Connect with us

Games

Goomba Stomp’s E3 2017 Predictions, Expectations, Hopes and Dreams

Published

on

e3-2017

It’s that time of the year again.

Here at Goomba Stomp we absolutely love E3. Each and every June, E3 rocks up and slaps us across the chops with more news than we can possibly cover, a bunch of trailers for games to be excited about that’ll probably end up getting delayed, and plenty of laughs – intentional and otherwise – along the way. Over the last three or four years, the E3 gods have been smiling upon those of us who spend our time writing about video games, delivering a veritable banquet of blockbuster surprises and relatively few of the on-stage gaffes and groan-inducing celebrity cameos that the convention was famed for a decade or so ago.

Who could forget Sony’s Jack Tretton giggling as he hammered nails into the proverbial coffin of the Xbox One by pulling apart Microsoft’s entire console strategy on stage back in 2013? What about Nintendo turning up with puppets a couple of years ago before breaking our hearts with footage of Star Fox Zero apparently pulled out of a time capsule from the Gamecube era? Microsoft surprising everybody and announcing backwards compatibility for the Xbox One? The year that Sony lost the plot and had The Last Guardian, Shenmue III, and the Final Fantasy VII Remake on stage? That incredible Zelda trailer last year?

The last few years have followed a similar pattern with Nintendo announcing very little of any worth, and Microsoft doing a really good job that was almost instantaneously forgotten about because Sony just did it all so much better. Sony’s 2016 conference consisted of little more than one kick-ass trailer after another, without any of the usual cast of characters boring us with facts and figures, and it seems like it’s going to be a tough one to top.

But could there be a change in the wind in 2017? Microsoft has a brand new console to shill which could be a game changer, and Nintendo is currently riding a wave of positive vibes thanks to the successful launch of the Switch, with all conventional logic saying that they must have some big games to announce considering the relatively sparse line-up of impending titles for the fledgling system. Surely Sony don’t have any more aces up their sleeves? Or do they?

We asked our writers to weigh in with some predictions on what to expect from E3 2017, a few of their hopes and dreams, and plenty of unfettered, wild speculation to get mad about in the comments.

****

project-scorpio-1

What you hope to see at the Microsoft conference?

Matt De Azevedo: Handing the Scorpio over to Digital Foundry back in April was a genius idea for several reasons: it showed Microsoft’s extreme confidence in their product, it gave the most respected tech guys in the biz a chance to examine the hardware and share the results with the public, and most importantly, it assured that Microsoft isn’t going to spend their entire E3 conference going over spreadsheets detailing RAM and teraflops. The new console is the biggest shadow looming over the conference, and Microsoft would be wise to open their showcase with it but only spend a few short minutes on the hardware itself; hopefully they’ll reveal the final design along with the release date and price, then promptly move on to software. With that said, due to Microsoft’s new strategy of publishing all titles on both PC and Xbox—thus eliminating the console brand’s ability to tout any truly exclusive games—how exactly do they use software to sell the new machine? There’s only one answer: put its raw power on display.

RICKY D: I purchased my Xbox One back in December of 2015 and I’ve barely used the console. In fact, I haven’t turned it on in almost a year due to a lack of first party exclusives that interest me. I have nothing against Microsoft and I love the Xbox 360 but I’ve been sorely disappointed with the lineup for the Xbox One and given that I own a PlayStation 4, I prefer to play most third-party games on my Sony console. That said, I’m really hoping to see more of Cuphead along with a firm release date. It’s the number one reason I bought the console two years ago and I’ve been impatiently waiting for its release ever since. Finally, for all of the success of its established franchises, we are at the point where a new Halo, Forza, and Crackdown is just not enough to convince people they should buy a Microsoft console over a Sony PlayStation. Microsoft desperately needs a new IP, only I’m hoping it isn’t a first-person shooter or a racing game, rather something the company isn’t usually known to make such as an open world fantasy adventure in the vein of Witcher 3.

Mike Worby: Honestly, what I would really like to see from Microsoft is something of note. I’ll happily grab myself an Xbox One if you can give me a must-play that Sony doesn’t have.

John Cal McCormick: Games, games, games. Part of the problem with Xbox One right now is that there’s barely any point buying one unless you really love Forza, Gears, and Halo. The PS4 has had a more entertaining line-up of exclusive games in the first five months of 2017 than the Xbox One has since launch, and that’s not good enough. I’m hoping that Microsoft has some new IP at E3 2017 – first party, brand new ideas, unavailable on PS4. I’d also like to see Scorpio be competitively priced, and for them to avoid throwing money at a third party developer to buy exclusivity of an upcoming title like they did with Rise of the Tomb Raider – that deal was a massive misfire for all concerned. They need to talk about Scorpio, but it’s the games that matter most. Talk hardware, give us a price, and then wow us with games.

Marty Allen: What I hope to see from Microsoft is Cuphead and Below getting firm release dates in the not-too-distant future, but that’s rather selfish of me, as they’re the only games on the platform that currently interest me. Despite the fact that I don’t have an Xbox of my own, I’m always pulling for every console to make fun games, so I hope that they bring some big surprises to the table that not only excite their fan-base but also welcome new gamers as well. Sony and Nintendo are coasting on their own steam right now, it’s Microsoft’s conference to win or lose, but a win would grant them some much-needed press and momentum.

Brent Middleton: There’s a lot of doubt surrounding Microsoft’s first party lineup right now, but there’s some great potential. Hopefully, we’ll see more Sea of Thieves gameplay and get a firm release date for that as well as Cuphead. Aside from the exclusives we already know about, we also need to see new IPs taking advantage of the Scorpio hardware. Microsoft should treat the Scorpio as a new console generation and launch it with at least one new, memorable franchise. I also hope that we’ll see a Sunset Overdrive sequel.

What do you expect from the Microsoft conference?

Matt De Azevedo: Despite what some may be hoping, Microsoft doesn’t have any shocking console-exclusive announcements to make. Halo 6 and Gears 5 will not be shown or teased. Crackdown 3 will undoubtedly rear its head, but given the game’s known development issues there are too many doubts sewn into its fabric to wow anyone in the know. Cuphead and Sea of Thieves will get release dates, and while both games look interesting, neither has the power to cause massive rumblings at an event like E3. With Microsoft’s conference taking place a full day ahead of Sony and Nintendo’s, I expect them to send reverberations throughout the event by debuting a ton of 3rd party games and showing what they look like on the world’s most powerful console. Assassin’s Creed Origins will makes its official debut on Microsoft’s show floor, 2K Games will have a huge presence at the conference as they announce sequels for both Borderlands and BioShock, Call of Duty WWII will have a prominent showcase, and Microsoft will receive massive bonus points if they somehow convince Bethesda to let them be the first ones to show off Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. Microsoft’s goal won’t be to show games that can be only played on their console, but they’ll undoubtedly push their platform as the best place to play these games, and they’re gonna win over a fair share of people by officially debuting these titles alongside the Scorpio.

