Is it May already? It is, and do you know what that means? It means we’re only a month away from my favourite week of the year: E3 week!
Just in case you weren’t already aware, E3 is short for the Electronic Entertainment Expo and since its inception in May of 1995, it has been gaming’s biggest tradeshow and has served as a place for publishers, developers, and console manufacturers to announce to the world what they have coming down the pipeline for the next year and beyond. Some of gaming’s biggest “megaton” moments have occurred at this show, such as the resurrection of the Shenmue franchise in 2015, the Final Fantasy series going multiplatform in 2008, and the bombshell that rocked the very first E3: “Sega Saturn, available today”.
There’s always a ton of announcements at E3. Some shocking like the ones listed above, and some everyone seems to see coming from a mile away. You’ll see examples of both below as I recount the top ten things I want, but won’t necessarily get, from E3 2017 in no particular order.
1. A solid release window for the Final Fantasy VII Remake and Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 3 was officially unveiled at Sony’s E3 2013 conference and the Final Fantasy VII remake was announced at the 2015 show. Since their reveals five and two years ago, respectively, details on these titles have been pretty sparse. Sure, we’ve gotten a tidbit here and there but not much of anything with real substance.
Now, to be fair, Square Enix has been preoccupied over the last few years trying to rescue Final Fantasy XIV from a disastrous launch, and get Final Fantasy XV out the door after an extremely tumultuous development cycle. FF XV’s development spanned a decade and included a plethora of technical issues, and a change in leadership which saw a lot of the studio’s initial work scrapped when Tetsuya Nomura left the team, supposedly to focus on Kingdom Hearts 3, and was replaced by Hajime Tabata who had directed Final Fantasy: Type 0. It was also around this time when Square Enix announced that the game was now going to be Final Fantasy XV instead of Final Fantasy Versus XIII. In short, it’s been a rough few years for Square Enix’s internal studios.
But now FFXIV: A Realm Reborn is a successful MMO, ramping up for the release of its second expansion, Stormblood. And not only has Final Fantasy XV finally been released, it’s both a critical and commercial success. Things are looking up for Square and both KH3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake have been in development for sometime, KH3 especially. So it’s time for Square to throw back the curtains and not only give us an in-depth look at both games, but give us a time-frame in which we can expect to get our hands on them.
At this point, if a release date for Kingdom Hearts 3 isn’t announced soon (either at E3 or the Tokyo Game Show later this year), I think Square Enix needs to have a long, hard look at its policies and practices regarding development and maybe even re-evaluate Nomura’s ability to bring a game to completion in the modern generation of game development. He was allowed to work on both KH3 and FFvsXIII simultaneously and look what happened there. Now he’s pulling double duty again with KH3 and Final Fantasy 7’s remake. Maybe it’s time for Tabata to lighten Nomura’s load again? Unless, of course he’s already, working on Final Fantasy XVI.
2. Far Cry 5
A new Far Cry is coming at some point. That’s not really a question, it’s been one of Ubisoft’s more successful series’ that isn’t attached to the “Tom Clancy’s” brand and each entry in the series has been fantastic (yes, even with its problems, Far Cry 2 was fantastic). The last entry in the series was the spinoff-ish Far Cry: Primal in January of 2016, which took the map and assets of Far Cry 4 and put a prehistoric spin on things, much like how Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon took Far Cry 3’s assets and threw us into an 80’s action flick. And while Far Cry: Primal was a great game, the prehistoric setting didn’t really do it for me and the lack of a map editor really bummed me out.
The map editor has always been my favourite part of the Far Cry games. Some of my fondest gaming moments have come from duking it out with my buddies in battlefields of our own creation. I was dismayed when Far Cry 3 removed any “Free-For-All” multiplayer modes in favour of team-based modes, and while I loved being able to make single player “levels” in Far Cry 4, I still missed being able to make maps for multiplayer. I’m hoping that the next iteration will allow us to do both multiplayer and single player maps, and honestly I don’t see reason why it couldn’t.
When Far Cry 5 is inevitably announced, hopefully in a month’s time at E3, I think it’s safe to expect certain staples to return. A huge, gorgeous, open-world, for one. I loved the Nepal inspired world in Far Cry 4 and the tropical islands in Far Cry 3, but I’m hoping for Ubisoft chooses a locale with some more environmental variety and gives us a day/night cycle and dynamic weather for Far Cry 5.
Another staple I hope to see return in a big way is co-op play. Far Cry 3 had its own small, isolated co-op campaign while 4 had seamless drop-in / drop-out co op as long as you weren’t playing a story mission. For 5 I hope they drop the story mission restrictions and allow co-op for the whole game, a la Ghost Recon: Wildlands. I’m sure whatever balance issues or narrative foibles that would arise from such a decision could be ironed out and elevate a potential sequel that much further.
I think it’s a safe bet we’ll see Far Cry 5 at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference this year. It’s been a few years since the last main installment, and the rest of Ubisoft’s flagship series, sans Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, have seen releases in the last year or two. Unless Ubisoft has some new IP up its sleeve, which I would also welcome with open arms, a new Far Cry seems like a lock for this year’s show, alongside a new Assassin’s Creed. But more on that later.
