My second day on the E3 show floor I sampled a fighting game, a virtual reality air combat game, a vehicle combat MMO and a couple fantasy RPGs. All had compelling aspects worth exploring, and some had elements that came together in a promising way.

The Game Bakers' Furi (PS4, PC; early July 2016) is a dueling game that pits players against bosses, though combatants face off against comparable opponents.

The gamer controlled character begins chained, then is freed and given a sword to fight for their freedom across several prison worlds overseen by unique jailers. These bosses are designed by Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki, and each has unique abilities and a different pace, while the music and environments also vary between them.

The goal was to design a game with awesome fights. This simplicity of design is reflected in the gameplay, which features a character with few abilities -- just shooting, sword attacks, dodge and parry. There are no combos, though four strikes in a row can have a dynamic impact, and all abilities can be charged by holding the corresponding button down. 

The game therefore becomes a contest of quick response and player skill, where counterattacks take on added significance. A successful parry not only regains health, but can make your foe vulnerable to attack. However, failure means lost health. It's risky. Dodging is safer and avoids attacks, but cannot regain health.

Now, I've never been good at fighting games, and my time with the demo did nothing to change that perception. I did die a few times. But in the limited time I had, I also learned from my mistakes. Practice makes perfect, and perfecting one's fighting technique is important to progress in this brawler.

Duels begin at range so players have to rely on their shooting skill. You have freedom of movement including pivoting to follow your target with regular fire, but when charging your shot you can only move to your right or left in order to line it up with your opponent. Targeting and hit detection in general are pretty spot on.

Range combat of course also involves enemy attacks, which at least in my demo involved a few variations on a kind of energy release emanating in circles outward. These attacks are evaded with dodge, though I think it has to be precisely timed to avoid damage (something I had trouble mastering).

Once you've weakened your opponent, they'll close the gap for melee combat. The fighting controls themselves are fairly responsive, despite the challenge I had parrying and dodging, which did improve the longer I played. Fighting actually reminded me of combat in Infinity Blade, though without special abilities or rewards of loot.

Successfully parrying and then repeatedly striking your stunned opponent is satisfying if repetitive (though the different enemies, environments and music could vary the experience enough). Duels can then alternate between ranged and melee combat until one combatant outlasts the other.

My limited playtime didn't allow me to test the game's longevity, and absent elements like special abilities or loot would be missed. Still, the simplicity of its design, it's stylish presentation and solid gameplay do have their own appeal. Furi might find an audience like Infinity Blade or carve its own niche with its old-school style beat down and Japanese influences. 

Gaijin Entertainment's War Thunder VR (PS4, PC) is a cross-platform MMO combat game allowing players to participate in major World War II and Korean War battles. Multiple settings accommodate beginners or experienced players, adjusting the challenge from arcade style gameplay to more sim-like controls.

Hundreds of historically accurate planes and ground vehicles include fighter aircraft, bombers, tanks, self-propelled artillery and anti-air vehicles, all in historical and dynamic campaigns in either single-player or cooperative modes. During my VR demo, I piloted two different planes over Pearl Harbor.

The demo itself appeared to have limited combat, though perhaps given time there might have been more options. To begin, my plane was on a runway preparing for takeoff. Instead of a keyboard or controller, I had a flight stick and throttle at my fingertips. Controls were set to simple arcade like input.

The cockpit view shows your control panel in front of you and the frame of the cockpit windows; looking down reveals the pilot's hands on the virtual flight stick and throttle, if I recall. To takeoff, the throttle is pushed forward for speed and the stick pulled back for elevation. Shortly, the aircraft is aloft.

At this point, I'm encouraged to survey my surroundings and dutifully turn to view the landscape of Oahu as my plane ascends the sky. A longtime fan of arcade aerial combat games like Ace Combat, I always enjoyed looking at the world from my cockpit; and in Ace Combat, you could turn from side to side in Replay mode.

But the option in VR to turn your head in any direction and view the virtual landscape in real time allows games like War Thunder to immerse gamers in the pilot fantasy like no games before it. It helps that Gaijin has crafted a realistic island landscape, and responsive aerial controls, to help ground you in the fantasy.

Pearl Harbor itself seemed to lack some detail, as the Navy yard appeared less developed than I expected, but that could just be a faulty expectation. Regardless, the landscape is beautifully rendered even when in close proximity. As with Ace Combat, I'm tempted to just fly around and enjoy the scenery.

