And so we end E3 week with a final catch-all post designed to round up the smaller presentations. Note that I won’t be covering the Nintendo stuff at all. I’m just not keyed into Nintendo’s stuff and so I’m not going to have anything useful to say.
Same goes for Capcom, although I’m willing to bet Chris will have some thoughts on that stuff at some point, if you’re following him.
The Square Enix show is a little shorter than the rest. SE isn’t a juggernaut like Microsoft and Zenimax. Like Blizzard, this company isn’t the home of a lot of IP, but the IP it does have is important and influential. I don’t have anything to say about their JRPG stuff, so let’s jump straight to…
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
I was really negative about this at first. The art style looks like Square Enix’s Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers’ LIIIIIIVE SERVICE nightmare, and I assumed this was more of the same sort of unimaginative tone-deaf cash grab. The Avengers looks too much like the movies to be its own thing, but it doesn’t look enough like the movies to feel like you’re hanging out with Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlet Johansen. The uncanny resemblance invites comparison, and then it inevitably comes up short.
But Guardians of the Galaxy is really its own thing. This is a single-player adventure starring the GotG, and it looks like a real game and not a facade for a microtransaction storefront.
Having said that, I really wish they’d done something else with the art style. In a world overflowing with shooters, Borderlands stands out from the crowd thanks to its comic book art style, and GotG could easily have done something along those lines. There are some amazing “toon” shading techniques out there these days, and they’re not seeing much use in the AAA space. One of the costumes in Spider-Man had a costume that used comic shading and it looked brilliant.
Like Marvel’s Avengers, this game is aiming for this really bland look. It’s not photorealistic enough to wow us with graphical fidelity. At the same time, it’s not “toony” enough to really stand out the way Borderlands does. Once again, the visuals seem to invite unfavorable comparisons with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Adopting a unique style would be a great way to clearly signal that this game is based off the funnybooks and not the movies.
Square put a ton of time into this, giving it nearly half the show. And I can understand why. Despite my initial misgivings, this looks like it could be pretty good. Like the movies, the game is aiming for banter-driven comedy. It obviously can’t hold a candle to James Gunn‘s brilliant scripts, but it’s passable. It certainly has more charm than the boring cringefest that is the Avengers game.
It looks like you make a lot of decisions in this game. As the guardians bicker amongst themselves, you frequently have to take sides, broker peace, or make decisions. It almost feels like a game from the now-defunct TellTale. But we also get some action gameplay that looks pretty button-mashy.
A TellTale-style conversation and choice system, joined with real action gameplay systems? That actually sounds pretty good.
Yeah. Despite my initial pessimism, this might be fun.
Really Square Enix? You’re still making content for this monstrosity? Did you not get the memo that everyone hates this? We’ve been waiting years for Marvel heroes to appear in a game, and you took that opportunity to turn it into a boring, badly written, microtransaction-driven grindfest that doesn’t want to create its own versions of the characters but also doesn’t want to pay for the likeness rights to the iconic film versions.
Check out the new trailer for the Black Panther expansion. He looks far more like the tech-suit version of the Marvel Movies and not like the spandex suit version of the comics. Again, it’s just inviting comparisons that will make the game look weak in comparison.
This thing is gross, cynical, and rotten to the core. You can’t fix it with more content and a bit of polish. Hurry up and cancel this mess so the creators can spend their talents making something good.
(Yes, I’m aware that it’s going to run until it stops making money. I’m not new to this industry. But I’ll bet they could have made more money with a less cynical design. It’s very hard to prove to executives that quality matters.
What? You’re remastering Life is Strange? The game is only six years old! Worse, it’s not like this had a cutting-edge photorealistic look that needs to be refreshed for next-gen hardware. It already has a stylized presentation. What are you going to improve? Are Life is Strange fans clamoring for 4k 120fps? I doubt it.
Whatever. I certainly don’t mind the game getting a re-release for current hardware. I just think that calling it a “remaster” is a bit much.
