There’s a lot to see at E3, maybe too much, and playing video games is hard work. We rolled up our sleeves and took to the show floor, with an eye out for imaginative games that delivered on promises we’ve been made in years past.
But as it turned out, it wasn’t previously announced titles that stood out. We found that newly announced games, with already playable demos, made up our favorite moments of this massive conference.
Nintendo pretty much all of their eggs in one basket at E3 this year, but boy is it one hell of a basket. The fantastic A Link Between Worlds showed that Nintendo wasn’t afraid to get creative with one of its most formulaic series, remixing familiar elements in new and exciting ways.
Breath of the Wild continues on that trajectory, drawing from the series’ rich history, but also not being afraid to make fundamental changes to how you play. Link’s new ability to jump and climb gives the game a new level of physicality, with a vast, open world to take advantage of this new dimension. With a startlingly sci-fi opening, the game more or less just drops you on a gorgeous vista with no context and sends you off to learn about the world around you. Hyrule is a huge and inviting place this time around, and we can’t remember the last time we were so hungry to start exploring.
The original God of War trilogy revolutionized action games. With its fluid, combo-based brawling, and delightfully over-the-top take on Greek mythology, the series captured millions of fans’ imaginations and made their protagonist Kratos one of the most iconic characters in gaming from the 2000s. Just taking the previous model of gameplay and doing “God of War but with Norse mythology” would have been more than enough for a lot of fans, but Sony Santa Monica’s reinvention (though not a reboot) of the series looks to be so much better.
A new, over-the-shoulder perspective brings you up close and personal with Kratos’ brutal battles, which look more immersive than the arcade-style brawling the series is known for. Kratos himself is also older and wiser, with a son to raise who will be with him for most of the game. Creative Director Corey Barlog and his team are taking a holistic approach to mechanics, theme, and presentation so that they honor the spirit of the original and treat nothing as sacred, and we’re chomping at the bit to see more.
Sid Meier’s Civilization series has been a pillar of PC gaming for decades, so a new numbered release bears a lot of expectations, especially with the huge shoes left to fill by the fantastic Civilization V. Fortunately, Civ VI has the same cobbler, being helmed by Ed Beach, who led development on V’s two major expansions that made V the masterpiece it is.
Civilization VI builds on the series’ legacy with smart advancements like cities that sprawl over the map, nuanced combat, overhauled diplomacy, and meaningful feedback between the tech tree and what you do in the rest of the game. It also looks gorgeous. After nearly 1,000 hours logged in Civ V, it was hard to imagine mustering the same level of excitement we once had, but we can safely say that Civ VI will have us saying “just ONE more turn…” for years to come.
There were a lot of grappling hooks at E3 this year — Titanfall 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Batman: Arkham VR, to name a few — but only one of them can support the weight of an entire game. Flinthook, a plucky Rogue-lite from Canadian developer Tribute, gives players control of a masked space pirate who zips around procedurally generated ships looking for plunder. It is not the kind of game you expect to make a strong impression at E3, but it just goes to show that nothing beats imaginative artwork and refined, fun gameplay.
Flinthook doesn’t have a firm release date, but Tribute told Digital Trends the studio is hoping to have the game ready to go in early 2017. Based on its presence on the Xbox booth, it’s safe to say it’ll be on Xbox One and Windows 10, but it may come to other platforms as well.
With all of the guns and explosions and massive robots of E3 this year, a small team of ex-Ubisoft developers left a strong mark with Absolver. In it, you traverse a fallen empire populated with opponents to fight alongside, and players to cooperate with in Dark Souls-style online multiplayer. Combat is purposeful and subdued, rewarding patience and perfect timing — or as the developers put it, “movement is your weapon.”
On top of a fluid, satisfying combat system, the team at Sloclap has built a rich RPG system with gear, customization, and an attack deck that lets you build your own combos. There are even weapons, but wielding them may put a target on your back. Absolver is lined up for a 2017 release on Steam and PS4.