Speaking of, the controls are responsive -- and sensitive. I rarely experience motion sickness while playing video games (Colony Wars on Playstation being an exception), but moving the flight stick too quickly made me a bit nauseous. Still, the arcade settings made flying an intuitive exercise.

For purposes of the demo, pushing forward flew down, backward up, right turned right and left flew left. Pulling on the throttle slowed the plane for a tighter turn radius. Lining up the plane to take out a vehicular ground target proved challenging even though it was stationary, as repeat attacks likely were too short.

I also had trouble pulling out of a dive. I don't know if that's realistic, but in some cases, pulling back hard on the flight stick did little to level my plane in those instances. But in general both planes controlled well, draw distance was impressive, the landscape well rendered, and framerate solid.

As mentioned, combat was limited, so I can only imagine how dogfights or bombing runs would play out in the regular game. But at least the flying mechanic felt good, the VR element was responsive and the island of Oahu was an impressive sight. It's a solid foundation for an air combat game.

Gaijin Entertainment's Crossout (PC) is a post-apocalyptic vehicle combat MMO that channels Motorstorm and Mad Max while facilitating custom built killer wheels. 

PVP team battles feature eight-on-eight matches in standard multiplayer modes like Capture and Deathmatch. They are made to be quick and intense, with players getting only one life and no refuge for the timid as damaging sandstorms punish squatters. 

There are also PVE missions that involve objectives like collecting fuel or destroying foes. Final bosses can be constructed by players and, if they win, can earn rewards for the gamers who made them. Racing is another feature that developers are considering adding.

Gamers compete on maps that represent deserts, a new ship graveyard and, soon, a city. Almost all the maps feature varying elevations in the form of rock formations or other landmarks that drivers can take advantage of, and different surfaces that they will traverse.

The developers want anyone to be able to play, so they designed the maps without destructible environments that otherwise might tax gamer hardware. The focus, after all, is on players' rides, and these are subject to an advanced damage model that allows parts like wheels or weapons to be shot off.

Such damage can impact vehicle performance and therefore adds an element of strategy to each engagement, as does the variety of armor and weapons that combatants can add to their vehicles in between matches particularly if they opt to skip battles in favor of tinkering.

Vehicle customization, in fact, is what Crossout is all about. Players can change their rides or head off into battle from their garage. There, they will construct the game's exclusive vehicles from scratch, literally creating from the ground up starting with the chassis.

Designs can range from buggies to heavily tracked off-road vehicles and more. What materials are used is based on one's power score and needs to take into account a weight limit and an energy point limit. Players can increase energy with more generators, but they also increase weight, so a balance has to be struck.

Another consideration are the laws of physics, so players need to consider center of gravity, for instance. A top heavy vehicle is more likely to tip over, so constructing with a low center of gravity in mind is preferable in order to stay upright.

In addition, weapons and wheels are the first target so need protection, and is also why having more than four wheels is best. A sturdy cabin can help, too, as players will survive longer if their compartment is relatively unscathed.

Weapon choice not only should take into account defensive capabilities but offensive as well, while weighing drawbacks like limited ammo or overheating. Options include shotguns, drones, machine guns, rocket launchers, chain saws, power drills and stealth generators.

Parts can be traded or sold via the in-game marketplace at prices set by gamers. The currency used in this player-driven economy is coins that are bought with cash or earned with a sale. In Exhibition, vehicle blueprints can be liked or downloaded.

Once players are satisfied with their creation, they can take it for a test drive. Speaking of, a closed beta began in early April. This concept is a solid one and if its implementation can deliver (which was difficult to judge by our limited time in the presentation), it could provide a relatively unique experience.

KING Art Games' The Dwarves (PS4, Xbox One, PC; Fall 2016) is a classical fantasy RPG game that is somewhat reminiscent of Baldur's Gate. Based on a book series, the story follows the books though allows for player freedom. Subplots also run throughout.

A prologue takes place in the past to set up the story and also serve as a tutorial. Thereafter, the game map serves as players' gateway to the world. Hundreds of encounter points offer opportunities for battle or exploration; the latter possibly involving riddles (which might reward gamers), conversations, or other interactions related to the narrative.

It's interesting to note that the map itself is not a static screen. Map pieces, like a company of orcs, move around -- they might pursue you or take villages -- though such actions have a relatively minor influence on gameplay. That said, saving a village from a raid might result in food or rewards being bestowed by relieved villagers.

