I’ve seen Neo Cab described as “cyberpunk Uber,” and that seems like a pretty good summation to me. In the world of the game, there’s no more need for human drivers. But some folks still prefer to hitch a ride from a human being, creating a futuristic taxicab confessions vibe. You interact with your riders via dialogue options, and there’s an emotional gauge for your character that shows how you’re currently dealing with the positives and negatives of the experience.
The visual style of the game is what first caught my attention. It has that neon scheme that still feels unique, with an almost The Wolf Among Us take on fantastical — or in this instance, science fiction — noir. The music backs this up. The game seems pretty simple, but there’s also a larger story at play that makes me curious and elevates the game beyond being just a rideshare simulator.
I committed this year to expand my JRPG horizons after recent years of sticking mainly to Final Fantasy. I used to play games like Xenosaga, Dark Cloud, and Lost Odyssey, but for some reason, I’ve gone away from that. Octopath Traveler looks like just the game to get me back into JRPGs. It’s old school enough to give me nostalgia but it’s also something that can stand on its own. I’m not diving into the tenth game in a long-running series, so there’s less risk.
I’m not totally sure why, but visually, the game reminds me of Minecraft with realistic visual shader mods on. And I mean that as a compliment. There’s a simplicity to the art design that I can appreciate, but the world and characters still radiate personality. I also like how the game’s combat is on the simpler side of turn-based. I’m not necessarily looking for something with punishing difficulty or complexity, but a nice overall experience in a setting I can get wrapped up in. Octopath Traveler is looking great.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the few games that’s made me want to own an Xbox One. I know I can play it on PC (and I actually bought it on Steam in a recent sale), but PC games just aren’t my jam — especially difficult platformers that require an amount of mouse and keyboard precision that I don’t possess. Given that Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a sequel, it makes sense that this game looks better and has some new ideas to it. But it’s looking like a significantly improved experience across the board.
The game doesn’t shake up the visual style much at all, but you can hardly consider that a bad thing. Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the most visually stunning games in recent memory. The music also seems to bring back that sad, haunting, yet hopeful vibe. I’m really curious to see where the story in this one goes, because I know the original game was a bit of a downer. The gameplay mechanics seem to have undergone the largest change, with more “weapon” types and a bigger focus on action.
Pokemon Let’s Go
I kind of know what to expect from Pokemon Let’s Go at this point. Whether you choose Pikachu or Eevee, this is clearly a stripped down Pokemon experience designed for new and younger players. If that’s something that interests you, great. It’s totally fine for Pokemon to bring in a new audience. I just know this game isn’t for me.
Pokeball peripheral aside, catching pokemon takes on a Pokemon GO-like system where you’re more focused on timing your throw than with wearing a pokemon down or using strategy. The battles seem similar to a core pokemon experience, but with shiny new visuals. I like the look of this game; it’s cartoony in a cute way. Who knows, by the time November comes around, maybe I’ll be starving for a Pokemon game enough to check this out. But at this point, I’m much more looking forward to the “core” game we’re allegedly getting late next year.
When Rage 2 was first announced, I was just as shocked as most. They’re making a sequel to Rage? I liked that game, but I know the response was mediocre at best. To make another one after all these years seemed like a weird decision. After seeing that first reveal trailer and initial gameplay, it seemed like the game was perhaps leaning too heavily into its “attitude” as it attempted to mimic the Nuka World DLC for Fallout 4.
But after seeing the game in action for an extended period of time at E3, I’m back on board. The style of the game is definitely over the top in nature, but I think that fits the open world, light-hearted direction the game has taken. This also follows with Bethesda and id bringing on Avalanche Studios as co-developer. Avalanche is known for the emergent fun, insanity, and explosions of the Just Cause series, so I’m excited to see their take on a post-apocalypse.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
“My boy, Leon!” exclaimed my brother after the Resident Evil 2 trailer premiered. He’s the biggest Resident Evil fan I know, counting Resident Evil 4 as his favorite game of all time. I’m not someone that’s overly invested in the series, and I fully agree that it’s been more than a bit up and down in recent years. But as Capcom showed with Resident Evil 7 and the original Resident Evil remaster, there’s still a place for those games in modern times.
