Microsoft was second to take the E3 stage and hoooo boy were they a step up from EA’s poor showing.

If you are old like me, you may remember the E3 conferences of old where sales figures and marketing strategies reined supreme. It’s hard not to think back on those days as Phil Spencer got on stage, gave a quick “Welcome to Xbox” and stepped back to show an hour and a half of almost non-stop trailers. We’ve certainly come a long way.

If you wanted game trailers, Microsoft did not disappoint. Trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Crackdown 3 were shown off, gameplay for Metro: Exodus and The Division 2 showed a glimpse into how those were coming along. All in all it was a good catch-up session.

It just wasn’t very exciting.

The Division 2

Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft was a huge improvement over EA, it just didn’t have many new things to show off that hadn’t already been leaked or assumed. That Square Enix is making another Tomb Raider shouldn’t shock anyone. Crackdown 3 not being cancelled is kinda surprising but nothing they showed off looked any different from Crackdown 1 or 2, to be honest.

Most of the trailers were only trailers and showed very little, if any, gameplay. Props to The Division 2 for being the only extended gameplay sequence during the show. There were some trailers that showed bits and pieces of gameplay and that was nice. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is looking incredible, as is From Software’s new title Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice but it would have been nice to see more from some of the games shown off.

That’s enough pessimism, let’s talk about some of the highlights. As a HUGE Life is Strange fan, I was excited to see Dontnod will be releasing a free prequel? side-story? something to fans called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit that will somehow tie into Life is Strange 2, in development.

Captain Spirit
My plans for June 26th are set!

Several world premieres did give small glimpses into what is coming. Halo is receiving a new entry called Halo Infinite but fans shouldn’t expect it anytime soon. It was revealed after the conference that this was little more than a tech demo, demonstrating the new engine made by 343. Many speculate that the Xbox One will never see this title launch and I agree. Much closer to reality, Gears 5 was announced with a rather bizarre and angsty trailer showing new protagonist Kait as she breaks rank and goes off to the north to find… something. It was full of vague nonsense lines like when Kait’s asked where they are going she says “back to where it all began.” Pro-tip, next time you’re riding in a car and the driver asks for directions, respond with that. See how well that plays.

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Anyway, weird story aside, Gears 5 seemed to show more of what Gears fans want and I’d expect The Coalition to deliver on expectations, if not necessarily exceeding them. The game’s coming out 2019, I would guess holiday season since the beginning of the year is jam packed.

Fallout 76 got it’s first official look, despite having been leaked a few weeks back. It’s still a bit unclear what the game actually is but rumors suggest that it will expand on the building mechanics from Fallout 4 to make a multiplayer survival game of some type. It’s unclear what a Bethesda survival game looks like exactly but they promised they aren’t skimping on resources. Fallout 76 will boast a world 4 times the size of Fallout 4 and boy does it look gorgeous. Fallout spin-offs have been historically not so great but this is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the franchise.

As for the games I’m most excited for, I have a hard time deciding between two. Cyberpunk 2077 finally showed its face again after almost 5 years and while there wasn’t any gameplay shown, CD Projekt Red has an impeccable record so far and I have a lot of faith in anything they’re working on.

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One thing that has me excited for this game is just the atmosphere. Most cyberpunk stories are inspired from a small handful of sources: Snow Crash, Neuromancer and Blade Runner being the most common. Because of this, almost all cyberpunk stories tend to be dark, brooding and dismal. Cyberpunk 2077 decides to throw that away, making a world that is very clearly cyberpunk but bringing it out into the light. It’s a bright, livable world with a dirty underbelly. The tone of the trailer actually reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s film, Blue Velvet. It’s a tough tone to deliver on but if they can nail that contrast between sleek and grimy, Cyberpunk 2077 could not only prove to be a great entry in gaming but could revolutionize cyberpunk fiction as a whole. If anyone can do it, it’s CD Projekt Red.

The other game that I am equally excited for is Dying Light 2. Dying Light managed to hijack the parkour of Mirror’s Edge to great effect in their open-world zombie game. While it didn’t set the world on fire, it managed to prove that zombie games don’t have to all be the same thing. Dying Light 2 looks to expand on those mechanics in some amazing ways. Not only are they creating a huge new world with expanded parkour mechanics but they brought in famed video game writer Chris Avellone, the writer for games like Planescape: Torment, Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, to create a branching narrative that sounds pretty exciting.

Making choices in games is nothing new, we’ve been doing this for decades, but it’s something that has fallen to the wayside in recent years for AAA titles. Interesting development of characters and worlds has given way to graphical fidelity. In the indie space, though, there has been a resurgence of true role-playing with games like Torment: Tides of Numenera, Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin. As the writer for two of these three games, Chris Avellone has proven himself willing and able to turn this tide and I’m very excited to see what he can do in the AAA space.

Overall, Microsoft’s conference was good. Not mind-blowing but good. We got to see a lot of new games coming out and while there wasn’t anything shown that will set the world on fire (at least not yet), we have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

Final Grade: B+