RICKY D: This is a huge E3 for the future of Xbox. The primary goal for Microsoft is first and foremost, to sell Project Scorpio. I expect a good chunk of the press conference to focus on the console itself with a lot of third party games being announced for the system and a heavy focus on virtual reality. One of Project Scorpio’s selling points has been how it will accommodate full VR experiences and now is the time for them to show fans exactly how. Apart from that, I expect the press conference to include a lot more gameplay footage of Crackdown 3 since we haven’t seen much from the game since it was revealed in 2014 and end with a big title that nobody has ever heard of. Phil Spencer usually puts the emphasis on games at E3 so even with though they’ll need to set aside a lot of time to showcase Project Scorpio, I expect to see a whole lot of games on display. Microsoft will be extremely keen to showcase the power of Scorpio, and to do this Redmond will enlist the help of both first and third-party titles for the job.

Mike Worby: Cynic that I am, I expect more focus on Forza, Gears, Halo and the like. I wish Recore had taken off for them so they could have a new killer app. Maybe Sea of Thieves will do it for them.

John Cal McCormick: I think that their conference is going to disappoint. I’m expecting the hundredth Forza game on Xbox One, Crackdown 3 to be shown again (probably looking nothing like it did the first time around, and with little talk of the once much-ballyhooed cloud processing we’ve all now forgotten about), and a lot of talk about the power of Scorpio. I desperately hope they have something more compelling than that. On the Scorpio front I’m expecting a lot of people to be pretty miffed with it because it seems like many are expecting this console to be a game changer, and it probably isn’t going to be. I’m expecting a more powerful Xbox One – a slightly better twist on Sony’s PS4 Pro – and that’s about it. No exclusive Scorpio games, no new generation, and a fairly high ($499?) price point. Microsoft needs exclusives to give people a reason to care, and I just don’t see where they’re going to come from with them throwing money at third party developers.

Marty Allen: What I expect from Microsoft is for them to produce a well-put-together showcase that doesn’t address the Microsoft-sized elephant in the room – what happened to all of their first party games? Yes, we’ll see more Crackdown 3 and Sea of Thieves and Forza; probably some more looks at Halo and Gears. And yes, even a new IP, but who knows what or how interesting it will be? They’ll talk Scorpio, but probably not as much as we think. They’ll try to make a splash, they’ll do ok, but they need that shiny new IP that sells itself.

Brent Middleton: I honestly expect Microsoft to go all out this year. Phil Spencer has to know how vital this year’s conference is to the future of the brand. They’ll probably have an extensive hardware overview of the Scorpio followed by both live demonstrations and trailers of games running on it. They’ll emphasize the power of the console and unveil its price and launch titles.

What you hope to see at the Sony conference?

Matt De Azevedo: Sony has set an unreasonably high bar for themselves with their two previous E3 outings being near perfection. They’re in a groove right now when it comes to these showings, and I expect a spectacular presentation as they somehow attempt to one-up the live orchestra they had last year. They’ll stick to a similar format: back-to-back trailers, give Shawn Layden some time to speak, then more trailers—and it’ll be a good show—but I just hope they don’t rely too much and what we already see coming.

Ricky D: Dare I even say Kingdom Hearts 3? Chances are, even if this game won’t be released anytime soon, Square Enix likes to remind their fans that the series does, in fact, exist. But seriously, it’s been over a decade since the second installment in the franchise was released, and fans are growing restless. I think fans are long overdue a first glimpse of the game. Let’s just hope they give us more than just a logo.

Mike Worby: Bloodborne 2 better be coming, baby. There have been rumblings, and I hope for my part that those rumblings are correct.

John Cal McCormick: Sony has been absolutely killing it since the launch of the PS4 when it comes to selling units and getting quality exclusive games onto the system, but their handling of some other aspects of the PlayStation brand has left a little to be desired. Nobody cares about PlayStation Now so I’d like to see it overhauled to allow the downloading of games, and also be incorporated into a new PlayStation Plus tier to be a little more cost effective. I want to be given a reason to buy PlayStation VR – the tech looks cooler than the other side of the pillow, but I’m not throwing £400 at a system to play Fruit Ninja VR. I’d love to see them announce PSOne Classics on PS4 with trophies etc. too. Other than that I just want them to do what they’ve been doing for the last few years – showing off more exciting games than everybody else, and giving us a few surprises along the way.

Marty Allen: Sony is the company to beat, so I hope to see them continue to kick butt and not rest on their shiny laurels. More than anything else, I hope to see a strong and convincing IP in place to make the case for VR. As a bit more of a long-shot, I hope to at least see what Sucker Punch has been up to, with an additional sidebar hope of some new action surrounding Sly Cooper. Moreover, I hope to see some noise from the new Red Dead, but I fear for it. Extra long long-shot: Kingdom Hearts announcement.

Ben Thompson: Since Sony has been dominating the first party exclusives over Microsoft, I would hope to see a continued focus on the games over hardware. Their conference last year showed game after game in quick succession, and I’d like to see this conference follow suit.  In terms of new game announcements, I would like to see Sony address the publishers and game franchises that have been dormant for quite some time. These games could, therefore, include a possible inFamous sequel from Sucker Punch, a follow-up to Supermassive Game’s Until Dawn or even a sequel to The Order 1886 from Ready at Dawn. Furthermore, since the advantages that come from owning a PS4 Pro has left me a little underwhelmed, I would love to see games take full advantage and push the hardware to its limit. These include games such as Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human which would follow the trend started by Horizon: Zero Dawn in giving people a reason to go out and buy a PS4 Pro. Finally, even though I would prefer the conference to focus on the games over the hardware; for the past few years I have been holding out for a new PS Vita console. I know it’s a long shot, but at the very least I’d like to see the Vita get some attention in some way amidst all the PS4 announcements.

Brent Middleton: Sony has done a good job of keeping expectations low. Following a solid PlayStation Experience in December, the company is essentially victory-lapping this year. It’d be great if we saw more of the new God of War entry and how it’ll reinvigorate the franchise. I’d also like to see Sony nail down a release date for the Final Fantasy VII remake and Kingdom Hearts 3, but that’s really just wishful thinking at this point. But you know what I’d really love to see? A new IP that’s more in the vein of Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter. I’d love to see something funny, colorful and clever from their internal studios.

the-last-of-us-2What do you expect from the Sony conference?

Matt De Azevedo: Sony should NOT show Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue 3, Death Stranding or The Last of Us Part II, but their showcase will include at least 2 of them. We all know they’re in development, but none of the aforementioned titles will see the light of day in 2018, and there’s no point in dragging them out onto the show floor again without any substantial updates. PS4 Pro and PSVR will be mentioned but only in passing as Sony’s event will rely on exclusives; they’ll announce at least 3 never before seen first/second party titles (including FromSoft’s next project), while the brunt of the load will be lifted by Spider-Man, God of War, Detroit: Become Human, and Days Gone, all of which will get firm release dates. Sony’s showing will be excellent from a representational standpoint, and above average from a content perspective, but compared to their own previous shows it won’t be as explosive, unless of course they can use their partnership with Rockstar to debut a Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer, which wouldn’t only be the talk of the show, but would also steal the 3rd party thunder right out from under the Scorpio’s feet.

