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RPG Grind Time – The Gems And Disappointments Of E3

by Kimberley Wallace on Jun 22, 2016 at 10:00 AM

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I always like to be a few days removed from the E3 excitement to process everything from the show and put into perspective what it means for my favorite genre. From press conferences to demos to interviews, so much information is thrown at us that it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle.

I didn’t attend this year’s E3. I stayed back at our offices to help from afar, but that allows me to take the show in better as a whole, rather than rushing to appointments and only seeing it in bits and pieces. I did attend some pre-E3 events to get an idea of what would be at the show where I saw I Am Setsuna and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 in action. 

I wouldn’t call this E3 a banner year for role-playing games, but exciting games are still on the horizon. Plenty of cool RPGs were on display and smaller reveals surfaced. Was I hoping for some cool, big RPG reveal I wasn’t expecting? Of course. Was I dissatisfied with already announced RPGs that either weren’t there or had little information? You bet, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The magic of E3 is often those announcements you don’t see coming that get you hyped for the future, but I think developers are finally realizing the dangers of making reveals too soon. No one wants another decade-long Final Fantasy Versus XIII fiasco. Things felt much more cautious for the genre this year with more games on display that are coming in the next few months or early next year, and that’s just fine by me. I don’t mind developers waiting until they actually have something worthwhile to show before doing so. 

Case in point – Mass Effect: Andromeda. If the trailer on display at EA’s press conference had hit last year, it would have been super exciting, but not seeing much gameplay as we draw closer to its 2017 release left fans rightfully disappointed. The game was recently pushed out of this year, so that doubly made it difficult to accept. Still, from what we saw in the footage, the game looks cool and promising. I like that we finally saw some of the environments and the protagonist, Ryder. Not to mention that you're the alien in this strange universe. The trailer got me excited, but I can't help but also wish BioWare provided more details. I tell myself good things come to those who wait, but Kingdom Hearts III is also testing my patience. I didn’t expect anything playable, but at least give some updates or a new trailer to tide us over. A release date feels like a pipe dream at this point. While developers may be reluctant to show off unpolished gameplay or scenes, it’s important to show confidence in the game and get a reaction from fans to see what they’re taken with and what has them concerned. 

That being said, while I would have loved to learn more about CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk (at least we got Gwent!) or seen a Square Enix press conference devoted to a slew of role-playing games, I still found plenty of new titles I’m anticipating. Here are some gems from the show that I hope didn’t go unnoticed, and should have you super excited for the coming months. 

South Park: The Fractured But Whole: This silly game actually took our RPG of E3 award. I enjoyed The Stick of Truth a lot, so finally hearing more about it and seeing some of its new tactical gameplay was one of my highlights. I haven’t kept up with the TV show in over a decade, but I’m instantly back in that world when I load up a game. I loved how The Stick of Truth just constantly went there and had no filter like the show. For better or worse, you can’t say it wasn’t memorable, and I expect The Fractured But Whole to be no different. The focus on superheroes provides plenty of ripe material for mocking. Jeff Marchiafava wrote a great preview outlining all the big changes and improvements if you want to learn more. 

Ever Oasis: Nintendo surprised me by announcing a new IP, and I’m even more stoked after learning that Koichi Ishii, who worked on Secret of Mana (!!!) and the first three Final Fantasy games, is on it. You can already see his touch in the vibrant world and adorable characters in this Egyptian-mythology-inspired action/RPG. In it, you run your own oasis, developing it by building shops and finding materials to stock in them. You also must recruit party members with different abilities to help you get through dungeons for new discoveries. I love that it looks like an amalgamation of so many different games, with its puzzle-focused dungeons reminiscent of  Zelda (its developer Grezzo is behind the Majora’s Mask remake) and fun town development that reminds me of Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. 

Nier: Automata: Yes, I’m one of those people who really enjoyed Nier. It had its shortcomings, but the story, music, and characters kept me playing. I’ve been excited for this follow-up ever since I heard Platinum Games was developing it, hopefully bolstering the action combat. The newest trailer looked stunning, and our associate editor Elise Favis had some brief hands-on time and said it was channeling some serious Bayonetta action. That’s music to my ears. 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II: If you haven’t played the first one, get on this! This game was a little gem that released close to Christmas, and ended up surprising the hell out of me. The next entry looks just as interesting, as your save file will carry over, helping you sustain the relationships you built with characters in the first game. With new means of transportation (an airship!), a new overdrive for devastating attacks, and allies that you can recruit across the map, I can’t wait to reunite with my friends from Class VII, even if the nation’s divisive war is only getting more crazy. 

Tales of Berseria: I wasn’t a fan of the last entry, Zestiria, but I’m hoping Bandai Namco can get the series back on track with Berseria. I like that it stars a badass protagonist who’s part demon (not to mention Velvet is the first exclusive female protagonist in the series). Brian Shea talked to producer Yasuhiro Fukaya during E3 about changes to the battle system; being able to steal enemies’ souls and building up your Break Soul for life-saving specials should make battles interesting. Plus, you're living the life of a pirate. That's always fun. 

Final Fantasy XV: I can’t believe we’ll actually be playing a new Final Fantasy game in just a few months, and it’s seriously got the larger-than-life summons down. I like how these battles are playing out, even if the stage demo had some hiccups. Brian Shea assured me it played better than it looked, and from my experience going on our cover story visit, I’d say that’s more than likely. 

I could go on about games like I Am Setsuna, Paper Mario: Color Splash, and Persona 5 , but then this column would be a novel. I  wish Persona 5 was hands-on, but I’ll take stage presentations and more info about the gameplay for now. Also, although I don’t know how much on the RPG side it will be, Horizon Zero Dawn is the game I’m most anticipating from the show.  

One last thing that I didn't want to get lost in the shuffle was a cool announcement from Atlus during the show that it's bringing over Caligula. For those not in the  know, the game is channeling some serious Persona vibes. It’s even written by Tadashi Satomi, best known for his scenario writing on the early Persona games. The game follows high-school students who are trapped in a virtual-reality world that's supposed to be the ideal high school experience. But when the years keeping looping on repeat, the students must find a way to escape. I knew a perfect high school was too good to be true. The game is only releasing digitally, but I’m glad we at least get to experience it. 

Anyway, I’ll be back in two weeks with more RPG love, but in the meantime, if you even had a semblance of interest in Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, you should pick it up. I had a blast with it