The Escapist‘s Best of E3 2014 Award Winners

This year for E3, much like last year, we dispensed with categorization and just went straight for the thirty best things we saw. These are our winners – the things we think are the best of show. Earlier this week, we talked about the nominees that didn’t win, but deserved a nod. What was eligible to win? We had one simple criteria: It had to be touchable, playable, usable, or listenable. It had to call to us. Here’s what did:

Speaking of hiding, you will be doing a lot of that in Isolation. Most lockers or enclosed spaces can be entered, and they conveniently have slits at eye level which let you view your stalker. The alien will enter a room and seek you out, and pass within inches of you in the locker, which leads to some tense moments. Sometimes merely hiding isn’t enough – the alien can and will rip off the door of your hiding spot and kill you – so you have to hold your breath with a button press and pull back from the door to do all you can to be unnoticed. Even then, the alien will sometimes see through your attempts at concealment and kill you anyway. Did I mention this game was harrowing?

It will take a liberal amount of skill and luck to succeed at evading the alien.

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The Reign of Terror is underway in Paris, and Ubisoft’s Antoine Fortier-Auclair stressed how unhappy its citizens were at this point in history. There’s unrest in the streets, and boy, are those streets crowded. When asked why Ubisoft chose the French Revolution as the setting for the next Assassin’s Creed, Fortier-Auclair said that it was a period often requested by fans, but next-gen technology has allowed the developers to capture the movement and sheer numbers of Parisians adding to the growing unrest in France’s capital city.

Splatoon kind of plays like a shooter, but the point isn’t to shoot other people. You can shoot them if you want, of course, whether it’s to get them out of the way or just because you’re sadistic, but taking out foes in the four-on-four matches isn’t going to lead your team to victory.

That didn’t stop me from shooting half-squid-half-kid hybrids from the opposing team every chance I got. I’m just saying, it won’t get you the win.

No, to win you have to cover as much of the level as humanly (squidly?) possible with paint. That’s what you’re shooting: not bullets, but very colorful paint. Each team has its own color, so you can tell where your territory is marked and where you need to take over. The GamePad screen gives a top-down view of the level, including where the other characters are and how the paint is falling, but it’s hard to pay attention to that screen when there’s so much action happening on the TV screen.

When you enter the world there will be other player sharing the space, but it’s not necessarily all the players in the game or server. You’re free to work together with these other players or go off hunting on your own, though there will occasionally be public events that encourage you to lend a hand as they are practically impossible alone. What the game loses in some functionality it makes up for in cutting out some of the complexity, and Destiny is handling all the details of behind the scenes making it more ideal for the jump-in and jump-out nature of consoles. Want to get a team together to tackle a mission? Destiny can match you up quickly and get you into the action.

It manages to capture that secret sauce of letting you solo on your own but while still feeling connected to other players. If you see someone in trouble you can run over and revive them, finish off that tough opponent together and then simply go your separate ways without needing to jump through a bunch of mechanical hoops or loading screens. Granted, the game is a lot more fun when you’re in a fireteam with a few of your friends.

Luckily, I was able to grow – literally getting a bigger model and beefing up Goliath’s attacks and armor in addition to the ability upgrades. Let those scrappers come to me. Well, they did. The bastards tried to corner me with an ability called Arena, which raised a blue forcefield dome that Goliath couldn’t move through. They trapped me in it, but I quickly rounded on the group, sprayed fire, charged, and made melee attacks like a crazy monster. I took out a few, but the medic rezzed them. Then I killed ’em again. Eventually, they ran off to regroup. I ate the corpses they left behind.

I am a monster.

It was time to found my first city, so I calmly built a settler and made my way south. Once at my location, I pressed “B” to give the age-old command to found city. But here’s the catch, the city (or outpost as it’s called in Beyond Earth) didn’t get founded immediately. Each turn, a new hex joined the city’s working radius until it finally was founded 6 turns in. This delayed founding of settlements can be used to my advantage in war, as an incomplete outpost isn’t yet owned by its faction. That means you can attack them with impunity! File that one for future backstabbings.

But lets not talk about the controls. They’re good and everything, but they’re not what make Shadow of Mordor interesting. Monotlith’s Nemesis system does that.

Nemesis is a procedurally generated mission system in which players attempt to overthrow a handful of warlords using a combination of social engineering and violence. If you’ve ever watched House of Cards, you’re already familiar with the idea.

In Shadow of Mordor, killing a warlord isn’t enough, because he’s just going to be replaced by another warlord. If you want to win, you’ll need to turn your enemies against one another, and work the system until one of your own orcs is installed into power. But the orcan political system is constantly in flux, which means that your orc’s head could easily end up on the floor.

