E3 2019 Conference Recap and Thoughts: Third Party Conferences

Well, friends, we’re finally at the end of my E3 2019 coverage. Today we’re talking Third Party. I’ll be taking a look at all of the major press conferences and offering my thoughts and opinions on what was announced and more.

In case you missed any of my previous E3 2019 coverage, you can catch up with these handy links! Microsoft | Nintendo | Watch Dogs Legion | Overall

What an interesting year it has been so far for third party games. We’ve had quite the range of great and not-so-great games that I think not many people knew what to expect going in. This is especially true for companies like Bethesda and EA, both of which were trying to recover from some less than ideal game launches.

e3 2019 logo

On the other end of the spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that most fans were excited for what Ubisoft and Square Enix had coming. There’s always plenty of sky high expectations and rumors which fuel that hype.

So did the third party studios come through and deliver? Let’s discuss.

Electronic Arts

Starting off with the first company to go…well, okay, technically EA Play wasn’t considered part of E3 2019, but let’s be honest here. The event was pretty much on the same weekend, so we’re just going to lump them in.

EA took a bit of the mystery out of the event by revealing a schedule of what they were planning to show off, much of which wasn’t a surprise. We got details on Season 2 for Apex Legends and the new hero Wattson, saw more EA Sports games, The Sims 4 vacation mode, and new maps for Battlefield 5. All standard stuff that didn’t move the needle much for me.

star wars jedi fallen order inquisitor

The big element to this show was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first actual look at the game. The 15 minute gameplay demo showed off some really interesting ideas including the inclusion of Clone War-era characters like Saw Gerrera and a heavier looking combat style that you could see in any of FROM Software’s games. It wouldn’t be until earlier this week that the rest of the puzzle pieces finally fell into place, however.

EA released the full nearly 30 minute demo that was shown behind closed doors. In my opinion, it was way more exciting and gave a much clearer look at the game Respawn and EA were talking about originally. It features vehicle combat with AT-AT walkers, platforming sections, dialogue choices, planetary travel, and level design that takes inspiration from Metroidvania style experiences. I was intrigued by what I saw at EA Play, but it wasn’t until weeks later after the show that I actually became excited.

The last thing I want to mention here is Anthem. We all know the sad state that game is currently in and while I give credit to both BioWare and EA for sticking with it, I think most fans were surprised that the game was kind of left by the wayside. I expected Anthem to be given more time, show off some exciting new things coming down the road, and basically offer hope for those who want to see it eventually succeed. While it was at the show, all we got was a very short interview and continued vague promises for the future. Needless to say, this wasn’t a great look.

Bethesda

With only one known known game, Doom Eternal, there were a lot of questions coming into Bethesda’s E3 2019 presser. A lot was riding on Bethesda this year considering the mess that was Fallout 76.

fallout 76 wastelanders update

Speaking of that, Todd Howard came out to discuss that very game. He made some jokes and praised the community and then jumped immediately into the next DLC. Not sure what people were expecting to hear regarding the past 6-7 months, but that was it. The next DLC chunk called Wastelanders is coming for free in the Fall and it’s biggest piece is that human NPCs with full dialogue trees are back.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why this is a big deal for Fallout 76 players and a much welcomed addition, but still. We’re excited by human NPC characters.

We also got the announcement that another piece of DLC called Nuclear Winter can be played in game right now. It’s basically Bethesda’s take on the Battle Royale genre, where players vie to become the new Overseer for the vault. From what I’ve heard, it’s apparently a lot of fun, even if it has that Bethesda wonkiness to it.

Elder Scrolls was up next, though it wasn’t the announcement or reveal most were hoping for. Elder Scrolls Blades, that mobile game, was revealed to be coming to the Switch. Elder Scrolls Online also got a sizable portion of the show to announce that Dragons are now int he game, to which the over hyped guy in the front row absolutely lost his mind. We got another CG trailer, which was well made but offered nothing in terms of gameplay.

Uh, lets see. There was this really weird Commander Keen announcement, which I think is another mobile game. It was really bizarre and I think most people believe that it could have been cut from the show completely. Rage 2 also got a DLC trailer, which is fine, but with how fast I grew tired of that game, I can’t see myself bothering with it.

Ghostwire: Tokyo is the next game from Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks. It sounds awesome on paper, and while we got a very stylish CG trailer, there was no gameplay whatsoever to really judge how it’ll play.

I can say the same thing for Deathloop and Wolfenstein: Youngblood. While we already know a lot about the latter, I was surprised that Machine Games didn’t have more to share in terms of gameplay considering it’s imminent release. Deathloop, on the other hand, is the next game from Arkane Studios. Again, we got a very cool looking CG trailer, but in terms of what the game actually is or plays like, I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that these two assassin’s are stuck in some sort of time loop, where one hunts the other while the hunted tries to break the loop.

