It’s the end of Day Three at E3 and I am exhausted. Completely and utterly wiped out. So many games, so little padding left on my feet meant that the end was actually a welcome event. Kudos to everyone at all of the booths that continued to repeat the same spiel again and again all day long over and beyond the three days of the conference. They’re the real heroes.
With that said, I did a final sweep of the halls to see what there was to see and get in a little more play time with the titles that I could get to. So here we go…
I hit up Square-Enix first thing this morning to check out what they had for everyone to play with on the floor. There was the new Crystal Chronicles title for the Wii, Crystal Bearers, and a WW2 RTS, Order of War, that were playable among other titles. I managed to get in time with the PSP Final Fantasy title, Dissidia, which was the fighting game based around famous Final Fantasy characters like Sephiroth (FF7) and Terra (FF6/3). The controls took a little getting used to but were simple enough to get a hang of in a few minutes of fighting.
I picked Sephiroth in my first game, and it looks like you can attack a character’s bravery or his health to win the day. I’m not entirely sure what attacking their bravery is supposed to do, but it looked like it affected just how effective their attacks could be. Sephiroth’s attacks were aerial shots with his massive blade or close in slashes, but eventually, I lost to…Zidane. I tried Terra next and she did a little better. Being able to summon funnels of spinning wind and send water spells at my enemies without aiming got me only so far, though. I lost to Jecht (FFX) while fighting within a broken arena floating above a fiery maw of lava.
And if there’s one thing that Square-Enix can do, it’s put on a fantastic show filled with plenty to see…much like their games.
I also found Global Agenda, a third-person, MMO shooter based on the Unreal engine and promising to revolutionize that space by following the example that Eve Online has in allowing players to drive the entire game. It plays like a mix between Planetside and Tribes and was an entertaining demo showing off the objective-based gameplay between E3 and 20 people across the wire elsewhere in the world.
Travis Brown at Hi Rez talked up the main points of how the game was going to accomplish its lofty goals, describing a system of Agencies and leagues that they can belong to including a 45 day cycle of stories in the game. It doesn’t mean that at the end of 45 days, everyone loses what they gain, but it instead allows players to rebalance things on their side by allowing them to change allegiances and join other Agencies. It sounds intriguing and they’re still smoothing out how some of the concepts work together, but MMO fans should have something to look forward to by the end of this year.
Walking the floor eventually brought me to the Dragon Age booth and the playable demo which I snagged a spot at after the presentation. The usual Bioware staples were demonstrated in the game: branching dialogue, consequences for earlier actions, and plenty of loot to be found from the dead. Now, I wasn’t so sure as to how the story would be incorporated into the game, but the demo put me in the shoes of an elven warrior who eventually fights his way through a dungeon with his companions in search of a fallen friend.
They run into a Grey Warden, a member of a secretive society dedicated to fighting an evil known as the Blight, and head back to the nearby village to digest the information that he has shared with them. At one point, I spoke with one of the village elves who invited me to recount the history of his people with the children which I successfully did and learned a thing or two myself as to where these people stood in relation to the rest of the world.
The first impression that I had gotten from this was that I would probably not have stopped for the rest of the day if I didn’t have something else to see. With as much dialogue as there was in the few minutes that I had spent with the demo, I can easily see Dragon Age as the monster storytelling RPG of this year. Definitely for people that want a lot of lore served up with their dice rolls and I was completely pulled into the experience.
The next stop was Sega’s closed door meetings on Alpha Protocol and Bayonetta. Alpha Protocol’s experience was similar to what I had seen on the floor, but a lot of other details were demonstrated here. The skill system was shown off as the presenter described the options for the player in choosing a “class” but in using the points that they can earn through missions and experience to expand their abilities in any way that they choose. Not only that, but in passing particular milestones while improving your skills, passive abilities become unlocked like faster loading or more martial arts-styled moves for hand-to-hand combat. Very cool stuff, including an optional boss battle that could have been avoided if the player didn’t choose to be as abrasive as they were in conversation.
The Bayonetta meeting showed a lot more of the game that wasn’t in the demo including a two headed, flying dragon that wore a building on one of its heads. And yes, you had to fight it. The previous scene had Bayonetta running through a small, rustic city being consumed by lava flowing through its streets which was filled with plenty of special effects like wall-running, floating debris acting as paths, and a collapsing tower that the witch had to run up and across on.
But the surprise here was that Hideki Kamiya was the one giving the presentation via translator. Or he would have been if he hadn’t been called away, but my brother who had attended an earlier brief said that he did it all…spoke about the character, the game, and answered any questions that were asked. But Yusuke Hashimoto, Bayonetta’s producer as well as the one who had sketched and designed most of the monsters that players will see in the game, was also on hand to answer questions and fill us in on what we wanted to know about the game. One thing that was interesting was that there was no upgrade path for any of Bayonetta’s skills. It simply comes down to the player’s own skill and the combinations that they can use in the game.
No CE discussion yet, but there was also no DLC planned for Bayonetta. Hashimoto-san had basically said that they didn’t leave out anything to sell later. Everything that they wanted to be in the game is which was extremely relieving to hear.
I also walked on by the Ubisoft booth again and snapped a picture of this huge prop that was being displayed by the queue posts for the Avatar presentations that were being scheduled during the day. I didn’t get in any of them so I’m not sure if any gameplay was being shown, or if they were simply talking up the partnership between the devs and James Cameron which was introduced during the press conference on Monday.
Heading back out, I hit up Prototype over at the Activision booth which is due out next week and I’m definitely going to be picking it up based on the few minutes of play that I had with the game. The controls have a slight learning curve to them, but after punching apart Abrams tanks and slaughtering weird, mutant golems by the doze, they easily become second nature.
Sin and Punishment 2 from Treasure was also being shown off at the Nintendo booth and was a lot of fun to play. The demo took you from the start in flying over the city to fighting a giant turtle-like boss at the end and whichever character you chose had two attacks: shooting and slashing. Very entertaining stuff and just as much of a challenge as you would expect it to be from the shooter-masters at Treasure. Yes, that means I died. A lot.
At the Microsoft booth, Halo 3 ODST was also being shown off with a long line that seemed to never get any shorter. At least the giant wall display that they had for the game was clear of people.
I also managed to spend time with Brutal Legend and seeing Ozzie Osbourne reborn in the game as the Lord of the Forge (i.e. he’s a guy from whom you can purchase upgrades to the Deuce, your car, and your battle axe). I’m looking forward to getting this into the house as soon as it hits the stores. Slashing away at evil demons with an axe while literally bringing down the house with my electric guitar…especially in summoning lightning down from the heavens to smite my enemies…never got old. I would be surprised if this didn’t win some kind of award for being unique. After that, a little more wandering around to catch a few last minute glimpses of titles being played out and reported on before the inevitable curtain call.
Ending the day, I waited in line for the last call for a free copy of Battlefield 1943 when it is finally made available for players on Xbox Live or on the PSN. The line quickly built up as we waited as journalists, exhibitioners, and anyone else with an access badge made it their last chance to get a free code for their copy of the game.
And so that was it for E3…and for my feet. Getting out of the convention hall and to our pickup spot for leaving the area was also a challenge since the Lakers were playing right next door…and the crowds had already begun to filter in all around it. Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything else.