Watching my plans fall to pieces while I attempted to control the reins was depressingly common, but I never wanted to yank the plug out of the wall. I just wanted to find more clever ways to outsmart the baddies.

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Actions at the war table will direct where the story goes. From there, you pursue objectives and instruct agents to gather resources. On the battlefield, however, is where the details shine through. With the tactics view, instruct individual party members to specific locations and assign targets. Plan out your attack strategy before you resume time and watch your careful planning pay off. Each party member has different helpful skills, such as Vivienne’s time manipulation. You can easily switch between controlling different characters and bounce among support, close-range attacks, and offensive magic from afar. Tactical combat isn’t required; you can just as effectively play one character at a time. There is no one way to play Inquisition.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is expansive in both the world and your Inquisitor. The ten regions, set across two nations, have local histories that you discover through observation of the environment and brief dialogue from the character inhabiting that environment. The Inquisitor can be one of four races, two genders, different voices, and a more detailed facial customization. In our lives outside of games, everyone is different in mind and body. People have different facial shapes, different principles. Within the cast of characters are people not of the assumed default. There are powerful women, especially Vivienne as an influential woman of color, as well as the massive qunari, nicknamed the Iron Bull. BioWare hasn’t been shy about paying attention to diversity. Make the Inquisitor of your choice.

Then there’s the combat, always a highlight of this series, and it feels as good as it ever has in Arkham Knight. In fact, I ignored Rocksteady animator Adam Vincent’s advice to approach a mission stealthily and immediately grappled up to a platform full of thugs so I could go in swinging. It’s immensely satisfying to punch one goon in the face, counter another, grab an object and toss it at a third, and finally finish off the lot of them with a series of punches and kicks. Even better, you can remotely access the Batmobile and use that in combat, adding another layer of strategy into the mix.

Nintendo’s latest Super Smash Bros. game represents what Nintendo needs to be: Fun. The series has always been solid, but it’s obvious a lot of hard work has been put into every character to make them unique but also powerful in their own way. Sticking to my tried-and-true favorites of Pit and Link, I tested both characters out in a hands-on demo. They felt good – not changed too much from Brawl, but they both had one or two new moves. Like always in Smash, the only way to figure out what works best for you is to play different characters, try out some moves, smash some buttons, and see what happens.

Each titan is unique. Each titan will most likely kill you on your first encounter. They each need one hit from your solitary arrow to be defeated, but they will not make it easy for you to get that shot in. They’ll bounce around, slide around, roll on top of you, shoot beams at you, and smash you into the ground as if you were a pesky fly. By rolling around and learning which direction to move at the right time, your chances of survival increase tremendously. With only one arrow, you need to make your shot count. Fortunately, if you miss your shot, you can call back your arrow or pick it up if it happens to be under your feet. Every titan has a weak spot. That weak spot may only be vulnerable for less than a second at a time, and careful observation with well-timed trial-and-error shots reveal the opportunity to strike.

True to the series’ strengths, a stronghold assault can be accomplished any number of ways. You can ride headfirst in with the elephant, or try to sneak in and use stealth attacks to take out the enemy soldiers. I’m not the backstabbiest guy, but I gave the stealth tactic the old college try and I wasn’t disappointed. You can quietly attack folks with the new automatic crossbow weapon so as not to immediately alert the whole base. There’s also some interesting ways you can manipulate the environment to increase your chances of success. You can cut the brakes for a jeep on a hill, and the vehicle will roll down and possible take out a few guards with gravity alone. It’s also a good idea to cut the alarm wires so they can’t call in reinforcements.

I started out battling a few angels on the back of fighter jet. Yeah. Then once I killed all those bastards with a whipping hair attack followed up with a few shots from my heel guns, a huge demon appeared. I ended up battling that thing as it wove around the top of a train, fending off attacks while whaling on it when it was vulnerable and close. I used umbra magic to summon another demon through a portal on a building to eat the monster – like you do – but then that thing got out of control. I ended sprouting wings and flying around the top of the skyscraper as the demon crawled around it like some freaky drug trip King Kong sequence.

“Have you seen the star map?” the demonstrator asked. “No.”

He called it up and explained that the 3D map includes stars that we know exist, such as Proxima Centauri and Barnard’s star. Elite Dangerous has about 100,000 stars near the Sol system that our astronomers know about accurately represented in the game. It was incredible seeing these stars in three dimensions all around you. But then, we kept scrolling out, and scrolling out, scrolling out and the entire breadth of the Milky Way galaxy was finally revealed.

I felt infinity punch me in the gut.

I was in the Total Perspective Vortex – it was a really stirring demonstration of what an accomplishment Elite Dangerous is. The game blends the knowledge of stars we know about into stars and systems generated to approximate the randomness of space. There are 300 billion stars, and you can go to any of them in your ship.


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