After 17 personal E3s and more than 20 years in the industry, I -- and we collectively at AusGamers -- can authoritatively declare that games are experiencing an absolute renaissance period in terms of quality, design, choice and maturity. And amidst SO MANY games being shown at E3 in 2018, we’ve un-enviably come up with a list of the 10 absolute best. Games we were given a chance to experience, play and just be exposed to.
A top 10. It’s come down to this. Other sites will give you a category and genre-filled outbreak of amazing games; lists the length of your arm, and that’s fine. As official Game Critics Awards “Best of E3…” judges ourselves, we’ll be submitting a number of games in similar fashion, but for our own site we wanted to simplify the process. We wanted to bite-size it, just a bit, because this year, next year and maybe a year or two beyond, there’s a lot to look forward too. And we saw most of it at this year’s event.
Specifically, at this E3 (2018), we’ve been shown a number of games without specific release dates. Some we know are this year, others filling out 2019. And still others potentially further along (but hopefully next year, at the latest). We’ve already talked about a few of the games we’ve seen, and we have some serious deep-dives incoming over the next little while. But ahead of that, and because we’ve just been doing this for so damned long, we wanted to focus on 10 of the absolute very best. These are games capable of making even the most jaded games writer’s neck hairs stand on end. And yes, this is in order of best to… well, 10th best, beginning with 10th. And over the next three days we’ll be splitting this “bite-sized” feature up into three parts (this being part two), because it actually got bigger than we expected. But hey, what can you do when you’re passionate and excited about a seriously incredible future of releases headed our way?
So, without further ado, let’s continue with our very first Rare Air -- AusGamers’ Official Top 10 Best Games of E3 List, Part 2.
5. Ghost of Tsushima - Developer: Sucker Punch Productions - Release: Unknown - Platform: PlayStation 4
True story: I have a full rib piece and half sleeve (that’s mine) -- both by the incredible Josh Roelink of Australia -- based around the Mongol Invasion of Japan in the 13th century. I was always fascinated with Kublai Khan’s efforts to tame the island nation, and his subsequent failure -- and the legends that failure would grow. That the Mongols had no idea about Samurai culture and weren’t properly equipped to deal with them. That the term “kamikaze” originated from two typhoons that would decimate Khan’s enormous fleet attempting to launch on Japan’s shores. That during the invasion, this would be Japan’s first true exposure to gunpowder -- all of it is legendary, and all of it is very real.
Ghost of Tsushima by Sly Raccoon developer, Sucker Punch, is pulling no punches with their open-world samurai action-adventure. We have no details on how combat and character progression works. How quests and the open-world work -- how the invasion affects the pacing of the game and, ultimately, shapes the full experience. But we do know there’s nothing supernatural here. This isn’t From Software’s Sekiro -- it’s a measured action experience that takes its cues from the likes of Yusagi Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Kurasawa in general, and pays homage to the legends forged from the historical conflict.
Moreover, the tiny nugget we did gleam from our BCD is that the player character -- Jin Sakai (Daisuke Tsuji) is a samurai with a master -- he’s not a ronin. However, with the Mongols using the first ever hand-thrown explosive devices (ie the world’s first grenades), he’s had to adapt his fighting style, which leads to a stealth side of the game, and perhaps, ultimately, a ninja gameplay tilt with samurai sensibilities. Whatever that could mean.
How the game is framed against its action is a work of design brilliance; a symphony of visual direction against a harsh, sometimes muddy, bloody and gruesome reality plays off the ever-inviting open-world. Over there: dark, rain-filled clouds tell us we’re going to be dealing with forces beyond the Mongols. Yet over there, a brightly moonlit scene of fiery carnage at the foot of a village gives us another dangerous option. The world here is as much a character as Jin and his marauders, and for the record, the entire sequence shown at the Sony presser and in our BCD (changed, unlike The Last of Us II) isn;t even main-quest content -- it’s optional side-questing, which actually speaks volumes about the world.
In Ghost of Tsushima, we might have found a game-world unlike any other, ironically steeped entirely in historical fact (and poetic license) against the usual over-the-top flair of most videogames.
4. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey - Developer: Ubisoft Quebec - Release: October 5, 2018 - Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
There’s an emphasis with this outing centred around player-choice. And an interesting term was thrown out to us: “spectative storytelling”. What this means, explained senior producer, Marc-Alexis Côté, was that Odyssey would do away with traditional non-interactive cut-scenes (to a degree), and give gamers a player-driven choice-defined narrative.
Unfortunately in an hour of game-time, exploring the depth of this was impossible, but out of the gate a new dialogue system with varying degrees of expanded exposition, choice and consequence, and an ever-branching tree of player choice and gameplay option was on show. And if the team nails this in the way they described, it will be another revelation for the series. But they’ve gone even further with new systems, directives and options for the player.
And the word “options” here is poignant. Because while traditional AC pillars remain in traversal, stealth, combat and more, there’s a greater emphasis on decisive -- and divisive -- action. For example, a new option is Conquest Mode -- here, the player tackles a new Nation Power system (given there are multiple nations you encounter throughout Ancient Greece and the Aegean Sea) where you work to sabotage and weaken a nation’s power (naturally), and when ready, based on decisions you’ve made through the earlier-mentioned conversation and choice combinations, you can enter Conquest Mode -- a true 150 Vs 150 soldier battle where you also join the fight on the battlefield.
In pre-release form, it was a little clunky, but that’s to be expected this early out of the game’s October release. And if this gets the polish it so rightfully deserves, it’s going to add an entirely new, fun and engaging layer to an already systems-packed game.
And as a game coming this year, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey sits rightly ahead of the midway point. And we can’t wait to take to the Aegean Seas and its myriad islands for more precursor Brotherhood content.
3. Dying Light 2 - Developer: Techland - Release: 2019 - Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Xbox One X Enhanced)
Dying Light was a fantastic breakout success from a studio that was not just finding its feet, but also building its own brand and culture. And when measured against their earlier efforts with the Dead Island series, it was abundantly clear this talented bunch had found a niche and voice beyond those games, with a vision towards a larger development future.
And this year we all thought they’d announce their not-so-secret fantasy action-RPG they’ve been working on, but instead were met at the Xbox Media briefing with an impressive return to the mantra: “Good Night, Good Luck”, with the surprise unveiling of Dying Light 2. This is fantastic news for people like myself, who spent more than 500 hours in the base game and its super-impressive expansion: Dying Light: The Following -- the studio’s ever-growing creativity was most evident in that expansion, and it became clear at that game’s close that a new true Triple-A studio had finally emerged.
But then: “A wild Chris Avallone appeared!” (Fallout 2, Fallout: New Vegas), and now we have an ambitious product in a sequel that isn’t just “doubling the number of parkour moves” of the original release, but is basically doubling the creativity of their already-heralded Dying Light and The Following releases. And it’s also not Avallone, alone. Remember the “Bloody Baron” questline from The Witcher 3? The key writers from that remarkable series of branching missions, and its main story spine, are also on board for this new foray into Dying Light, which also takes place some 15 years after the first game. Those two factors combine to tell us two things: a clean slate, and darker, more consequential gameplay based on longform and in-the-moment decisions is what awaits us.
Add to this a more colourful game-world, and one where the zombies are still just sandbox toys with humans continuing to be the “real monsters”, and the recipe ahead of us is a tasty one indeed. What remains unanswered is will the transitions for your decisions for communities be fast-tracked with single outcomes, or will they be dynamic and happen in real-time? And can you shape them as those transitions begin to take effect? Also, based on your community decisions, how will that shape the larger playspace on the whole? Are we to expect a similar faction allegiance system to the one we saw in New Vegas?
And it’s all of those questions and more that elevates Dying Light 2 to third position in our list. The potential of this game is massive, and so is our list of questions, but that we’re forging them at all means it’s already done half its job, and when you add that to the pedigree from which it sprung, it’s an easy Top 3 entry.
Part III of this epic Rare Air - AusGamers’ Official Top 10 Best Games of E3 List will be up Wednesday, June 20, counting down entries two and one -- the games we consider absolute BEST OF SHOW, so stay tuned. And remember to chime in with your thoughts, opinions and even your own list either by commenting, or signing up to comment.