Every press conference of E3 2015 has concluded, and Invisible Gamer is taking a different approach when it comes to covering them. Instead of scrambling to keep up with the deluge of announcements moment-to-moment, we’ve let the news settle and cool in our brains in order to give you our thoughts on what the gaming industry has in store for the near future. First, let’s take a look at what some of our staff writers think are the biggest (positive) surprises of all of this year’s events.
Frankie Millington: I expected a lot out of Bethesda from this year’s E3. My predictions (and hopes) included Elder Scrolls 6, Dishonored 2, Fallout 4, and DLC for Elder Scrolls Online. That being said, I was still pleasantly surprised to see many of them come true.
- Fallout 4 was, of course, the highlight, featuring many mechanics new to the series. Perhaps more surprisingly, the game received some uncharacteristic out-of-game supplements, one of them being the Pip Boy App, which can help keep track of your game. The collector’s edition, which features a full sized “functioning” Pip Boy(!), is of course already sold out nationwide, but it was fun to see the object officially exist.
- Next was the new Doom, which looks like it has some amazing, killer combat. The fast pace of the game, along with the new-gen graphics, make the game quite visually striking. While we knew this game was coming, I was surprised to see the new depiction and way of blending space stations and Hell.
- My final surprise would have to be Dishonored. Admittedly, I didn’t think Bethesda was going to continue the series, but was pleasantly surprised when it was leaked hours before/announced at the show. The game looks to have an entirely new setting that resembles Dunwall, but it’s certainly a different place. The new, female protagonist will likely offer a new perspective as well.
Jonah Ort: Since the launch of the Xbox One, it feels like Microsoft has been playing catch-up. They dropped their initial plan of always-on DRM, removed the Kinect to bring the price in line with the PS4’s, and still their sales are lagging. However, Microsoft came out of their press conference as a leader, not a follower. This strong showing suggests more success for the Xbox One in the future.
- Backwards compatibility was something that Microsoft executives once scoffed at, yet here we are in 2015 with the announcement that Xbox 360 games will be playable on the Xbox One. This is a huge win for the battle of hearts-and-minds and positions Microsoft as a much more consumer-friendly company than it has appeared in years past.
- Microsoft’s augmented-reality device Hololens was largely dismissed as a barely fleshed-out tech demo when it was first unveiled at last year’s E3. However, Microsoft’s live demonstration with Minecraft playing through the Hololens was downright incredible. The device shows serious promise to deliver interesting game experiences.
- It was nice to hear no mention whatsoever of the Xbox’s television features in exchange for more time showing off games. Seeing big-name titles like Dark Souls 3 and Gears of War 4 getting announced next to interesting indie games like Cuphead and Tacoma showed that Microsoft knows that the Xbox One is first and foremost a game console, not an “entertainment device.”
Gabe Gurwin: While topping last year’s abysmal conference wasn’t exactly a surprise, EA’s conference offered a mix of large-scale, AAA titles and smaller, more intimate games, painting the publisher in a much more personable light than the “bad bad” EA of the past.
- The new Need for Speed had already been announced last month, but E3 was the first time we saw the rebooted racer in action — vomit-inducing camera shifts aside, the game looks flat-out gorgeous, and might be what the series needs to get back on top.
- In the “always online” world that the gaming industry has so quickly embraced, the ability to play solo or local split-screen for every mode in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is the very definition of “pleasant surprise.”
- Unravel, a puzzle-platformer starring the adorable “Yarny,” almost made me squee with joy in my seat. The gorgeous foliage and pieces of litter offer something similar to Pikmin, but the yarn mechanics offer something completely unique.
- Even with the huge Star Wars: Battlefront releasing this fall, EA’s ability to show restraint and leave Battlefield at home this year is a sign of a company determined to repair its image. The extra year should give the inevitable Battlefield 5 more time to cook.
Tristan Ettleman: Ubisoft’s show this year was a tamer affair, as Aisha Tyler appeared to have been reined in, girl wood and all. While some cringeworthy moments came into play (haven’t we realized that celebrities singing is not a good idea?), there wasn’t much entirely dull about the whole affair.
- In fact, Ubisoft’s press conference opened with its biggest surprise. A new South Park game, cleverly subtitled The Fractured But Whole, is being worked on by Ubisoft Montreal and, most importantly, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The two consistently have a lot on their hands, but they admitted that they finally learned how to streamline the video game development process while finishing up The Stick of Truth. The banter between the pair and Aisha Tyler wasn’t as painful as it could have been, either.
- Ubisoft must have some good cyber-security, because the company showed off more than a few games for the first time without any prior leaks, like they have in the past. One of those games was the new IP For Honor, which basically looks like knight vs. viking vs. samurai multiplayer melee combat. While I generally lose interest when something is spun as a multiplayer experience, the Dynasty Warriors-esque gameplay in an online setting is somewhat interesting.
- Finally, Ghost Recon Wildlands surprised on two levels: it’s a new massive open world game with a focus on player choice and killing drug warlords and it doesn’t actually really look like Ghost Recon. That’s quite alright, though; it’s time the series was reinvigorated, and a large open world can do it. Say what you will about Ubisoft and their open worlds, but they know how to make it fun…for the most part.
Austin Clark: In terms of console sales, Sony’s PlayStation 4 is dominating the Western market. That type of comfort can be dangerous, especially when it comes to E3. I was so worried that Sony would sit back and show off only the most obvious titles in their catalog, but lo and behold, the first half of their conference basically blew my mind with so many unexpected surprises.
