Top 10 announcements from this month’s Not-E3

Summer Game Fest logo

June has increasingly become the month of gaming, with announcements galore being pumped out by all the big digital interactive entertainment purveyors.  It has always been the month of E3, but with that being cancelled the last few years, it has been replaced by an endless stream of streams, coming from publishers, console makers, magazines and Keighleys.

2022 has had some downplaying in the lead up to the announcements, as the delayed development time from the last couple of years of pandemic has started to really bite.  It seemed that the next few months were likely to be a little light on things to be getting excited about.  Really though, that just means the little players get a chance to shine.  And if you do prefer your games to be sprinkled with the pretty shinnies that comes with getting those three A’s together than there was still enough on show that is likely to keep you interested.

For most of us, it really isn’t possible to see every single stream that was on offer throughout this month, but I’ve managed to get in most of the big ones.  Each offered something slightly different.

poster for Stray
Stray is a cy-purr-punk game, shown off during Sony’s State of Play

The month started with a big one from Sony, with their State of Play.  This mostly focused on third party titles, so was lacking the big hitters that you would expect direct from Sony.  Having said that, God of War Ragnarök is likely the only one that we should have been expecting to come from Sony’s own studios, so probably not that surprising that the spotlight was given to the third parties.  We still had a few big things shown though, such Street Fighter 6 and Final Fantasy XVI.  There was also some underwhelming offerings for PSVR2.  VR obviously is a hard one to sell as part of a flat screen presentation, but we mostly saw new parts of an already existing disappointing VR game (Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners) and a VR mode for a game that has been around for a number of years (No Man’s Sky).  The Horizon VR climbing game looked more promising, but the others were disappointing from a piece of tech that I am quite looking forward to.

After that stream, the next show I caught was from big Keighley himself, Summer Game Fest.  Geoff Keighley may get some stick, but it can’t be denied that he has stepped up to take E3’s place admirably.  I feel a little sorry for E3 returning next year, as I expect it will overshadowed in the public’s consciousness by this show.  Just a shame that what gets shown is always just a bunch of CGI trailers and limited gameplay footage.  There was some interesting stuff, but we are going to have to really wait and see as to whether any of them actually amount to much.  As expected though, the reveals were slim on the ground.  The big closing reveal, a remaster for a game that was already remastered, even got leaked before the show, so wasn’t even a surprise.  If you liked space horror though, this was probably the show for you.

The delightful Wholesome Direct

As an antidote to all the scary violence on show from Summer Game Fest, there was also the Wholesome Direct.  A whole lot of twee that should have been a bit annoying, but was actually a nice change of pace.  A pleasant reminder at just how diverse gaming can be.  There really is something for everyone, even if the media fixate on the things that are for a narrow audience.  This had the most “oh, that looks neat” moments for me, but it was also so jam packed with non-stop games that actually picking out ones is pretty hard.  I would suggest having Steam open beside you when watching this, ready to wishlist the games as they go by.

Back to the big players though, and we had the Xbox & Bethesda games show.  For me, this presentation has been a slamdunk for the last couple of years, simply because the net is half as high for Xbox as it is for everyone else.  If you are a subscriber to Game Pass, than you are going to get to play the majority of these games without having to pay anymore than your subscription.  When the barrier of entry is just the time to download the game, it doesn’t need to do quite as much to get you interested.  Even without that though, there were some interesting games here shown and a nice variety.  Xbox has really come a long way from their dude-bro persona and it is great to see games ranging from quirky medieval tapestry inspired games to giant nerdy sci-fi RPGs to narrative heavy experimental indie games sharing the same platform.

Image from Tactical Breach Wizards
Tactical Breach Wizards was shown off during the PC Gaming Show

Then I caught up with the PC Gaming Show from PC Gamer.  Day9 always seems like a charming chap and I’m sure Mica is lovely too, but please dial back on the skits.  Fortunately, the games themselves look great.  Much like the Wholesome stream, this had me surprised more often than the others, so I can just about forgive the awkward humour, which wouldn’t feel out of place on CBBC.

