One-Sided Interaction: The Games Pt 1

Okay, so this is part three of three, and tomorrow will be part four of three (yeah, the games list spilled over a bit). If you haven’t already, please feel free to peruse my previous entries:

PRE3: Sony

PRE3: Microsoft

Today, I’ll be talking through a few of the big and confirmed-to-exist games I’m excited to hear/see at E3 this year.

I’m also not breaking things up by publisher or console/PC this year. For me, a great game is a great game (even if I usually lean PC in terms of multi-platform for reasons I’ve discussed previously.)For me, the E3 game reveal is a moment of unblemished promise, a fleeting gasp of new life, a peek into a world in which all is possible, at least until the game is revealed to be yet another fucking shooter. Don’t get me wrong, I still play some shooters, but there’s too damn many of them now, and too few that do anything for me story-wise or in terms of deep mechanics.

In any case, I’m expecting this year to restore balance to the Force. I fully believe that we’ll see much greater variety in the ‘press conference tentpole’ games. Yeah, there’ll be the same ol’ ‘Call of Duty - Battlefield’ dudebro wankfest, but I think those will be offset by games like Dragon Age III, Watch_Dogs, and The Witcher 3. This year’s E3 games have the potential to right the wrongs of the mass-market moron panderings of years past, and to usher in a new era of games that speak to a higher level of gamer.

Or, if you just wanna blow shit up, I’m sure EA and Activision have something they’d like you to see.

Enough yapping, though. We all love games, and hopefully, we love games no matter the platform.

Here’s round one of what games I’m hoping to see at E3 this year!

Dragon Age III: Inquisition

My love for the Dragon Age franchise is boundless. I buy every game, movie, book, comic, and hell, I’d buy fucking Dragon Age bedsheets, if they made ‘em. I love the world, the lore, the characters, the gameplay, the mechanics, the art style (more in the first one), and am beyond thrilled to have a new core title being shown this year.

I had some pretty sharp criticisms of the second game, as did many others (even if I didn’t quite reach the level of many forum idiots screeching about how DA2 caused world hunger and shit). I really enjoyed the story, but I felt like the game suffered the same issue that plagued Mass Effect 2, which was an over-streamlining of systems, from NPC companion relationships to equipment customization, to the brevity of many of the core missions. I didn’t mind the whole game taking place in Kirkwall, but I felt like more could have been done to bring the evolution of the world to life. Overall, I enjoyed the game, but I’m excited to see what changes BioWare has made for the third core entry to the series.

In regards to Dragon Age III, BioWare has been talking quite a bit about opening up the world, and have pointed at Skyrim as something of a model for the open world they’re going for. They’ve also talked about taking the best ideas from the first two games and bringing them into this one. Some of that is ‘duh,’ but I am glad they’re not eschewing good ideas just to modernize some of the beautifully archaic aspects of Dragon Age. One of the strengths of the series is that it boldly hearkens back to some of the complexity of the old Infinity Engine games. The first Dragon Age was not afraid to be a difficult, complicated game, and I loved that about it. I appreciated being treated as an adult (aside from the inexplicable bra + underwear during sex scenes) that was capable of handling some difficult aspects of the game.

What I hope we see at E3 is a) deep companion interaction + customization, b) complex systems, including the retention of the tactics, deep leveling trees, conversation trees, and more, c) new parts of the world that we’ve not seen yet (my money is on Orlais), d) importing of my saves, and e) keeping up the smart writing. David Gaider is still running the writing staff, so I have no worries there.

Oh, and MOD TOOLS! The game’s rocking Frostbite, so we’re probably S.O.L. there, since DICE doesn’t usually allow modding tools for its engine. But, maybe … just maybe …

Dragon Age III is in a great position to solidify itself as that game that strikes the right balance between being a ‘AAA’ title that still expresses niche underpinnings.

Dragon Age III is probably the game I’m looking forward to more than most. I fully plan to, as those that have difficulty properly expressing themselves say, ‘squee’ when it’s finally shown.

The Witcher 3

Geralt of Rivia has a unique distinction for me. He’s among both my favorite literary and favorite video game characters ever. Geralt is one of the few characters out there that’s able to be both brooding and hysterically funny, without coming off as a smug douchebag. He’ll talk shit, but then back it up with not one, but two swords, depending on who (or what) is receiving said shit-talking. He’s not afraid to smack around giant beasts, but he’ll also fall to his knees for the love of a women. He is one of the emotionally richest characters out there, and I feel fortunate every time I get to read or play one of his grand adventures.

The Witcher, once the American version was finally ‘done,’ became one of my all-time favorites. It introduced me to a game world unlinke any other I’d ever seen before. Where games like GTA and CoD have a ‘mature’ label slapped on them because of violence and offensive language, The Witcher earned it through presenting the player with truly grown-up concepts, like, for example, whether or not to let an angry mob lynch a suspected witch, and well, tits. The sequel took the rough parts of the first game, and refined them beautifully. From the visuals, to the mature themes, to the combat mechanics, to the presentation of the aforementioned breasts, everything was refined and presented to the user in a way that was both more cinematic, and less juvenile.

The Witcher, for me, acts as a wonderful counterpoint to Dragon Age. Where Dragon Age is a party-based, more classically North American tale of fantasy, The Witcher is a (usually) solo experience, and unabashedly Polish in its roots. This gaves it a unique, savory flavor, and one that is rooted in my mind forever. There are other European RPGs out there that somewhat brush up against similar themes and points of view, but none of them have nearly the refinement of The Witcher 2. The Witcher 2 wasn’t just a work of art, it was also beautifully and lovingly crafted.