Bethesda also introduced Orion Streaming Technology, which seems to be another alternative to cloud-based streaming services. Honestly, with how new this tech is, I’m a little dubious about it’s adoption rate on Day 1. It seems like everyone and their mother is announcing a service like this with Stadia, Project xCloud, and the countless others I know I’m forgetting. Come Fall 2019, it’s going to take a lot to standout from the competition.

doom eternal helmet

Naturally, they ended the show with Doom: Eternal and better yet, they had actual gameplay. There’s not much more that needs to be said outside of the fact that it looks like a fantastic follow up. The multiplayer looks pretty interesting as well. Not only did id Software completely scrap the traditional multiplayer from the last game and move that side in house, it has been completely transformed. Known now as Battlemode, it pits one Slayer player against two demon players. Not only can the demon players pick from an assortment of enemy types like the revenant, they can also spawn minions in to attack the other players. While that sounds cool, keep in mind that the slayer can use these minions for health restoring glory kills if they’re not spawned in tactically.

So yeah, that was Bethesda in a nutshell. It was fine, but outside of Doom Eternal, I wasn’t dazzled like I had hoped to be. The new game announcements Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop were great, but the CG only approach kind of dampened it for me.

Ubisoft

Personally, I was the most hyped for Ubisoft’s show, something that likely won’t surprise many of you considering my love for many of their IPs. I wanted more of those “One More Thing” moments, I was anticipating more Division 2 news, I expected to see news on the next Assassin’s Creed that was rumored to be set in the Viking Age, another cool Nintendo cross over announcement, and of course, I wanted Splinter Cell back.

Well, overall, I thought it was a mixed show. Watch Dogs Legion was leaked earlier in the week and while I already discussed my mood swings on that game. Definitely check out my initial fears and then the moment when I saw the light but real quick, I was really impressed with what I saw. My initial fears were put to bed as we watched what appeared to be classic open world Watch Dogs gameplay mixed with new ideas like permadeath, recruiting any NPC you want, and being able to switch between these recruits each with their own abilities and skills. Hell, you can recruit an army of hacker grandmothers. Like, what else do you need people?

Jon Bernthal and his cute dog Bam Bam took the stage to quickly discuss Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Loved his character in the last DLC for Wildlands, so Breakpoint should be pretty good as well. Better news? Ubisoft is adding the AI Teammates back for solo players. Score!

The Division 2 came out next and dropped all sorts of DLC details, which I’m all for. You’re going to places like the National Zoo, Pentagon, and back to New York. They teased new story content in Episode 3, where you’re going up against Aaron Keener, the primary villain from the first game. I’m glad they’re doing this because Keener was immensely interesting even though you never really saw him. The audio and text logs go a long way to fleshing him out.

the division 2 year 1 key art

Roller Champions looks like a cool Rocket League-ish style game. Easy to pick up and play, but one that Ubisoft hopes people will really invest in to master it. I’m not thrilled about Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, a mobile game that brings in characters from all TC games. I’m curious about Rainbow Six Quarantine, which seems to focus on co-op gameplay set inside of the limit time event from Rainbow Six Siege. All we got was a creepy CG trailer, but I”m curious to see how they’re able to take that limited event and turn it into a $60 full, standalone game. There’s also a new Just Dance game, so that’s a thing.

Ubisoft also took a chunk of time to talk about UPlay+, a subscription service that gives players access to something like over 100+ Ubisoft games, premium editions, DLC, new games, etc. I mean, It’s great for those who are interested but I kind of feel like the market is quickly becoming over-saturated. I’m not just talking about video games either because think about all of the TV oriented subscriptions from Netflix, Hulu, Amazing Prime, that upcoming Disney service, etc, etc. It adds up and I’m not sure how much more room there is for these things. People generally do not have unlimited money to throw around so I don’t know how well this will take over time.

Rob McElhenney of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame was also on hand to announce a new project called Mythic Quest – Raven’s Banquet, which I think is going to be a TV Show? With a bunch of the Sunny crew working on this, I’m interested, but the message was initially muddled because I thought it was some sort of game related announcement. It’s not though, just a tv show about a game. It was confusing.

The last announcement came from Yves Guillemot himself as he announced Gods & Monsters, the next project from the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey team in Quebec City. Using a more stylized visual look, I’ve heard it’s Ubisoft’s take on the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gameplay. It remains set within the Greek world and if it really is this open world action adventure experience, then I’m interested.

So not only did we not get a Splinter Cell reveal, Ubisoft didn’t really have that “One More Thing” moment that they’ve become known for. I felt there were a lot of missed opportunities and it lacked the exciting punch we’ve come to expect. I’ll talk more about this in a bit but I think this was less of Ubisoft’s fault and more due to the timeline 2019 is currently in.

