E3 2018 Day 1: The Highs and Lows from EA, Bethesda, and Xbox
Now that E3 2018 day 1 (technically day 1 and 2) are in the books, we look at the highs and lows from the three big opening shows.
Although E3 2018 doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, June 12, thanks to a series of special events and presentations we might as well just say that it’s already underway. And this year, it started earlier than ever.
In previous years the Monday before the show was considered the press day, but that has gradually shifted to Sunday, then even Saturday as Electronic Arts wanted to get a jump on everyone else. That may lead to a few confusing headlines, but for the sake of clarity let’s just assume the Saturday and Sunday events are all one day. Cool? Cool.
So on the first day of E3 2018, we saw the roadmap for EA, Xbox, and Bethesda. The others, including Sony and Ubisoft are still on the way, but the weekend had plenty of big moments that had people screaming, and a few that had us shaking our heads.
With that in mind, we look at the highs and lows of E3 2018 day 1 (or technically day one and two if you want to be specific). And for a look at what’s still to come and where to watch the events live, you can find those here.
First, a look at the overall highs and lows:
Highs: Microsoft’s Xbox E3 2018 Event
In years past, Microsoft’s Xbox show has underwhelmed, at least in comparison to Sony. And when you’re looking at Microsoft in this context, it’s impossible to not compare the two.
Microsoft’s shows have never been bad, not really, but they often fail to generate significant enthusiasm. There’s also been some confusion on the tone. People don’t come to E3 to hear about sales results, upcoming bundles, or most hardware teases (those play better at private events), they come for the games. And this year, Microsoft came with the games.
The event showed off 50 titles, many of which were shown for the first time anywhere. There were some big name consoles exclusives among the bunch too, including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 4, and Gears of War 5. Microsoft also announced a few franchises that are coming to the Xbox One for the first time, including Kingdom Hearts III and From Software’s new IP Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
It also gave us either our first look or a first close look at highly anticipated titles like Metro Exodus, Devil May Cry 5, and Dying Light 2. Those games will all be on the rival PlayStation 5 as well, but it was a great way to build and sustain excitement throughout the show.
Microsoft further went on what could have been a distracting tangent by announcing new acquisitions, but it kept it brief enough that by focusing on the purchase and creation of five new studios, it helped to reconfirm its commitment to gaming.
Overall, Microsoft’s show was tight and entertaining, forgoing bells and whistles like celebrity guests in favor of just focusing on the games. It was a great way to help kick off E3 2018, and one of the publisher and manufacturer’s best shows in years.
Low: Microsoft’s Vague Talk of the Future
While Microsoft’s Xbox presentation was overall very strong, the vague mentions of new hardware and AI-generated games were more confusing than exciting.
It’s cool that Microsoft’s game division is working with AI, but give us details or it just sounds like a marketing exec managed to take a last minute pass at the script before the legal team chopped it in half. There’s also the question of whether or not people are excited for another expensive console on the way, as this generation feels like it is just hitting its stride. That’s probably a bigger question though, and it will come down to individual tastes.
High: The Return of Battletoads!
They showed nothing and told us nothing, but few things can get a gaming crowd as excited as the return of a nostalgia-driven franchise. It might end up fizzling out and people often confuse the memory of a game with the actual game (Battletoads was freaking hard), but for an announcement it got people going.
Low: Canned Gamer Talk
During the Microsoft event, Ubisoft gave us the first look at the upcoming The Division 2. The game itself looks good from what was shown, and fans of the original should love the new setting. The presentation, however, had a few cringe-worthy moments when it switched over to a look at people playing the game, complete with their in-game chat.
It’s hard to recreate the sense of casual communication in a professional presentation and it’s really a very minor complaint, but it felt a bit like the Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow kids” meme. It probably won’t be the last time this week various games will fall victim to that too.
High & Low: Plenty of Star Wars Content is Coming
Although it would have been nice to see at least some concept art, the confirmation of Respawn’s upcoming Star Wars: The Fallen Order, set between Episodes III and IV, had people cheering. Bringing some of the best-known characters from The Clone Wars to Battlefront II was also a good addition. But like the recent box-office disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story showed us, the story is wearing thin.
One of the biggest complaints fans of the Star Wars films have is that they keep going over the same ground, just from slightly different angles. The side stories – Solo, Rogue One, the upcoming live-action TV show, the animated series – are all obvious example, but even the new trilogy that includes The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi is still focused on the original trilogy. And it’s getting old.
Star Wars games didn’t always have this problem as anyone that played Knights of the Old Republic or The Old Republic can attest, but since Disney purchased the product everyone associated with it – including EA – have become timid in terms of storytelling. There’s an entire galaxy of story possibilities surrounding Star Wars that have nothing to do with the Skywalker storyline. It’s time to mine it.
