E3 2021 is approaching like a supercell ready to burst in new game announcements, slightly awkward presentations, and developers faking military chatter over demos of multiplayer shooters. As with 2020, this year's June festivities will be digital due to the ongoing pandemic, but don't expect that to lessen the torrent of game announcements.
No doubt we'll find out how the latest FIFA and Call of Duty will be different from last year's, but as always, the best bits of E3 will be the games that catch us off guard. The games we weren't expecting to see this year, or that we weren't expecting to be excited for. The long-running series' that head off in bold new directions. And of course, the completely new projects we had no idea were in development. So here are a few shots in the dark (well, twilight) as to the games we think could surprise us this year.
Bethesda's space RPG was announced way back in 2018, but aside from a logo and a couple of potential screenshots, we've seen and heard little about the game since. With Microsoft having acquired Bethesda last year, they'll no doubt want something big to show off for that $7.5 billion at this year's E3. Since Bethesda has already stated The Elder Scrolls 6 won't be released until after Starfield, that big announcement will likely be footage of the latter, alongside a tentative release date of late 2022.
None of would be particularly surprising, but what might surprise is the kind of game Starfield turns out to be. At 2019's E3 Coliseum, Todd Howard mentioned in conversation with Elon Musk that spaceflight in Starfield is "like a flight in the 40s" and that "It's still dangerous to go and explore." This makes Starfield sound like it's going to lean closer to a game like Elite Dangerous, rather than being Skyrim in space. I reckon it'll have a hard sci-fi universe too, with none of the satirical silliness of Fallout or The Outer Worlds.
After Starfield, Elden Ring is probably the biggest game we've known about for years, yet has proved elusive in terms of actual footage. The collaborative project between From Software and George RR Martin was announced at E3 2019 and has been in development since 2017. With mainstream development cycles averaging around four years, you'd think this would make Elden Ring's appearance at this year's E3 a certainty, but in May, VentureBeat's Jeff Grubb claimed that From Software's latest will be a no-show. More recently, however, some have come to believe that Geoff Keighley is hinting at a reveal. The speculation is based largely on a gif of a panda 'breaking free,' which is being taken as a reference to the time Keighley was thrown in 'gamer prison' for not showing Elden Ring gameplay. If he's got footage of the game, it'll probably appear at the Summer Game Fest Kickoff Live on Thursday, June 10.
Arkane Austin's "Omen" project
While Arkane Lyon has been busy working away on Deathloop (due to release in September) the Austin branch of the studio has been relatively quiet since the launch of Prey in 2017. Four years on, the time is right for a new game announcement, and according to rumours Arkane Austin's latest is an entirely new project.
This speculative new game is known simply as "Omen" and will apparently have something to do with vampires. Omen will almost certainly be an immersive sim, because that's what Arkane makes, but there are a couple of ways Arkane could approach it. It could simply be "Dishonored with vampires," but "simple" tends not to appear in the studio's vocabulary. Given how Arkane's most recent games were spiritual successors to classic PC titles (Dishonored being a spiritual successor to Thief, and Prey an homage to System Shock), there's a chance Omen will be a tribute to Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Considering the trouble Bloodlines 2 has run into, I'd be well up for a vampire immersive sim with Arkane's meticulous design sensibilities.
Assassin's Creed "Tournament"
After the mixed reception of Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Ubisoft committed to a new schedule for its premier open world series, with two annual releases followed by a year off. Since Assassin's Creed Valhalla released last year, and there was no Assassin's Creed in 2019, logic suggests we'll see another Assassin's Creed in 2021, likely from the various Ubisoft teams that made Odyssey.
The big question is the location for the game's setting. A purported leak of the working title "Assassin's Creed Tournament" came bundled with rumours that the game would be set in Medieval Europe during the Hundred Years' War. That said, other rumours have claimed the game will be set in ancient China, Feudal Japan, and even return to the very first game's Crusade-era setting.
Considering how Odyssey shared a classical link with Origins, the Medieval rumour seems the most likely candidate, since it isn't that far removed from Valhalla's Dark Age setting. There are also rumours that the next Assassin's Creed won't be out until 2022 as a consequence of Covid-19, so it's possible it skips the year—though it'd be surprising if we didn't at least see a tease.
We're skeptical of E3 reveals that look too good, so maybe we should also consider that mediocre demos don't necessarily mean that a game will suck. Halo Infinite got roasted following its gameplay reveal last year, but with more work behind it and the possibility of a redemption story, maybe Microsoft blows us away this time?
Dragon Age 4
We already know a fair amount about Dragon Age 4. It'll be set in Tevinter, and won't be a live-service game as some rumours have purported. We also saw a teaser trailer at last year's Game Awards, so the game is definitely coming.
The big question is how it'll play. According to Kotaku's report on an early version of Dragon Age 4 codenamed "Joplin", the game's focus was on heists, and making the world more dynamic, with less open world fluff than Inquisition. Whatever new mechanics it introduces, I would expect combat to push further away from the series' dice-based, RNG roots, into something more closely resembling an action game.
Project GG (working title)
Platinum announced its first self-published game last year: another Hideki Kamiya-designed superhero game, the end cap of a trilogy of them that includes Viewtiful Joe and The Wonderful 101. Last year's trailer was pretty fun, but we don't know much about Project GG—except that it'll be "100% Platinum Games," according to Kamiya. If we see it at E3, it could be an absurd highlight.
The Sims 5
Beyond Dragon Age 4, there are a bunch of rumours circling around EA, such as a gameplay reveal of the next Mass Effect and Apex Legends Season 9. By far the hottest rumour regarding the publisher, however, is purported reveal of The Sims 5.
There's no clue on what to expect from the Sims 5, but I reckon one of the biggest innovations a new game could introduce is a completely seamless and fully simulated neighbourhood, letting your Sim travel from their home in Suburbia to downtown as naturally as a real person might. (Although then you start getting into the territory of the 2013 SimCity reboot, which didn't fare especially well.)
Bloodborne on PC
This is based more on hope than any kind of evidence, although it's less of a pipe dream than it may sound. Over the last couple of years, Sony has been gradually releasing its PS4 exclusives onto PC, including the likes of Death Stranding, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Days Gone. While there are strong indications Uncharted 4 will be the next PS4 exclusive to launch on the PC, personally I'm holding out for From Software's beastly RPG to appear in snazzy, 60 fps glory.
A new Thief game from Square Enix that doesn't suck
Well, I can dream, can't I?