RPG: The Witcher 3
CD Projekt RED are tucked away in a cluster of ordinary industrial office buildings in a cold corner of Warsaw. You'd never guess from the outside that they exist, but when you walk through the front doors, you step into a pleasant little world of pine, glass and clean red wallpaint. Programmers, artists and designers all work together on the same site. On the bottom floor, they have their own motion capture studio and hidden in the middle of the office - a tiny soundproofed music studio.
Outsourcing isn't CD Projekt RED's style. Their determination to keep every aspect of development within a 50m radius might explain their talent for world-building. Their insistence on keeping the team to a manageable size might also explain the leaps they took between The Witcher and The Witcher 2 - a transition that saw them create their own engine from scratch. The fact that the second game was a tremendous improvement on the first bodes well for the Witcher 3, which is our most anticipated RPG of the show in the face of some tough competition.
I saw the demo of The Witcher 3 earlier this year and came away impressed, not just by the engine, which rendered sweeping landscapes untroubled (even in an early stage of development), but also by the atmosphere. The move to a more exploratory pace hasn't diluted the elements that make The Witcher series feel so singularly weird - the mud, the blood, the swearing, the bawdy humour, the boozy, medieval alehouse aesthetic. The Witcher meshes violence, mutant superpowers and politics in a way that makes it feel more like Game of Thrones than the Game of Thrones game (of thrones). Check out our Witcher 3 preview for an account of what we’ve seen so far, and see the new E3 trailer here.
RPG: Dragon Age 3: Inquisition
Little is known of Bioware’s next big RPG, but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the divisive reaction to Dragon Age 2. It’s powered by a variation on the Frostbite engine and it has at least one dragon in it. It also contains Morrigan, as shown in the debut trailer from the EA conference. Here’s our list of what we want from Dragon Age 3 for more discussion on the matter.
More on: Dragon Age 3: Inquisition
RPG: Project Eternity
The little tech demos the Project Eternity team have been releasing show that painterly isometric RPGs still look beautiful today, RPG vets will be looking to Project Eternity to revive the thoughtful levelling and meticulous pacing of the great role playing video games of yore. It’s also a flagship example of the rise of Kickstarter since E3 2012.
More on: Project Eternity
RPG: Wasteland 2
Wasteland 2 represents an opportunity to revisit the past, only this time in a brown, post-apocalyptic manner. The sequel to the game that inspired the early Fallout titles has one hell of a pedigree to live up to. Will it stand tall, like a proud mutant roaring at the moon, or crumple, like the last radio tower trapped in the burning winds of nuclear doom?
More on: Wasteland 2
RPG: Cyberpunk 2077
RPG: South Park: The Stick Of Truth
The second Obsidian game in our list couldn't be more different than their rich, isometric, crowdfunded Project Eternity. South Park is the big-budget tie-in that's resurfaced in the hands of Ubisoft after original publisher THQ's demise. Everything we've seen suggests a game true to the spirit of the show: crudely hilarious, with an authentic art style. What we're still waiting on is an idea of how it'll play.
More on: South Park: The Stick of Truth
The story of Respawn Entertainment has, for the longest time, been dominated by the studio's fiery creation. Born out of the messy break-up between Activision and Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West, the resulting legal battles made headlines for months.
Now the studio has unveiled their first game, Titanfall, and with any luck this men and mechs shooter will become all that anyone remembers. It's certainly an ambitious undertaking: a full, fast-paced, online offering, with all the singleplayer spectacle that first marked Infinity Ward as a first-class creator of first person shooters.
Will Titanfall's blended soup of NPCs, plot and competitive multiplayer work. Past attempts have been varied (hi Brink!), but, if nothing else, Respawn are showing a level of ambition that's been recently lacking in the online FPS.
Shooter: Battlefield 4
It's odd that that EA DICE choose to tease Battlefield games with singleplayer footage. Then again, Battlefield has become EA's answer to Call of Duty, and they'll want to try and match the competition feature-for-feature. For veteran Battlefield fans the campaign is pretty much a tech demo for multiplayer. Whatever DICE show at E3 2013, we’ll be combing it for little features and innovations that can update the multiplayer experience, and set this sequel apart from Battlefield 3.
Two years seems like a swift turnaround for a series that's sells itself on its ambitiously large, detailed battle scenes, but there's much to be improved upon, as resident clan leader John Strike indicated in What We Want from Battlefield 4. Spawn protection, lag compensation and a consistent plan for regular patches rather than the huge change-all updates are a few small but significant steps, but what we're really looking for is a glimmer of something new, something that can leverage that powerful engine and produce something allows us to say "Battlefield 3 couldn't do that."
The series is quite well positioned, thanks to the varied Battlefield 3 expansions, as as a platform capable of supporting lots of different flavours of shooter. DICE's current technology lead over its competitors can easily erode with time, but the flexibility they've shown over the past two years is a precious asset. Battlefield 4 could become a catch-all sim that does close-range 15 minute team deathmatch scraps as well as it does 64-player territory wars.
The worry is that this will erode those elements that make Battlefield special, the scale, battlefields that encourage a wealth of anecdotes, the comedy that comes out of all that chaos.