On the other hand, Devolver Digital get away with the weird skits, as there actually seems to be some talent involved in putting those together.  This year’s was a little weaker than normal though and perhaps the gag is starting to wear a bit thin.  Also, there were only about 5 games shown throughout the whole show, which I’m sure was lighter than normal.

Outside of those, we also had the Capcom stream, which didn’t show too much new that hadn’t already been shown elsewhere and there was the big Final Fantasy VII Anniversary stream, which delivered a few new announcements, some expected and some wished for.

There are a whole lot more that I didn’t manage to get to, such Indie Game Connect, Guerrilla Collective, Tribeca Games, but there is only so much one person can manage to take!  There is meant to be a Nintendo stream coming tomorrow as well, but that is reportedly focusing on third party games, so it is unclear if anything too exciting will come from that.

Assuming that no surprise announcements are coming though, here are my 10 (or maybe 11) top picks from this month of announcements, in no particular order.

1. Starfield is actually a game

I’ll be honest, I was not particularly whelmed by the showing of Starfield.  No doubt, this was the most hyped for game that we thought would be shown and I expect many would have this topping their list of most anticipated games.  It is just a shame that the first thing they show from the game that is claiming to have a galaxy of possibilities is a grey moon to shoot some space pirates on.

Now, compared to other Bethesda games, that shooting did look a step up.  It wasn’t as good as a dedicated FPS, but then I don’t think anyone would expect that to be the case.  It seemed good enough for this type of game though.  Also, once we did see some of the other environments they did look a big improvement on the types of places Bethesda normally create, particularly the populated areas.  The characters too looked pretty decent, even if they did appear to be vending machines for quests, rather than engaging characters.

I am not a big fan of Bethesda games though, so perhaps my complaints are not ones that others would share.  Plus, as a Game Pass game, it is basically a certainty that I will be downloading this on the day of release.  Regardless of my opinion now or when I play it, this will likely be the biggest game of 2023 and it is going to be one to watch.

2. 2023 – the year of Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy is going to have a massive year in 2023.  It will kick it off finishing this year with the release of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion, a remastered version of the 2007 Crisis Core game.  Many have said that this is going to be an important part of the Remake’s storyline, as the main character here will be featuring heavily in the follow up games for Remake.  Then, in Summer 2023 we will be getting the new Final Fantasy XVI.  This is looking incredibly bombastic and featuring more explosive action than a Michael Bay film. Whether it will be able to hold that together with an interesting combat system and engaging story remains to be seen, of course, but this is shaping up to be a nice return to form for mainline entries, after a lacklustre XV.  Then, in winter 2023, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, part 2 of the Remake series, will be released.

I don’t have much history with the Final Fantasy series.  XV was actually the first game from the franchise that I played and I really didn’t get on with the incredibly bland open world and uninteresting combat.  Since then, I’ve played a little of Final Fantasy IX, which I liked, and all of Final Fantasy VII Remake, which I absolutely loved.  I can’t wait to see what more comes from the madness that is the Remake project, although I feel like I probably should get around to playing the original at some point.

Not much was shown of Rebirth, but seems lots of fans are already creating theories and speculations as to the direction it will be heading in.  It is still unclear whether we will still be very much restricted by corridors, as we were in the first part, or if things will be opening up into a more open world, as I understand the original did after leaving Midgar.

3. New strategy from ex-Blizzard devs – even if the presentation was a bit shit

A love a good strategy game, but releases in the genre have been a little light in a very long time.  Particularly in the style of Starcraft, which hasn’t really seen a proper competitor since the release of Starcraft 2 back in 2010.

