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Gaming Roundup – E3 2021 Roundup

Hello! Welcome to the Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, E3 happened! Plus all the latest releases!

E3 2021 – An Introduction

This year saw the return of E3. After last year saw the big industry trade show abruptly cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this year saw E3 return as a virtual show, with a series of live streams across the weekend.

It was accompanied by Geoff Keighley launching his Summer Games Fest around the same time, which brought its own set of announcements, which I will also include in this roundup of every bit of news from the past week.

Overall it was a bit of a messy show, with only the indie showcases and platform holder presentations really feeling like they knew what they were doing. This will become obvious as we cover the news here. So let’s get started.

Summer Games Fest

Geoff Keighley’s showcase was a mixed bag, with the vast majority of it being a long, drawn-out exercise in tedium, and a lack of understanding of pacing.

A lot of content updates were tossed around, from games such as Valorant, Call of Duty, Among Us and an excessively lengthy trailer for an expansion to Escape from Tarkov. There were trailers for games we already know a lot about, including Tales of Arise and Monster Hunter Stories 2, as well as a forced team game of Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance involving some WWE wrestlers.

We also got some real filler content. Ryan Reynolds showed up to show a trailer for his movie Free Guy, which has been delayed for a while now, but felt like it had no place on a gaming stage, despite the presence of streamers in its cast. There was a lengthy trailer for a new publisher – Prime Matter – that served as a preamble for a tedious Koch Media presentation the following day. Former CoD developers showed up to announce their new studio – Deviation Games – that otherwise had nothing to show for themselves. We also got to see some character models for Overwatch 2, although not much else.

Some solid indie showings though. Salt & Sacrifice is Dark Souls but 2D, and involves ripping hearts out of mages, apparently. Sky Children of the Light is an adorable game from Journey developers thatgamecompany, originally released on Apple Arcade but now coming to Switch. Endless Dungeon is a roguelike set in a space station, while Tribes of Midgard is a survival game with Vikings. And a personal favourite, Planet of Lana is an adorable side scroller seemingly set on an alien planet with a cute little buddy accompanying the player.

Other game announcements included the reveal of Jurassic World Evolution 2, the sequel to Frontier’s licensed dino park management sim. Vampire the Masquerade: Blood Hunt is a battle royale set in the world of every goth’s favourite tabletop RPG system, and raises questions about how much this game respects the “masquerade” of the title. The Anacrusis is Left 4 Dead on a spaceship, while Back 4 Blood is…just Left 4 Dead. And finally, the surprise announcement of Metal Slug Tactics got some old school SNK fans hyped, although there were likely just as many who just wanted another Metal Slug instead of a strategy game.

A personal highlight was the official reveal of Two Point Campus, the sequel to Sega’s Two Point Hospital. It’s basically the same game but set in a university this time, so instead of managing doctors you’re managing professors and instead of curing illnesses you’re teaching classes. Expect hijinks.

Evil Dead: The Game got a closer look, with Bruce Campbell narrating what appeared to be a Dead by Daylight clone with additional CPU zombies and more chainsawing. Could be an interesting one, but I imagine playing it with your friends would result in a lot of fights over who gets to play Ash.

Kojima called in to show off a trailer for Death Stranding: Director’s Cut. A trailer that heavily referenced Metal Gear with a warehouse full of patrolling guards, a tense stealth-themed soundtrack and Norman Reedus climbing into a box like he’s a cat. It made absolutely no sense but it was there I guess.

One major announcement was the reveal of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Springboarding off Borderlands 2’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, Wonderlands is a full-length game using the same idea – the character of Tiny Tina is running a DnD campaign full of wacky characters, and the entire concept of Borderlands is transferred into a fantasy world. Andy Samberg, Will Arnett and Wanda Sykes are confirmed cast members, with Ashly Burch off of Life is Strange and Horizon Zero Dawn reprising her role as Tiny Tina.

And of course, the big announcement of the night was the long-awaited full reveal of Elden Ring, the FromSoft collaboration with George RR Martin. It looks like a FromSoft game, with a mysterious protagonist, horrendous enemy designs where characters have far too many arms, and no doubt a bastard hard combat system. Also it has a horse that can run up cliffs. I have no idea. It’s also got a January release date, meaning it’ll be out before Winds of Winter. Assuming this doesn’t also get delayed.

