E3 2014: The games of Tuesday

E3 kicked off with some really large conferences that let Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo state their cases for each of their gaming platforms. These often serve as sort of an overview of where each of the big three is headed, but also teases a lot of games. When that is all said and done though, it is time to take a look at the games themselves in more detail.

Nintendo was the last of the big three to present, and their conference was completely canned and simply played out to audiences. It was effective, but there were more titles to be talked about later, such as Mario Party 10, Mario vs. Donkey Kong and LEGO Batman 3. The last one sort of baffles me, as I love the LEGO games by and large, but have always felt like the Batman games were among their least interesting, yet here it comes.

Devil's Third has a nice pedigree coming from Tomonobu Itagak, but really nothing stood out from the stage demo shown of this title for me personally. Maybe there is just so much gunfire at E3 this year that I am slowly growing numb and unimpressed with more explosions and the like, but the mix of first person shooting and third person melee combat did not look smooth nor overly inspired at this point.

The Order: 1886 is another title that just feels destined to disappoint right now. When it was first teased last year, it looked sharp and potentially exciting. The more that gets shown however, the less it stands out. Character models at times look stiff with lifeless expressions and the gunplay seemed uninspired. In the video that was shown on stage bullets did not seem to impact the environment and the section of the game appeared so heavily scripted that nothing the player did seemed important. There is still plenty of time for The Order to impress us later, but for now it seems to be on a path of diminishing returns.

Xenoblade: Chronicles X is one of those titles Nintendo needed to see happen. We touched on it in our Nintendo wrap-up this morning, but this kind of potential hit from a third party developer is precisely what the Dr. Mario ordered for the Wii U console. A science fiction RPG with nice visuals and what looks to be promising combat could really help shake the notion that third party developers will continue to avoid the Wii U

Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of those titles that I have no doubt we will be talking about on a regular basis over the next few months. The strategic combat will no doubt be a welcome return for fans who preferred the first game over the second. The visuals have often been one of the biggest weaknesses of the series as well. If the combat and visuals hold up and the area design opens up a bit further, this could be the recipe for an amazing RPG given Bioware's history for interesting characters and deep storylines.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is probably not going to surprise a lot of people, as the game has been getting talked about quite a bit of late. This is another instance of how E3 has become an opportunity for developers to expand on games that fans already seem to know a fair amount about because of the instant information age we live in now. That being said, we thought Civilization V was amazing and this fantastical spin on the game should be a treat for fans of the series.

Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the handful of genuine surprises for me during the conference. I knew nothing about it, despite the development team having stated that it has been in the works for about four years now. The music and the graphics he an enchanting quality to them that reminded me somewhat of Child of Light. The gameplay promises to be a good deal more quickly paced however, with the development team calling it a Metroidvania style game, but that they asked themselves, "What can we do better?"

Below is one of those titles that will probably divide gamers quite a bit. Roguelikes have a tendency to do this, with death and loss of progression a constant threat. Some players absolutely eat these kinds of challenges up, others find them frustrating. I fall somewhat in the middle. I would rather not die and replay things a million times - I used to do that when memorizing enemy patterns and the like on all those old action and platforming NES games decades ago. Below sounds as though it may try to find a happy medium between those two places. The question will be whether or not it winds up appealing to both fan bases, or alienating each and failing to find a foothold with them.

The developer being interviewed said that while Below is inspired by roguelikes, it has a much heavier focus on exploration. There is no tutorial, there is no hand holding, the player is simply dropped into the world to fend for himself. The world does have elements of persistence however, because if you die, you can find the corpse and pick up your loot. Also things that were accomplished in that previous life such as unlocking a specific door, remain that way for your future characters. This reminds me of some of the old D&D computer games where you might happen upon your old eliminated party to find gear and such.

The overhead visual and procedurally generated dungeons may remind some fans of Diablo, but the gameplay appears to be quite different and there is a heavy emphasis on crafting and supplies while on the go. There are a lot of things in this world that can wound your character, and he will start to bleed out unless you deal with that status element sooner than later.

LittleBig Planet 3 is going to have a huge following no matter what the developers do. It is one of those beloved, established franchises now that always gravitate toward the creative freedom the series allows. In my younger years when I was dreaming up D&D campaigns or teaching myself BASIC so I could craft text-based Choose Your Own Adventure style computer games, I would have happily sunk hours upon hours of my life into something like this. Now that I have less time on my hands and more than a $2 per week allowance as a gaming budget, I would prefer to spend my time playing more polished games and experiencing as many different titles and types of games as possible. No doubt there will be excellent levels already packaged with LittleBig Planet 3 and the additional new characters and mechanics should provide more freedom than ever for gamers who do gravitate toward this series.

Helldivers is one of those frantically paced overhead shooters that have been quite popular on consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 over the last few years. One of the hooks is that friendly fire can (and likely will) kill your friends. The game supports up to four player cooperative play and a respawn system that relies on your living teammates to bring you back onto the field of play. When one of the interviewed developers says, "Games are more fun when you can kill your friends," it is easy to see that they are willing to take a few chances with the style of play.

Driveclub is one of those titles that has a lot of people wondering and speculating 'what is wrong with it?'. Announced as a release game for the PS4 last year, it was touted as a true next generation driving experience as it attempts to incorporate improved visuals and social features. It now has an October 7th release date - nearly a year later than expected. A lot of the early returns on it last year was that the game was simply not as much fun as people hoped, so the hope here is that the extra year of polish keeps this title from disappointing. If so, the extra wait time will be worth it, but until people get their hands on it, there is going to be some skepticism.

Murasaka Baby was a title that left me wondering what in the world would this game be about? It turns out that Muraski is the Japanese word for purple, and that appears to be the important color that gets splashed into the otherwise sketched, sparsely colored visual style that reminds me of a Tim Burton movie. Being a Vita game, this is a strictly touch-based title as you are tasked with protecting the purple, heart-shaped balloon that you baby character is dragging along through this nightmarish world. The art style and how it ties into the 'moods' for each stage is definitely distinctive and it is nice to see the Vita getting something potentially very unique.

That is it for our first look at the games of E3 so far. We will be posting more about them throughout the week. What has caught your eye so far? Let us know!

Article by Nick


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