Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Monster Boy Review

Monster Boy is a game I played back in winter, but I'm just now getting around to reviewing it. Normally, I review games shortly after finishing them, but in this case, I've come to appreciate this game more the longer I've had time to reflect on it.

Monster Boy is a hand-drawn 2D Metroidvania game and is a successor to Sega's Wonder Boy series. Throughout the game, the player character increases his ability to explore the environment by learning to transform into various animals. Each animal offers new traversal abilities such as crawling through tight spaces, swimming, or flying.

  • The animation and artwork are gorgeous and impressively detailed. Each of the animal forms of the hero feels like they could be a main character in a kid's cartoon and even background NPCs have a distinct sense of personality.
  • In addition to being cute and charming, the different animal forms are a lot of fun to use. The game provides you with ample uses for each one and switching between them is a snappy process. I had so much fun changing between the animal forms, I was actually a little bummed out when I gained the ability to turn back into a human (i.e. the lamest animal).
  • Most Metroidvania games are content to provide a mix of exploration, platforming challenges, and light combat. Monster Boy adds an extra layer of depth by incorporating environmental puzzles into each area. I thought this was a great addition to the standard genre formula even though there were some situations where it wasn't clear what I was supposed to do next.
  • Compared to any other Metroidvania I've played, the game world of Monster Boy is absolutely massive. In fact, it took me over 24 hours to finish this game's campaign; a little over twice as long as any other game I've played in this genre. While I'm glad it wasn't any longer than that, I feel like it kept things interesting for pretty much its entire running time.
  • The story of this game is nothing particularly interesting but it does a good job of introducing the player to the world of Wonder Boy (which I had no prior experience with). I also got a good chuckle out of some of the dialog.
  • I finished this game back in March and I still find myself humming some of its music. Monster Boy has a very strong soundtrack.
When I went to Best Buy to pick up a copy of Monster Boy, I initially balked at the $40 price tag, a heftier price than I've ever paid for a game of this type before. However, after seeing the level of polish in this game's presentation and gameplay, as well as the sheer amount of content on offer, I'm really glad I was able to get over the sticker shock! I think anyone who considers themselves a fan of the Metroidvania genre owes it to themselves to give Monster Boy a shot.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 24 hours, 33 minutes (78.5% completion)

Note: This post is part of the #Blaugust2019 event held by Tales of the Aggronaut. In fact, this year's Blaugust marks the third birthday of this blog! For more info about Blaugust, check out this article.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Final Fantasy 13 Review

In my quest to play every Final Fantasy game, I was particularly excited to try Final Fantasy 13 because it's one of the most divisive entries in the series. Now that I've finished the game, I can see why that is: even my own feelings on 13 are very conflicted.

Final Fantasy 13 presents a distillation of modern Final Fantasy: the game is broken into 13 chapters, each of which consists of battles, cut scenes, and short walks in between. The level design is almost completely linear with little opportunity for exploration. There are no NPCs, towns, and very limited side quests. 

The bright side of this linearity is that that for the first 10 chapters of the campaign, the game always knows exactly which items, characters, and abilities you have at any given moment. This makes for well-balanced boss battles that are challenging and strategic yet require no grinding or item farming to come out on top. This linear design also makes the pacing of the game feel fairly quick since you're always making forward progress in the campaign. The negative side of the linear structure is that once you've fought every possible permutation of a given area's enemies, the gameplay is essentially a rinse and repeat cycle until you reach the chapter boss. As a result, I found myself excited to start a new chapter to see a new area and encounter a new mix of enemies (as well as advance the plot), only to start getting bored around the chapter midpoint as the game became repetitive again.

In Chapter 11, the game attempts to change things up by introducing a few non-linear areas to explore. This initially feels very freeing and dovetails nicely with the game's themes of free will and fate (more on that later). Unfortunately, this freedom comes at a heavy cost to the game's pacing and balance. The non-linear areas introduce the opportunity to take on sidequests in the form of hunts (i.e. taking down a specific type of enemy). The problem with this is, after spending 35 hours to get to this point (much of which was spent in battle), the prospect of taking on entirely combat-based sidequests was not particularly appealing to me. Since the non-linear areas and sidequests increase opportunities for grinding, the game makes enemies, especially bosses, extra spongey going forward to compensate. This dragged battles out and slowed the game's pacing to a crawl. By the time I neared the end Chapter 11, I was so burnt out that I ended up dropping the game difficulty to Easy and activating a few cheats to shorten or skip battles so that I could speed through the rest of the game and get to the ending.