Who better to bring the genre back in style than those that actually worked at the company that pretty much created it in the first place?  Well, hopefully that is the case.  The presentation for Stormgate from Frost Giant consisted of a poor CGI trailer that looked nothing at all like it was for an RTS game.  The screenshots shown didn’t either. 

What style of game this will actually be still seems to be unclear, but they are making it sound like it will be traditional.  Just a shame that what they are showing seems to bare little relation.

Still, I would love to see them bringing something to the table that actual competes with their former companies work and I look forward to giving it a go.  A pity that the wait is going to be quite some time, with betas looking like they won’t be until next summer.  This could either move up or drop entirely off my anticipation list, depending on what direction they are looking to take it.

4. Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 and Persona 5 Royal coming to PC/Xbox/Game Pass

I picked up Persona 5 (not Royal) a while back on the PS4.  I liked what I saw quite a bit, but got a little frustrated by the hand holding that went on for hours and hours.  I was hoping to be let off the leash at some point and free to make a few more of my own choices.  I eventually stopped playing, only to find out that I was literally about an hour or 2 away from being given more freedom.

Since then, I’ve been keen to go back to the game.  Seems like I will get a chance to do that and I will be able to do it with the upgraded Royal version on PC.  Plus, an opportunity to play a couple of the earlier titles.

Now we just need to hear at the Nintendo Direct that they will be hitting Switch too.

5. Diablo 4 actually looks good

I’ve also thought I would like ARPG games in the Diablo style.  Ever so often I get the urge to try one and I almost always end up getting bored by all the clicking.  Diablo 2 wasn’t too dissimilar, although I managed to get through to the final chapter with it before discovering that my necromancer build was total tosh and unable to clear the hordes I was now having to face.

I wasn’t expecting to have much interest in Diablo 4, but the showing here was actually pretty good.  What particularly caught my interest was the idea of a more dynamic world.  If they could include elements that we might associate with more traditional RPGs and give us an opportunity to see our actions actually having meaningful impact in the world we are smashing demons in then this could be a really interesting one.

Just a shame that Blizzard had to go and put doubt in my mind with the recent diabolical release of Diablo Immortal, a game that fully embraces the dark side of the gaming world.  Hopefully none of that will be anywhere near Diablo 4 and that Blizzard learnt their lesson from 3 to not infect their mainline Diablo games with nonsense real world money elements.

The announcement even made me go back and try the original Diablo, which I never actually played.  It’s pretty good!

6. The Alters

This is one that unfortunately just showed itself off with a CGI trailer and not much information about what it is actually about.  But, the developer chat after the trailer as part of the PC Gaming Show had me really intrigued as to what this would end up involving.

Developed by 11 Bit Studios, who also created Frost Punk and This War of Mine, this is continuing their idea of meaningful entertainment and it is a great philosophy that I can really get behind.  I’ve recently gone back to Frost Punk, a game I only very briefly previously played, and I’m absolutely adoring what they did with it, adding a really fascinating twist to the city builder genre. I’m really interested to see where they are going with this.  The Steam store page suggests that it is likely to be a more narrative driven experience, emphasising choice and “What if…?” questions.

What ever it might be though, I reckon this is going to be one worth checking out.

7. Sitting at a desk exploring a desk in The Plucky Squire

Of all the more obscure games, this is probably the one that has hit the mainstream press the most and understandably so.  The trailer was incredibly effective and offered a proper “wow” moment.  If you haven’t seen it yet, just go watch it now.

Okay, back?  It feels like something that surely has been done before.  A very simple idea, but it is executed masterfully here.  The beautifully rendered environment just makes the moment that Plucky appears in the real world even more magical.  Plus, the trailer goes on to show a variety of different game play, as the character appears to shift between 2D and 3D, with different genres of games being used.

This looks like it is going to be a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t expand upon the ideas much more beyond what we see here.  Even if it ends up being not as interesting as it appears from this glimpse, it still makes a damn good trailer.