Ricky D: Sony has developed a bulletproof plan for showstopping E3 presentations in recent years and it isn’t really a big secret how – it’s all about showing games, games and more games. Two years ago it stole the show and left longtime fans nearly in tears by announcing a long-anticipated remake of Final Fantasy 7 alongside Shenmue 3, and last year it crammed as many games as possible into the event, including the then highly anticipated Horizon: Zero Dawn and the soon-to-be-released God of War. This year will be no different. The Japanese giant will look to continue its fan-pleasing streak and keep the PS4 out in front of its rivals with a strong lineup of, wait for it — games. Games, games, and nothing but games. With both the PS4 Pro and PSVR released last year, I don’t expect them to waste much time on their hardware, so it will be a case of Sony mopping the competition with the biggest, baddest, and frankly, best library of games. I expect first-party titles, exclusives, multi-platform crowd-pleasers, lots of indies and virtual reality. I mean we are already guaranteed to see The Last of Us: Part Two, the new God of War, Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, Detroit: Become Human, Days Gone and Insomniac’s Spider-Man and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All that said, I expect nothing less than to see Rockstar Games on Sony’s stage at E3. Red Dead Redemption 2 will no doubt steal the show and honestly, if that was all they showed, it would already be enough.

Mike Worby: There will almost certainly be expansions on last year’s bombshells like The Last of Us 2 and God of War. I also expect to see a bit of that FFVII Remake in action, even if Square-Enix isn’t going to give it to us until 2020.

John Cal McCormick: I’m not sure what to expect from Sony. Last year I doubted they could continue their trend of great conferences and they gave us one of the best E3 shows of all time. I’m feeling doubtful – I mean, how many more games can they possibly have up their sleeves? – but again, I thought that last year and they nailed it. I’m going to lean towards disappointment for this one, and I think we’ll see more of the games we already know are coming – God of War, Death Stranding, Days Gone, Detroit – and the third party games they’ll have exclusive content for – Call of Duty, Destiny – and not much else. I’m also expecting a Crash Bandicoot style resurrection of another classic PlayStation game since resurrecting old franchises seems to be working out for Sony. I think we’ll probably see a new game from Sucker Punch since they’re known to be working on something, and we might even see a sequel to The Order. I don’t think we’ll see The Last of Us Part II, since that’s probably a way off, and I wouldn’t be expecting anything from Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy VII. We’re going to see Emma Stone announced as being in Death Stranding. Oh, and Bloodborne 2 is coming. I can feel it in my bones.

Marty Allen: I expect Sony’s conference to look much like last years, and that’s no bad thing. If it ain’t broke, show another long-form demo reel of games, games, games. We will see God of War and Last of Us 2, DLC for strong new IPs like Horizon and perhaps Nier. We’ll see a bit more of what Kojima’s been up to with Death Stranding. With recent re-masters like PaRappa and Patapon, they seem pretty keen to push nostalgia for old IPs, so perhaps a bit more of that? Shenmue remasters of 1 & 2 would go well with the upcoming release of 3. I expect some surprises, but I’m really not sure what. Bloodborne 2? Playstation All-stars 2? And I do expect a big push for VR, perhaps something with Battlefront? An all new Batman? They need something big there, and they are at least going to try before letting VR go the way of the Vita. Overall, I expect them to do another great job and keep their fans excited. Oh, and more Spider-Man, please.

Ben Thompson: The main goal for Sony is to make sure people get behind their previously announced exclusives; particularly the new IPs. I would, therefore, expect the conference to focus on the games already announced that we have only seen brief glimpses of. Games such as Sony Bend’s Days Gone and Insomniac’s Spider-Man need to impress to get people onboard. Although the latter will still sell well due to the existing fan base, people are still itching to see what this game looks like in motion. In contrast, Days Gone is a brand new IP and so it makes sense to reveal some more details surrounding its story and characters to get people sold. I would expect a release window to be given to both these games, likely around spring 2018. Naughty Dog doesn’t like to spoil their stories, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see more gameplay for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, but rather a final trailer for the Uncharted spin-off. Lastly, given the huge success of Horizon: Zero Dawn, Sony will probably announce some upcoming story DLC along with a release date around set for October this year.

Brent Middleton: Sony doesn’t have to have a stellar conference this year, and they know that. Instead, because expectations are so low, they’ll likely have two or three exciting surprise announcements that completely blindside fans. Aside from that, they’ll just elaborate on games we know exist and announce more timed exclusivity deals with third parties. They’ll also probably show off more games that specifically take advantage of the PS Pro.

Super-Mario-Odyssey-Reveal-Trailer-1What you hope to see at the Nintendo Direct?

Matt De Azevedo: What I hope for from Nintendo is that they show some semblance of comprehension when it comes to modern day standards within the industry, but they won’t. I hope that they don’t make me question their grip on reality, but they will. For every Super Mario Odyssey there’ll be 10 Metroid Prime: Federation Forces, but fortunately for Nintendo the former will outweigh the latter, and at the end of the day the masses will walk away thinking about how good Mario looks.

Ricky D: Games and a lot of games. I want not one but two Metroid games, one 2D, and one 3D. I hope to see a new Donkey Kong Country, a new Animal Crossing for the Switch and a sequel to something like Luigi’s Mansion or The Wonderful 101. I’m also hoping to see Bayonetta make an appearance and a late 2016 release day for the Super Smash Wii U port. But what I really hope to see is a new IP from the Big N.

Mike Worby: All this talk about “no 3D Metroid being in the works” better be a confirmation that we’ve got an old-school Metroid in the pipeline. It’s been on my wishlist for 6 years Nintendo, please give us a new Metroid.

John Cal McCormick: I’d like to see a lot more of Super Mario Odyssey, but I’d also like for there to be a lot of other games announced because a Mario game in six months just isn’t enough. I want a new Pokémon, a new Mario Golf, and a new Metroid, as well as system-wide achievements being introduced, and news on the virtual store which hopefully won’t suck this time. After buying the Wii and the Wii U and never really feeling like I got much out of those consoles, I want reasons to be confident in picking up a Switch, knowing that I’ll actually play it, and it won’t just sit gathering dust next to my Vita. I want Nintendo to prove that they’re not archaic and backwards thinking, and that they’re not arrogant enough to believe that they don’t need to catch up to the competition in terms of features, online functionality, and their store. Selling Nintendo games to Nintendo fans is easy. They’d buy anything. Nintendo needs to sell their wares to lapsed fans and casual gamers to keep Switch going, and that means exciting new first party games, and something from third parties that doesn’t just feel like a rubbish version of what they’d get on PS4 – I’m looking at you, FIFA.