Regarding the battle system itself, FF13 uses an interesting sped up variant of the Active Time Battle (ATB) system from previous games in the series in conjunction with a unique take on class-based strategy. The AI controls all but one character in the party, so much of the control the player has comes in the form of mid-battle character class changes (think a fusion of FF10-2 and FF12). By changing between different sets of classes called Paradigms, your party can switch between offensive and defensive tactics nearly instantaneously. Observing the enemy to time your tactical transitions and selecting the right combinations of classes for your Paradigms is the core of the battle strategy. The game initially restricts the characters and abilities you can use, which makes battles feel kind of dull, but once the combat system opens up (in about the 3rd chapter), I found this system to be one of the most engaging in the series, at least for the first 35 hours or so. 

Spending so much time with this battle system got me thinking: With a timing and speed-based ATB system, is rapidly navigating combat menus really all that different from an action-based system? I wonder if a similar line of thinking is what lead the FF series to true action combat in later entries such as 15 and 7R. The other thing that struck me is that the way this game focuses heavily on combat and gives you a star rating after each encounter, I couldn't help but be reminded of Mobius Final Fantasy, which debuted smartphones a few years after the release of this game.

Final Fantasy 13's other system is its character upgrade system. Instead of earning XP and money from battle, spoils come in the form of crystal points (CP) and crafting materials. CP is a pretty straight forward system that unlocks stat increases and abilities along a skill tree for each characters' classes (similar to Final Fantasy 10). Crafting, however, is a needlessly fiddly system that involves dumping monster claws and minerals and such into your weapons to level them up. Often this involves using hundreds of craft items or combining them via trial and error to see what yields the most upgrade points. Using crafting materials in a suboptimal manner could mean having to grind for more crafting material later on to fully upgrade a handful of your preferred weapons in preparation for the endgame. I found this to be so tedious that I largely avoided it for most of the game. When I broke down and used cheats in Chapter 11, I gave myself unlimited crafting supplies so that I could knock out all the upgrading in one shot and not have to deal with it again.

Artistic Qualities:
Final Fantasy 13 drops you straight into the story with very little in-game explanation of what's going on. The game also throws lots of jargon at you from the get-go. The game's way of bringing the player up to speed is that after every cutscene, a "datalog" in unlocked within the menu screen. These text documents explain the backstory of each character, define terminology, and provide context for the story. I can't really decide how I feel about this "watch the lecture and then do the homework" format. Would I have preferred lengthy scenes of characters standing around explaining things to each other, or an omniscient narrator offering context before each story beat? Not really, but I still have to image a more elegant solution exists.

The crux of the story is that our heroes have been tasked by a god-like being to destroy the world; if they fail to comply they will be turned into mindless zombies. From there the characters spend the rest of the adventure struggling with their fate while on the run from the authorities that are aware of their divinely-assigned task. Each of the game's six characters also has their own personal struggles that cover topics such as family discord, prejudice, and revenge. The characters are fairly one-note and the execution of both the larger and smaller stories can be pretty clumsy at times, but I still found myself generally invested in each cutscene and interested to see what would happen next.

In terms of aesthetics, Final Fantasy 13 is visually and aurally stunning. Even though this game is nearly a decade old, it offers some incredible vistas in-engine and pre-rendered cutscenes that I could only describe as resplendent. I never would have guessed I'd be mashing the F12 (screenshot) key nearly so frequently in a game of this age. The music may be less varied than some earlier Final Fantasies, but the main pieces that play throughout the game sound great and this game's battle theme stands as one of my favorites in the series.

Final Fantasy 13 presents itself as a streamlined Final Fantasy experience but still takes over 50 hours to complete. The combat, graphics, and music are all high quality and could have easily sustained a 20-30 hour game, but are just not substantial enough to keep a game of 13's length engaging the whole way through (as evidenced by the shortcuts I felt compelled to take). As a Final Fantasy fan, I felt like playing this game was still a worthwhile experience and would recommend that other fans give it a shot with an open mind. However, to general RPG fans, I'm not sure Final Fantasy 13 offers what they would be looking for.

