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A bright future: Games to watch from E3

We sampled a ton of different games at this year's show.

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Every year E3 in Los Angeles delivers us a ton of new games, whether that be via explosive trailers or presentations and hands-on sessions at the event itself, and given that we've been witness to a lot of these titles, it's the perfect time to showcase a selection of them and give you a taste of what's heading your way in the future, whether you're a VR fan or want to see some iconic series returning once again.

Arca's Path (Dream Reality Interactive / Rebellion)

Rebellion was at E3 with a PSVR headset in hand to show us Arca's Path, and this game was unique in the sense that you didn't need a controller to play it. Instead, you guide a ball through a maze using just your head, as your gaze places a marker on the ground that the ball rolls towards, changing speed depending on how far away the marker is.

The resulting experience is a wonderfully simple puzzle game that requires you to platform and carefully weave your way through a series of challenges in a rather unique way, and the whole thing is coated in this colourful, polygonal design. It's very much a case of pick up and play, but it'll take a lot to master the tight turns, especially if you're someone who likes to speed run your way through games. Super Monkey Ball fans, watch out.

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Hyper Sports R (Konami)

Remember Track & Field? Well, the game was known as Hyper Olympic in Japan, and Hyper Sports R is looking to bring the same disciplines into the modern age on Nintendo Switch, the perfect platform considering it's local co-op capabilities. This is probably why we got so into it when two of us sat down to engage in some friendly competition at Konami's booth.

The graphics have obviously been overhauled and we now compete with cartoon characters, and if you've ever played an Olympics game you'll know the deal, as a lot the disciplines require a mixture between button-mashing to build speed and other buttons to perform actions. We're promised events like beach volleyball too, but from what we played (including javelin and 100m sprint) it seems like good fun, especially with friends.

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Indivisible (Lab Zero Games / 505 Games)

Crowdfunded game Indivisible from Lab Zero Games also showed its face in LA, and even let us get our hands on the game, inspired by a number of different genres, including Metroidvania. Yes, there'll be plenty of 2D platforming, exploring, and backtracking as you progress through the world, unlock abilities, and explore even further as new paths open up.

What caught our eye most about the game was the art style, and especially the animations, which are all hand-drawn and reminded us a lot of Forgotton Anne, a similarly good-looking game with gorgeous art. The turn-based combat is a treat to behold, and with seemingly deep progression, characters, and lots of places to see, this is one to watch for sure.


Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion (Climax Studios / Outright Games)

Fans of Adventure Time may already be aware that Finn and Jake are making moves into the world of video games once again with Pirates of the Enchiridion, and when we got a chance to play it we found out that the Land of Ooo has been flooded, and it's up to us to find out what's going on by sailing the newly-formed ocean on our trust pirate ship.

Of course during our quest we'll get to speak with iconic characters like the Ice King (who we even interrogated), and yes it's packed with the classic humour we've come to expect - but there'll also be turn-based battles as well, with light RPG progression available on top of that to upgrade our characters. It's colourful, it's silly, and it's exactly what we've come to expect from the series, so we had a blast with it.


Mavericks: Proving Grounds (Automaton)

It wouldn't be 2018 without mentioning the words "battle royale", except Mavericks is aiming for between 400 and 1,000 player battles in their game, which ups the ante significantly. We didn't have enough people to try this out, unfortunately, but what we did play showed us an early version of the highly-detailed mechanics, like destructible environments similar to Rainbow Six: Siege. We also saw how you affect the world around you, like flattening grass as you walk through it.

Developer Automaton Games told us that this is more than just a battle royale though, as there are social elements to make it like an MMO as well, but the focus is really on the detail enabled by the SpatialOS technology that they're using, allowing for more players and more depth in the gameplay. Time will tell if this works to its full potential, but with a beta test coming this year, we don't have to wait long.


Ashen (Aurora44 / Annapurna Interactive)

We've known about Soulslike game Ashen for a while now, and when we dived into the game at E3 we saw the Souls comparisons were particularly apt, as the ashes strewn about the land are almost exactly like the first game. Stylistically though it's more like Absolver, with cartoon-style graphics and faceless figures populating the world as you battle your way through challenging enemies, dodging and rolling to keep yourself alive.

We sampled a section of the game and was accompanied by an AI and a developer, which helped us take on the hefty boss, and there was a plethora of weapons to choose from, whether you like a meaty battleaxe or something more along the lines of a simple sword and shield combo. There are plenty of Soulslikes out there for sure, but it's worth keeping an eye on this one.


The Sinking City (Frogwares / Bigben Interactive)

As far as bizarre combos go, The Sinking City is up there with the weirdest, as it's a game that throws you into an early twentieth-century Boston-esque city flooded by a natural disaster, and is heavily inspired by Lovecraft. It's unique, to say the least, and you play as a detective solving various mysteries in the game as you go, encountering Lovecraftian horrors while you explore.

The game looks pretty rough right now in terms of visuals, but the demo we were shown gave us a taste of the investigative methods in the game, which doesn't hold your hand at all. You'll need to boat your way through the city and keep close track of notes and dialogue in order to keep yourself safe and unravel mysteries, and for now it's looking like a case we'd like to crack.