Ubisoft Forward

The first proper E3 conference came from Ubisoft, who took some time off from preparing for their court appearances over their years of protecting sexual abusers to put together a showcase. It was dull. Don’t buy Ubisoft products.

If you must know, they announced Just Dance 2022, which apparently isn’t getting a Wii release and that’s a crime. Rocksmith+ is a subscription service resurrecting their gamified guitar instruction series. And then they had some film and TV stuff, with a new season of Mystic Quest and a new trailer for Werewolves Within shown.

They also showed Riders Republic, which is Steep with less snow. It looks clunky, but bro, you gotta get those stars. Also, they presented a multiplayer mode as if it was an innovation and not something Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater did 20 years ago.

Far Cry 6 was shown at multiple conferences, with Summer Games Fest seeing Geoff Keighley interviewing Giancarlo Esposito about his role as the villain, Xbox’s show presenting a gameplay demo (surprise! It’s a Far Cry game) and Ubisoft’s own show featuring a scene from the game while a developer who was channelling Ali G introduced DLC for a game that isn’t out until October. Stay classy, Ubisoft.

They also revealed Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, the sequel to a game that sounded terrible on paper but was absolutely brilliant in reality. It has Rabbid Rosalina, who is emo solely because of her haircut. I would be excited for this if it didn’t mean buying this would give money to sexual abusers. Nintendo should just take it off their hands. The Rayman/Rabbids IP too, while they’re at it.

They spent 15 minutes on Rainbow Six Extraction, which is a generic military shooter with generic alien enemies. It’s Rainbow Six but they’ve strayed quite far from Tom Clancy’s work. I suppose someone might be interested in it somewhere.

Their “one final thing” was an Avatar game. No, not The Last Airbender, I’d understand the enthusiasm for that project. I mean James Cameron’s Avatar, aka The Movie Made To Sell 3D Cameras, aka Dances with Wolves in space. The bland, uninspired property that thinks it’s more culturally important than it really is, so in other words, the perfect property for Ubisoft to be working on. It looks like Far Cry on Pandora. Get hype?

In conclusion, don’t give Ubisoft your money.

Xbox/Bethesda

Xbox, now with added Bethesda, put on one of the best shows of the entire weekend. It was trailer after trailer, with something for everyone and a pace that meant its 90-minute run-time felt like half of that. It was excellent.

First up, a lot of additions to existing games. Sea of Thieves getting a Pirates of the Caribbean collaboration! Grounded is getting a massive spider and SITTING! Flight Simulator is coming to Xbox consoles and is getting a Top Gun collaboration! Among Us is getting 15-player lobbies! Fallout 76 still exists!

In games making the move to Xbox, Hades is getting an Xbox release, while Diablo 2: Resurrected is an enhanced remake of the classic dungeon crawler.

A bunch of teasers for some new titles. Contraband is the team behind Just Cause seemingly making a game about smuggling black market goods in South America. Slime Rancher 2 exists and has giant bunny slimes. Atomic Heart sure is a game, and seemingly has a Russian Europop soundtrack. Party Animals is Gang Beasts with fur, and I’m not sure how legal it is.

In bigger releases, Shredders looks like a pretty neat snowboarding game out in December. Eiyuden Chronicle is a series of two RPGs from the looks of things, taking a lot of inspiration from Octopath Traveler, although it’ll be while until the main game releases in 2023. Age of Empires 4 has a release date (it’s in October). And finally, there was a lot of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl shown off, and as someone who never played the first game I have no idea what was happening but it seemed spooky.

And then there were some superb indie showings, all of which I’m into. 12 Minutes is a time loop mystery game which has been on my radar for a while, and now has a release date. Somerville is Inside but with a family caught up in what looks like an alien invasion. And Replaced is an insanely beautiful dystopian side scroller made of intricate pixel art that just looks like a blast.