Completion Time: 54 hours

Note: With this game completed, I now only have Final Fantasies 1, 2, 14, and 15 left. I will likely play 1 next since I like to alternate between retro and modern entries. At this point, I'm not sure if/when I'll play the direct sequels to FF13. I would be curious to hear what readers who have played the FF13 sequels think of them.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Cris Tales Impressions

 As I had mentioned in one of my E3 posts, one of the games that came out of nowhere and caught my eye was the indie RPG, Cris Tales. Since a demo became available on Steam during the expo, I made a point of downloading it and giving it a shot while it was still fresh on my mind.


Cris Tales is a turn-based RPG in which the main character, Crisbell, works to prevent a calamity from striking her town by using her powers as a Time Mage. Cris can see the past, present, and future at once and manipulate one time period to affect the others. This ability can be used during combat as well as during interactions with NPCs and the environment.

  • I love this game's art style. It's a nice hybrid of anime and the illustrations in a kid's storybook. The way the game visually divides the different time periods on a screen is a pretty neat effect. The game also does a good job of working its 2D designs into 3D environments.
  • The animation looked a little choppy. I'm not sure if this is a style choice or a limitation of this early build of the game. I have a fast PC and was running the game on the low settings, so I don't think it was a performance issue.
  • Combat is turn-based but also allows for timing-based button inputs to get critical hits (similar to the Paper Mario series). I think this has the potential to make battles more engaging, but I found the timing to be hard to judge. This may be due to the choppy animation.
  • Using the time manipulation powers could lead to a lot of interesting possibilities in the full game. At one point in the demo, Cris sees that two NPCs homes will collapse in the future but only has the resources to save one of them with her time powers. The game makes it clear that who you choose to help will have consequences later. I'm curious to see how this will play out in the full game and what the true scope and impacts of decisions will be.
  • In battle, the use of the time powers is usually pretty straight forward. Against standard enemies, you can increase or decrease their age to make them weaker. The boss in the demo, however, exhibits puzzle-like elements in battle. In this case, the foe is wearing impenetrable iron armor, but if you get it wet and move forwards in time, it will rust, making the enemy vulnerable. I'm interested to see what other kinds of time puzzles the full game will incorporate into boss battles.
  • I had mixed feels about the story and dialog. Some of writing was entertaining, but I kind of felt like the characters were over-explaining things or talking down to the player. However, since this game seems to be going for a kid-friendly vibe, it could just be that I'm much older than the target audience for this game. Cut scenes are fully voiced but sounded a little stilted. I suspect this is because the game requires the player to press a button after each line of dialog, which adds extra pauses (Octopath Traveler had a similar issue). An auto-play option in cutscenes would definitely be nice.
  • I played this demo on PC, but I think this game would be a good fit for Switch, so that will probably be my platform of choice if I end up getting the full game when it releases.
I came away from this hour-long demo really impressed by its art and intrigued by the possibilities its mechanics present. While I have some reservations about the story, I think it could improve as the game progresses.  Cris Tales is slated to come out sometime in 2020, so I'll be sure to check in on it again then.

If you're interested in trying the demo of Cris Tales for yourself, you can find it on the game's Steam page.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Four Job Fiesta 2019

It's almost time for one of my favorite annual gaming events, the Four Job Fiesta! I am very excited to announce that I will be participating once again this year! For the uninitiated, the Four Job Fiesta is a charity event in which participants play through Final Fantasy 5 and raise money for Child’s Play. The Fiesta uses a bot to randomly assign character classes to each player’s party which ups the difficulty and makes for some fascinating improvised strategies. For this year's campaign I'll be playing the mobile version of FF5. This will allow me take care of the grinding during my lunch break at work and then stream the bigger game moments once or twice per week on my Twitch channel using my brand new capture card! I will also be writing periodic blog posts on my Fiesta campaign progress, especially whenever I get assigned a new character class.

Leading up to my first stream of the Fiesta on June 18th, I will be holding the 3rd Annual "Name My Butz" charity auction! The highest bidder at the end of the auction will get the privilege of picking a new name for my player character for this year's campaign! (I'm sure you can come up with a better name than his default name, Butz.) By the time this post is up, the auction will be open. To submit a bid, send me a DM on Twitter with the amount you'd like to donate. The winner of the auction and new name for my character will be announced at the start of my Twitch stream on June 18th. This stream will feature the beginning gameplay of FF5 and we'll also find out which class the bot assigns to me first! For my charitable contribution this year, I will donate a dollar for each hour it takes to complete the campaign.

