My picks for best of E3 2017

A Way Out (Hazelight, EA)

My pick for best of show is Hazelight’s “A Way Out”. This story driven tale requires two players, and was designed to play split screen on a couch. It is one thing to create a great single player experience with optional multiplayer, but this flips the assumption entirely when the story is specially crafted to be told from split perspectives simultaneously. Given the variety of gameplay shown and innovative story telling on par with a good movie, I feel this will be the breakout title of 2017.

Anthem (BioWare, EA)

Shrouded in mystery, this new IP from Dragon Age and Mass Effect creator BioWare looks like a solid challenger to the “Destiny-esque” throne when it is released in 2018. There are a few moments in this trailer that remain my favorite from all of E3 – there is something magical about the perspective of putting on power armor and arriving at the jump point prior to heading into the wilderness. The flight mechanics looked like a Iron Man dream come true, but with even cooler heavy weapons.

As a fan observation, I thought a few things here reminded me distantly of Mass Effect 3. The design of the lead narrator’s helmet, a few NPC that appeared to possibly be a familiar non-human race, and ruins of a giant ringed structure and storm that to me resembles a mass relay. No word yet if this world exists in the same universe as the Mass Effect series, or if the art style is just a nod to their prior work.

image credit vg247

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Square-Enix, Deck Nine Games)

We had heard some chatter from developers that a new content in the Life is Strange setting was in the works, but I didn’t expect to see a trailer for it at E3, nor how soon its first chapter would be released. I was also unprepared for how emotional it would be to see these characters again. The story appears to be told from Chloe’s perspective prior to the events of the original series over the course of three new chapters. I’ve cleared my schedule for the day these come out, and look forward to these more than any cable tv series.

Edit: Corrected development studio to Deck Nine Games.

Ori: Will of the Wisps (Moon Studios)

The debut Ori and the Blind Forest was a masterpiece of difficult precision platform exploration puzzles that hail to an era of gaming I grew up with. Add to it gorgeous graphics, heartwarming story and a breathtaking musical score and you have Ori. Seeing Ori’s return in the 4K “Will of the Wisps” is very exciting news.

image credit vg247

Sea of Thieves (Rare)

Once you’ve seen actual Sea of Thieves gameplay footage from people who aren’t actors you immediately understand why they choose to use a typical gameplay scenario as the E3 trailer. This is a game that demos better than you could explain in as many words. Comedy, ingenuity, exploration and PVP mayhem. Oh, and Pirates, obviously. I can’t wait to play this with friends.

image credit Ubi Blog

Beyond Good and Evil 2 (Ubisoft)

A trailer for the long awaited sequel to Beyond Good and Evil was the big close to Ubisoft’s E3 show and was my favorite from the publisher this year.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Fortnite – Although it did not get a lot of screen time, Fortnite looks like an excellent twist on team survival defense games. It also has very interesting premium bundle pricing, the most expensive comes with two additional full copies of the game to give to friends. Given the team first emphasis of the game, it should do very well.

Forza 7 – It would be a rare show that didn’t have a Forza title to show off, but between the flagship Motorsport series and the openworld racing in Horizon, Forza enjoys a full lap advantage over the competition. Every iteration of the game improves on the last, and there is simply no other racer that compares to it in terms of pure driving enjoyment and vast range of features – nor one that looks half as good in 4K. It’s almost unfair.

Ashen – Beautiful water-color style cell-shaded graphics on what appears to be a co-op (?) dungeon explorer with freakishly awesome bosses not unlike those of Dark Souls. Can’t wait to see more on this.

image credit vg247

Mario Rabbids Kingdom Battle – an unlikely mashup of Nintendo’s Mushroom Kingdom and Ubisoft’s Rabbids, this tactical RPG-ish game packs signature crude humor and characters from both franchises into what looks like a riotous good time. I expect it will be a big hit.

Ori and the Blind Forest: A Love Letter in a Time Capsule

image credit : moon studios / vg247
image credit : moon studios / vg247

Remember back when a good puzzle could transcend fiction? Think way back. Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest is a trip to an era that birthed gaming masterpieces that would forever set a high bar for an exploration rich, difficult, secret-filled puzzle jumpers. Ori begins at a gentle pace to establish the tone, setting and controls, but once the plot is set in motion it is clear the tasks at hand are far from easy. Beneath the disguise of the adorable heroine and stunning locations is the heart of a true challenge.

Along with clever implementation of classic abilities like double jump, wall jump and air stomp are some innovative new tricks that will put your skills to the test. At times daunting or even heart pounding, the difficulty ramps up quickly and makes no apologies for demanding exact timing and deep respect for character controls. It balances well a sense of wonder and exploration with a vast, detailed map stuffed with secrets and shiny things you cannot-yet-get-to, and is well populated with a colorful cast of menacing critters. To top it off, the musical score is outstanding – ranging from deeply emotional to energetic and dramatic orchestra.

Ori includes more than a few hat tips to venerated predecessors in the “metroidvania” genre, and plays as well as we remembered these games to be. Yet at the same time it is something quite new, fresh and thought provoking. It is also very, very hard. A glance at some of the toughest achievements in the game are some of the most insane I’ve seen. The top include a speed run achievement, an achievement for completing it without leveling up any of your abilities, and the highly improbable completion in a single life. Good luck with the last one – that’s some serious bragging rights, given how frequently you are likely to die (hint: repeatedly) before figuring out some of the more cruel traps and puzzles.

Ori is a love letter to the games we grew up with. I played through the first quarter of the game in one sitting over the course of hours – not only had I lost track of the time, I had been transported back to a part of my gaming youth. I’m thankful Moon Studios took the extra time they needed to put the finishing touches on this game – the delay from last year was well worth the wait.