The big announcement for me personally were seeing a lot more of Psychonauts 2, which looks like a lot more Psychonauts but bigger and prettier. Plus it’s out in the last week of August and I’ll be right there. And A Plague Tale: Requiem is the surprise sequel to the excellent Plague Tale: Innocence that looks like it’s moving our medieval siblings to the Mediterranean coast. I need it now, but it’s out next year.

Battlefield 2042 showed off a bunch of insane multiplayer nonsense. Normally I zone out at the military shooters, but this trailer seemed to be leaning into ridiculous multiplayer shenanigans, including grappling hooks, Jeeps driving off rooftops into helicopters and parachute jumps into sandstorms. It looks bonkers, and I appreciate how fun this trailer made it look.

Halo Infinite got a focus, and for a game that’s supposed to be Xbox’s flagship title this holiday, it sure seemed like a lot of CGI mock-ups rather than actual gameplay. Will be curious to see if this actually launches this year, but it will have free-to-play multiplayer available at launch whenever it is.

One brand new IP emerging from Xbox’s acquisition of Bethesda was Redfall, a new game from Arkane that looks kind of like a cartoony Left 4 Dead but now with vampires. The trailer was full of style and it’s got me intrigued, but I still need to see gameplay before I can pass judgement.

There were two Fallouts in space on show, with The Outer Worlds 2 teased with a very silly meta trailer about how they have nothing to show right now. And then there was the highly anticipated Starfield, which is coming next year as an Xbox exclusive, although that was also shown as a CGI trailer.

The most amount of time in the conference was dedicated to Forza Horizon 5, which is more car porn on top of scenery porn as the series has come to be known for. This time it’s in Mexico and you can smash through pinatas. I am actually kind of interested, may have to check this out when it releases.

Square Enix Presents

Square Enix had an utterly dire show, one that seemed to please few people, and generated a few memes in the process.

There was a lot of focus on Life is Strange, both the remaster of the first game and the new game True Colors, but this seemed weird to include as they’d already given a deep dive on this a while ago, and this showcase didn’t provide much new information. In fact, the only new information E3 provided on Life is Strange was the fact it’s coming to Switch as well, and that was saved for Nintendo’s show.

The new Platinum game, Babylon’s Fall, was also shown off, and proved to be a disappointment to anyone with even a passing interest in Platinum’s past work. The combat looked a little stodgy, the visuals were aiming for a painted look but instead just looked fuzzy, and then the words “live service” immediately killed any interest I could have had in the project. Which is a shame.

Square’s Tomb Raider studios are now apparently mediocre Marvel studios if this show was any indication. Crystal Dynamics are keeping Avengers on life support, promising to keep the hero numbers going up while the player numbers continue to drop. Meanwhile, Eidos Montreal, the Deus Ex studio who got Tomb Raider forced upon them when CD started on Avengers, has now also had a Marvel property forced on them with a Guardians of the Galaxy game. The combat looks exactly like Avengers, you can only play as Star Lord instead of the whole team, and they still have the problem where every character looks like a stunt double of the MCU cast.

And then their last announcement was Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, which is the original Final Fantasy title fed through whatever filter every PS3/360 era game got fed through in the late 2000s. It stars Gruff McBuzzcut (may not be his real name) and his pink-haired anime boy sidekick as they overcome their clashing art directions to find and kill Chaos, something the trailer made abundantly clear with how much the name Chaos was grunted out in between clips of ol’ Gruff headbutting wolves. It looks laughably edgy but the gameplay might still be fun maybe?

Nintendo Direct

Nintendo finally showed up to show everybody else (except Xbox) how to put on an E3 show. Another snappy show with a lot to show for itself, this Nintendo Direct almost certainly had something for everyone.

There was inevitably a brief look at Mario Golf: Super Rush again, which checks out because it’s out next week. It’s a Mario Golf game, and Nintendo also urged the audience to “smack your balls” which seems wildly inappropriate for a company like them to be saying.

A lot of Switch ports got announced, including Worms Rumble, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 and Strange Brigade. Fatal Frame (aka Project Zero) Maiden of Black Water is the latest Wii U title to get moved to the Switch, although with it being the weakest in the series I’d prefer the original trilogy getting a remaster personally. And the Danganronpa series is getting a collection on the Switch, which also includes some weird board game spin-off.