Last year my campaign raised $75 for Child's Play. This year, let's shoot for $100!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

E3 2019 Highlights: Nintendo

It's a good thing Nintendo gets the whole day to itself; there was so much going on in their presentation! I attempted to live tweet this show like I did with the others and it was almost impossible to keep up.

 This was the conference I was most looking forward to, and I gotta say, it did not disappoint!
  • Dragon Quest DLC for Smash Bros Ultimate - The protagonists from several past Dragon Quest games will be playable in Smash. I recognized the heroes from DQ 3, 8, and 11 in the preview. Nintendo's mashup fighter certainly isn't lacking for sword-wielding RPG characters in its roster, but it's still nice to see a classic like DQ get recognized. (trailer)
  •  Luigi's Mansion 3 - We already knew this game was coming, so this was more of an update. The kid-friendly survival horror game (yes, you read that right) will take place in a haunted hotel and will offer the option to play through the game in co-op mode. There's also a separate 8-player mode. While the release date is "2019" there has been no confirmation that the game will come out in time for #HorrorGameOct. (trailer)
  • The Dark Crystal Tactics - This one really came out of left field! It's a tactical RPG based on the Jim Hensen fantasy film and upcoming Netflix series. I would have never seen this coming. (trailer)
  • Link's Awakening - While this remake of the Gameboy game was revealed previously at a Nintendo Direct, in this presentation we learned that it will include a dungeon editor! Between this and Mario Maker 2, there will be a lot of room for creativity in upcoming Nintendo games. (trailer)
  • Trials of Mana and Mana Collection - The previously Japan-only sequel to Secret of Mana is getting remade and released internationally. It looks like a really vibrant 3D action RPG. The original version of the game is being released via the Mana Collection. This series has been on my "Gaming Shames" list for a while, so I need to get around to playing at least one of the Mana games. Looks like I have options. (trailer)
  • The Witcher 3 - I had heard rumors of this game coming to Switch previously and found them very hard to believe. Looks like those rumors were right on the money! While I've already played through the game on PC, it's nice that it'll be available to a whole new audience. Graphically, it's very clear some major sacrifices had to be made to get this game to run on Switch. Hopefully, the core experience of this great RPG is still intact. (trailer)
  •  Fire Emblem Three Houses - We've already seen a lot of this game since it's coming out so soon (and besides, I've already pre-ordered it). This trailer mostly showed cinematics but it also revealed that there will be a time travel mechanic similar to other recent Fire Emblem games. (trailer)
  • No More Heroes 3 - I've been waiting for a proper part three to this insane action game series since the Wii! In a scene in the trailer, Travis appeared to be flying in some sort of mech. Very interesting. (trailer)
  • Panzer Dragoon Remake - The Sega Saturn's answer to Star Fox is getting a remake. I absolutely loved the third entry in the series, Panzer Dragoon Orta, on OG Xbox and later went back to the original two games via Saturn emulation. It'll be nice to play an official and enhanced version of the original; it looks great! It was such a pleasant surprise to see this dormant property again! (trailer)
  • Astral Chain - The more I see of this game, the more I like it. In addition to character-action game combat (like Devil May Cry), it also features explorable environment and motorcycle shooter segments. I also really like the art style. I'm tempted to pre-order this one but may wait for reviews just in case since this is an unproven franchise. (trailer)
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 - As I've said before, I'm pretty burnt out on Marvel, but I can totally see the appeal of this game as it gathers up a huge roster of characters from the comics (many of which have never been depicted together in movies) and drops them into a multiplayer beat'em up. It could be a lot of fun with the right group. (trailer)
  • Cadence of Hyrule - This Zelda cross-over with Crypt of the Necrodancer is coming out on Thursday! I'm hesitant on this one because I really struggled with the Rouge-like aspects of Necrodancer. Since they only showed a brief trailer, I guess we'll have to wait to find out if they changed the mechanics from Necrodancer to make it more forgiving for Zelda fans. (trailer)
  • Animal Crossing New Horizons - Fans have been waiting a long time for this and unfortunately they're going to have to wait until March 2020 to play it. This entry involves traveling to a deserted island and offers local two-player co-op on the same system. (trailer)
  • Banjo Kazooie in Smash - Nintendo announced another new Smash character, Banjo Kazooie! I liked the way they faked the audience out by initially showing the dog from Duck Hunt standing in a Banjo-like pose. I'm surprised there's so much demand for this character considering that there haven't been a new Banjo platformer since N64. (trailer)
  • The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild sequel - This was the big surprise at the end of the show, a teaser trailer for the next mainline Zelda game. The trailer prominently featured Princess Zelda in an active role that I'm hoping is hinting that she will be a playable character. The tone of the trailer was dark and mysterious, reminding me of Majora's Mask, which is one of my favorites. It'll likely be several years before this game comes out, but I'm already excited for it. (trailer)
Dragon Warriors in Smash
Luigi's Mansion 3
Luigi's Mansion 3 co-op
Dark Crystal Tactics
Link's Awakening