The Witcher 3 developers, CD Projekt Red, have actually made some remarks similar to those of BioWare, and have talked about wanting to have a more open world in their third game, and have also pointed at Skyrim. I remember seeing both quotes in relative proximity to each other, and chuckling at that. I’m curious as to how that’s going to work in a series that has always been fairly linear, but I trust in CDPR to get it done.

Unlike Dragon Age, I don’t really have a checklist of what I want to see from The Witcher 3. I’m trusting CDPR to knock my socks off again. If you’ve not played this series before, you can snag the first game for real cheap on either Steam or gog.com. Try it out, seriously.

Mass Effect not-4

I actually recently played through the final Mass Effect 3 DLC, and it did a great job of reminding me why I love the series. I had some bitterness over the original ending of ME3, though I actually got there on my own, before the tidal wave of screams from people who actually post in forums about games. While I didn’t disagree with their actual points, I didn’t get on board with their visceral rage. It was bad, but for fuck’s sake, people, it’s a piece of art with an aspect you didn’t like. Chill the fuck out, give them constructive feedback, then move. Sorry.

The ‘Extended Cut’ stuff was okay. The subsequent DLC releases were pretty good, and I was actually surprised that the multiplayer was as good as it was. I hardly played it, but when I did, it was okay.

What’s interesting about Mass Effect not-4 is that BioWare came forward and said, ‘yeah, it’s in development, but it’s not our main Edmonton team - it’s our Montreal team.’ What’s interesting about that is, to me at least, it telegraphs a shifting of priorities for BioWare. The Mass Effect story they wanted to tell is done, and this, whatever it is, is something that they’ve handed to a different (but still internal) team. I THINK the Montreal studio did a lot of the DLC, which bodes well for Mass Effect not-4. I liked quite a bit of the DLC for ME2 & ME3.

There’s been a lot of discussion as to when this game is set in the timeline. I’m always a proponent of moving forward, but given the ending of ME3, and your interpretation of it, that could present … difficulties. Without giving up spoilers, I’d love to see it set on Earth right after the events of ME3.

As for the game itself, I sometimes worry that BioWare’s shifting of the development responsbilities + the ‘EA effect’ would push the series into a full-on shooter, but I think that’s silly, given that BioWare knows what its core user base wants from BioWare games. At the same time, if they play it too safe, and just throw a new story into the same GREAT mechanics, the gaming press will shit all over them (though I would not, at all, if it’s a great story + great characters. ME3’s mechanics were rock-solid).

Then, there’s the question of console saves. If the game is an XB1/PS4/PC title, how will XB1 and PS4 users port their saves in? Or will they just fill out a questionaire? If the game is a prequel, it’s a non-issue. We know that Shepard is out of the picture (even if he’s alive in some of my saves), as stated by BioWare, but I’d still like to see my ‘world’ choices carried over, if the game takes place after ME3.

We’ll see. Nothing is known about this game, aside from the fact that it’s a Mass Effect game. Hopefully, we learn a little more at E3.

Watch_Dogs

When this game showed briefly last year, it completely blindsided me, as it did a lot of people, I think. It looked free-roaming, like GTA, but with a hell of a lot more brains and sophistication. The systems that govern the game, and that the user has access to, look fantastic. Pulling up dossiers on people, hacking different systems, all of that looks really engaging, and I can’t wait to see it all in context. It sometimes reminds me of a mishmash between GTA, Deus Ex, and The Matrix.

I’m curious to see how it actually plays. Ubisoft has a real chance to do something cool here, and their stock as a quality publisher has been steadily rising, despite the annual AssCreed droppings (which I’m told are still good games.) This game came out of absolutely nowhere last year, and has a lot of buzz to live up to. I think Ubi’s up for it. They seemed to know they had something special when they showed it last year, and seemed pretty damn proud, even before it whipped up the E3 crowds into a frenzy.

Like I said, though, I wanna see the real game. Let’s see some of the less ‘gee-whiz’ stuff, and more of the average player experience. This game has looked great, in limited exposure.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is a new IP (sort of) from what I think is the best game developer in the world right now, CD Projekt Red. Not content to keep making amazing games in ‘The Witcher’ series, CDPR has been working with Mike Pondsmith on making a game based on his ‘Cyberpunk’ tabletop RPG series. Given how well they worked with Andrzej Sapkowski on ‘The Witcher,’ I’m really excited to see what comes of this.

All that’s out there right now is a gorgeous teaser trailer, absent any actual gameplay.

This will be a great chance to see what CDPR does outside of the confines of ‘The Witcher, and I’m eager to see them play around in a different world. I’m not sure how much they’re going to show this year, given that they probably want to keep eyeballs on The Witcher 3, but I imagine they’ll show at least a little. I hope!

Well, that’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with some titles that are a little more ‘speculative.’ They’re titles I THINK we might see at E3, or they’re titles we know we’ll see, but we don’t quite know what they are.

What about you? What, of the confirmed titles, are you excited to learn more about?

Thanks for reading!

-Blaine

Buy my book!

The Filthy Writer: Self-Indulgence Manifested (personal blog)

Untitled Gaming (gaming blog)

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