Marty Allen: Nintendo is where my hopes go wild, because they have a lot of potential energy right now, and I’m loving what the Switch has been delivering. On the one hand, Nintendo has been playing it pretty safe with their E3 presence over the last few years. On the other, their marketing over the last two years has improved enormously, so perhaps they’ll take this opportunity and really run with it? A boy can hope. My biggest dream is an all-new Animal Crossing for the Switch that works seamlessly with the iOs iteration. I’ll shoot for the stars and dream for a look at a new Metroid in the ilk of Prime, too. Beyond that, I hope to see a clearer vision of the Virtual Console that builds towards including Gamecube titles. And I hope to see a real solution to voice chat that doesn’t involve non-Euclidean geometry. More than anything, I hope Nintendo hits us with at least one big surprise reveal…

James Baker: Metroid Prime has long been due a reboot but it seems unlikely as Nintendo ignore one of their oldest franchises. The momentum is with Nintendo to revitalize some of its classics and to lose confidence now would be a huge blow. If Metroid doesn’t receive a new game, then a new Pikmin or Luigi’s Mansion would be great additions to the Nintendo Switch. Mario Party would be a welcomed as it’s perfect for the Switch’s motion controls, plus will be excellent at promoting the new online features. As for the Nintendo 3DS, I’m hoping for the final generation seven Pokémon game, rumored to be named Pokémon Stars. This will complete the Sun and Moon generation and lead into generation eight which I expect to be on the Switch in 2019.

Patrick Murphy: I want to know what Retro is working on. Whether it’s a new Metroid (doubtful), Donkey Kong (even more doubtful), or something completely new (please), Nintendo would be wise to clue gamers in on what one of their most respected first-party developers is doing. Though it’s likely that any Retro title would not be coming this year, their track record of quality is enough to lend some additional excitement to the already positive aura surrounding the Switch. 2017 has been pretty much mapped out for the new console, so hinting at things owners have to look forward to beyond this year is crucial. Otherwise, I obviously want to see more Mario Odyssey, I desperately want a slew of indie games showcased to tide me over in between the sparse AAA releases, and I’d love for a deal to be announced that sees a couple of third-party exclusives, like Bayonetta 3 or Beyond Good & Evil 2. Pie in the sky perhaps, but I can dream.

Brent Middleton: Nintendo has a lot riding on their E3 conference this year. The Switch is off to a strong start, but there are several things that need to happen at their Spotlight event. An update to the Switch’s UI would be welcome, especially if it included the ability to add more themes. Personally, I’d love to see Animal Crossing, but a new entry in the Metroid franchise wouldn’t be too shabby either. It’d be great to see another new IP shown off, but one delving into the RPG realm. And–though they might not be announced during the Nintendo Spotlight–more third party partnerships would also be welcome.

What do you expect from the Nintendo Direct?

Matt De Azevedo: Ports, re-releases, Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Super Mario Odyssey. Breath of the Wild will get way more time than needed, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will get delayed (to the surprise of no one), and a few of the classic franchises that fans are dying to see more of will be shown but not in the way that anyone wants or expects. Those waiting for Odyssey before picking up the Switch will continue to wait, and those currently unconvinced on the console will remain so. Mario will be one of the best looking games at the show, but fans will walk away from this event feeling no different about Nintendo, and while that’s fine for some, it’s certainly disappointing to me.

Ricky D: Last year was an odd year for Nintendo. The Big N focused their E3 digital event on only one game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and yet somehow they stole the show. This year, things will be somewhat different but I do expect a good portion of the digital event to once again focus on one game, that being Super Mario Odyssey. According to Nintendo, their E3 Spotlight Event plans to focus primarily on Switch titles coming our way in 2017. The problem is, there aren’t many first party games being released this year that we don’t already know about. Or do we? Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime promises the company will deliver a huge E3 this year, and contrary to what I said on the NXpress podcast, I’m starting to think that maybe he isn’t lying. That’s why I actually expect Nintendo to surprise everyone and come out hitting hard. Despite their recent press release, I do think they will premiere a few yet unannounced games that will leave fans of Nintendo extremely happy. That said, I don’t expect much outside of a few seconds of footage of any of these surprise titles simply because nowadays, Nintendo relies more on the Nintendo Directs to promote their games. Apart from that, I expect to see a lot of games from Square Enix, Ubisoft, and yes, more amiibo.

Mike Worby: Like Mulder, I want to believe, but my fear is that we’ll see more spin-offs no one asked for and more gimmicky 1-2 Switch style games. Please, prove me wrong Nintendo.

John Cal McCormick: Nothing. This is the one I’m most worried about, because Nintendo needs to prove they’ve got big games coming following complaints about the sparse library on Wii U, and I don’t believe they’ve got them. I don’t think Metroid is coming. I think the next Pokémon is just going to be a riff on Sun/Moon as per usual. There’ll be more ports from Wii U like Smash. I think people are going to go into this one with high expectations and wind up disappointed.

Marty Allen: However… I expect Nintendo to play it pretty safe. Last year, they focused almost entirely on Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it worked. They had a remarkable new game from a classic IP to present a clear vision for, and they did. I expect to see much the same surrounding Mario Odyssey, with few big announcements to cloud that vision. The new Mario will look and play like a dream, and we’ll all forget that we ever wanted anything else. We’ll also see a lot of Splatoon 2, a little of ARMS, and we won’t see a Smash Bros. re-master (we won’t see it YET – it can’t make sense to their marketing people to push that iconic fighter around the same time as ARMS). They’ll detail the second set of Zelda DLC, and I suspect they might make the current pack available as they do the Direct. I think they’ll give us a little treat – there’s a pretty good chance of getting a most-welcome Pikmin 3 re-master announcement. Maybe a Pokemon-shaped surprise, or deep cut around the Wonderful 101? Perhaps a little noise surrounding upcoming iOs entries? I think we’ll also see another strong highlight of their commitment to indies, with a few cool surprises and dates in that mix. Mostly, they’ll play it safe and keep their focus on Mario and the Switch’s momentum, but they’ll do a good job of it, capitalizing on a legendary IP and a lot of goodwill for a fun new platform.

James Baker: More footage of Super Mario Odyssey is likely to be shown, hopefully revealing more variation in the worlds. However, this is as good as it will probably get. I don’t expect the unveiling of any huge games. I hope Nintendo shock and surprise me and send an earthquake down the middle of E3. But what we will get is more footage of games already revealed, and probably more details on the DLC for Breath of the Wild.

Patrick Murphy: Plenty of Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2, probably some more ports of Wii U games, additional footage from titles already announced, like Fire Emblem Warriors and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a pledge to for some reason keep supporting the 3DS, new amiibo that I won’t care about, and an indie game highlight reel for stuff that released on other consoles six months ago. I’ve conditioned myself not to expect big excitement from Nintendo with these presentations, but something does feel a little bit different this year. The whole launch of the Switch feels special, and Nintendo wants to do everything they can to keep the good vibes going. I expect to hear Reggie to appear at the end with a knowing grin and a “just one more thing…”

Brent Middleton: We’ll see Super Mario Odyssey in much more depth and probably hear more about Splatoon 2 as well. I’m expecting a highlight reel of upcoming indies (including some new exclusives) and the formal reveal of Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Will we see any new IPs? Maybe one. Will we hear more about virtual console? Probably not.

