The standout titles for me in the final couple of days of E3 were both forthcoming PC entries in the Paradox stable – one (Crusader Kings II) developed internally, one by a third party (King Arthur II: The Roleplaying Wargame) and published by Paradox:
Crusader Kings II: The sequel to Paradox’s 2004 feudalism simulator looks, and sounds, pretty good (see here for my uxorial misadventures with the original game). However, a one-minute trailer can’t address my biggest potential issues. One, will CK2 stay manageable over the course of the game? Or will the player be snowed under by an endless stream of pointless decisions about whether the fifth son of Newly Arrived Hanger-On Noble #987 should be taught by priests or soldiers? Two, Paradox games have always suffered badly from the typical strategy curse of the exciting early game giving way to the boring mid/lategame, and Shogun 2 addressed this well enough to spoil me for all other strategy games. A wait and see for me.
King Arthur II: Now this looks cool. Total War-style battles with the addition of AT-AT- sized giant insects and whole squadrons of dragons? Yes please! (As a bonus, it looks like the sequel’s art design will be every inch as cool as the original’s – check out this dev diary on the artwork for Morgana le Fay.) I didn’t play enough of the first game to form an opinion on its gameplay, but hopefully KA2 will live up to the promise of its visuals.
So following Day 2 of E3 (or Day 1, if you exclude the pre-show?), here’s what stood out for me:
OnLive, the cloud-based game service, announced iPad and Android apps: This is not completely news – streaming games to tablets was one of Gamestop’s stated motivations for the Spawn acquisition; and last week, OnLive announced a unique controller that, it said, would work with tablets. And the collection of games on OnLive’s website is currently underwhelming – but that is not set in stone. I don’t know whether OnLive will be able to shift gaming towards a software as a service model or marginalise dedicated gaming hardware. I do think that it’ll be worth keeping an eye on those possibilities. (VentureBeat article, and video, here.)
Honourable mention goes to Nintendo’s Wii U – it’ll be interesting to see what developers can do with a controller that has its own touchscreen. If Nintendo region-locks the console, though, as it did for the Wii, that would likely be a dealbreaker for me.
It’s time for E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo! The various gaming sites offer a wealth of detail, but most useful to me was VentureBeat’s quick, one-page summary of the highlights.
For me, a few things have stood out:
The PS Vita: Formerly known as the “Next Generation Portable”. As with all things Sony, this looks like a marvel of engineering – at first glance, its graphics seem equal to those on the PS3! Its price is also competitive with the 3DS: US$250 for the base version (with Wi-Fi only); US$300 for the version with 3G. Still, don’t throw away your PSP quite yet: the Vita lacks a UMD drive so you’ll have to download PSP titles via the PSN store – but not every PSP game is available via PSN. This goes doubly so if you import games, because titles available on the PSN store are segregated by region. So far, I’ve seen no Vita titles that are must-gets,; the catalyst for me to buy a Vita would be good RPGs and TRPGs (since that’s what I mostly play on my PSP).
Far Cry 3: Sadly, this has not stood out in a good way. I’m disappointed by its choice of setting: an island populated by various gun-toting crazies (including one mohawked guy who looks like a Fallout 3 escapee). This stands in contrast to Far Cry 2, which at least on paper, offered the grounded, “real world” setting of an African civil war, rather than the typical FPS thinly veiled setup for the Adventures of Angry McShootsALot. Granted, Far Cry 2’s gameplay didn’t live up to the theme – in practice, the absence of a faction system or any NPC interaction outside town meant that it boiled down to the Adventures of Angry McShootsALot anyway – but from my limited time with the game, I still really liked the attempt.
Bioshock Infinite: A game set in a steampunk/dieselpunk-themed city in the sky! Now that’s a cool premise. It didn’t hurt that the gameplay conceit of shepherding a female companion initially reminded me of Ico (though upon reading the details, it sounds a bit more like Prince of Persia 2008).
I’ll try to update as E3 rolls on, so stay tuned!