Speaking of board game spin-offs, a new Mario Party is on the way, with Mario Party Superstars bringing back a selection of classic boards and, unlike the last game, is getting online play from the start. For more returning silliness, Cruis’n Blast is the latest game in the long-running arcade racing series that seemingly no one has heard of. And Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a remastered collection of classic Monkey Ball stages developed by…Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio??? The…the Yakuza guys? But why?

Speaking of returning favourites, one surprise announcement was Advance Wars 1+2, a remake of the first two Advance Wars titles from the GBA, a strategy series with a devoted fanbase who’ve been mourning a lack of new game for years. I’m pleased for them.

Also seeing a surprise return is WarioWare, the bonkers series where Wario sets up a business developing “microgames”. WarioWare: Get It Together looks set to have a multiplayer focus and replayability through using different characters for the same stages. Should be suitably weird as always.

Shin Megami Tensei 5 got a significant focus, looking very much like the parent series of the Persona franchise. It has an androgynous protagonist, a lot of demons to fight and, now, a release date.

But enough about that. One of the most exciting bits of news from the show was the reveal of Metroid Dread, which is out in only a few months. It’s a new 2D Metroid, co-developed by the studio that made Samus Returns for the 3DS, and is a project that’s been in planning since 2005, with two separate cancellations during its time on the drawing board. But now it’s here and it looks incredibly cool, with weird robot creatures that can only be stealthily avoided rather than confronted directly. I’m excited!

I’m also excited by the announcement that Kazuya Mishima from Tekken is going to be in Smash Bros Ultimate as the latest fighter DLC. While Heihachi would have been the expected choice, Kazuya is still a logical one as a character who’s been central to the lore and has appeared in almost every game to date. As someone who has hugely enjoyed the Tekken series, this is exciting news, and more than anything I want to see what soundtrack choices have been picked to accompany him.

Finally, the show ended with a bunch of Zelda news to tie in with the series anniversary this year. This included some Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity DLC and a reminder that Skyward Sword HD is out soon, but there were two other announcements. For a start, there’s a Zelda Game & Watch containing the first two NES titles and the Game Boy version of Link’s Awakening, along with the game everybody wanted: the Game & Watch game Vermin with Link as the main character! But seriously though, they also showed more of Breath of the Wild 2 which looks to be adding sky cities and time manipulation. Interesting.

And that was E3! Phew that was a lot.

New Releases

New Releases

And there are still releases to get through! For a start, this is a good week for people who weren’t happy with New Pokémon Snap alone for taking pictures of cute little beasts. Alekon (PC) and Beasts of Maravilla Island (PC, Switch) both got surprise E3 releases and both of them are exploration games where the aim of the game is to take pictures of the creatures you find. Alekon also adds in a bunch of minigames and methods to befriend the animals too, while Maravilla Island offers lush island environments to explore.

For some shorter indie experiences, there are a few choices available for PC this week. Clawfish is a game about hooking fish out of a claw machine on the dock. Luna’s Fishing Garden is a small fishing game about building a garden and helping spirits. Hot Pot for One is a simulation game about being alone on Christmas Eve in a foreign company and preparing a lot of food for yourself to help get through it.

Lumberhill (PC) is a wacky party game where players take on the role of lumberjacks trying to get their jobs done while nature fights them the entire way. Expect chaos.

Red Solstice 2: Survivors (PC) is a real-time strategy game centred around an elite team trying to take down mutants in the midst of a viral infection that threatens mankind. It’s all fairly standard stuff for the genre, but should hopefully please fans of the genre.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week this week is Minute of Islands, a puzzle platformer set in a magical archipelago.

You play as a tinkerer named Mo who sets out on a journey to revive a series of machines that used to belong to ancient giants, in an attempt to avoid an incoming calamity.

It’s got a gorgeous hand-drawn art style and promises an emotional story about what it means to do the right thing, and it looks incredibly interesting. It’s available for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One.

And that’s it for this week’s Gaming Roundup! If you’re looking for the esports roundup, Mat will now be bringing that news to you in his own post, so keep an eye on the site on Monday! For more general news and releases though, I’ll see you next week!

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