Link's Awakening "Color Dungeon"

Link's Awakening dungeon editor
Trials of Mana
Witcher 3
Fire Emblem Three Houses

No More Heroes 3
Panzer Dragoon Remake
Astral Chain
Astral Chain
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
Animal Crossing New Horizon
Banjo Kazooie in Smash
Breath of the Wild sequel

E3 2019 Highlights: Ubisoft & Square Enix

While there were a total of seven E3 presentations today, I decided to focus on the two that tend to deliver consistently good shows, and even more importantly, consistently good games: Ubisoft and Square Enix.

Here's what stood out to me from the Monday conferences:

Having set the bar so high in previous years, this show felt like a little bit of a letdown. Most of it focused on games in the Tom Clancy franchise, which is not really my thing, but I'm sure this was very exciting to fans of those games. Thus only a few parts of Ubi's presentation really spoke to me:
  •  Watchdogs Legion - The new Watchdogs is set in a cyberpunk future London. While the basic gameplay looks like GTA with hacking, this game boasts an interesting system in which you can recruit and switch between a wide variety of characters. The assassin granny, was of course, the most amusing. Ubi stated that this game has permadeath (i.e. you can't revive a character once they've been killed) which seems like a shame since I think I would want to keep my favorite characters in my queue the whole time. (preview)
  • Brawlhalla Adventure Time DLC - Finn and Jake are coming to the Smash Bros-like fighter, Brawlhalla. I briefly played some of this game at Momocon, and I could definitely see the Adventure Time characters fitting right in. (trailer)
  • Just Dance 2020 - While I haven't played any of the Just Dance games, I like that Ubi always announces the new ones with a live dance performance. Also, this game is coming to all the typical platforms... and also Wii! Can you believe it, a brand new game for the Nintendo Wii in 2019?! (dance performance)
  • Uplay+ - Similar to Microsoft's Game Pass, Ubi is offering a new subscription that gives you access to 100+ games and each of their new games as they're released on PC. The games can either be downloaded or played via the Google Stadia streaming service. At $15/month, it seems a little pricey.
  • Roller Champions - A colorful futuristic sports game that reminded me a lot of the sport played in Battle Angel Alita. I'm not big on sports games, but I liked the stylized look and friendly tone of what they showed. (trailer
  • Gods & Monsters - It's a shame this game got such a brief tease. It's an absolutely gorgeous action adventure game that appears to be based on Greek mythology from the studio that makes Assassin's Creed. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this one in the future. (trailer)
Square Enix
As one of my all-time favorite game publishers, I always look forward to Square's conference. They crammed a lot into this presentation! I found myself wishing that they had given each game a little more time to breathe, but there was definitely a lot of good stuff on display.
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake - They came right out with the big guns! The main focus of this part of the presentation was to not only showcase the graphics, but also explain how the combat system works. During battle, regular attacks are executed in real time like an action game in order to build up an ability meter. Special moves consume this meter and can be executed in either turn-based menu-driven style (like in the original FF7) or in real time using button commands. A boss battle showed during the demonstration also showed the the player can use the environment as cover to avoid enemy attacks. Square also said that FF7R will be a series of games rather than a single release; the first game will take place entirely in Midgar. I wasn't especially hyped for this remake before, but now I'm definitely on board! (trailer)