Luckily, DICE seem to be drawing from the past. At the EA conference, they revealed what every Battlefield player wants to see: the multiplayer. The focus was on the return of Commander mode, with barked orders and tactical artillery suggesting a strategic focus that's been missing from the series' recent history.
Not that the old dog doesn't have some new tricks. As they walked us through an impressively vertical level, DICE finished on a Frostbite 3 powered showstopper. Now giant skyscrapers can fall over in multiplayer, too. Battlefield 3 definitely couldn't do that.
Also: sinking ships confirmed!
More on: Battlefield 4
Shooter: PayDay 2
Shooter: Arma 3
It's unlikely that the standalone version of the Day Z mod will deviate much from the survivalist formula that made it such a sensation last year, and updated engine and stability fixes would be enough to make it a hit, but Dean Hall and co. have always treated the mod like a platform, layering on more and more features to try and turn it from a survival horror adventure game into an advanced simulation.
More on: Day Z
Shooter: Call Of Duty Ghosts
Love it or loathe it, it’s the latest instalment in the biggest shooter series in the world. Will the post-apocalyptic setting bring anything new to the CoD formula? Can the updated engine stand up to competition from the likes of Battlefield 4?
More on: Call of Duty: Ghosts
Shooter: Star Wars Battlefront
We'd heard that EA had signed on to make more games in the Star Wars license. Even so, this was probably the biggest surprise to come out of the EA conference. Here's what we know: it's a DICE helmed version of Pandemic's classic Star Wars shooter, due for release Autumn 2014. Here's what we don't know: almost anything else. Even so, the force is strong with anyone who can resist checking out this brief teaser.
Bungie's sci-fi MMO looks to be a vibrant and atmospheric shooter, and one that incorporates a clever looking public event system that's reminiscent of Rift or Guild Wars 2. Sounds perfect for the PC, right? Let's hope so. While Bungie haven't denied the possibility, they haven't confirmed it either.
Action: Mirror's Edge 2
There were rumours, but then there are always rumours. The sequel to DICE's first person parkour platformer wasn't a sure bet until someone on the EA stage said the words “Mirror's Edge 2”.
Then, someone on the EA stage said the words “Mirror's Edge 2”.
As the trailer shows, this time the focus is on Faith's origin story – which presumably means more than just “what's with the tattoos?” Beyond that, details are thin. The announcement's purpose was to confirm that it exists, but DICE are clearly in no hurry to reveal more than that. The release date is “when it’s ready,” which is hopefully a sign that they're taking fan expectations seriously.
Those expectations are understandably high. The original game became something of a cult classic, thanks to DICE's combination of stark, clean environments, naturalistic level design, and a skill-based movement system that rewarded momentum and agility. Not that there weren't problems: most obviously the combat, which worryingly made up a significant part of the sequel's teaser.
But there were also the moments when it was just you, Faith, and a chain of death-defying leaps, bounds and wall-jumps. At its best, Mirror's Edge was exhilarating.
Of course, if DICE still need some inspiration on which direction to take Mirror's Edge 2, we've already got a list of things we'd like to see.
Thief is hands-on at E3 next week. Hopefully we’ll get enough time to soak up the ambience of the city and sample the tension of sneaking around strangers’ houses, nicking the odd vase. Garrett is back, mechanical eye and all, and while he looks a bit more vampiric, he still has many of the same tools that got him through the first three games, like fire arrows, for starting fires, and water arrows, for fixing the fires he’s started.
It’ll be interesting to see how the City is divided up. For all its qualities, Deadly Shadows’ engine limited exploration to relatively small environments, gated by loading screens. Will modern technology allow for larger spaces in an open world setting? Will the guards show more common sense than a drunken brick this time around? And will they attempt to match The Cradle, one of the finest levels ever built?
It’s all in the hands of Eidos Montreal, which is encouraging when you consider that they also made Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a fine modern adaptation that understood what made the original a classic. The development of Thief has also allowed them to use colours other than yellow and black, saving their army of artists from certain insanity. Thief could easily pocket a game of the show gong.
More on: Thief
Action: Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag - It's AssCreed on the ocean with an explorable archipelago of islands to explore and kraken to wrestle evildoers to dice up. The boaty bits of Assassin's Creed 3 were a surprising treat, so the prospect of an entire game set at sea is an intriguing one. Here are this year's conference trailers.
More on: Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
Action: The Evil Within
Indie developers have owned horror for the past year or so. Now there's a demonstrable appetite for it developers with bigger budgets will be looking for ways to scare money out of us. This is a good thing, especially when it means Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami returning to the genre to deliver a game that, from the debut trailer, seems to incorporate every horror trope ever devised.
More on: The Evil Within
Action: Watch Dogs
The blow-out demo of E3 2012 still has the chops to steal the 2013 prize, too. It's about vigilante justice in networked-up Chicago starring a man with a trench coat and a magic phone that can hack into anything, revealing pedestrians' pasts, switching traffic lights and stopping trains. It could be a slick, mature power fantasy, but how involved will the hacking be? Will the instances of cyber-manipulation shown in the trailers so far be contextual quick-time events? Find out here.