The Resident Evil 2 remake is far more substantial than the work that was done on the first game. This one seems almost more like a complete re-imagining. Not only is the graphics engine new — complete with proprietary “wet gore” tech — but Capcom is going back and switching up some of the level layout to keep even the most seasoned players on their toes. It’s a very cool approach that will make this game fun — and I’m sure horrifying — for everyone that plays it.
Sea of Solitude
As soon as that Sea of Solitude developer came out on EA’s press conference stage and started talking about the themes and message behind the game, I was sold. Publishers need to do a better job of letting developers speak for their games, as you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable or passionate about the subject material. The small Berlin studio, Jo-Mei Games, represents the newest collaboration for EA. That type of partnership brought us Unraveled a few years ago.
The game follows female lead Kay as she deals with some inner demons and tries to figure out why she’s morphing into a monster. We didn’t see much gameplay in the trailer shown at E3, but this seems like an experience in the vein of Journey or Rime — a game that’s more focused on the emotional experience of the player than it is in delivering complicated gameplay mechanics. Every year, there’s at least one indie game like this that rises above the others to bring a truly transformative experience to players. I hope Sea of Solitude will be one of those.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I’m one of those people that respect the hell out of From Software but have very little interest in engaging with their games. I know, I know, I need to “git gud.” But joking aside, the punishing difficulty and mystery of recent From Software games just haven’t appealed to me. At first glance, it seemed like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice would be yet another edition of From Software’s schtick, only set in a feudal version of Asia. But it’s since come out that Sekiro is more of an action game than an RPG, which is interesting.
This game is not considered part of the “Soulsborne” series and will not have any multiplayer component. There’s also a new resurrection mechanic. But From Software is keeping the challenge, even going so far as to say that this game is even more difficult than their previous games. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this game since the concept is so interesting, but I’ll need to see more gameplay before I can commit. I’d be looking for something more fast-paced than From Software has delivered recently.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The two recent Tomb Raider games have, in my opinion, been very solid but not amazing. Whereas the first game redefined the character of Lara Croft and the gameplay we’d associate with her, Rise of the Tomb Raider felt like a bit too much of the same. Developer Crystal Dynamics added some small side quests and a hub town, but neither felt fully realized. We don’t know for sure if Shadow of the Tomb Raider will build on those systems, but I’m hoping for some bigger changes this third time around.
Honestly, what we saw at Square Enix’s press conference gave me pause. I’m totally down with the jungle setting and the heavier focus on stealth, but the gameplay itself seemed a bit stiff and unfinished. This wouldn’t be a problem if that game wasn’t supposed to release in a few months. It also feels like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal might be going overboard with the dark, angsty version of Lara. The whole “I’ve gone too far and it’s too late to come back” stuff isn’t clicking with me yet. Much like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a game I’m going to play. I’m just not head over heels excited for it.
Skull & Bones
Going into E3, I was expecting to see more Skull & Bones and I couldn’t have cared less about it. I just didn’t see how the ship combat scaled to justify an entire game, and the multiplayer side didn’t speak to me whatsoever. The extended look we saw at E3 completely didn’t completely sell me on the game or even the idea itself, but it definitely moved things in the right direction. I think it was smart to start the demo off with some story context, just to frame why we’re doing what we’re doing. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of meat there, but it’s something.
The gameplay itself is still what worries me about the longevity of Skull & Bones. The idea of storming an armada with a few friends decked out with different ship sizes and armaments sounds fun. I just don’t know if that sounds fun after more than a few weeks. Similarly, the ship to ship combat was always a side activity in Assassin’s Creed for a reason. There wasn’t quite enough there for it to stand on its own. But the demo we saw at E3 at least showcased a bit more variety and strategy than I would have anticipated. This game, I think, will live or die based on how well Ubisoft supports it after launch. At least they’ve had a strong track record of that in recent years.
Check out the next page for the final 10 games that made my “best of” list from E3 2018!