E3 2018 Day 2: The Highs and Lows from Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Sony
E3 2018 day 2 (technically day 3) is in the books, we look at the highs and lows from the three big shows that dominated the former press day.
The second unofficial day of E3 is complete, with the last of the pre-show events finished. Sony was the biggest name of the day, but Ubisoft and Square Enix both made waves as well.
There were plenty of titles discussed, plenty of trailers released, and a few hints at where the industry may be going. And with the show officially poised to start, we look at the highs and lows. From the bizarre Death Stranding to the wacky Devolver Digital event, we break down some of our favorite and least favorite moments from E3 2018 Day 2.
You can find our E3 2018 Day 1 recap here.
High: Devolver Digital Press Conference
Devolver Digital isn’t the biggest name in gaming, but when it comes to E3, the publisher and film distributor does not mess around.
In order to highlight its new games, rather than do a traditional press conference it tends to get a bit… weird. And very meta. This year’s show is actually a sequel to last year’s, which was also wild and surprisingly bloody.
This year’s show is even more dialed in. Where last year’s was a general spoof of gaming events, this one is a cutting look at the industry, loaded with buzzwords and on-point criticism masquerading as a press event. There’s even a good dig at cryptocurrency and a timely ding against Battle Royale modes. Make sure you watch through the first three minutes and you’ll get a sense of things.
It’s satire at its finest and shows that wit goes a long way, sometimes a lot further than a big budget.
Lows: Square Enix Showcase
For the last few years, Square Enix has created a showcase of its upcoming games, partly to show off what its teams are working on, and partly to make sure the public knows that it is still a major player. Because of that, sometimes it works well, sometimes it falls flat. This year’s show was the latter.
The highlight of the Square Enix show was a closer look at Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which looks like more of the same. When Eidos Montreal rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013, it felt like a revelation and a new take on an old franchise. Five years and three games later, it’s beginning to feel a little stale. And when that’s the highlight of a show, you begin to see the problems.
Along with the new Tomb Raider, Square Enix showed off very little and it skipped two of the most anticipated games it has on the way – the new Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers titles and the Final Fantasy VII remake. It also showed a closer look at The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, Just Cause 4 and more on Kingdom Hearts III – all of which were featured at the Microsoft Xbox presentation – and Dragon Quest XI, which has been out in Japan for nearly a year.
Arguably the biggest announcements were Platinum Games’ title Babylon’s Fall and The Quiet Man, both of which were intriguing but neither had much explanation or emphasis. Overall, it just wasn’t a very impressive showing.
High: Ubisoft Presentation
This year’s Ubisoft show was well paced and packed with content, even if it didn’t offer any new IPs and didn’t have many surprises. Still, it did what it needed to do and managed to do it in an entertaining, albeit uninspiring way. It was also helped but an overall muted E3 where the bar is lower than in previous years.
A highlight was the cinematic trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2, which not only looked very cool, it also seemed to make real a project that has been in the works for 15 years. There’s still no release date and the comments made on stage suggest it isn’t all that close to completion, but it’s coming and it looks cool.
The rest of the games were expected, but they all looked good, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had a solid showing. It doesn’t reinvent the franchise, but it builds on the successful format introduced in Origins, so fans should be happy. The ancient Greek setting and the ability to choose your character and dialogue were enough to make this new entry seem like a worthy addition to the franchise, at least from what we’ve seen.
The lack of any new IPs or even the return of older series like Splinter Cell was a little disappointing and it was sad to not see Aisha Tyler return as a host. But the surprise appearance of Shigeru Miyamoto, a wacky dance segment for Just Dance, a musical piece, and a lot of other fun nods kept the event moving nicely.
Low: Rehashing Old Themes
There are certain online services – things like games and chat forums – where if you do something against the rules you are penalized by not being able to engage in that activity for a set period of time. It’s like a penalty box in hockey, where you’re essentially put in a personal time out. It might be time to consider something like that for game themes.
