Middle Earth: Shadow of War – October 10, 2017
I never made it all the way through Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings nerd, so of course I checked it out, but it felt too familiar to other open world games and I just couldn’t get into it. The nemesis system was truly awesome, the combat flowed nicely, and obviously I liked the world, but the story wasn’t doing anything for me and the exploratory gameplay felt played out. Well, apparently I was in the minority on this because Shadow of Mordor won its fair share of game of the year awards, though it’s worth noting that 2014 was a pretty weak gaming year overall. Regardless, Shadow of War is coming out in a few months, and the improvements they’ve made to the game look awesome. The scale seems to have expanded, with there being sequences where you’re in charge of an entire orc army. I can definitely get down with that. I’m also hoping it tells a more straightforward story and doesn’t feel obligated to tie into the movies or books in any specific way. One of my least favorite things about Shadow of Mordor was the forced integration of Gollum.
Sea of Thieves – 2018
Just like everyone else, I was incredibly excited last year when Microsoft revealed that Rare was finally working on a real deal video game again instead of crappy Kinect games and ports. Plus, as Black Flag proved, there are far too few pirate-themed video games out there. Sea of Thieves felt like a breath of fresh air. I’m not in love with the kid-friendly aesthetic or seemingly simple controls, but I already know it’s going to be a ton of fun to set sail with some friends and try to get me some buried treasure. I’m still not 100% clear on how the game is structured; is there any type of over-arching story or are you just given the wide open ocean to explore? No matter what direction the developers take, I have faith in the Rare name and hope that the game offers more depth than has been previously shown. The sense of freedom is great, and playing games with friends almost always makes them better than they would have been otherwise.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole – October 17, 2017
South Park: The Stick of Truth was my favorite game from 2014. As I said earlier, 2014 was a down year for gaming, but that doesn’t give Stick of Truth the credit it deserves. It’s not only the best South Park game by a mile, it’s actually a solid RPG in its own right. Sure, it wasn’t terribly difficult, it didn’t offer a ton of side quests, and the explorable world wasn’t as large as we’d have hoped, but I totally think there’s room in this industry for slightly more straightforward RPGs. Not everything needs to be an 80-hour epic. The Fractured But Whole has moved development from Obsidian to Ubisoft, but it doesn’t seem to have changed the structure much. I figured the switch was in an effort to not force constant release delays, but even the might of Ubisoft isn’t enough to push back Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s perfectionist attitude. I have complete faith that the humor will work, which is always the hardest thing in comedic games. The subtle changes to the combat also seem well conceived, and I love the idea of focusing the game on superheroes. But just like with Stick of Truth, I’m sure the genre will expand to make fun of whatever has pissed off Matt and Trey these past few years.
Spider-Man – 2018
When Spider-Man was revealed last year, it was one of those things where I didn’t know I wanted it until I saw it. Spider-Man and Insomniac just seem like a match made in heaven. Yes, the suit isn’t my favorite, but I also understand them trying to give Spidey a unique look that won’t be associated at all with the films or various animated series. And the meat of the game looks to be coming along quite nicely; this year’s Spider-Man demo was easily the highlight of Sony’s press conference for me. Everything looked so smooth, from the graphics to Spider-Man’s movement and fighting skills. I’m not sure if the mission that was showcased is indicative of the main story of the game, but I really like that they’re including a character like Mr. Negative, who’s a relatively recent addition to Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. It shows Insomniac isn’t only going to highlight the big villains, but put focus on a wide array. That isn’t something you typically get in a superhero game. My only disappointment with Spider-Man is that it isn’t coming out this year. I want Insomniac to take their time and get this one right, but I also want to freaking play it right now.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – November 17, 2017
Star Wars Battlefront was one of the most disappointing games in recent memory. It played well enough, though there wasn’t much depth to the combat or game modes, but the real problem was a serious lack of content. The new game seems to be fixing that problem, or so they say. It’ll also have even more hero characters to play, which personally I don’t love. I know I’m in the minority on this, but I miss the days of the first Battlefront where you were just a boots on the ground soldier. Still, Battlefront 2 is definitely addressing most of the criticism raised by fans of the first game. There’s finally a dedicated single-player mode. We don’t know how long it’ll be or if it’ll be any good, but it should at least be fun to experience a new story in the Star Wars universe. We aren’t getting full on space battles, but now there are space maps for the ship only game mode. There are also plenty more factions set across different time periods, which should help things not get stale. The major DLC will also be free, though EA has said there will be microtransactions for things like customization options. I’m not 100% sold yet after being burned many times by EA, but it seems like they’re trying to make a change. Good for them.
The Last Night – 2018
I can’t talk about The Last Night without first mentioning the controversy now surrounding it. Apparently its creator made some poorly worded tweets around feminism and the GamerGate movement, and it seems like he might be a bit of a dick. I can totally understand why that might make someone not want to check out The Last Night, but I’m not going to get into that here. I’m just looking at it as a game, and it looks pretty freaking rad. What the game truly is, is still a bit of a mystery, but it clearly takes place in some kind of cyberpunk future and features side-scrolling, pixel art action. The developers are referring to it as a “cinematic platformer,” whatever that means. Really, I just thought the trailer was super awesome, and somehow sold the game as feeling fresh. That’s surprising, considering 99% of indie games that release have a similar pixelated look and cyberpunk seems to be the new hot aesthetic, which surely means it’ll stop being cool long before developers stop using it.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – August 22, 2017
I’m a huge Uncharted fan. The first three main games have all made my game of the year list in the years they came out (2007, 2009, 2011), I played through them all over again in the Nathan Drake Collection, I thought Uncharted 4 was amazing, and even named it my 2016 game of the year. So it should come as no surprised that I’m super hyped for The Lost Legacy. At the end of Uncharted 4, it definitely felt like Nate’s story was over, so I’m glad that Naughty Dog is moving away from him for future games. The Lost Legacy focuses on Chloe, the Australian temptress introduced in Uncharted 4, and Nadine, who was a frenemy of Nate’s in Uncharted 4. I think the personality of these two characters will go well together, and I’m excited to see how their story unfolds. I figured the most obvious story route would have future games star Nate’s brother Sam, and that might still happen (Troy Baker is in everything, after all). But if and until we get a true continuation of Uncharted, I’m totally fine experiencing a side story with likable characters from previous games.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus – October 27, 2017
Wolfenstein: The New Order is yet another game that I started but never finished. I was having a good time with the combat and enjoying most of the story, but something about it just couldn’t hold my attention. Part of that might have been the fact that I have no nostalgia for the original games, and part of it might have been my dislike of the more open areas in the game. Still, the first game had an awesome setting with some fun characters and attitude, and the shooting felt great. I’m probably not as excited for The New Colossus as some others, but I still think it looks cool. It seems to have dialed the insanity up quite a few notches, and the gameplay seems even more hectic and brutal than before. In what was a majorly underwhelming Bethesda conference this year, Wolfenstein 2 was certainly one of the standouts.
And there you have it, 23 of the coolest games from E3 2017. What was your favorite press conference? What games did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!