What would be your dream announcement?

Matt De Azevedo: With the announcement earlier this year that the Deus Ex franchise has been put on hiatus, the chances of it showing up at E3 are literally 0.0%, and that’s a crying shame. Mankind Divided isn’t a good game, it’s a fantastic game, and I need a conclusion to Adam Jensen’s story. Please Square… I can’t take a wait like the one between Invisible War and Human Revolution. (Oh, and FromSoft: you guys are the best in the business and you know what to do. Fear the old blood.)

Ricky D: A new Earthbound/Mother game. And I don’t mean having Mother 3 released in the west. I mean the fourth entry in the series.

Mike Worby: If Nintendo finally premiered an achievement system, particularly for their classic games, I would lose my mind.

John Cal McCormick: PSOne games on PS4 with trophies. All the big games I want are already announced or too far off (Persona 6?!) to mention. Give me Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy IX and Silent Hill with trophies and I’ll be your best friend. Scout’s honour.

Marty Allen: Animal Crossing Switch: a massively multiplayer online, world-building dream of bug-catching wonders for me to retire to.

James Baker: Nintendo to reveal something we don’t already know about. Metroid Prime, Pokémon Stadium, Luigi’s Mansion – I’d even be happy for a new Harvest Moon. Just anything.

Patrick Murphy: A new ActRaiser, because I want one. C’mon, Square! Barring that, a Retro Studios-developed Metroid Prime 4 would have me thinking of little else until its release.

Ben Thompson: The Elder Scrolls VI or a new PS Vita console.

Brent Middleton: A new Animal Crossing game. One that greatly expands the player’s role as a mayor and adds enough new mechanics to make it feel like far more than a New Leaf expansion.

Who will “win” E3?

Matt De Azevedo: Microsoft has the most powerful horse in the race, but their jockey is questionable. Mario will stir the hearts of the masses, but Nintendo’s previous E3 showing proved that one fantastic looking game isn’t enough to win the event. While it’s still up in the air, realistically speaking if two or more of Spider-Man, God of War, Detroit: Become Human, or Days Gone get 2017 release dates then Sony automatically wins and people will be prematurely touting 2017 as one of gaming’s best years. And even if all four of those games are 2018 or beyond, Sony’s lineup still makes them the front runner. It’ll be tough to dethrone the reigning king.

Ricky D: Sony simply because Nintendo said they are only focusing on games being released in the upcoming twelve months and in my eyes, Microsoft just can’t compete with Sony’s library of games.

Mike Worby: Despite my snark, I feel like Nintendo could take it this year. It would be a welcome change to see someone really give Sony a challenge, and I fear that Microsoft isn’t up to the task at the moment.

John Cal McCormick: Sony. Even though they’re bound to disappoint at one of these shows sooner or later, betting against them given their recent record seems foolish. They’ve got so much third party support and an incredible array of first party studios – I don’t see how Microsoft or Nintendo will be able to compete.

Marty Allen: I think the very idea of winning E3 is a bit over-simplified, but I’m going to go out on a limb for the long-shot bet. I think Microsoft is going to swing for the fences and hit a home run. The real question is whether or not they’ll see the momentum through properly to bring their console back to a state of relevance.

James Baker: Sony will win, but strangely, it’s Nintendo’s to lose. If Nintendo doesn’t reveal anything spectacular, which they should after the successful release of the Switch, then Sony will walk it. Microsoft seems to have already accepted defeat, so who knows, they might strike back like a cornered snake.

Patrick Murphy: Doesn’t Sony always win these things? They have plenty of games, lots of sales numbers to report, and just the right street cred to make their rivals look silly. I’m not sure what Microsoft could do to make up ground in the cool department besides announcing an impossible number of exclusives, but as the wild card, I do think Nintendo has the ability to make a memorable splash with the right-sized cannonball. They can’t “win” (I’m not even sure they’re playing the same game), but they can earn a lot of positive buzz, which is a victory in itself these days.

Ben Thompson: Sony

Brent Middleton: I think most people will say Sony, but Sony actually doesn’t have to do much to “win” in the eyes of most gamers this year. If Microsoft or Nintendo far exceed expectations, it’ll be more of a “win” for them in my eyes.

 

Well, that’s it for our predictions for E3 2017, what about yours? Sound off in the comments below.

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Marty Allen

    June 6, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    This is such a great piece to have been a part of! I love hearing everyone’s perspective and being amongst a crew who are as obsessed with this madness as I am! Awesome thoughts, one and all!

  2. John Cal McCormick

    June 12, 2017 at 6:20 am

    ” I think that their conference is going to disappoint. I’m expecting the hundredth Forza game on Xbox One, Crackdown 3 to be shown again (probably looking nothing like it did the first time around, and with little talk of the once much-ballyhooed cloud processing we’ve all now forgotten about), and a lot of talk about the power of Scorpio. I desperately hope they have something more compelling than that. On the Scorpio front I’m expecting a lot of people to be pretty miffed with it because it seems like many are expecting this console to be a game changer, and it probably isn’t going to be. I’m expecting a more powerful Xbox One – a slightly better twist on Sony’s PS4 Pro – and that’s about it. No exclusive Scorpio games, no new generation, and a fairly high ($499?) price point. Microsoft needs exclusives to give people a reason to care, and I just don’t see where they’re going to come from with them throwing money at third party developers.”

    Well, I’m going to claim that one as a victory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

Game Reviews

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ Review: Moon’s Haunted but Still Shines

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ returns to a familiar destination but Bungie is reworking Destiny with each expansion and Shadowkeep is no exception.

Published

on

Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep may be a return to a familiar destination, the Moon, but Bungie continues the trend of reworking Destiny with each new expansion, and Shadowkeep is no exception. Replete with a reworked season pass system, progression systems, customization options, sandbox re-tuning and quest interface, Shadowkeep is both a welcome iteration and extension of the existing Destiny 2 experience offering more RPG-esque player agency than Destiny has ever seen before. While the game is still haunted by some overly familiar issues, Shadowkeep is a welcome expansion and a promising start to the third year of Destiny 2.

Old Haunting Grounds

The Moon isn’t the only familiar face in Shadowkeep. Keeping with tradition, Eris Morn has returned from a long absence for another dark, lunar expansion (the first being D1′s The Dark Below when the character was first introduced) as she investigates a disturbance deep within the Moon. Quite literally haunted by the past, Eris has called upon the Guardians to assist her in finding the source of the phantoms plaguing the Moon and vanquishing “Nightmare” versions of familiar visages from the past.

All is not entirely as old players might remember. An immense hive structure, the Scarlet Keep, now overshadows previously unexplored territory on the Lunar surface. New Lost Sectors hide in the depths of the Moon, and new secrets a la the Dreadnaught or the Dreaming City lie waiting to be discovered by inquisitive players. And at the very center of the expansion an ancient, unknown threat lies in wait, an ominous foreshadowing of the trials ahead.