My Friend Pedro (DeadToast Entertainment / Devolver Digital)

The Matrix and Max Payne were just a few of the things that helped make slow-motion shooting super cool, and a game that's looking to bring this back is My Friend Pedro, one of Devolver Digital's upcoming releases inspired by the likes of Equilibrium. There's one catch here though: Pedro is a banana, and he's your guide through this murderous journey.

This 2D shooter is all about the epic stunts and action, and it does things like let you throw a frying pan up and shoot it as bullets ricochet into your foes. It's bloody and provides a real power fantasy, but it's all so over the top that it's incredibly funny at the same time, suiting Devolver Digital perfectly, especially since it's so simple to get into as well. Bring on more Pedro, and bring on more bullets.


Serious Sam 4 (Croteam / Devolver Digital)

We also witnessed a hands-off demo of Serious Sam 4, and the chaotic series returns in style. The demo we saw showed us only one level, measuring 80x80 miles (larger than the entirety of Skyrim), and the developers were at pains to emphasise the scale, as there can be 100,000 enemies on screen at any one time... or so we're promised.

We explore this world on a variety of vehicles, a highlight being a combine harvester, and there are side quests to do, tons of enemies to paint the walls with, and it's all wrapped up in a neat visual package. We'll have to wait to see whether they can make this world consistently interesting as well as big, but for now it's all pointing to chaotic action, and we like the sound of that.


Sable (Shedworks)

"This is an open-world game, but it's not what you think." The developers of Sable, a visually distinctive exploration and narrative heavy open-world game, are keen to point out that you shouldn't expect combat or the usual mission markers you'd expect in this kind of title. It's a game where you gaze at the horizon, notice a point of interest, something that sticks out, jump on a hoverbike and make your way over there to investigate. You talk to NPCs and learn of clues to the mysteries of this solemn world. It's a neat premise, and naturally, it has a bit of Breath of the Wild in its DNA.

What caught our attention at first solely on the basis of its lovely visuals now speaks to us in terms of its gameplay and mystery.


GTFO (10 Chambers Collective)

GRTV's own Dóri Halldórsson enjoys co-operative shooters on PC, and he also enjoys a good challenge. 10 Chamber Collective's GTFO, hidden away at the back of the infamous unsexy Concourse Hall of LA Convention Center, is just that - a co-op game that offers no quarter and where every bullet counts. The idea is simple, you're sent down hundreds of metres into a dark hole in order to secure some sort of item. Finding the mission objective is up to you. There's a procedural element to each map layout, enemy placement, items to scavenge, and you're not given a marker to follow instead you'll need to figure out where to go by reading signs and clues in the caverns. Ammunition is limited and avoiding detection as much as possible is key or you might get overrun by the creatures inhabiting the hole.

This game is being made by a small team of veteran developers (hailing from Overkill, makers of the Payday series) and offers some of the most impressive use of the Unity engine seen to date and we came away utterly impressive from our session with the game. Even playing with three developers we got wiped, but that's the experience you should expect from GTFO. It promises a challenge.


Phantom Doctrine (CreativeForge Games / Good Shepherd Entertainment)

From the developers of Hard West comes the Cold War rogue agent strategy game Phantom Doctrine. The basic premise here is that as either a CIA, KGB, or Mossad operative you uncovered a conspiracy that leads you to set up your own agency as you can't trust anyone. The Cold War is a shamefully underused backdrop in video games, and Phantom Doctrine offers a Xcom-esque experience where you're basically able to decide for yourself how strategic you want to be. A mission can be made much easier by gathering intel and maybe placing an agent undercover at the location. Maybe you can be stealthy and quickly extract the objective without even breaking cover? Maybe you'll instead line up snipers and use decoys? Maybe you're in dire straights and you need to go in blind, risking your agents' lives or perhaps even worse, having them captured, interrogated and brainwashed.

The strategic depth here is mindboggling and it's really going to be a case of who to trust and knowing when to activate that all-important brainwashed sleeper agent in the enemy camp.


Shadows: Awakening (Games Farm / Kalypso Media)

One genre that was sorely underrepresented during this year's E3 was traditional RPGs. Sure there was Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and Kingdom Hearts III, but where it's typically not easy to whittle it down to the top five RPGs of the show, this year we struggled to come up with five games that were actually playable. One interesting RPG that we hadn't seen much of prior to the show was Kalypso Media's Shadows: Awakening. The game puts you in the shoes (or is it hoofs?) of a demon, one that's trapped in a different realm. By consuming lost souls in this world he gains access to our world, and so you'll build your party of dead companions, each with a very different story to tell (some will have died recently, others will have been out of the loop for hundreds of years). Switching between realms will provide advantages in combat, but also allows for puzzle-solving notably as time flows slower in the demon world.

We only caught a brief glimpse of Shadows: Awakening and it's hard to tell whether it will hold up through what is no doubt a lengthy campaign, but there's promise here and we're keen to see where it ends up.


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