3.God of War
If I had to choose something about gaming to label as a dirty secret, it would be this: I have never played a God of War game to completion. Now, before you reach for the pitchforks and torches, hear me out. I honestly don’t know why I haven’t finished a God of War game. I’ve played a few, and enjoyed what I played. I love character action games like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry, I love Greek mythology, and the God of War games are mechanically sound and are visually stunning. All the pieces are there and yet everytime I start a God of War game, something else grabs my attention and I move on from it. I just don’t feel the hook.
And then E3 2016 happened. A new God of War game, simply titled “God of War” sans number or subtitle, was unveiled and while watching the demo for it a thought entered my head. A single sentence that had never before crossed my mind while thinking about God of War: “I need this game”. Maybe it’s the fact that this GoW will feature the Norse pantheon of gods, one of my favourites, maybe it’s the mystery surrounding the story and Kratos new family, or perhaps it’s the open-ended areas subtly hinted at in the demo. There’s actually no maybes about it; all three of those things grabbed my attention in addition to the gorgeous visuals and brutal combat the series is known for.
Last year’s demo gave me the impression that God of War is evolving. Improving. It’s a guarantee that we will see much more of Kratos’ next adventure (or rampage, if you prefer) at this year’s E3 and for the first time ever, I can’t wait.
4. Days Gone
Originally announced at Sony’s E3 2016 conference, Days Gone is an open-world action game set in the american pacific northwest two years after an unnamed apolyptic event ravaged the world and transformed untold amounts of people into the feral, zombie-like creatures called Freakers. Not much more is known about the narrative so far. Only that the player character, Deacon St. John, was a high ranking member of a motorcycle club in the pre-freaker era and he makes use of the skills he acquired during that time now as a mercenary.
Deacon still rides a bike on the broken roads of the apocalypse. In fact, it is the only vehicle that will be available to players in Days Gone and it will serve not only as the player’s transportation but also as a mobile inventory of sorts. I love the idea of a bike in a zombie apocalypse as it gives the character the “badass” feel that you’d expect a mercenary in a post-apocalyptic world to have, but it also keeps you vulnerable as a player. If you were driving, say, a station wagon down the freeway and spotted a bunch of bloodthirsty zombie-like creatures ahead of you, you’d likely gleefully stomp on the gas-pedal and hope the your vehicle still had some windshield washer fluid and a working set of wipers to use once you emerge on the other side. But a bike? No, you’re going to need to find a way around or fight them the old fashioned way. You’re very vulnerable on a bike no matter how much of a badass you feel like while driving it; that’s just as true in reality as it should be in Days Gone, any real biker will tell you as much. And that makes a motorcycle the perfect vehicle for this game.
The gameplay demo showed off at last year’s conference gives the impression that Days Gone will be a technical marvel. Not only does the game look gorgeous, but the sheer amount of characters rendered on screen at one time is nothing short of staggering. We saw Deacon being pursued around an old sawmill by a deluge of enemies; literally hundreds of Freakers chasing the player down. The player used traps, explosives, the environment and a lot of bullets to whittle down the herd during the pulse-pounding chase sequence meant to display the amount of options that will be available to players once we get our hands on Days Gone. If situations like this can be pulled off as seamlessly as they were in the demo, with no big performance issues, we’re in for one hell of a ride when the game releases.
Seeing more of Days Gone at this years show is pretty much a lock; it’s a Sony first-party title (being developed by Sony Bend, the team behind Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Vita and my beloved Syphon Filter series of a bygone era) and was featured pretty prominently at last year’s show. My money’s on Days Gone being a major focus at this year’s conference, along with God Of War. I’m hoping to see more of the game’s world and story, a deeper look into its mechanics and hopefully even a release date.
5. Assassin’s Creed Origins
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has been MIA since 2015’s Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A new Assassin’s Creed game has been a yearly tradition since Assassin’s Creed 2 released in 2009. Hell, 2014 saw two AAA Assassin’s Creed games take a leap of faith on to store shelves and that’s not counting the plethora of spin-offs and side projects that have come out over the years. None of the AC games have been bad (if you overlook Unity’s absolute embarrassment of a launch), but the series has definitely become stagnant and has lost its direction. I think Ubisoft made the right call to forgo a new AC in 2016 and go back to the drawing board with the series, and if any of the rumours and leaks are to be believed, our wait for a new neck-stabbing adventure will be well worth it.
If these rumours are to be believed then Assassin’s Creed is going to ancient Egypt and will focus on the origins of the Assassin’s Guild, which makes the rumoured title of Assassin’s Creed Origins a good fit.
Supposedly, Egypt will be a vast, open-world, ripe for exploration. The biggest AC game to date, apparently. A deep, RPG-like, character progression system is rumoured and will allow us to develop both protagonists as we see fit. The more I hear about this game, the more it sounds like The Witcher 3 or Skyrim with naval combat (that’s returning too, apparently) and set in ancient Egypt. And if that doesn’t sound like a good time, you can exit at the back and leave your nerd-card in your seat, you heathen.
One thing that hasn’t been rumoured to return, but I sincerely hope does, is the present day story arc. It’s been “there” in the last few games but has seemed like a half-assed afterthought, which to me is a shame as it was one of my favourite parts of the Assassin’s Creed games right up until Assassin’s Creed 3. If the game truly is focusing on on the original assassins and is set in ancient Egypt, a time period rife with mysticism and worship of god-like beings, then it seems like the perfect game to double-down on Those That Came Before and give the overall story some direction again.