While the expansion does a decent job ensuring the familiar haunts don’t feel overly recycled, it’s hard to say Shadowkeep makes the most of the Moon. The campaign opens on such a high note as players storm the moon in an unexpectedly matchmade sequence before individual Fireteams independently uncover an unanticipated twist that absolutely shatters expectation. Unfortunately, the narrative quickly devolves into uninteresting fetch quests that fail to live up to the intrigue of the initial mission nor live up to the narrative heights of some of the most memorable missions the Moon previously housed including fan favorites The Sword of Crota and Lost to Light to name a few. That’s tough company to keep, and Shadowkeep fails to measure up.

Similarly, a bit of that intrigue is reintroduced in Shadowkeep‘s final mission, but, like the campaign as a whole, it’s over before the player knows it and fails to live up to the precedent set by previous, lengthier campaign conclusions. More mileage is gotten out of the narrative and destination in the post-game in the way of a new weapon farming system, a new activity known as Nightmare hunts that play like mini Strikes, and a Strike proper, but that does little to alleviate the disappointment of an overly terse campaign that reads like a teaser for what’s to come over a distinct, fleshed-out story.

A New Era, a New Season

Part of that is presumably courtesy of a shift in Bungie’s approach to content releases. While the previous expansion, Forsaken, similarly opted for procedurally released content over the course of the season, Bungie has doubled down on that strategy with Shadowkeep ensuring there’s something new to be experienced each week that players sign in. While certain activities have alway arrived post-launch including raids, dungeons, and exotic weapon pursuits, Shadowkeep and its “Season of the Undying” has seen new PvE and PvP activities launched after the expansion’s initial drop, adding to an already lengthy list of Destiny to-dos.

Central to the season is the new PvE, matchmade activity, the Vex Offensive, which pits six players against waves of Vex combatants paired and features some minor puzzle elements, all for the sake of earning a series of weapons exclusive to the mode. While the Black Garden locale of the mode is certainly eye-catching, the Offensive, with its recycled mechanics and familiar enemies, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. It might pale in comparison to activities introduced in past seasons (like Warmind‘s Escalation Protocol, or last season’s Menagerie), but is intentionally terse, intended to match this new seasonal philosophy, and will be removed from the game after Season of the Undying (though the exclusive arsenal will still be available in the loot pool obtainable through undisclosed means). Like the Vex themselves, the Vex Offensive might not seem like much independently, but collectively is a piece of a greater whole challenging and rewarding players for participating within the specific season.

Bungie is further defining each season with the inclusion of a seasonal artifact and a season pass system. The artifact, again only available for the season, offers players an avenue for additional, limitless Power gains while also offering unlockable gameplay mods encouraging players to utilize specific classes and builds. The Oppressive Darkness mod, for example, debuffs enemies hit by void grenades, encouraging players to construct discipline-oriented, void builds. Another mod, Thunder Coil, increases the power of arc melee attacks by fifty percent, giving all new life to the Hunter’s Arcstrider subclass. Meanwhile, the season pass operates similar to that of Fortnite or any number of games and replaces the previous cosmetic only level up system of Destiny 2‘s past. From the season’s outset, any and all experience goes toward unlocking rewards from the pass including new armor, armor ornaments, exclusive weapons and exotics, and engrams. The experience requirement for each level is static, meaning progress is fair and steady throughout and never feels throttled. Both seasonal systems are fantastic new additions that reward players for playing the game while making experience gains more purposeful than any other time in Destiny‘s endgame.

New Duds to Boot

Shadowkeep also marks the debut of Armor 2.0, a new system that allows players more agency in character customization than ever before. Whereas armor previously rolled with random perks and a roll of only three stats (Mobility, Recovery, and Resilience), Armor 2.0 comes with no perks and six stats as Destiny 1‘s Intellect, Discipline, and Strength (determining the charge rates of player’s super, grenade, and melee abilities) make their triumphant return. Instead, Armor 2.0 has slots for modifiers so players can pick and choose whatever perks they want just as long as they’ve unlocked those mods. Mods are acquired from most activities, while enhanced mods (better versions of certain traditional mods) are exclusive to some of the game’s more challenging content. While the grind for mods seems excessive in the face of the rest of the game’s grind, it’s a one-time affair, some of the best mods are unlocked via the seasonal artifact, and the payoff is astounding, providing customization like never before.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Axe to Grind

Speaking to the grind, Destiny has often struggled and failed to find the perfect balance of meaningful power climb and tedious grinds recycling the same old activities. Luckily, at the outset of the climb towards max power, Shadowkeep strikes a much better balance centered on beloved ritual and new and or seasonal activities. Power drops now operate on a clearly labeled, tiered system, incentivizing players to prioritize new or challenging activities for maximum gains. Ritual activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit), though tier one, retain their relevance by offering multiple weekly powerful drops for match completions, vendor bounties completed, and rank progression. Previous, otherwise irrelevant avenues towards power have been retired, but this is a welcome reduction and there is no shortage of powerful drops in the climb to max power. That isn’t to say that the grind couldn’t be shorter ensuring more players can participate in endgame activities when they first arrive, but progression generally feels smoother than any time in Destiny‘s past.

Conversely, content flow might overwhelm casual and even dedicated players as there’s simply too much to do and grind for players tight on time. Bungie now considers Destiny and MMO with proper RPG mechanics, and, in terms of time commitment, that really shows with Shadowkeep. On a certain week, a player might have an accomplished week in-game after sinking only three to five hours into the game. Other weeks the game seems to demand closer to the ten to twenty-hour range. One week, for example, saw the release of the new dungeon, a new Crucible game mode, an exotic quest, a new public event, and the start of the Festival of the Lost, a limited time, Halloween event. That’s simply too much, feels like poor pacing, and favors streamers, Destiny content creators, and hardcore players for whom Destiny is their exclusive hobby, a burgeoning theme with Season of the Undying. While it’s certainly exciting that there’s always something to do in D2, it doesn’t seem true to the game’s roots as a hybrid, a shooter with MMO elements, that could be taken at a more casual pace but still offered an engaging endgame for the dedicated audience. Now, there’s only an endgame with no end in sight.

A Better Destiny Awaits

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for players who want to pay a minimal price for seemingly unending content, and in that regard, Shadowkeep is a steal. A sensational new raid (minus some finicky new mechanics), a foreboding dungeon, an immense new arsenal to grind for, and a better tuned PvP and PvE sandbox in which to enjoy them mean Shadowkeep will keep Guardians’ attention the whole season long and is an excellent proof of concept for the seasonal structure going forward. If Bungie can keep this pace up, year three of Destiny 2 could easily be the best year in franchise history. As a general caution though, Destiny 2 now clearly caters to the hardcore, requires MMO levels of commitment, and is best enjoyed with a regular group; casual, time-restricted, and solo players beware. It might not be the best single expansion release in franchise history (that’s still a toss-up between The Taken King and Forsaken), but, beginning with Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, the third year of D2 is the closest the tumultuous title has ever come to Bungie’s ambitious vision for the shared-world shooter and the game fans have been waiting for these past five years.