8. Get your Cadfael on with Pentiment from… Obsedian?

During the trailer for Pentiment, text appears on the screen to say “A Narrative Adventure Most Unexpected”.  That is followed by the certainly unexpected line “from Obsidian Entertainment”.  Best known for making (slightly broken) RPGs, seeing them make a game that looks more like a point and click adventure is certainly unexpected.

It is the writing that Obsidian are known for though, creating surprisingly deep games or making interesting characters or factions within existing franchises.  It isn’t really that surprising to see them create a game that is so focused on narrative.  It could also be very interesting if they look to include some of the RPG elements that they are known for, doing something that is perhaps a little closer to the combat light Disco Elysium or Tides of Numenera.

Either way, this looks to be a departure from what we general associate from the studio and I’m really excited to see what they are able to do with something that appears to be slightly smaller scope than they normally work with.  The, seemingly, real world medieval setting looks wonderfully realised too, with an art style reminiscent of Astrologaster.

Looks like it is going to be the perfect Game Pass game.

9. Finally, more on Hollow Knight: Silksong, but still no date

I absolutely adored 2017s Hollow Knight.  Team Cherry made the most perfect Metroidvania game, which featured tight platforming controls, simple but tense combat and a twisty turny world that was a joy to explore and unlock.  It is the only game where I have felt compelled to do a speed running achievement.

So, I’ve been anticipating more on Silksong since it was first announced back in 2019.  The silence has been deafening for the last couple of years, with every big stream carrying with it an anticipation that maybe it would finally get some more details.

Really, I was hoping for a date, but just some more footage and a sort of confirmation that it will be with us in the next 12 months is probably good enough for the moment.

The animation and world looks as wonderfully realised as ever, with a more acrobatic character to control this time around.  Team Cherry seem to be going all out on this and I can’t wait to see what their work for the past 5 years is going to deliver.

10. Star in your own Truman Show in American Arcadia

There wasn’t too many surprising announcements from the Summer Game Fest show, but this was probably the most interesting.  It looks to mostly be a platforming game, with some stealth bits, possibly some vehicle action and maybe some first-person bits.

The artwork is lovely and there is a great futuristic 60s style.  Themes wise, it could be interesting to do a more modern take on The Truman Show idea, a film that was quite ahead of its time.  It will be interesting to see what the social media age will do with such a premise.

As with most trailers that are part of this show, there isn’t much to really gleam about the actual play of the game, but it definitely looks like something a bit different.  It is likely that it will be quite a directed affair, but hopefully they lean into the idea of impressing an audience or keeping them on your side, giving a bit more player agency in how this all works.  Even if not, this looks like it will be a fun title.

11. In space, we will all be able to hear you scream

Okay, I couldn’t keep this under 10 and I’m going to cram in a bunch of games into one point.  This really was the season of screams, particularly with spaces games.  The already mentioned The Alters could even be classed in this category, with its edge of psychological horror with a sci-fi tinge.

Really though, we are talking about The Callisto Protocol, Aliens: Dark Descent, Fort Solis, Routine and System Shock.  You can possibly chuck in The Invincible too, although not sure how much horror that one will involve.  Of those, Fort Solis was perhaps the most interesting prospect, although not a huge amount was actually shown.  It seemed to be taking a strong narrative approach, whereas the others were much more action focused.  Which is fine, but the dread normally disappears once you know you can blast your problems away.

The Callisto Protocol was probably the big name for most people and it looks suitably like more Dead Space, with even more gore.  It should be a good time, as long as you okay stomaching all that violence. It definitely looks like it is going more for the icky fun than actual scares, but there is nothing wrong with that.

System Shock is likely to turn out very good too.  The original game is not one that I have ever played, but it looks like one that really could do with a freshen up.  The sequel still holds up and is probably the one that many would be more familiar with, especially if you have looked back at the origins of games like Dishonored or Prey.  It will be interesting to go back even further and see the roots of the immersive sim genre.

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