What an awkward stream. WB showed us less than ten minutes of Back 4 Blood. And that’s it. Show over. The people in chat were absolutely dumbfounded.
I’m glad this wasn’t a live show at an in-person event! If I spent ten minutes hiking across a convention center and twenty minutes standing in line to see a six minute presentation, I’d start a riot.
Where was Suicide Squad? What about Gotham Knights? Yes, I’ll probably hate them both, but I still wanted to see them. I’m still foolish enough to think they might turn out okay and wise enough to know I can turn my anger into articles if they don’t.
Take-Two had a show. Sort of. But not really. Essentially, this was a fifty minute presentation on “Diversity in Games” that took the form of a rigidly scripted Skype call with terrible audio quality and wretched green screening.
What a disaster. If you asked me to design a presentation that would annoy and offend as many people as possible, I doubt I could do better than this.
If you’re the type that gets annoyed by this topic, then getting fifty minutes of it instead of the game trailers you came here for is just going to create further resentment and outrage.
If you’re the type that thinks this is an important topic and you’re glad when it gets some air, then you’ll probably be offended that this multibillion dollar corporation tossed out this clunky no-budget disaster. (And then left the comments unmoderated so they were quickly turned into a sewer by the outraged people from the previous group.)
I’m actually feeling a little of both of these. I don’t know that E3 is the best place for this sort of discussion, but if you ARE going to do it then you need to give the topic the respect it deserves. This show had production values lower than the average YouTube video. I mean, look at that horrendous green screening! Take-Two made 3 billion dollars in fiscal 2020, and they couldn’t buy a round of entry-level Yeti microphones for these people? All the other companies else put on a suit and had some sort of virtual set, but Take-Two just has their people literally phone it in from their bedrooms?
If they were going to show us some trailers, they would have spent some money and put on a show. I’m not asking for a million-dollar show booth like you see on the floor of E3. Just, rise to the basic level of your typical teenage YouTuber and get the proper equipment. We’re talking a couple hundred dollars at most.
This corporation used their E3 platform as an opportunity to show us how much they care™ about This Important Issue™. Only, it’s clear they don’t. This is like the time Grand Theft Auto V managed to be sanctimonious and incoherent at the same time. Just… gross.
The only thing I care about from T2 is: When are we getting a new Grand Theft Auto game? And apparently the answer is, “Nobody knows. Probably not soon.” I guess people are still buying those stupid Shark Cards, so why bother making another videogame? Just show up and put on a zero-budget diversity panel so you can show us what a good company you are and how much you “care about people”.
And then go back to selling shark cards to whales. You complete bastards.
PC Gaming Show
This show is always a beautiful disaster. The other shows are all backed by corporations, but there’s no “PC Gaming” company. If Valve ever decided to have a show for Steam, then we could adopt that as the home for PC gaming at E3. But as it stands, we don’t have anyone bankrolling this thing. Which means the PC Gaming Show has to wrap itself in ads and sponsorships to get made. This means the show is a bit bloated and overlong to make room for all the crap that isn’t trailers for hotly anticipated games.
The whole thing is anarchic, messy, weird, and occasionally confusing. Sort of like the PC itself.
Here are a few titles that caught my eye:
IssacMy son, who edits the podcast every week, and also the YouTube essays I produce. is into this series. I like how they’ve actually aged the protagonist up so he has grey hair now. He still looks like the same clueless dipshit,This is part of the joke of his character. but now he’s a middle-aged dipshit?
I liked the first one of these, but I didn’t feel the need to play more. Issac will play this, though.
Vampire The Masquerade Swansong
What? You have another Vampire game coming out? But Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 is still lost in development. It’s supposedly coming out this year, but the game was a no-show at E3 and everyone seems to be assuming it’s been delayed or canceled.
