Sure, news and announcements are good to hear out of E3, but what’s on everyone’s mind is how do these video games play? During the show, there are two types of demos. There is the hands on where a player can receive an accurate feel for a game and the theater presentation where two members of the development team, one who plays and one who narrates, show the audience a very controlled run through of a title. Though the latter is not as exciting, it can still provide insight on a game. Below are some impressions and thoughts on Watch Dogs: Legion, The Outer Worlds, Dying Light 2 and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
WATCH DOGS: LEGION
Watch Dogs: Legion, the third installment of the Ubisoft series, takes place in London where members of DedSec are battling an authoritarian regime. There is an expansive world to explore taking the player to different neighborhoods of the English capital. The developers really explored the history of the city making hotbeds of recruitment and safety for DedSec in areas known for government protest. The big draw is the ability to enlist any character you encounter from an old lady to a robot street performer. Each person on the street has their own story and a gauge indicates how sympathetic they are to the cause. Help your case by doing side missions to help out those you want to recruit. When creating your team, you could choose those who have special bonuses or people you think look cool. There is a high degree of customization as you can buy new clothes and select three different classes for each team member; enforcer, hacker or infiltrator. There are skill points used to purchase and equip abilities for your squad so even though you might have two of the same class, how the points are spent can help differentiate them. The controls and combat look smooth and hacking for intel is a useful tool before carrying out missions. Some draw backs include wonky cut scenes and dialog where the mouth movement doesn’t match the words spoken. Also, with such a high number of playable characters, the voice acting can be repetitive. In my demo, two different recruited characters had the same voice. Despite the negatives, the ability to play as any character in the game can be a huge draw for some.
THE OUTER WORLDS
In The Outer Worlds, from Obsidian Entertainment, you play as a stranger in a galactic outpost run by the corporation, Halcyon. The stranger travels to different planets in the region looking to take Halcyon down. There is a cool space western feel to the game with great graphics and the alien creatures you encounter are imaginative and well designed. In addition, there is an array of different skills to enhance but keep in mind, the skill level determines how the many NPCs react to you. For example, the dialog skill determines the number of responses you can select when asked a question. The developer stresses the player choice and reactivity in the gameplay however, I did not come out impressed. There didn’t seem to be enough for the title to distinguish itself from other first-person shooter RPGs. Plus, I found the conversations poorly written with stereotypical voice acting and dry humor that didn’t hit. There are many out there who are high on The Outer Worlds, but I feel there are better options in the same genre.
DYING LIGHT 2
Dying Light 2, from Techland Publishing, was probably the best demo I saw during the whole show and I didn’t even play it. This survival horror first person action role-playing game takes place 15 years after the original. It has a new protagonist, Aiden Caldwell, but still has the parkour elements and zombies. There are new types of zombies but also new weapons to take them down. Also new are the use of a grappling hook and paraglider. The parkour mechanics come off effortlessly and as players run through a dynamic environment, they must react to falling objects and collapsing roofs. One part showed Aiden falling into a Zombie den and you could sense the urgency and panic in his heavy breathing as he fought off his attackers and tried to escape to safety. The writing is well done as you feel the drama in the situational scenes. There is a focus on freedom of choices as you progress in the story and you experience the weight of each decision made. After finishing the game, players may still only have witnessed 50% of the story but can go back to pursue other paths through the game plus mode or through multiplayer mode. The soundtrack is also a stand out with songs like Metric’s Help I’m Alive, which is not only good but fitting for a postapocalyptic world. Overall, Dying Light 2 provides an intense gaming experience with a compelling, open story. Look for it to drop in the spring of 2020.
LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA
Right before E3 at the Xbox press conference, it was revealed there would be a new LEGO Star Wars game that would collect all nine films from the Skywalker saga. The latest installment, from TT Games, goes the way of the open world like the DC and Marvel games and you can really see the large scale of everything. There are also upgraded graphics and it is the best looking LEGO game to date. There is a new combat system for the Jedi and Sith where you can actually control and throw objects using the force. You also have the ability to mind control other characters. For blaster characters, there are scopes that help you aim and all enemies now have a hit point bar to indicate how close they are to being defeated. Other new skills include C3PO able to split his body in half which is funny and can be helpful. Another added dimension is galaxy travel where you can take control of iconic ships like the Millennium Falcon and combat star destroyers. Despite all the new features, there is still the same charm and humor like using the force to score a soccer goal. For fans of the different LEGO games, this would be a good pick up with a mix of the familiar and the new.