E3 and Me: The Best (and Worst) of E3 2021
Another year, another Electronic Entertainment Expo. It was hard to quantify how disappointing 2020’s E3 replacement was with multiple shows from various developers taking place over three months last summer. If there was one thing E3 did well it was corralling hundreds of developers under one roof and managing how they showed off their games. Although the big 3 – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – have been distancing themselves from the main event for some time now other publishers like EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix and indie mainstay Devolver Digital have stuck around. Why rent your own theatre and fuck up a gameplay reveal when someone else can do it for you?
It goes without saying that not many expected E3 to survive past 2020 in its live format which we last saw in 2019. That E3 ended with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) leaking the details of press and gaming influencers to the public. A dangerous precedent considering how both gaming journalists and gaming fans see each other as evil conspiracy nuts. But with E3 2021 it’s safe to say that things are evolving.
For one E3 isn’t dead, it certainly lacked a live audience for the second time in its 26 year history, but it was far from the bloated corpse many expected it to be this time last year. E3 has just changed and adapted even if it is still functionally the same thing at its core. EA showed a new Battlefield, Ubisoft showed a new Far Cry and Nintendo showed very little. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway here are my picks for some of the best (and worst) things I saw, from the comfort of my couch, at E3 2021.
The Best: Battlefield 2042
Jesus Christ talk about calling your shot. 128 players, random weather events, destructible environments, hitting a helicopter with an exploding quad bike? DICE did not come to play. Except they did. The Battlefield series is one of the few games that plays almost exactly as it looks. It’s tense, it’s fast-paced and most importantly it’s fun. Although the more modern iterations of Battlefield always moved faster than those set in World War 1 or World War 2 that has it’s own kind of charm. With first person shooters upping the pace in the last half decade, think Apex Legends and DOOM: Eternal, it tracks that things will get faster before they inevitably slow down again. Fuck it, I’ll let the trailer speak for itself.
The Worst: Square Enix
What’s worse than nothing? How about shitty offshoots of the one IP you own that players care about? Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin promises little more than a new perspective of the first final fantasy that seems to star a H & M model that just found out his dog died. Meanwhile remasters of the original six Final Fantasy games offer very little beyond better looking pixels. Wow! Call me cynical but if this is all you have to offer and you’re not drawing from a limitless font of goodwill like Nintendo are than it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Oh wait! There’s a new Marvel game about Guardians of the Galaxy that makes Star Lord look like he has “All Lives Matter” in his Twitter bio.
The Unexpected But Welcome Surprise: Elden Ring
Explorable open world? Check. A lone warrior cursed to die again and again in order to break an endless curse? Check. Mechanics as tightly wound as a taiko drum? Check. Enemies ranging from fucked up little goblin men to walking jars to late game Bloodborne motherfuckers? Check. It all checks out it’s a FromSoftware game! Since it’s announcement two years ago Elden Ring has been a much whispered about secret. Hidetaka Miyazaki working with George R. R. Martin you say? A ghost horse you say? With elements so closely linked to Berserk that Kentaro Miura could have sued when he was still alive you say? Sign us up we say!
The Game That I’ll Play For 1 Or 100 Hours: Death Trash
There are plenty of games that aim for the post-apocalyptic, Lovecraftian and cyberpunk aesthetics and fail to capture the atmosphere necessary to get people to complete the game. Death Trash looks thoughtful and considered enough that it might just pull it off. Of course it only looks that way, I’ve yet to play the free demo available on Steam. It could be like Hyper Light Drifter, a game I really struggled with and that Death Trash looks like a scummier, nastier version of albeit with a great deal more variety. A game that lets you eat your own puke is either a GOTY contender or not worth the code it’s built on.
The Obligatory DLC Announcement: Resident Evil Village
Look, no one’s upset about this. Village was really Resident Evil getting its mojo back in a big way. If Resident Evil 7 was Capcom calling their shot then Village is the nasty, gory bullet impact. It’s hard to overstate how positive the reception for Resident Evil Village was. It took inspiration from the likes of classic horror movies, Hideo Kojima’s P.T., Call of Duty: Zombies and it’s own storied history to build something new and frightening. So no, no one’s upset that we get more Resident Evil Village.
Further Reading: Game Review | Resident Evil Village Looks Back As It Shambles Forward.
Skyrim But In Space: Starfield
The Bethesda and Microsoft conference held no real surprises except for Halo: Infinite’s multiplayer being free-to-play from day one and oh yeah Starfield. The first new IP in 25 years from the kings of mainstream western RPGs I’m guessing we’re getting a cross of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout in space. Not much more beyond that other than the fact it’ll release on the 11th anniversary of Skyrim’s original release. That’s 11/11/22. A solid 18 months away but it’s a reason to dream big about next year’s E3 if nothing else. V.A.T.S in space… Dare to dream.
Thanks For Showing Up: Nintendo
You know it’s a bad year for Nintendo when the most exciting thing they show is at the Ubisoft press conference. OK yeah it was a big day for Metroid and Zelda fans but I’m a Mario man at heart and a traditionalist at that. So no, another crossover with Ubisoft’s Rabbids doesn’t excite me. There were no big surprises from Nintendo and if I was ten years younger an Advance Wars reboot would have excited me. But no more! Enjoy your Metroid: Wild or The Legend of Link: Breath of the Dread or whatever.