their proposed policies regarding the Xbox One

Meanwhile the games themselves seemed to take a backseat. It just felt like the really cool stuff that's going to justify the existence of this new generation of hardware simply wasn't ready to show yet. Granted, that is pretty typical of a launch year E3, but it's also the reason why this year feels so exciting. Now that the new consoles are out of their "launch window" we should start to see the real next-gen games coming to the forefront. The one that aren't simply uprezzed versions of 360 and PS3 games. There will obviously still be some overlap, but it definitely appears that the newer machines are the lead platforms for these games, and they're being ported down for the old consoles, instead of the other way around. 

And, with that, I will run down a brief list of the games I'm most interested in seeing. Some of these have already been confirmed to be at E3 and some haven't, so please bear that in mind.

Fallout 4

Will it happen? God I hope so. And I am pretty confident that we will see the next Fallout at this year's show. The timing feels right and there's simply too much evidence that it's coming for the game to be a no-show again... right?

Let's run through all of the evidence that points to a new Fallout being announced this year:
  1. Timing: its been 3 years since Skyrim was released, and about a year and a half since Bethesda finished the final piece of DLC for the game, Dragonborn. There was a post on Bethesda's official blog in April 2013 talking about how they were finished making new content for Skyrim and that this will free up the team to work on their "next major project". The Elder Scrolls Online just released earlier this year, so it would be silly of them to step on their own toes by even talking about the next proper Elder Scrolls release so soon. Fallout is the other big franchise that Bethesda is known to develop in-house and, assuming that it's being built on a modified version of the Skyrim engine, 3-4 years seems like the right amount of time it would take to make this game.
  2. Sightings: Back in mid 2012 there were several stories claiming that Bethesda employees had been spotted scouting locations in and around the Boston area, leading to speculation that this would be the setting for the next Fallout game. It also helps that Boston makes a lot of sense as a place to set a Fallout game. The Commonwealth, which was mentioned several times in Fallout 3, is the in-lore name for the state of Massachusetts in the post-apocalypse. The fact that FO3 was developed by Bethesda makes these off-handed mentions feel like hints to the future of the franchise.
  3. Leaks: Then, just a few months back in December, Kotaku ran a story detailing a script that had been leaked from a casting call. Although this script never mentions the word Fallout, it does refer to a number of places in the Fallout universe and even includes the infamous tag line: "War. War never changes."

Combine this evidence with a rabid fanbase that has been absolutely chomping at the bit for a new entry in the series, and it seems that Fallout 4 is a shoe-in for this year's E3.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Okay, let me start this one off by saying something controversial: I liked Dragon Age 2. Now, before you raise your pitchforks and light your torches, give me a moment to contextualize that. I liked DA2, I didn't love it. The game definitely had it's flaws, mainly stemming from the fact that it seemed rushed out the door entirely too quickly. However, there were a lot of things that I enjoyed about that game. Things that I'd like to see return for the next game in the franchise, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

First of all, I loved the combat in DA2; some would argue that it was dumbed down from Dragon Age: Origins, but I honestly felt like it was simply more streamlined and focused; that it made the combat feel better overall. And I will be a sad boy if the Force Magic specialization doesn't return; fewer things are more fun than using gravity itself to smash your foes around the battlefield.

Secondly, I really enjoyed having the snarky, smart-ass dialog choices as your third option within the dialog trees. Usually in games like this, including Bioware's own Mass Effect franchise, you have a choice between "good guy" and "bad guy" dialog with at third "neutral" option thrown in as well. The problem with that, is why would anyone choose the boring-ass neutral response? There's never any real reason to. But in Dragon Age 2 the third option was actually valid and fun to use. These options would have your character respond with a joke, or some sort of sarcastic comment, and it lent an entirely different tilt to his/her personality. This felt like a really unique thing that no one had pulled off properly before and it would be a shame if Dragon Age: Inquisition leaves it on the cutting room floor.

Here's to hoping.

All that being said, what they've shown of DA:I looks amazing. And the way that the developers speak about the game and how they're approaching it makes me think that this team is in the proper mindset to deliver something truly spectacular. The team has said that they've taken a lot of inspiration from Skyrim, and that this game will be quite massive in scope. Considering the amount of time that they're taking to make it, almost two years already and the game isn't due until 2015, I'd say that Bioware and EA seem to be giving this game it's due attention, and I can hardly wait to see it in action at E3.

New Mass Effect

If you know me or follow my blog, than you know that I love Mass Effect. It is my favorite video game franchise of all time; it speaks to me. Mass Effect embodies all of my favorite things about gaming and sci-fi: spaceships, futuristic guns, choices with consequences, an intense story, and sexy alien ladies.
"How you doin'?'
So I have to at least mention the possibility of a trailer for the next entry in the series. I doubt that it'll be much more than a teaser trailer, but maybe they will have at least put an official title on the game. That is assuming that there's anything ready to show at all.

(Not official screenshot, fan art by Baolong Zhang.)

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I never played the original, but The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was the first big game I bought after getting my first real gaming PC, the one I still use today. It's one of the reasons that I've done most of my gaming on the PC since then. Witcher 2 absolutely blew me away; the world was so twisted and dark compared to most games and movies that use the medieval fantasy setting.

That's why I'm excited to see what's next for this series. They've release a few trailers, and it looks stunning. If the team can hit the same level of quality and polish as the previous game, then The Witcher 3 will be a game for the ages. They're saying that this will be the final game in The Witcher series, and it certain looks like CD Projekt Red is aiming to do it justice.

Something tells me that thing ain't friendly.


Destiny is the next game from Bungie and, while I never played much of their Halo games, something about their latest venture has caught my attention. It could be the art style reminding me of Mass Effect, or maybe I'm just hungry for this type of game. Whatever it may be, Destiny looks pretty spectacular and I'm excited to see more of it at the show.

Everything Else!

When it comes to E3, more often than not, the most exciting things to come out of the show are things that you didn't see coming at all. I'm excited to see what new games get announced and what new features are going to be coming to the PS4 and Xbox One. Will Microsoft announce a price drop in order to increase their install base and try to catch up to Sony? Will Nintendo or another company steal the show from the two heavyweights with something truly mind-blowing? Only time will tell and, thankfully, we don't have long to wait.

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