This is nothing new, but there are a few themes at E3 2018 that have been so thoroughly explored in gaming that it is time to either retire them permanently or at least give them a few years off. World War II games fall into this category, and despite some devs taking a break from the era they are apparently back in full force with last year’s COD: WWII and this year’s Battlefield V. But it’s not the only genre that needs a few years off; pirate-themed games may have reached that same point.
Along with Xbox One’s Sea of Thieves, we have Ubisoft’s upcoming Skull & Bones, a game that not only continues the piracy theme, it does so by taking and building on another piracy-themed game’s mechanic, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Add in the recently released HD remake of the criminally underrated Assassin’s Creed Rogue, along with the heavily emphasized “Pirates of the Carribean zone” in Kingdom Hearts III and you have a lot of pirate options this year. And those are building on years of pirate games leading up to this point.
So what will be the next genre to be milked to exhaustion? Samurai games are a good contender. If you count the Battle Royale mode as a genre in itself you can nominate that as well. Throw in post-apocalyptic wastelands and you may have a winner.
High: Nintendo’s Shadow
Although we aren’t picking winners and losers because both are subjective and “loser” brings up an unnecessarily negative connotation for an event that celebrates gaming, if we were, we’d call Nintendo a winner of Day 2 – even though it didn’t have a single presentation.
Nintendo’s shadow was felt throughout the day as people continued to ask whether or not recently announced games would be released for the Switch while applauding Switch ports of older titles. At Ubisoft’s event, one of the best moments of the show was the introduction of Shigeru Miyamoto (who was met with thunderous applause), while the inclusion of the Nintendo-exclusive character Star Fox to Ubisoft’s Star Link: Battle for Atlas made an average looking game stand out.
The show is still young, but so far Nintendo is doing well without doing a thing.
High & Low: Sony’s PlayStation Showcase
For the last few years, Sony has dominated E3 in terms of pre-show presentations. It just seemed to have a knack for these events, thanks in part to a combination of exclusive titles and a sense of how to keep fans engaged. This year’s show, however, felt more like an obligation than a showcase.
There were some great games shown, but not many surprises. It was more of a look at what’s coming rather than an event meant to get people excited for Sony, with trailers presented in succession and very little discussion about them (at least not on stage). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t on the same level as previous events where people were left blown away.
Still, the games shown were mostly exclusives and mostly new IPs (with a few welcome exceptions like The Last of Us Part II and Nioh 2). The focus on Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Remedy’s Control, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima, and the look at the Resident Evil 2 remaster were all great too.
There was also Death Stranding, which is apparently about a delivery guy and babies that are also flashlights or something. Watch the 8-minute trailer and if you really want a challenge, show it to someone that isn’t necessarily a gamer and let them try to puzzle it out.
Overall, it was a mixed show fbySony with some good and some bad.
Lows: Lack of Surprise
All day long it felt like there were moments where there was going to be a big final announcement, something that would come at the end of an event and blow everyone away, and again and again it just never happened. Instead, we’ve seen the same things repeated. Sure, Kingdom Hearts III looks great, but do we really need to see it at every event?
Following Sony, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and even the events yesterday, there haven’t been too many surprises. Overall, E3 2018 is shaping up to be one of the most sedated in years. The question is, is this the new normal or is it just because we are in a weird time as manufacturers begin to gear up for the next generation of consoles and several games that have been previously announced are finally preparing to release?
High: Moving Away From Paid DLC
While Expansion Passes and paid post-release content are not going away, more and more developers are planning additional content releases that are free. Some of it is relatively small – new characters and items – but some of it is genuine expansion-like content.
This could be a new trend or just a few developers generating interest through financial benefits. Time will tell.
Low: Lack of Release Dates
This isn’t new, but there are several games on display at E3 2018 that don’t have release dates or even release windows. Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, and several others are being prominently shown, but they could be out this year or two years from now, we just don’t know. It’s not surprising and it’s better to release a game when it’s ready rather than rush it, but it’s still frustrating.