If I recall, during our (PC) demo, a company of orcs did pursue us but the developer laid a trap or diversion (from the map view) that effectively halted the orcs' pursuit. I think some conversations and choices also happened in map view (including voiceover and narration). That level of interaction (a kind of limited RTS element) is a welcome feature.

It's worth noting that there is no minimap on the HUD. As the developer explained it, encounter point maps are not huge, so players can't get lost. Settings range from grasslands and swamps to volcanic landscapes and deserts. Impressively, heat distortion and exceptionally bright sunlight are present in the desert, while elsewhere fog is dynamically voluminous and billowing. 

The default camera is isometric, but there is a lot of control when playing. For instance, the camera can be moved closer to the action then I recall in most other RPGs with an isometric or top-down perspective. The detail, whether in the default view or closer, is well rendered despite somewhat stylized artwork (which itself is a nice aesthetic).

A company of four controllable characters can be chosen from a total of 15 prior to visiting an encounter point. Heroes include other dwarves, mages and a mysterious character (whose background is later explained). Players also select each one's skills, as well as objects, potions and a talisman. Action points can be spent on special abilities, which regenerate.

Combat typically involves a few heroes fighting a large numbers of enemies like orcs. The game can be paused to allow for tactical decisions, though players are encouraged to be as aggressive as possible. Turning targets different characters, and friendly fire means striking allies (highlighted blue) is possible; so targeting foes (red) is an easy choice.

Humans, including villages, can be allies, and allies will auto-attack. So that frees up gamers to literally jump into the fray, as jumping in among foes will daze them. Fallen foes can then be executed. Such actions will reward points. Besides basic attacks, players can also toss grenades or use catapults to toss projectiles at foes.

Such ranged attacks are especially useful against dark elves, who represent the dwarves' chief nemesis. They are quick and agile, and attack at a distance with arrows and dark magic. Ogres on the other hand, like orcs, are more melee focused and susceptible to physics-based combat such as pushing foes into each other to knock them down or off ledges. Ogres' clubs will even push orcs away.

When battles finish, there is some loot like potions or rings that can be collected. But provisions are important items for gathering. While having too few is not a game-over scenario, players will need provisions on hand to heal allies after battles, otherwise they will remain wounded.

This is also why it's important to control all members of your party at some point, especially during combat, in order to ensure they remain healthy. In some battles, your allies or heroes can be lost; however there are other battles where you can't spare any allies or heroes. Leveling up each character, therefore, is likewise important.

Each character can be leveled up 10 levels. Leveling characters includes upgrading their skills, health, basic damage, etc. Players can choose between two basic skills: offensive and defensive. But the character class can't change. As a side note, your companions will take a breather when you explore instead of joining you (they certainly earned it!).

Finally, there are save anywhere and autosave features, though not during combat. Pretty standard but nonetheless appreciated.

In practice, the PC demo was very appealing, from the interactive game map with its contextual pop ups and moving pieces to the action-packed real-time combat whether viewed in a top-down or close up perspective. The map and combat controls seemed accessible, the art design inspired, and the detail, colors, animation and particle effects well implemented.

The map displayed a lot of options while providing a nice overview of the world and gameplay possibilities. The only drawback for the map was a dynamic weather system that kept obscuring large areas and forcing the developer to constantly change perspective in order to view all our options! But seeing foes move like chess pieces, and our options to stop them, was a treat.

Exploration included a measure of platforming along a cliff face in a forest before arriving at a clearing above that that featured a setting with a riddle, if I remember. This nighttime excursion was atmospheric and intriguing, and included a welcome twist on the usual puzzle solving element.

Combat involved repelling a large company of orcs besieging a bridge. Fighting is constant and frenetic, as allies/heroes auto-attack while the player hacks away at foes and launches projectiles into nearby crowds of enemies. Alternating between characters seemed easy enough, as did targeting specific foes in close proximity or farther with a projectile arc.

Controls appeared responsive and hit detection effective. Explosives reacted realistically and physics seemed appropriate. Sometimes foes, like an ogre, appeared to wait on the fringes, though in general enemy AI did seem to swarm heroes/allies.

All in all, the demo was a quality production that impressively showed off key elements of The Dwarves' gameplay. I'm looking forward to seeing more about this promising title in the months to come.

