I wasn’t keeping up with the E3 schedule this year and was blindsided by the Microsoft and Bethesda presentations this Sunday. In my defense, we were outside celebrating my daughter’s graduation, so I took the time to watch both presentations on Sunday evening. Sorry about the lack of pictures, but this post is a sprint, not a marathon.
The show started with The Outer Worlds, which looks a lot like Borderlands with the attempt at humor, the desert-esque environments, and a lot of firepower. I had been looking forward to this title, but there wasn’t a lot offered in terms of details here. It’s Microsoft’s show, and they just want you to know what you’ll be getting if you throw your hat into their ring. The Outer Worlds still looks pretty good, although I think my excitement has been tempered after having seen someone Tweet that they had expected it to look “better”, an exclamation that ended up altering my view.
Next item of note is a new game from Mojang, who needs no introduction. In fact, their “new game” is Diablo, but in the Minecraft world. Moving on…
A Blair Witch game?
But of course, the highlight of the entire evening was Cyberpunk 2077. Again, no details, but a brand new cut-scene which ended with ubiquitous nice guy Keanu Reeves both in game and on stage. It’s really nice when non-industry people get up on stage and have a sense of presence — and a sense of humor — like Keanu did. Later that evening, I checked in on the price of the rather impressive Cyberpunk 2077 CE, and it’s clocking in at $250USD. That had been my intended target, but I dunno now…I could do a lot with $250USD, and there’s currently no PC edition listed.
Next major segment focused on Game Pass. Game Pass is Xbox’s buffet of curated titles that subscribers can download and play without having to buy the individual titles. I subscribe to this, although [Insert boilerplate about how much time I actually spend on the Xbox here]. Good news for me, though, is that Game Pass is expanding in two directions.
First is the Game Pass PC, doing for PC games what Classic Game Pass does for Xbox console titles. It’s currently in beta that anyone can sign up for, and you’ll get a pretty good selection of interesting games to choose from. Supposedly Halo: The Master Chief Collection starting with Halo: ODST, but I didn’t see it in the lineup.
Second is Game Pass Ultimate. This bundles Both Xbox and PC Gamepass, as well as Xbox Live into one price of $14.99 a month. I signed up for this tier as it would convert whatever time I had left on my Classic Game Pass to this tier, but I have to have a CTJ talk with myself over whether it’s worth to pay for the Ultimate when all I might really use is the $4.99/month PC version.
Gears of War 5 (aka “Gears”, because “of War” is too taxing to include all the time) was shown. OK.
A new Elite Controller for $180USD. I like my Classic Elite controller. It’s got a solid build, and although I don’t use all the bells and whistles, I have it set up so that it’s comfortable for me. What I really like about the Elite 2 is that you’ll be able to adjust the tension in the thumbsticks. I am easily amused.
Although I’ve skipped a lot of “filler” stuff, I want to slow the roll and shout-out to Phantasy Star Online 2 which is coming West after about 37 years of being held back. I tried the Japanese version a while back and it was fun in it’s own way. I think on the console it’ll be a lot better, and I fully expect the Western servers to survive 2, maybe 3 years before closing down.
Borderlands 3 trailer, and new DLC for Borderlands 2 which bridges the gap between the two titles. Suck it, Pre-Sequel. I laughed when Claptrap was once again stymied by stairs.
Then the nerdy stuff. xCloud was talked about, but more importantly they announced that in October, we’d be getting an update that would allow our in-home Xbox console to act as a mini-xCloud server. This is a tad bit disingenuous, but also not, because we could always stream from our Xbox consoles to our PC via the Windows 10 Xbox app. Now, I guess, this update will allow us to stream to other devices like iPad and Android devices, both in and outside the home. We have to have a real-talk discussion about this “streaming stuff to tablet and phones” idea at some point.
Next, Project Scarlett, which is the next-gen console due in 2020. Supposedly it’s going to blast 120FPS, offer up to 8K resolution, have ray-tracing, an ultra fast SSD that will also act as vRAM, and has a custom AMD processor. No price yet.
And finally, HALO Infinite trailer. It looked fantastic and will be launching at the same time as Project Scarlett.