It feels weird to have spinoff side titles like this when the mainline title is stuck in limbo, but whatever. This trailer was all cinematics so I don’t even know what kind of game this is supposed to be. (Wikipedia says it’s an RPG, which doesn’t really narrow it down much these days.)
Hey, it’s another riff on the Kerbal Space Program idea. Given that KSP2 seems lost in development hell, this is welcome news. This game seems to be about “backyard rocket science”, with rockets being constructed of improvised parts.
That sounds fun. And unlike KSP2, it should arrive later this year.
A Visit from the Pope of PC Gaming
Gabe Newell stopped by. It’s always nice to see Gaben poke his head out of his fortress and wave at the unwashed masses of PC Gaming. Sadly, he doesn’t have any Valve-produced games to show us this year. Instead he’s here to tell us about Steam Next Fest.
As I write this, Steam Next Fest is still in the future. But it will be in full swing by the time this post goes live. SNF runs June 16-22. There will be trailers, free demos, and dev livestreams all week.
My take on this is that Valve is trying to create a version of E3 that’s accessible to the hungry indies and bedroom developers that make their home on Steam. Those folks don’t have a prayer of getting noticed in the Official E3 Deluge, but if Valve can give them a platform then maybe they can do some inexpensive self-promotion?
Sounds like a cool idea. We’ll see how it turns out.
EDIT: Now that I’ve been following this for a couple of days, I have to say: This is a lot. A lot of games. A lot of trailers. A lot of good-looking stuff. It’s like another entire E3 worth of trailers. I don’t have time to sort through it all now. I wish there had been a week between E3 and Steam Next Fest so we could all take a breather. I’ll try to come back to this. In the meantime, have a look for yourself.
(Yes, that’s the correct spelling. It’s Russian.)
Weird. This year we’re getting another STALKER, but also a spiritual successor to STALKER. It even has random dudes hanging around a campfire playing guitar, just like STALKER.
Issac pointed out that this will be a lot more interesting if they leave the dialog as subtitled Russian like we see in the trailer, but odds are good we’ll end up with terrible English audio by the time the game ships.
I don’t know about this one. It’s full of weird stuff, which is a good sign. But it’s also incredibly derivative, which is bad. I think I’ll wait for reviews.
You’re kidding? ANOTHER Stalker-like? It’s been years since we’ve had another game like Stalker, or any Left 4 Dead clones. But now we have several of each in the same year. It’s so weird how these trends appear.
Hang on… this game is already out? It came out back in 2019? But it’s in Early Access now?
Whatever. This looks quite a bit more polished than PIONER, but even more derivative. How is it I haven’t heard about this before?
Oh my goodness. The pixel art is SO GOOD this year. I don’t even know if I’ll like most of these, but I love this art. I love this weird throwback art style that mixes modern lighting, bloom, and fog with super blocky pixel art. Games never looked like this back in the day, but this sort of captures how I thought they looked at the time.
Me: I see the clear 90s influences. Is this a successor to Doom, or Heretic?
I don’t know. These retro throwback shooters are pretty hit-or-miss for me, no pun intended. I really love Prodeus, and I thought DUSK was pretty good, but a lot of these games are too monotonous for my taste. The trick is that while we remember the 90s fondly, there are a lot of flaws with those old titles that aren’t part of the nostalgia. For example, I never miss hunting for colored keycards.
Also, a lot of these retro shooters can get kinda strobe-y, and that’s a migraine risk for me.
Anyway, I’ve never even heard of the original Project Warlock. I don’t know if Project Warlock || is going to be one of the good ones in this genre, but it looks promising. The trailer is free of both strobing and keycards.
So that’s E3 for 2021. There weren’t any big games that got me very excited, but there were about a dozen titles that fell into the “Oh that’s interesting, I might check that out” area of the spectrum.
 My son, who edits the podcast every week, and also the YouTube essays I produce.
 This is part of the joke of his character.
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.
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WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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Two minutes of fun at the expense of a badly-run theme park.