Square Enix

I won’t lie, I’m not really a Final Fantasy person, so I don’t typically pay much attention to Square Enix at E3. This year was different though because they had a few high profile games that I think many were really anticipating. Plus, the other big win for the company this year is that they moved their event into Sony’s old time slot, something which no doubt helped put way more eyes on them than usual.

They kicked off the show in grand style, opting to blow the doors wide open on Final Fantasy VII Remake. Way more gameplay, new character reveals like Tifa, a combat demonstration, and some really gorgeous trailers. As I said, I’m not a Final Fantasy player, but even I was impressed by what Square showed off. I can’t speak to purists, but I really like what they’ve done with the combat in this game, making it more active than the traditional turn based style. Still, they do allow you to pause the action and issue commands once a meter fills, which I find to be a really cool way to bridge both combat styles.

final fantasy vii remake

The middle part of the show generally lost me. If you’re someone who’s really into JRPGs, then Square Enix has you covered. They had so many smaller announcements, that I generally can’t remember everything. I know a good majority were JRPG and Final Fantasy, which should make plenty of people very happy. As an aside, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers, a completely transformed MMORPG that’s out next week officially.

I also want to shoutout People Can Fly which revealed a brand new game called Outriders. Unfortunately all we got was a CG trailer, so I can’t say really anything about what it is, but I like the concept. Co-op shooter from those guys, interesting weapons, and a unique world could be pretty cool.

For many, including myself, The Avengers remained the game I wanted to see most. Announced last year, E3 2019 would be the first time Crystal Dynamics would show the game off to the world. Well, kind of. While the game got a huge amount of time in the spotlight at the end of the show, I feel like they did it the wrong way. We got a lot of talking points, but not a lot of meaningful showing. The trailer was primarily CG with quick, blink and you’ll miss it, gameplay moments edited in. The announcement and reveal really didn’t do much for me, and I’m kind of iffy on the graphical style they went for which seems to mimic Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, even though the studio has confirmed that the game isn’t set in that universe.

We did get some details during the show including the fact that DLC will be free, players can customize their characters through loot and new gear, and it can be played coop. However, I can’t help but feel like The Avengers reveal just didn’t have the impact Square assumed it would. Combined with the lukewarm reception from people who saw actual hands-off gameplay behind closed doors, I can’t help but feel let down by this one. As of this very minute, I’m out on The Avengers.

Overall

You may already be able to tell what my overall thoughts are based on my commentary above. While there were some cool reveals, I wasn’t blown away by anything. As I’ve said previously, I think this was a result of being sort of in between console cycles. It’s a well known fact that 2020 will likely be the year next gen consoles appear, especially since Microsoft confirmed Project Scarlett and Halo Infinite for Holiday 2020.

Because of that, I feel like most studios have moved on to next generation projects and don’t have much to show at the moment. We’re now in an era where companies get crushed for either announcing a game too soon or having the product not appear as it was first revealed. Looking at you Anthem. Perhaps there’s some hesitancy around announcing things too soon these days.

The other thing to consider with the overuse of CG trailers is the fact that many of the games that opted to use it aren’t actually releasing until 2020. Using CG is great for when you want to make an announcement, but not reveal what the game will look or play as. You want to get people excited, but you’re not ready to actually show the game. I’m fairly sure that a lot of these just announced games will actually turn into next gen games as well. With almost zero information on those consoles, CG trailers enable developers to announce something without actually confirming details like platform.

So yeah, those are my thoughts. I figured E3 2019 would be a bit more exciting but we still got a few cool reveals. Considering that next year is when we’ll be seeing next gen content, I’m guessing E3 2020 is going to be huge. Perhaps the return of Sony, as well?

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5 Responses to E3 2019 Conference Recap and Thoughts: Third Party Conferences

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    All things considered, E3 2019 was pretty alright. We’re at end of a console cycle, but not close enough to the next gen to see the really good stuff. Even so, we still got some decent reveals and announcements. Definitely not the worst year in E3 history.

    Quick side-note: I’m convinced there were staffers in Bethesda’s conference. No one gets THAT hyped for NPCs and the addition of Battle Royal, especially when the game involved is Fallout 76.

    • Oh jeez, I know right? Bethesda’s was pretty bad but the amount of people yelling from the crowd this year seemed to be an all time high. Can’t help but feel like the Keanu Reeves guy started it all.

      • Hatm0nster says:

        He probably did. Now that I think about it, they really did get wild this year didn’t they? Supposedly the audiences at these events are all press people, but I don’t think that’s the case. Am pretty sure there’ve been seat-fillers and staffers involved since these press briefings started getting televised.

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