Microsoft, as usual, did a great job. There were some solid items in there (Cyberpunk 2077 by way of Keanu Reeves, Gears (of War) 5, Game Pass, streaming, a new console, and HALO). Still, in retrospect, it seemed a bit anemic overall. Maybe because Sony ceded the E3 field and hence MS didn’t have to really try that hard to put on a spectacle.
I watch Bethesda’s presentation because I do like many of their games, and with The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield on the horizon, I expect that I’ll eventually be funding someone‘s kid’s college education over at BethHQ. I don’t have a recap in front of me, so I’ll only be hitting my personal high-notes here.
One thing about Beths, though, is that they had a horrific year courtesy of Fallout 76, the game no one wanted, it seemed. Todd Howard came out on stage and, in probably the most artful way of saying it, admitted that they fucked it up, but kept working on it to make it “better”, and then announced that the game would be getting more Fallout-y this year by adding in a “season 2” storyline which brings back quest-giving, fully-voiced, conversational NPCs. Not having a reason to do things in Fallout 76 was a massive turn-off, so this is an almost a 180 for me. Of course, they had to ruin it by then announcing that they were adding a battle royale mode to the game. That was not a joke, which turned out to be sadly hilarious in the end. But I might pick it up anyway in anticipation of the return of NPCs.
I had tried The Elder Scrolls: Blades and found it wanting in the way that only mobile attempts to make big-kid games always are. The good news, then, is that Blades is coming to the Nintendo Switch. This is quite possibly the best place for this game: mobile is too awkward, and the game isn’t powerful enough to warrant a PC or Big Two console release. On the Switch, though, I think it’ll be a slam dunk. I was just angry that there wasn’t a “download it tonight” announcement at the end of this segment.
One issue I have with E3 for the home viewers is that we get all the sizzle but none of the substance. Ghostwire Tokyo is something that screams for substance because the sizzle was so…sizzling. It’s a paranormal-fighting [mumbles something about something], but the trailer was fantastic. Also, presenter Ikumi Nakamura basically stole the show. I hope she and Keanu Reeves met backstage.
TESO got some love, but not a lot seeing as how Elsweyr has just released. We got a new cinematic, and — you know, a lot of folks always scream at Blizzard to “give us a CG WoW movie!” but I think that a CG TESO movie would be orders of magnitude more fucking awesome so there. Also, more DLC later in the year with more dragons. I admit it: I re-downloaded TESO because I need to see how many gems I have and if I can afford Elseweyr. At any rate, I canceled my WoW sub in favor of TESO.
Apparently, we are getting a new chapter in the Commander Keen franchise. I wasn’t a Keen player back in the day, although I know of it, so I at least appreciate the resurrection of the IP. This is a mobile game, lowering the bar for those nostalgic for the original Commander Keen without asking them to wrestle with the decision to pay a premium price for it.
I’m going to alter time and jump ahead to mention Deathloop. Like Ghostwire Tokyo, there were no details here, just a great cinematic. From what I might have gleaned, though, you will be playing as or against another character, both of whom are stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque timeloop. I think that one character is trying to preserve the loop, while the other is trying to break free. An interesting concept in theory, but the whole Edge of Tomorrow vibe means that you should be able to remedy your last death. How that will work in a game that has finite resources and probably a capped narrative is something I really want to know.
And then the blood began to flow with Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The presenter really wanted to let the audience know that you will be killing Nazis.
They spent a lot of time on Doom Eternal which I don’t care about so there…you know it exists.
In between and in an odd segue we got some folks on stage talking about Orion, some kind of sidecar tech that Beths was offering developers that would allow them to turbo-charge their streaming performance. This is totally out of the blue as far as I know and is quite telling. Bethesda has some beloved franchises. They acquired id and have gained some more beloved franchises. They are unabashedly pro-mobile and anti-Nazi. They are a solid and dependable group, so when they announced that they have spent time working on tech to help online streaming of games, it kind of makes me think that this whole “all in on streaming” isn’t going to be treated like some weird-ass peripheral like the Kinect. Hell, anyone can bet on the wrong horse, but this streaming thing is starting to feel like it’s infecting the whole industry and not just the platform stakeholders.
What about EA?
There was absolutely nothing in the scrub-through of a 15-minute recap video on the EA presentation that interested me.