Now that E3 2011 is over I thought I'd list a few of the things that caught my attention (other than Star Wars The Old Republic, which you can find my thoughts on here).
It seems to have been a pretty successful show overall, with quite a few exciting hardware and game announcements being made. In no particular order here's the stuff I found interesting.
Mass Effect 3
It's not really news that I'm looking forwards to this game. I can't wait to see the resolution of Shepard's story. After seeing the content at E3 I have satisfied myself that ME3 stands a good chance of being the best game in the series and I won't be following it too closely from now on as I want to avoid any story spoilers.
Bioware made some big announcements regarding Mass Effect 3 at this years show. They gave us a release date (6th March 2012), a great trailer (see embed below) and an updated ME3 website.
They also revealed that on the X-Box you will be able to use the Kinect system to issue voice commands to your companions and to choose your selections in the conversations. It seems like an interesting system but I'd still rather play on PC. No matter the control system you just can't beat a mouse and keyboard for shooters.
The various walkthroughs and demonstrations have shown a much beefier and greatly updated combat system for the game (you can find them all linked here). Melee combat will play a much greater role, with Shepard able to use special melee attacks to defeat his enemies. The combat will be much more active too, with Shepard able to roll, leap and climb his way around the battlefields and there seem to be lots and lots of huge set-piece sequences. All in all it's looking really tasty!
Nintendo announced their new console this year to much excitement and a little confusion! Never ones to do things by the traditional route it seems as though they are once again going to try and change the way we play games with their new machine, called the Wii U.
It's not the fact that the machine will be capable of full HD output and all the usual console technical gubbins, but rather that they have decided to innovate in the area of control once again. This time the controller not only has motion sensing properties (like the original Wii Remote) but is also a mini-console in it's own right, with a touch sensitive full HD screen. The screen will allow the player to see and control the game in new ways, and will also allow the player to continue playing the game when the television is switched off! It is also backwards compatible with current Wii games.
It's sounds a little odd and I'm not sure how successfully the system will work, but Nintendo are past masters at this kind of thing. I'm sure it will sell by the bucket load if they get the pricing right.
Personally I won't be buying one. I hardly ever touch my Wii now as it is (though I'm sure that will change when my little boy is old enough to start playing multiplayer games of Super Mario Bros Wii with me).
The Wii U is scheduled to release towards the end of 2012.
Lord of the Rings Online
Turbine used E3 to announce the release date of the third LoTRO expansion, Rise of Isengard, and deliver more details of what they have planned for the game. The new expansion will be released on 27th September 2011.
The focus will be on influencing the tribes of Dunland as Saruman seeks to sway them to his purpose. It will utilise phasing technology so that you will be able to effect the gameworld as you play, and it will react to your actions much more. The maximum level will rise to 75 and three new areas will open up to explore.
It sounds great for players of LoTRO, but I have to be honest I haven't felt much compulsion to log in since retiring from the game six months ago. I have a lifetime account however so will probably check it out when it becomes available to buy with Turbine Points (I have loads stacked up!). The other thing that is putting me off is the decidely underwhelming E3 trailer for the expansion, which makes it look very poor. I'm surprised because Turbine are usually great at that kind of thing. Check it out below.
Space Marine is a new first-person shooter set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K universe. There are a few reasons I'm keeping an eye on this. First of all I used to play WH40K quite a bit in my youth and still retain a fondness for the game (I still have boxes of painted figures and an Iron Warriors army hidden away at the back of a wardrobe!). Secondly it looks like a lot of fun and very gory, capturing the feel of the Warhammer 40K universe well. Finally a lot of my friends are going to be getting it and are planning to start up a clan for online tournaments.
If it gets decent reviews then I'll probably get the game and join my friends online.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
I have a love/hate relationship with the Elder Scrolls games. I love the concept and the world, but something always falls flat for me when I actually play them. It may be the slightly unresponsive and dodgy combat mechanics, the lack of any structure to the questlines, the generally derivative main quest storylines or the horrible autolevelling system that means a rat may still give my uber character a tough time.
I'm hoping that Skyrim can resolve some of these issues because it looks fantastic, with a genuinely deep and unique setting. I fear it will still suffer from the same problems however - they are still using (an admittedly modified version of) the autolevelling mobs and a very open quest structure. We'll see.
The trailer looks very tasty though!
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur is the one game that kind of sneaked up on me from this years E3 coverage. It had slipped under my radar before now, but I am definitely going to be keeping an eye on it from now on.
It's the first PC game from Curt Schilling's 38 Studios. It's an open-world single-player RPG with a storyline and setting designed and written by RA Salvatore and production and art design by Todd McFarlane. The main quest gameplay seems inspired by Bioware's Dragon Age titles with an RPG action combat system.
The setting of the game is the same one that will be used by 38 Studios upcoming MMO Project Copernicus, and it will be released in 2012.
The trailers haven't really grabbed me, but the developer walkthrough (see embed below) really made the game look appealing. It's a 40 minute walkthrough with the devs playing the game and discussing it as they go along. The game looks great graphically and the size of the world looks impressive with plenty to do, plus the combat looks fluid and fun. I'm not sure the roleplaying aspect will offer the same levels of choice as Bioware's best, but at the very least it looks like a great stop gap until Dragon Age 3 arrives. It's easy to see why the game is up for several best of show awards.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of the best single-player games I played last year (only bettered by Mass Effect 2). I wasn't expecting much from it, but I was between MMOs and saw it reduced on Steam one day. I was aware it had gotten good reviews so I decided to download it very much on impulse. I was really glad I did.
It wasn't my normal type of game but I loved it from start to finish. It married the best sneaking and gadget gameplay of Splinter Cell with one of the best action combat systems around. The only problem with the game was how short it was.
The sequel looks set to better Arkham Asylum in every way: more varied environments as the action breaks out of the Asylum and into Gotham City; refinements to the already great combat system, new gadgets (including a turbo grappling hook allowing you to swoop between Gotham's buildings); the ability to play as Catwoman in her own storyline and a bucket load of new but iconic Batman villains to defeat.
To be honest the game doesn't need to do much more than repeat what made the first so successful, but it looks like it will do much more than that.
Finally there were some updates on Everquest 2 at E3, despite SOE not really pushing it. There are a few new things coming down the track for my current MMO of choice - some new mounts that add leaping and gliding to the game, new content in the form of the redesigned cities of Qeynos and Freeport into multi-level questing hubs. The team will concentrate on delivering new content for free from now on, whilst paid expansions will concentrate on new features rather than content. Finally, there will be a new character class available some time this year. No clues as to what yet, though rumours are it could be the long-awaited Beastmaster.
Overall I found E3 year to be much more interesting than in recent years, though that is partly due to all the SWTOR info that shows the game is finally close to release!
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