Continue Reading

Games

What Are Some of the Switch’s Best Indie Devs Making?

Published

on

switch

The Nintendo Switch has quickly become the preferred platform for some of the most talented indie studios in the industry. Its pick-up-and-play form factor and Nintendo’s concerted effort to court smaller developers this generation (complete with indie-specific Directs) has resulted in a library that’s positively flourished.

Despite the eShop falling victim to some of the discoverability and shovelware issues that long plagued Steam, there have been some real standouts over the years. Since video games take quite a while to produce, there’s often speculation as to what some of the premier developers have been working on. Let’s take a look at four of the most recognized indie studios on the platform and have some fun trying to figure out what they might be up to.


Sidebar Games

It’s hard to believe that 2017’s Golf Story was Sidebar Games’ first project as a studio. The two-man team from down under balanced a delightful dose of Australian-tinged humor with clear callbacks to the Mario sports games of old to deliver one of the best Switch exclusives in 2017, bar none.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Sidebar has been extremely silent on development progress; we can only glean bits and pieces from the few interviews they’ve done. We know the game has been in development for roughly two years and that Sidebar was still in active development as of March 2019 when they put out the call for a pixel artist for their next project. There’s also a fair chance that the new game will either be Switch-exclusive or target Switch first, seeing as how Golf Story is still one of the Switch’s top 10 best-selling indie games to date as of Spring 2019. If exclusivity worked so well the first time, why not try it again?

What Can We Expect?

Whatever Sidebar is working on, it’s almost guaranteed to be single-player and story-focused. One half of the dev team, Andrew, has gone on record multiple times saying that he’s “very partial to story modes.” This also players into one of their strengths; though there was a great time to be had with Golf Story’s golf, it was all elevated by the game’s ridiculous-yet-lovable characters and wacky situational humor.

Since the team has already deconfirmed a sequel as their next project, there’s really not much to go on. While I’d personally love them to tackle something Mario Tennis-inspired next, there’s a good chance they’ll avoid sports altogether. As long as the wit found in Golf Story is alive and well, though, their core audience is sure to be interested.


Fabraz

Despite being incredibly simple from a visual standpoint, the deceivingly charming Slime-San is still one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique, but it’s also ingrained into the platforming mechanics in inventive ways. Beyond having a look all its own and a stiff challenge for players who wanted it, however, Fabraz went the extra mile to build a fun cast of characters and even a hub world to explore outside of the main game. It was a pleasant surprise from a relatively unknown developer at the time.

Fabraz has been anything but complacent since Slime-san’s launch. The studio released two free content expansions, ported the game to other consoles, and even got into the publishing business. No matter their other ventures, however, the team has made sure to tease their next project every so often since the start of 2019.

What Can We Expect?

Fabraz speculated that their new game was already roughly 60% complete at the start of October. Since it only began production in December of 2018, it’s safe to assume that the next game will be relatively small in scope. It’s also likely that Fabraz’s next outing won’t be “Slime-san 2,” since the original game received such heavy content additions months after release (including an expansion literally titled “Sheeple’s Sequel.” The team certainly knows how to make magic from very limited resources, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a bit more of a budget, a new art style, and tons more experience.


Game Atelier/FDG Entertainment

It feels like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom came out of nowhere. The team at FDG Entertainment had published indie darling Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King just the year prior and the console port of Oceanhorn before that, but there wasn’t much talk about FDG’s capabilities as a developer. As it turns out, however, Game Atelier’s choice to bring them on as a co-developer was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to Monster Boy. Five long years of development later and fans were treated to one of the best platformers in recent memory.

Though it launched on all consoles, Monster Boy famously sold eight times more on Switch than PS4 and Xbox One combined, reminiscent of the sales of Blossom Tales on Switch. Needless to say, FDG’s next title will be targeted squarely as the Nintendo community. But what could that next project be?

What Can We Expect?

A Monster Boy sequel. FDG recently celebrated their collaboration with Game Atelier on Twitter and announced that they’re collaborating once more. The commercial and critical success of Monster Boy can only lead one to believe they’re hard at work on a follow-up together. Thankfully, with such a solid base to work off of now, this one shouldn’t take nearly as long to release.


Chucklefish

Chucklefish has garnered a great deal of respect in the indie community as both a developer (Starbound, WarGroove) and frequent publisher (Stardew Valley, Timespinner, the upcoming Eastward, and others). Their eagerness to bring so many of their top-notch titles to Switch has made them one of–if not the–most lauded indie studios on the platform. If it’s coming from Chucklefish, there’s a good chance it’ll be of the highest quality.

What Can We Expect?

Witchbrook! Chucklefish announced the game way back in 2017 and instantly had both Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia fans foaming at the mouth. It’s a magical school simulation/RPG where players will attend class, learn spells, make friends, date, and work towards graduation. The company’s CEO and lead designer, Finn, has been incredibly open about the game’s development from the beginning. In fact, he made the ever-changing Witchbrook design document public in August of 2019 to give some insight into the game design and planning process.

Since there’s already so much we know about where the game’s going, this is going to be used as more of a “Hopes for Witchbrook” section. To keep it short, let’s focus on two of the game’s most make-or-break elements: dating and world-building.

Dating

One of the things many RPGs struggle with is making dating feel meaningful after the relationship starts. People love romancing in Stardew Valley, but the experience itself is really rather shallow; bring characters their favorite items, talk to them daily, experience a few touching cutscenes and voila! All that’s left is to put a ring on it and have a baby.

My hope is that in Witchbrook, the real fun starts after the relationship begins. Being able to have lunch together, go to festivals, celebrate anniversaries, plan outings, and even introduce them to the player’s in-game friends would go a long way in making the relationship feel more than a ribbon to be crossed.

World-Building

When someone asks the seminal question “What fictional world would you love to live in?” the world of Harry Potter almost always tops to list (right next to Pokémon, that is). It isn’t just because of magic itself or the emotional ties people have to the cast, but more so because of the immense amounts of personality and lore J.K. Rowling infused into the world. From the dark history of Hogwarts to the vast array of magical beasts to the establishment of Quidditch, there is a whole movie and video game series that has been created based on mere slices of the Harry Potter universe.

Naturally, it’d be silly to expect Chucklefish to achieve as much depth in an indie project as one of the most successful authors of all time did over the course of seven books, but there’s still plenty of potential. Since the game will primarily take place at the school, exploring why the school was created and how it’s changed over the years could be quite interesting. Then there’s how different populations of the world at large feel about magic, how various magical species play a part, the favorite magic-imbued pastimes of students in the world of Witchbrook, and so on. The key will be to infuse magic into every element of the world (and gameplay) as naturally as possible. And after reading through the extensive design doc, I’ve no doubt Chucklefish will be able to pull it off.


The indie scene on the Switch is thriving more than ever. New talented developers are making the platform their home every day, and those who’ve already proved themselves are hard at work on their next premium experience. The next wave of releases from these studios can’t come soon enough.