Low: Most of EA’s E3 2018 Event
Despite a few highlights, overall EA’s event lacked both polish and excitement. The only real news on Battlefield V is that it will have a “Battle Royale” mode, and FIFA 19’s big reveal of the inclusion of Champions League play feels like something that could – and should – have been added via DLC years ago. Both had huge presences during the presentation, and both were underwhelming.
To be fair, both games will certainly have more to show very soon, but in terms of presentation neither came off strong. That’s something that plagued EA throughout the show, and the worst victim of this was Anthem.
Anthem looks like an ambitious and exciting game, coming from one of the most popular and beloved (mostly) developers around. The presentation, however, seemed to undercut all of that and instead made it seem like a Destiny clone. More than a few people have even taken to calling it “DestinEA.” That’s not fair to the game and once we see more of it there is certainly be some things that differentiate it, but it hit a lot of very familiar notes.
There’s a last outpost for humanity that acts as a social hub, check. There are character classes and each one offers special powers, check. The characters are basically gun-toting superheroes who explore a planet that is overrun by enemies and nature, check. There will be a big emphasis on replay and there will be years of additional content coming, check. And on and on.
When it comes to borrowing from other games you can say the same thing about many, many others, but the presentation did Anthem no favors. Having it close out an event defined by vague announcements and a lack of details was a tough spot to start with, and EA didn’t stick the landing.
High: EA’s Unusual New Games
While the EA presentation failed to deliver when it comes to the new versions of previously announced titles, the look at Unravel 2 and Sea of Solitude were both absolute highlights from the show.
Neither will receive the attention that some of the more high profile titles received, but both were a breath of fresh air and both showed that EA isn’t only focused on milking its major franchises. Having Unravel 2 available as soon as it was announced was also a great moment.
Low: Mobile Games
Mobile games are a huge part of the gaming industry, both in terms of profits and in helping to keep the industry innovative and fresh. But having them sandwiched into press events between titles where the trailers alone probably cost more than the entire mobile game’s development was an odd juxtaposition.
Of the mobile titles announced over the weekend, Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Blades made the biggest waves by far, but it was still completely overshadowed by the bigger games announced before and after it. Putting it at the beginning of the event (like it did with The Elder Scrolls Legends) may have made more sense, even if games like Fallout Shelter are huge hits.
Mobile games deserve their place in the spotlight, but the presentations over the weekend made them feel like footnotes rather than an exciting part of the roadmap.
High: Bethesda’s E3 2018 Event
While Bethesda may not have the largest library of its publishers – not even close – it typically manages to put on a killer E3 show. This year was no exception.
Bethesda came into the show with everyone wondering what exactly Fallout 76 was, but that turned out to be just one part of the show – the biggest part of the show, but still just one part. Bethesda was also willing to tease new games even if they are years out, which added to the excitement.
Along with the multiplayer-centric Fallout 76, Bethesda announced a new Doom, Wolfenstein, Elder Scrolls, and the all-new IP Starfield. It also gave a closer look at Rage 2, showed off new DLC for Elder Scrolls Online, and highlighted Quake Champions (although that game felt a little like an afterthought). It even dropped a Skyrim joke clip that worked really well (as a side note, Skyrim actually is on Amazon’s Alexa – give it a try).
There may be stronger events and games that attract more attention over the week, but Bethesda is great at showmanship.
High: Cyberpunk 2077
After blowing the industry away with The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red gave us our first real look at its follow-up, Cyberpunk 2077.
The trailer was almost entirely cinematics rather than in-game footage, but it was enough to excite us as to what we have to look forward to. We should hear more about it during the week.
Low: Battle Royales
The Battle Royale game mode is fast becoming a staple of most competitive multiplayer games, and already two of the biggest franchises in the world – Battlefield and Call of Duty – are incorporating it into this year’s editions. It’s a great new game mode that people are really enjoying, but announcing it like it is anything more than one new mode out of many is just kind of sad.
Give us the mode, sure, but don’t pretend like you are breaking ground.
Highs: Fallout 76
A lot of people were initially concerned about the Fallout franchise potentially moving away from its single-player roots, but the Bethesda presentation was enough to hopefully get them back to at least a “wait and see” viewpoint. The clips were good, and rather than tease bits and pieces, Bethesda had a lot to say about the game. There’s still more to hear, but we went from knowing nothing to having a general understanding of the game, and what they showed was great. Who doesn’t want to see how it plays out to potentially nuke entire cities off a multiplayer board?
It was also a nice surprise to hear that it won’t be released in a few years, but instead on November 14, 2018.
Lows: Still No Cross-Platform Announcements
This may still be on the way, or it may be something that is in the works but just not ready to discuss yet, but with so many multiplayer games coming for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, it’s time to let people on different platforms play the same game together. It would require some additional work but it isn’t a technical roadblock, it’s a business one. Maybe one day they can sort it out.