Action: Dark Souls
Praise the Sun! Dark Souls 2 made a brief appearance at the Microsoft press conference, showing off its pretty new particle effects and deadly new enemies. Rich hasn't stopped cheering since it aired. We're starting to worry. Who knows what he'll be like when the game is released next March.
More on: Dark Souls 2
Action: Tom Clancy's: The Division
Apologies, that's Tom Clancy's The Division – a third person MMO shooter set in the post-apocalyptic aftermath of a devastating plague. Despite some strong tonal comparisons to DayZ, it's not zombies that are tracking you; it's bandits. Unfortunately, there's been no hint of a PC release. Given the promise shown in this lengthy game demo, let's hope this is one infection we'll eventually be allowed to catch.
RTS: Rome 2
Total War has always been a series that you can point at and say “now this, THIS can only exist on PC.” When it sings, Total War is at once huge and intricate, ambitious and beautiful, and now The Creative Assembly are revisiting one of the most popular eras they’ve covered with Rome 2. So yes, we’re quite looking forward this one.
There’s a feeling that the team overstretched with Empire: Total War - an attempt to simulate war and politics in the colonial era across three massive interlinked theatres. AI problems on launch earned it a bad rep (problems long since addressed by official patches and mods). Since then the series has become more and more focused. Napoleon targeted a narrower era and Shogun 2 delivered a narrower map, favouring granular territory management over sweeping global strategy.
But Rome 2 will move to a grander stage with a new engine, and moves back to an era of tremendous variation in fighting styles and battle philosophy. Piloting the well drilled machine of the Roman army offers a different power fantasy to that of leading a barbarian charge against one of history’s most efficient killing forces. Next week The Creative Assembly will be offering hands-on sessions of new units, factions and locations, so we’ll get a further look at just how big Rome 2 is going to be. I have a feeling this one might be worth an upgrade.
RTS: Company Of Heroes 2
It’s out later this month, but it’ll still be tanking about at E3, impressing passers-by with its plump orange explosions. Alongside Heart of the Swarm, Rome 2 and CoH2 complete the triumverate of exciting real time strategy we’re getting in 2013. Like buses, they always seem to come along at once.
More on: Company of Heroes 2
MMO: The Elder Scrolls Online
For Skyrim, Oblivion and Morrowind fans, The Elder Scrolls Online is a game they never asked for and, on first glance, don't particularly want. Its announcement was met with a predictably patchy response, and the Elder Scrolls name means most discussions about Zenimax Online Studio's new MMO are dragged into RPG vs. MMO debates. Consider it on its own terms, though, and TESO is worth watching. The optional first-person perspective, the prison opening and slimmed down HUD are dutiful nods TESO's roots, but there's also Dark Age of Camelot style mass-PvP battles, a reactive combat system, and the opportunity to explore unseen areas of Tamriel.
TESO looks as though it'll best Skyrim in some aspects. The levelling system allows for malleable class building, so you can encase your mage in heavy armour, if you like, or put your fighter in a silk dress. New skill lines are unlocked by joining Tamriel's famous guilds (what strange powers will the Dark Brotherhood membership bring, I wonder), and there's a robust crafting component that requires players to reverse engineer weapons and discover hidden properties in the fauna they pluck.
There are three factions at loggerheads in the broad and substantive PvP game, but that doesn't mean zones that, by lore, belong to other factions will be locked off. Once you hit the level cap you can play through other faction's zones and storyline quests at a higher difficulty tier - the MMO equivalent of a "new game plus" mode.
Wildstar - Carbine's vibrant and cheerful MMO sits somewhere between sci-fi and a Saturday morning cartoon. Swords meet blasters on the surface of a gloriously colourful planet populated by huge beasts. Different classes can expect sig[gallery]nificant variations on the sort of quests they can take. Explorers can climb weird alien trees and soldiers can fight through subterranean passages full of monsters. Also, you can dual wield laser pistols, which is rarely ever a bad thing. Check out our Wildstar hands-on for more.
Racing: The Crew
Most publishers spent their conference time advertising their racing games with amazing real life appearances from actual cars. “Here's a McLaren P1,” said Microsoft. “They're super rare! You'll never drive one.” “Wow,” said everyone watching in union (in my head), “wait, isn't this a show about games? Maybe show us one of them?”
That's what Ubisoft did with The Crew. They showed the way its persistent online world blends solo, co-op and competitive play. They showed a range of locations, from New York to Miami. They showed a car exploding into pieces, and the Lego-like reassembling of those bits into something new.
Basically, they showed a level of fast-paced, arcade focused variety that many racers miss in their rush to obsess over perfectly replicated recreations.
The Crew is due out early next year, “exclusively for next-gen consoles and high-end PCs”. See the E3 announcement trailer for more.
Racing: Trials Fusion
A new, next-generation Trials was announced! Even better: after the painful PC delay that hit Trials HD and Trials Evolution, Trials Fusion is already confirmed as being headed our way. We shall celebrate these facts with the songs of my people.