  • Dragon Quest 11 S - The Switch version of DQ11 really does seem to be the most complete version of the game. Both the 2D and 3D art style options looked really good. My backlog is rapidly growing out of control, but this may be the game that pulls me back into Dragon Quest after being away for many years. (trailer)
  • Romancing Saga 3 and Saga Scarlet Grace Ambitions - These two previously Japan-only RPGs are coming to the West! While these are both older titles, it's always nice to get newly localized JRPGs. The only part of the Saga series I've played is Saga Frontier on the PS1. I'm curious to hear about how these are in comparison. (trailer)
  • Final Fantasy 14 Shadow Bringer - This expansion to the MMO Final Fantasy sounded intriguing with its concept of finding balance between the forces of light and darkness (typically all the other games in the series only focus on the Warriors of Light). Even though I'm not into MMOs, I will play at least a little of FF14 in my quest to play every numbered Final Fantasy game. (trailer)
  • War of the Visions - This mobile game may be inspired by Final Fantasy Brave Exvius but the gameplay looks more like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. It also seems like it has some interesting lore. Perhaps this will the Square mobile RPG that'll finally get its hooks into me. (trailer)
  • Outriders - A change-up from Square's typical far, this co-op shooter that appears to also involve magic could be interesting.  (trailer)
  • Avengers - I may be kind of burnt out on Marvel's superheroes from all the recent movies, but this is a game from the developers of my beloved Tomb Raider, so it has my attention. There was little shown of the gameplay, but the cinematics were interesting because this an original depiction of the Marvel characters rather than being based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also of note, they appear to be excluding Hawkeye from the Avengers team. While I know some people are big fans of that character, from a gameplay standpoint, he'd likely be the least exciting to play. (trailer)
PC Gaming
I didn't watch this conference, but a few interesting games were pointed out to me by folks on Twitter that I figured I might as well highlight. If you're interested in a full recap of what was shown at this conference, I recommend this article from Venture Beat.
  • Cris Tales - A turn-based RPG about time travel that reminds me in some ways of Chrono Trigger. I really like the art style they used for the characters. There's a demo out on Steam that I'm looking forward to trying. (trailer)
  • Vampire the Mascarade Bloodlines 2 - My streamer pal, Bogus Meat Factory, brought this game to my attention. A first-person RPG with a gothic vampire setting could be an interesting break from the typical fantasy settings we usually see in the genre. (trailer)
  • Shenmue 3 - As a fan of this series, this game has, of course, been on my radar for quite some time (I backed the Kickstarter years ago). Seeing more gameplay was nice and we got confirmation that the game would be releasing this year. It was also announced that the PC version would be exclusive to the Epic Game Store rather than Steam, contrary to what had previously been stated. While I don't have a strong preference for one game launcher versus another, I can still understand why some fans are upset about this sudden change. (trailer)
Watchdogs Legion
Brawlhalla Adventure Time DLC
Just Dance 2020
Roller Champions
Gods & Monsters
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Final Fantasy 14 Shadow Bringers
Romancing Saga 3

