Science-Fiction Weekly: Mass Effect: Andromeda And The Games Of E3

by Andrew Reiner on Jun 14, 2016 at 10:00 AM

E3 just kicked off a few hours ago, and I already feel like I'm in over my head with science-fiction games to cover. The press conferences from various publishers over the last few days produced a wealth of new information for some of science fiction's biggest gaming properties, including Mass Effect and Star Wars, and the show floor is filled with even more promising games to see.

The big game on my radar for E3 was Mass Effect: Andromeda. Given how long the game has been in development, I expected BioWare to be front and center at EA's Play event, but we once again walked away with a brief teaser video and no legitimate information. Or did we? After watching the video, I took to Twitter to ask my followers if they thought the Andromeda video contained any in-game footage. One of the first people to respond was BioWare's general manager Aaryn Flynn. "Yes, you did!" he said. Most, if not all of the footage shown, is from gameplay, and it looks absolutely stunning.

We also learned that the main character's last name is Ryder. You of course pick the first name, gender, and look, but like Shepard from the original Mass Effect trilogy, our guide through the Andromeda universe will be named Ryder. In an interview with Game Informer's own Elise Favis, Flynn revealed the name of Ryder's ship, the Tempest, a sleeker N7 vessel that appears to be designed for deep space exploration. In the E3 video, it appears Ryder and crew can set up a small base. You can see the same small metal structure on a couple of planets. This is purely speculation, mind you, but it does look like the Tempest can deploy this structure along with the Mako.

Flynn also told us that the scale of the game will be much different, not just in the universe, but on the worlds. "I think one of the biggest things the team has spent a lot of time on is [transitioning] from the last generation of consoles, to the new generation of consoles," he said. "[We asked] what should we do differently and what kind of things should we be embracing as we move there. A big open world is the big thing the team is trying to embrace, and that's expressed through those amazing looking planets."

No, we didn't get any story information or see how the game plays, but the video does show some of our favorite races returning, and we now know the name of our new protagonist.

The most surprising E3 announcement so far is rooted in the Star Wars universe. At Sony's excellent E3 press conference, we learned that the Star Wars Battlefront game for PlayStation VR isn't a direct port of the console game. It's instead a project called Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission.. I was a huge fan of the X-Wing series back in the day, and it's great to see a similar experience coming in the near future. Although we know hardly anything about it, the name, and the fact that Sony is giving it away free to every person that purchased Battlefront on PlayStation 4, makes it sound like it's a short experience, perhaps a proof of concept for something bigger in the future. Regardless, this is one of the Star Wars experiences that I wanted to see come back. Here's hoping developers Criterion and DICE knock this one out of the park. I'm excited for Amy Hennig's Star Wars title (which we saw eight seconds of), but a good, old-fashioned X-Wing dogfighting game grabs my attention more, and I can't wait to see what it's like in VR. And while we didn't learn much about the project, it seems clear that Respawn is tackling a game that includes lightsaber combat, and that promises to be thrilling.

Sony's press conference was loaded with exciting new science-fiction properties, including Horizon: Zero Dawn, Detroit: Become Human, Farpoint, and Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding. I spent a good portion of last night discussing Death Stranding with game journalists and developers. I always love it when such a short video can lead to such a lengthy talk. We were all blown away by the short tease, which stars Norman Reedus, who was originally going to be in Kojima's Silent Hills title before Konami pulled the plug on it. What is happening in Death Stranding is anyone's guess, but there are strong hints of science fiction and magic in the trailer.

Horizon: Zero Dawn also impressed with a look at its open world and combat systems. The big question I keep going back to, however, is: How long will that bow and arrow combat hold up in this setting? Yes, there's an exciting David versus Goliath vibe to the battle of bow versus machine, but every battle I've seen from Horizon has been similar in scope and flow. I also enjoyed Detroit: Become Human's demo, which showed off branching story outcomes to player input. The setup was a little ridiculous, but it was cool to see that the player can succeed or fail in so many different ways. It reminded me more of Heavy Rain than Beyond: Two Souls, which is a good thing.

One of my favorite moments at Sony's press conference happened in the audience. A couple of gentlemen sitting directly behind me were losing their minds over a demo. They didn't know what game it was. They were fully engaged in the space battle unfolding on screen. As the player let go from his space craft to mow down enemies and melee kill a couple of others, one of the guys behind me exuberantly remarked "I want this so bad. What is it?" The demo went on and on, and they just kept loving everything about it, until the logo was revealed. It was Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The gentleman who said he wanted it just a minute ago, said "Lame." I couldn't contain my laughter. I can't think of a time where I've seen someone shift gears so abruptly like that.

Outside of Microsoft showing off more of Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2, the only standout sci-fi game at Microsoft's press conference was We Happy Few. At least I think it's science fiction. It isn't exactly clear what type of game it is yet, but people are taking "happy" pills to alter their perception of reality. I won't ruin the surprises for you, but definitely watch the trailer linked below to see what this indie game is all about. Shades of BioShock, right? We Happy Few is one of my surprises of the show so far. The great news: It hits this summer.

And for those of you looking for some new science-fiction fix right now, I highly recommend you check out the first seasons of Syfy's The Expanse and Killjoys. Expanse is a remarkable show that plots mankind's future deep in the cosmos, and Killjoys, while taking five episodes to truly find its footing, is cheesy sci-fi fun.

And apologies for the shorter column this week, and the lack of goofy gifs. I'm over my head in E3 work right now, but I'm glad I was able to pen this one quickly for you this morning. Let me know what you think of the new game announcements in the comments below, and again, thanks for reading!