E3 2018 – EA Conference

Electronic Arts really needed to come out swinging this year after the scandal that was Star Wars: Battlefront II and its horrendous micro-transactions. Unfortunately this conference did little to impress.

The hallmark of EA conferences over the last couple of years has been to showcase the teams and people behind their games. This is always a nice note to see game creators and let them showcase the passion behind their art. This year however these sequences felt drawn out and made the conference feel like it was padding for time.

That’s not to say these segments were bad, just not well placed it what should feel like a showcase of the great games for the year to come.

Unravel Two showed well, and actually looks far more interesting to me than the first game ever did. The mechanics of swinging around and puzzle solving with a friend seem really fun and rewarding. And it is available today.

The highlight of this conference for me was Sea of Solitude from developer Jo-Mei, the concept of a world where emotions have physical consequences seems fascinating, and the speech that was made on stage shows how much thought the developers have put into the story and world they have created.

Battlefront II had a small showing, where they tried to humble themselves and admit to their mistakes (without really saying it), and announced that they are bringing the Clone Wars, Geonosis, General Grievous, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker into the game. All of which feels far too late.

Vince Zampella revealed that his team is working on a new  game titled Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, which is set between Episodes III and IV while the Empire is hunting Jedi that survived Order 66. He also revealed that it should release around the holidays in 2019.

Anthem was intended to be EA and Bioware’s big showpiece for this conference and for me it fell flat. Again the showing wasn’t bad but it didn’t really show much of anything different from last years game-play demo. We got a bit more information about the world and why players need to use the Javelin power armor but there wasn’t enough of this to really get me excited about a game that I hope will be a competitor for Destiny when it releases on February 22 2019 (If it doesn’t get delayed).

It doesn’t help that from this showing I don’t have a clear idea about what the game entails. It seems story focused which is great coming from Bioware, and we were told that it can be played solo. But they also mentioned co-op with friends, which seems to be calling them into your game or joining a summons sent out by someone else. Which is just like the system used in Monster Hunter, rather than encountering random players like you do in Destiny. And I very much prefer the later, as when done well it makes the world feel lived in.

EA also showed off a little bit more of Battlefield V and dropped the announcement of a “royale” style game mode to be introduced after the launch of the game, which will have no loot-boxes or premium pass.

Of course they also had the usual assortment of sports games where they anounced a UEFA mode for FIFA 19, and a World Cup mode for FIFA 18 (which is free to play for a short while). As well as a (for some reason) shoutcasted match of a new Command and Conquer mobile game, which currently has a beta in the google play store for Android phones.

In the end this conference would have been served much better as a cut down and edited digital only presentation in the style of a Nintendo Direct, or much like Bethesda’s conference from last year. And I hope that we find out more about Anthem as the week of E3 continues and more people go hands on with the game.

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Mass Effect: My Road to Andromeda.

mass-effect

Mass Effect was a series that I ignored for a very long time, mainly because I didn’t have any of the hardware to play the games on as they released. But eventually I got my hands on Mass Effect 3 as a consolation for having bought Sim City 2013 when that game had its god awful launch.

So I figured it was time to jump in to the series and see what I was missing so I bought Mass Effect 1 when it next went on sale. I approached it like I do in many RPGs to make myself and experience the world as I believe I would act.

So out came John Shepard Hero of the Alliance………….. and I didn’t even finish the first mission. For some reason I couldn’t connect with the characters or world in any way so I moved on and played something else.

In the following years as rumors of Mass Effect Andromeda started to surface then finally a brief reveal at an E3 press conference, I began to get interested in this elusive series once again. By this time I had heard a lot of good things about playing Mass Effect as female Shepard. So I decided to take a different tack when trying to play this time.

I approached the game as playing a character, choosing the way they would act rather than the way I would act. Experiencing the story through them rather than through myself, Jennifer Hale’s superb voice acting helped immensely with this too.

Doing this brought me in deep and I played the whole trilogy with all of its story DLC in about a week in January 2016. The only game I didn’t perfect (finishing all quests) was Mass Effect 1 due to trying to get away from the most dated part of the series.

All in all I loved the trilogy, and more than a little annoyed with myself having ignored the franchise for so long. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me given how much I love the Sci-Fi genre, and now with Andromeda on its way later this month I can’t wait for it to drop, (even if I am annoyed with having a couple of assignments due around the same time).

Mass Effect: Andromeda from what I have seen of it, looks to be moving back towards the kind exploration that Mass Effect 1 had. With being able to touch down on many different planets in search of resources and technology to improve your character and teammates. Though hopefully Andromeda’s Nomad is vastly more controllable than the MAKO.

It will also be interesting to see how the story plays out given that Humanity and the Council races from the Mass Effect trilogy are in a completely alien environment in the Andromeda galaxy far away from any help or home that they recognize.

Andromeda will also have replay value of a different magnitude than the Trilogy, due to a couple of interesting gameplay changes. The first being that your choice of Male or Female player character is a choice between siblings Scot and Sara Ryder, and supposedly the one you don’t choose is present in the story and each will have different interactions with the world.

The second change is the removal of the Lightside vs Darkside AKA the Paragon/Renegade system in conversations, to more ambiguous choices that are more along the lines of a rational versus an emotional answer.

I hope this means it will play out similarly to the Witcher games where choices have consequences but everything has shades of grey, and what you think is the “good” answer at the time may have unforeseen consequences.

Plus as a person who almost always is pulled to the light and chooses the good option hopefully will give the opportunity to play a little more naturally.

I really hope Andromeda is good, I even upgraded my PC graphics card from a GTX 760 to a GTX 1060 just to make sure the game looks as good as I hope it plays. But we will see at the end of the month, and hopefully if my assignments go well I will have the opportunity to play through the game and get some impressions up here quickly.

I may even do a first 5 hours impressions article. But I will have to see how addicted I get to it.