Note: Rick submitted the following article after attending the 2012 E3 conference at the end of June. Unfortunately, we somehow forgot to post it. Apologies to Rick and our readers for not having this up sooner.
E3 2012 struck me as a bit quieter than most, although that may just have been companies finally turning down the volume on their speakers. There was still plenty of excitement, but the dust has finally settled at last, so I guess that makes it time to give out the awards nobody else is willing to give:
E3 isn’t just about seeing all the coolest games, it’s also about the phat lewts. Perfect World totally dominated the field, with t-shirts, dragon hats, totes, and glass mugs (sturdy enough to survive the trip in my suitcase) to promote their Neverwinter game. Incidentally, Neverwinter is an awesome take on 4e Dungeons and Dragons—uses the terminology and some of the concepts of 4e, but executed in a way that works for real-time free-to-play MMO. I’m sure they had other games, but Neverwinter was awesome enough that I would have mentioned it even without the swag. A distant but still decent second was Neocore, for their Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing game, which is a Diablo clone. A hand made leather hat just for looking at the game? Not bad, and it’s a decent enough clone.
Wargaming.Net has really come up in the world the last few years, especially with their World of Tanks game. They’re pushing World of Warplanes now, with World of Battleships on the horizon. Booths at E3 tend to be either very cluttered or very sterile (even Disney’s booth is almost antiseptic), but Wargaming’s spacious booth left plenty of room to sit and watch their beautiful games, in a black color scheme that made it just that much easier to see what you’re supposed to see at E3.
Speaking of black, there was a general darker theme to games at E3 this year. It wasn’t the yet another Hitman game or Assassin’s Creed sequel, where you expect some murdering to be done. There were quite a few games where your role as player has you killing human beings that just happen to be in your way. Dishonored from Bethesda, Omerta from Kalypso, and Orcs and Men from Focus Home Interactive all have their reasons for the killing, but Square Enix gets the prize for the attempted sexual assault of the title character in Lara Croft Reborn. Granted, the would-be rapist doesn’t get far before his brain matter gets a’splattered on Lara, but that’s still a new direction for these games.
Almost every booth has some munchies around, but real food can be hard to acquire. That’s what the E3 parties are for. The Hawken party was a bust, the food didn’t come out until after a few hours, although that did at least allow for time to play their free-to-play big mech fighting game. It’s pretty darn good, by the way, but for the best meal the ShowStoppers party was the bomb. Real entrée-type food and lots of appetizers on hand made hanging around to see stuff worthwhile. E3 time is very limited, and ShowStoppers is a very efficient party to go to, as they had a dozen smaller companies showing off their wares, and I would have missed them all amidst the many blinking lights of the showroom floor. The top exhibitor was Escort, with a great app offering real time cloud sharing of information of radar and laser detection systems on the roads (so you no longer need your own radar detector). What a great way to make road travel safer, or at least less likely to encounter any of the many armed men that patrol the roads looking to extract money from helpless travelers.
All too often the booth babes at E3 only get offended if you ask about compatibility of their software with your hardware, but at 2K, the booth babes actually played the game, in this case Borderlands 2. Manly pride prevents me from saying who won, but she and I played through a map, and we both administered plenty of carnage. The original Borderlands was fun, but game play always felt restricted—the world was just a little too realistic to have the numbers of enemies needed to make the combat nonstop. The sequel looks like it will keep the fun, and open the world up a bit with more, and more varied, enemies (including spawners, which hopefully will help with the “not enough bad guys” syndrome). Planetside 2, incidentally, looked to be the only shooter at E3 that might give Borderlands 2 a run for its money. The former is a free to play MMO, though, so might get a bit more exposure amongst players.
Sequels were heavily in attendance at E3, and I honestly don’t think I saw anything that wasn’t a brand extension, a sequel, or at least a game built upon old IP (intellectual property), so we have a three way tie here. Divinity: Original Sin takes the original Divinity brand and goes old school with it, as a turn-based party RPG. The other Divinity games were extremely good titles (if not exactly sequels, either), so pretty much anything from Lorian gets a look from me. Old IP doesn’t mean “not commercially viable” IP, and Testament of Sherlock Holmes gives real respect to the Sherlock Holmes character (unlike those silly action movies). You search rooms for clues, and an innovative system lets you assemble them to piece together what really happened at a crime scene, in a manner I’ve never seen before. It may be a “great if you like that sort of thing” game, but kudos to Focus Home Interactive for giving is a serious try. Most original sequel goes to Telltale Games’ Episode 2 of their Walking Dead game. Yeah, I can appreciate if you’re sick of zombies, but this is some good stuff, and Episode 1 ended far too soon. Episode 2 may be more of the same, but it’s a game style unlike any other, so I’ll give it a pass this year.