- The Last Guardian was finally shown. Not just in a trailer, but actual gameplay. People have been predicting this game to show up at every Sony conference for the last five years and that’s why this opening was so special. I knew it would come sometime, and when it finally showed, I was still shocked.
- New IPs can be hit or miss. New IPs from the people who made Killzone for a decade had me heavily leaning towards miss until Horizon: Zero Dawn was shown. It looks gorgeous, the story is interesting, and you hunt giant, robotic dinosaurs. Just watch that gameplay.
- Final Fantasy VII is actually getting remade. I honestly gave up on this idea after the PS4 launched. Due to the infamous FFVII PlayStation tech demo, I always thought it would be a PS3 swan song. When Sony showed off this trailer, words could not express my excitement; only loud screams of joy could do it justice.
- Okay, say what you will about showing a game that’s going to be Kickstarted and eventually release on multiple platforms, but Sony debuting Shenmue 3 was bonkers, absolutely bonkers! My words exactly after seeing Shenmue after all the prior surprises were, “What the fuck is even happening right now?” Sony is giving fans what they want, even if it’s a bit early.
- Media Molecule’s Dreams was an extremely pleasant surprise. I’m still not exactly sure what it’s all about, but all I know is that it feels like the closest thing to a new evolution of Mario Paint that I’ve always been asking for. Maybe that’s just me projecting my wants on to their game, but hey, it looks amazing.
Tristan Ettleman: I’m a huge fan of Nintendo. Their games are the only ones I truly get giddily excited for when E3 rolls around. Or at any time for that matter. That being said, their E3 2015 Digital Event was admittedly fairly weak. But that can be saved for another time. Nevertheless, the company still showed off some fun and surprising games that we’ll hopefully be playing soon.
- The Legend of Zelda is my favorite series, so I’m glad that Nintendo’s giving it the love it needs while Zelda Wii U is still incubating. Triforce Heroes, a fall 2015 3DS game, looks to be Four Swords 2.0 minus one Link. The three-player game emphasizes multiplayer, but can also be played solo with AI partners. It looks to be, much like the Four Swords games were, Zelda boiled down to its dungeons and puzzles with a cooperative twist. It’s a little disappointing to not have a full-fledged Zelda as soon as we had hoped, but I think Triforce Heroes can scratch the itch until Zelda Wii U is ready.
- In the strangest, incestual crossover of all time, Mario and Luigi and Mario and Luigi team up to battle Bowser and Bowser (probably) in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. It’s a combination of Nintendo’s two current Mario RPG series, Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario, and that somehow makes sense. And yet it doesn’t. The mix of the two art styles isn’t necessarily all that pretty, but it does stand to reason that Nintendo would want to unite its disparate Mario RPG series instead of dividing resources on different games. I enjoy both Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario immensely, and even if I don’t get entirely used to the visual distraction of paper cutout characters interacting with 3D models and environments, I’m sure the action-based RPG action will hold my attention.
- Some of Nintendo’s other surprises were simultaneously disappointments, which we’ll talk about later, but I’m still not sure how I feel about Skylanders amiibo. In a partnership with Activision, Nintendo (or Activision) has created amiibo of a “turbocharged” Donkey Kong and Bowser with his iconic (?) hammer, exclusively for use with the Wii U version of the upcoming Skylanders Supercharged. The amiibo’s bases can be rotated so as to function with both the Skylander portal and Nintendo’s NFC technology. I’m hopelessly obsessed with the idea of amiibo, so I welcome the new figures into my fixation with Nintendo merchandise, but I also think the Skylander’s influence on their aesthetic cheapens them somewhat.
Austin Clark: Square Enix’s first E3 conference wasn’t paced very well and had a lot of known quantities, making it one of the weaker conferences of the show. However, that didn’t stop them from surprising me on a few occasions.
- Square loves mobile. There are Final Fantasy ports, original titles, puzzle games, music games and damn near everything else they can think of available on iOS. The thing is, I never once expected a new Kingdom Hearts game to grace smartphones and tablets. Kingdom Hearts Unchained may be just another cash grab, but with their rollercoaster track record on mobile devices, I think it actually has a chance to be good. And while it was a much lesser surprise, if Lara Croft Go is anywhere near as good as Hitman Go, I’m pretty psyched.
- Nier 2. Platinum Games. What more is there to say? Nier is one of those games from last generation that continually seeps into my memory every couple months, reminding me of how special it really is. It was overlooked and underappreciated when it first released, making a sequel seemingly impossible. Until now. Despite my undying love for FFVII and its newly announced remake, the craziness of a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter, or the absolutely jaw-dropping HoloLens demo, if we’re talking sheer surprise, the announcement of Nier 2 was something I never expected to see.
- In an age where Japanese games are struggling to find their place, Square Enix went out of their way to announce a brand new studio that’s working on a brand new, original JRPG, Project Setsuna. Sure, we barely got any info other than some concept art, but it still was shocking to see Square Enix seemingly make a stand and show they aren’t entirely focused on Western franchises or mobile game. It’s nice to see that they still care about what made them special in the first place: the JRPG.
So that’s what the Invisible Gamer crew thought about E3 2015’s biggest surprises; how about you? Let us know in the comments!