This year was the best E3 I’ve attended thus far, and the bevy of amazing titles is a good indicator of that. Here are a few of the most notable titles that stuck with me after the show floor closed.
5. Magic Duels Origins
Having played every Duels game to date, I can honestly say that I’d gotten tired of starting from scratch every year when a new version launches. This is now a problem of the past, as Wizards has opted to go the way of expansion packs (like you’re used to with paper Magic), rather than wholly new games. Hands down, the most important update with Duels Origins is the 100% free-to-play model, where literally nothing is locked behind a pay wall. Everything you can buy with real money, you can buy with gold earned in game by playing matches against your friends locally, the AI, or online opponents. Earned gold will predominantly be spent on booster packs to expand players’ collections, but aesthetic purchases are also available. Most importantly, however, is that whenever there’s a new paper Magic set release, there will be a corresponding update to Magic Duels Origins with a curated selection of cards from that set.
Duels Origins is also pushing for a true Magic experience, allowing players to enjoy every aspect of paper Magic within the confines of the Duels game. The most notable exclusion from the past (especially given the title “Duels of the Planeswalkers“) was the lack of actual Planeswalker cards in the game. Duels Origins is finally bringing us digital Planeswalkers, and, for icing on the cake, the five double-faced Planeswalkers from the upcoming Origins paper set will all be included at release, which suggests we might even see some of the double-faced cards from Innistrad, like werewolves and, of course, everybody’s favorite game-winning 1-drop, [mtg_card=Delver of Secrets].
4. Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn was actually the best surprise of the show for me. We know precious little about it thus far, except that there are robotic animals populating the world, and tribal humans trying to stay clear of the robo-predators, while gathering resources from the robo-prey. It’s set some 1,000 years after the fall of civilization, so this is far from your typical “post-apocalypse” story (which you’ll see more of below) which takes place in the aftermath of civilization. In Horizon, it’s been so long that not only has nature reclaimed most of what mankind had once called its own, but the remnants of humanity don’t even seem to recall anything about the intervening millenium.
The combat looks interesting, and the robotic fauna is definitely a nice touch, but I think for the time being, the most compelling aspect of Horizon is actually the mystery of it all. Why do these robots look like deer? Who or what made them, and for what purpose? What happened to civilization so long ago, and what are the prospects for the future of humanity in the new world order? Only time (and maybe a new trailer?) will tell.
3. XCOM 2
I’ve been an XCOM fan for more than 20 years at this point, and I was incredibly impressed with Enemy Unknown and equally so with the follow-up Enemy Within. Having played the new XCOMs for hundreds of hours at this point, I didn’t actually recognize that much room for improvement in the game. When I saw the demo (this was strictly hands-off, mind you) for XCOM 2, however, I realized just how wrong I’d been. Firaxis took the foundation laid with Enemy Unknown, and improved upon it in a number of obvious ways, and I’m particularly excited to see what improvements have been made that aren’t quite so in-your-face as what I did notice in the demo.
Some of the most obvious changes included line of sight being clearly marked on the grid, so you wouldn’t find yourself wandering into the line of fire by accident. There’s more detailed information on the ability tooltips, and ostensibly other tooltips throughout the game, which will have virtually no impact on the more casual audience, but will save the more hardcore folks many trip to a wiki page for specific details. They’ve added new classes, touched on melee combat, and brought some new types of alien (and alien sympathizers) to bear. The announced procedurally generated maps will go a long way to ensure permanent replayability as well. One of my few complaints from EU was that I’d learned some of the maps too well after repeating them in several missions. See you in November, Commander.
2. Fallout 4
People just can’t seem to get enough Fallout these days. I recall a hoax website announcing Fallout 4, and reports of a trademark filing that was purportedly also a hoax. Bethesda couldn’t buy the kind of publicity that fans have been offering in the last couple of years. Hell, if Apple merged with Google, they still couldn’t afford to buy that much positive hype. Suffice to say, when Fallout 4 did get announced, it was pretty damn exciting for a lot of us in the gaming sphere.
We don’t have too much by way of details as yet, but we know it’s set in Boston. We know you’ll experience pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse to some extent. We know the PipBoy is still a thing, along with everybody’s favorite way to miss headshots, VATS. We know that crafting is going to be big, to the point that you can apparently create your own outposts in game. Also, puppy. Everybody loves puppies! Is it November yet?
1. Star Wars: Battlefront
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually starting to get tired of talking about how much I like Battlefront. I’ve been hyping it up for two years now, and somehow, DICE managed to deliver, as I played the co-op survival mode at E3, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. I’ve basically not shut up about it, because I had to defend my hopes against the brutal reality of reboots, but Star Wars: Battlefront is exactly what I wanted it to be, and appears to have avoided the myriad potential pitfalls; being too cautious, being too ambitious, feature creep, and the like. It’s not going to have every single thing you remember loving about Battlefront and its sequel, but it’s going to bring an incredibly enjoyable, accessible shooter experience to your living room, complete with Star Wars aesthetic.
Battlefront is also bringing back split-screen, which I’ve lamented the loss of for ages, adding one more feather in its cap. From the hilariously inaccurate base-level Stormtroopers to the terrifying-in-person AT-ST, the variety in enemies keeps each wave feeling new, and as the unit combinations ratchet up, you’ll find more and more challenge in it. Prepare for a dramatic surge in Stormtrooper accuracy jokes come November. Also, jokes about how everything is coming out in November.