Piranha Bytes' ELEX (Nordic Games, publisher; PS4, Xbox One, PC; early 2017) is described as a science fantasy RPG. The post-apocalyptic setting is the result of a catastrophic meteor strike that spreads the transformative element ELEX.

ELEX changes flora and fauna, creating mutants. But it also can imbue people with magical powers if their mind is strong enough to enable them to remain human after consuming it. Even for them, however, there is a downside -- the loss of emotion. ELEX is powerful enough to also enhance technology or weapons.

This gives rise to factions that the player can join. Berserkers change ELEX into mana to wield fireballs, ice attacks, etc. Outlaws use ELEX to manufacture drugs. Clerics use it to enhance technology including robots, plasma and lasers. They differ in their skill trees and philosophies. (A fourth faction, Alb, can't be joined for reasons explained in the game.)

In this way, the game explores what makes us human. Is it emotions, or is it logic? Player choices during the campaign impact the main story, resulting in one of many endings. Side quests are available alongside story missions, all featuring dozens of actors portraying many main characters in a script with 300,000 spoken words of dialog.

Some characters can become companions, and are designed to behave like real people. They will comment a lot, voicing their own opinions. And if they don't like what you do, they might even leave your party. You also can marry them (not sure if that affects whether or not they'll leave you!). Players will always have one companion.

Companions can be chosen at the player's home base for quests. A teleporter is available for traveling to/from home base, which is helpful considering that the game world is the biggest created by the developer by far. Players can reach everything in sight, and enter buildings or caves without load screens. Travel includes a jet pack for vertical exploration, and a quick travel option.

The game features a day/night cycle, volumetric lighting and glare when transitioning from indoors to outdoors. NPCs work during the day and sleep at night. As suggested, AI reacts to player action. NPCs will draw a weapon if players steal, and remember worse crimes. Killing NPCs will alter the world in some way, though important characters can't be killed. And crimes do have punishments.

AI is also unscripted, which results in a lively game world where spontaneous battles can occur (I witnessed a warrior and creature fight when they crossed paths). In fact, players will regularly encounter monsters or other foes that demand your attention. Killing monsters -- or completing quests -- earns experience points.

Learning points unlock skills via teachers/trainers, who are unlocked in factions (though some are available from the beginning). Players can develop their characters in other ways, too, including crafting, alchemy, hunting and gathering loot, which is dropped by foes. Other features also can be customized.

Gamers can adjust controls and the difficulty of enemies (including the number of enemies, lock-on targeting, overall difficulty settings, etc.). One of the goals of the developer is to allow gamers to build their own game. They also want to remove everything that can remind you that you're in a game, such as loading screens or pausing action (including during combat).

My limited time with the demo gave me a feel for the game, including navigating the world whether on foot or in the air, and taking on a couple of foes. The world itself displays an impressive draw distance, artful design, decent textures, relatively smooth animation and a good combat mechanic.

I started out on a road and walked/ran down it until I came across a kind of lizard creature on all fours (if I remember). For some reason, I stuck with my heavy attack to pound it into submission a couple times with my sword. Next, the developers directed me farther down the road to human foes. One I think I took down with repeated shots as he charged, the other was in a mech (or was it a robot?).

Wanting to bide my time till a window of opportunity arose, I basically kept my distance by running in circles and flying around with my jet pack, to the amusement of the developers. I was surprised that the shack I was hiding behind didn't disintegrate when the mech fired on it, and was told that at least some things in the environment are not destructible.

Actually, the mech proved a good shot and forced me out from behind cover and into melee combat. Again electing to use my heavy attack exclusively, I was surprised to take down the mech in just a few hits. The fact that my strikes appeared to have little affect besides downing the brute (just like with the creature before) also surprised.

What impressed was the overgrown but dilapidated setting, the jet pack (which maneuvered well, and needed an extra burst to prevent being hurt on the way down), and the overpowering heavy sword attack. What detracted was collision detection (if I recall, developers had to help extricate me after falling into the street), attacks that seemingly lacked impact, and the overpowering heavy attack.

I believe the demo was an alpha build of the game so I think shortcomings are excusable. The world is definitely huge (as the developers took me on a virtual tour), the premise is promising, and the project is undoubtedly ambitious, so I am looking forward to seeing more on ELEX and how it develops over time. The foundation is there for a good, solid game and an entertaining experience.