Continue Reading

Games

‘Death Stranding’: And Now for Something Completely Different

Published

on

Death Stranding Slow Connectivity

Video gaming as a medium has often been perceived as little more than a toy. Even with Nintendo pushing the NES as a part of the home and more than just a toy– a strategy they’d adopt again for the Wii– there are still many who see games as toys, rather than an expression of an art form. It makes perfect sense, though. If there’s one thing modern video game culture has pushed front and center this past decade, it’s instant satisfaction. As big-budget games embrace homogeneity, the medium’s priorities have shifted from capitalizing on its inherent interactivity to making sure gamers are never bored with their $60 toy. Reggie Fils-Aime famously said “If it’s not fun, why bother?” for a reason, but when every big-budget game is paced the same, structured the same, and plays the same, where’s the fun to be found? 

About Death Stranding…

It’s far too early to even assume what kind of impact Death Stranding will have on the medium & industry (if any), but as one of the last big budgets games to release in 2019, Hideo Kojima’s first crack at the “strand game genre” is a nice note to cap the decade off on– one that serves as an almost necessary palette cleanser as the medium heads into the 2020s. Death Stranding offers audiences a chance to breathe, to look at themselves in the mirror, and to reconnect. Not just with the world and others, but with a medium built on interactivity. 

Hideo Kojima is often criticized for his cutscene ratio, to the point where it’s not unusual to see critics suggest he just make a film, but the fact of the matter is that most games do need a story. Not just that, video games have the potential to present a story better than any other medium. Readers and viewers can place themselves in the shoes of their protagonists, but a game makes the player become the protagonist. How we control our characters, how we play, how we interact with a virtual world– all this is a reflection of ourselves, one that only the gaming medium can offer. 

Not that it often does, at least not meaningfully. Modern developers are afraid to lose consumer interest, and the increasing shift towards the “games as a service” model has ensured that gameplay loops are simple to pick up, simple to get into, and simple to stay into. Games are something to be played with– toys. And there’s immense value in that. Video games can be a fantastic way to reduce stress & clear one’s thoughts regardless of how they’re designed, but such an approach means that the average gamer is going to be accustomed to gameplay loops that are structurally derivative of one another. 

On the flip side, there are the games that prioritize narrative too much, or simply devalue their own gameplay with extraneous content. From Hideo Kojima’s own gameography, this is a mistake he clearly made with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Even from this decade, it can be argued that what little importance Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain placed on the story ended up hurting it in the long run because it distracted from the core gameplay loop. There’s a reason so many developers follow similar game structures and build off similar foundations: they’re reliable, they get the job done, and it does result in great games. Both The Last of Us and God of War (2018) are clear examples of how mechanically homogenous & predictable games have gradually become this past decade, but they’re still great games.

Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time.

Death Stranding is most comparable to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and perhaps The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but really only on the most surface of levels. Death Stranding has AAA backing, but it has the creativity and ingenuity of a modern indie. While AAA developers have lined up for uniformity, the indie half of the medium has arguably never been better. Those who grew up alongside video games are now developing their own, calling back to and even evolving forgotten genres. All the while, AAA games only move closer to the Disneyfication of movie production– hit all the key demographics, make it “accessible” for everyone, and make sure there are no real ideals or beliefs. No need to upset potential consumers, right? 

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Death Stranding was backed by Sony and developed by a massive development team, but Hideo Kojima’s direction is far more in-line with the modern indie scene than that of his AAA cohorts. Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time. It’s slow to start, slow to pick up, and even the core gameplay loop is slow. It takes hours before players get their first vehicle, and even longer before they finally get a weapon. Death Stranding saves its actual core gameplay loop for so late in the experience that it’s not unreasonable to suggest the game sees an entire genre shift halfway through. But that’s missing the point. Death Stranding’s “genre shift” is only going to feel so for those who don’t want to engage with the first half’s crawl– those who just want to play with a toy. 

Of course, just wanting something simple and immediately engaging to play is fair enough. For working adults with limited time to play a game, in particular, but not every game is going to resonate with everyone, even if a game like Death Stranding is designed for anyone. Death Stranding seems inaccessible & foreign in a generation where every big genre release plays like the last, but between a myriad of difficulty options and an online system designed to make the player’s life easier– one that works & works well– Death Stranding takes the medium’s interactivity to its next logical step: connectivity. Real connectivity, though. A connection that goes beyond playing against or with someone for a few minutes. 

In Death Stranding, players can leave a tangible mark on, and in, the world. Players can build structures for others, share with others, and just do something as simple as “liking” others. Those opening hours are incredibly valuable as– without the means to kill or fight back– players are forced to interact with the game world on a deeper level beyond combat. Death Stranding takes its time developing its gameplay loop, drip-feeding weapons, and concepts. Even the online component opens itself slowly, forcing players to understand what it means to be alone before they can forge real connections– with the world, others, or themselves. 

This is what Hideo Kojima understands better than the majority of modern AAA developers: games can connect a feeling directly to the player. Death Stranding’s best moments (as any should be) stem from gameplay. Kojima’s storytelling is engaging as ever, but it exists to bolster the gameplay– as does the slow pacing, as does the aggressive enemy AI, as does locking out weapons for hours on end– everything in Death Stranding is ultimately in service of connecting players to Sam in a way that feels genuinely meaningful. Through Sam, audiences can observe an America that’s in ruins, but one that society is rebuilding.

As Sam reconnects America, opportunities arise to finish bridges for others, leave supplies in remote areas, or just warn of dangers ahead. It’s very Dark Souls-esque in nature, but with a gameplay loop that minimizes traditional action, Death Stranding is the rare AAA game that’s bold enough to embrace the medium and everything it represents, for better or worse. A video game interacts with an audience in a way that books and film can’t. Controlling an avatar is an intimate act and reflects us better than most might realize. Death Stranding recognizes this fact, turns its back on modern gaming mainstays, and attempts to reconnect the medium together. 

Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

AAA gaming and the indie scene shouldn’t be divided. A gameplay loop doesn’t need instant satisfaction to be engaging. Story and gameplay shouldn’t feel disconnected. Standard online multiplayer can be more rewarding when PvP elements are tossed to the wayside or even just outright ignored. Death Stranding resembles the average AAA title in many respects, but it allows itself to be eclectic, off-putting, & sincerely unfiltered– in regards to politics, human nature, video games themselves. Only time will tell if “strand games” will take off, but keep in mind that the stealth genre didn’t exist when the hit “action” game Metal Gear released for the MSX2 in 1987. As Death Stranding makes abundantly clear, everything changes with time. 

The 2010s have not been a bad decade for the medium, far from it. The past ten years have seen truly legendary consoles and games come out of the woodwork, but it’s impossible to deny the shift that occurred (and had been occurring) in AAA game development– one that’s driven the medium far away from meaningful interactivity, where flavor of the month games long to be played for all eternity, like Toy Story-esque monstrosities given form. Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

Continue Reading

Trending