Monday, June 10, 2019

E3 2019 Highlights: Microsoft & Bethesda

E3 has only just begun and there have already been some pretty exciting announcements! Since these conferences tend to be jam-packed with far more info than I could ever accurately summarize. , I'll be rounding up my personal highlights from each presentation.

Here's what stood out to me from the first two major press conferences of E3 2019:

Even though I haven't owned an Xbox since the OG, I always watch Microsoft's presentation because it tends to cover a broad range of games and their announcements tend to have far-reaching implications on the rest of the game industry. This year was no different.
  •  Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order - The gameplay looked like it could be a lot of fun. I liked that you get to ride in an AT-AT (a quadrupedal mech) at one point. Star Wars games tend to appeal most to me when they offer vehicle combat since on-foot sword and gunplay are so common in other video games. The protagonist of Fallen Order seemed incredibly bland, however. I'll still keep my eye on this one. (trailer)
  • Cyberpunk - This new RPG from CDProjekt, makers of The Witcher, made another appearance, this time showing off more story but only a tiny glimpse of gameplay. The real highlight of this was the announcement that Keanu Reeves would be playing a character in the game. He even appeared on stage to make the announcement himself! (trailer)
  • RPG Time - I'm not entirely clear on what this game is, but it has a really cool handmade visual style that reminds me of Yoshi's Crafted World. It seems to be an RPG about a person making an RPG? (trailer)
  •  Xbox Game Pass for PC - Microsoft announced that the new PC version of Game Pass would include over 100 games and that the first month would only cost a dollar! I signed up immediately. I'm hoping that most of their upcoming first and second party games will premier on both the PC and Xbox version of the software at the same time.
  • Psychonauts 2 - While this game is a known quantity, and looks like exactly what you'd expect from a sequel to the original, the big part of this part of the show was the announcement that Microsoft has acquired Double Fine studios! It's nice that they won't have to rely on Kickstarter any more for funding but I hope their creative freedom doesn't become limited as a result of the deal. (trailer)
  • 12 Minutes - It appeared to be a narrative-driven puzzle game in which the player travels back in time to avoid catastrophe. Looping through the same sequence over and over but getting different outcomes based on the player's choices made it seem like Groundhog's Day the video game. Seems like it has potential. (trailer)
  • Forza Horizon 4 Lego Expansion - This was another big surprise, an expansion that turns the otherwise realistic Forza into a Lego racing game! In a call back to a previous Forza presentation, they unveiled a race car on stage that was entirely made of Lego bricks! I'm looking forward to trying this on Game Pass when it comes out on June 13th. (trailer)
  • Tales of Arise - The newest entry in the Tales series of action RPGs looks gorgeous! I've only played Tales of Symphonia for GameCube, so this is light years ahead of my experience with this franchise. The world looked very lush and combat very fast-paced. (trailer)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 - While this MMO has been available for several years in Japan, Microsoft will be the ones to bring it to the West. I don't know much about Phantasy Star and I'm typically not into MMOs, but what I saw in this trailer reminded me a lot of one of my favorite RPG franchise, Xenoblade, so I'm definitely curious to know more. Supposedly the game will be free-to-play, so there's a good chance I'll give it a shot. (trailer)
  • Xbox Project Scarlett and Halo Infinite - The new Xbox system was formally announced and it boasts 120 FPS framerates and 8K resolution. They also announced that the system will launch with the newest game in the Halo series, Halo Infinite. While I'm not entirely sold on the system based on specs alone (I still haven't even switched to 4K yet!), a new Halo game could be pretty exciting and I think it's wise for Microsoft to use it as a launch title. Both the game and system are coming out late next year. (trailer)
Much of Bethesda's show was devoted to online or mobile games that aren't really my thing. However, the handful of things that caught my interest have me really intrigued.
  • Ghostwire Tokyo - A horror action-adventure game from the makers of Evil Within. Only a cinematic trailer was shown, but a paranormal mystery set in Tokyo seems like it could be pretty interesting. I also have to give a lot of credit to the game's director, Ikumi Nakamura. Not only is she making her directorial debut with an ambitious-sounding game, but she explained the game's premise live in front of a global audience in English, which is clearly not her first language. She did a great job and definitely has guts! (trailer)
  • Commander Keen - This long dormant franchise is making its return as a mobile game. I doubt the game will be for me, but it was certainly surprising to hear the name Commander Keen come up at E3 2019! (trailer)
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood - Bethesda showed a cinematic trailer of this first-person shooter last year, but this year we got to see much more gameplay. The co-op aspect of it looks particularly interesting. This game is supposedly coming to Nintendo Switch in addition to PC, PS4, and X1; I'm very curious to see how it runs on a technically limited platform. Switch is usually my preferred co-op platform, but I'm not sure it can do a graphically-demanding game like this justice. (trailer)
  • Deathloop - A mysterious new game from the maker's of Dishonored. This appeared to be another game with a Groundhog's Day-esque premise. If the level design ends up being anything like Dishonored, I'm definitely interested. (trailer)
  • Orion - This isn't a game, it's some sort of technology used to optimize games for streaming/cloud gameplay. They did a live demonstration of it being used to play Doom 2016 on a cellphone. If it's actually capable of playing a fast-paced game like Doom on a phone in normal network conditions, that's very impressive.
  • Doom Eternal - There was much more gameplay showed off the next Doom, and it looks like exactly what I want: a continuation of Doom 2016. This game will also feature a multiplayer mode in which two players will control demons to try to take down a lone player controlling the Doom Slayer. It's an interesting concept but I could see it being difficult to balance. (trailer)

Keanu Reeves presenting Cyberpunk
RPG Time
Forza Horizon 4 Lego Expansion

Tales of Arise
Phantasy Star Online 2
Halo Infinite
Ikumi Nakamura presenting Ghostwire Tokyo
Ghostwire Tokyo
Commander Keen
Wolfenstein Youngblood
Doom 2016 running on a phone via Orion
Doom Eternal