It’s that time of year yet again! Alternatively known as “Christmas” for gamers, “Moneytime” for publishers and “The conclusion of sleep deprivation: round one” for developers. That’s right, it’s E3: The one and only place to catch up on all things game-related, watch new footage for the most anticipated games of the next few years, and bask in the few surprises that have yet to be leaked by keychains or European Amazon listings.
This year, EA kicked off the festivities with their annual EA Play conference, bringing details on upcoming titles such as Battlefield V, FIFA 19, Battlefront II, and Anthem. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of all announced titles, updates, and release dates covered during the show, but first I’d like to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of EA’s showing at large.
I don’t think it’s really worth going into detail on the long stretches of awkward banter between developers playing a game, the over-acting faux-enthusiasm of the host, a slew of buzzwords like “dynamic” and “immersive,”or even the minor technical gaffs, like getting a little sneak-peak into a developer’s Macbook before his demo loaded. Those are all pretty much par for the course at E3. We can at least be thankful that there were no sports cars being lowered from the ceiling or fleets of scantily dressed dancers.
**Update: As I was reminded, there was a terrible Soccer trophy on stage for little to no reason. Still on the lower end of the cringe spectrum, but still present nonetheless.**
The far more apparent issue is that, with a few exceptions, EA’s showing was largely smoke and mirrors. We were treated to some nifty cinematic trailers for games like Battlefield V, FIFA 19, NBA Live 19, and Anthem, but none of these were anything approaching a surprise, let alone something that could be construed as a reveal.
Aside from the announcement of the UEFA Champions League for FIFA 19, the developers said very little other than to reassure players than the gameplay was “better than ever.” Dripping with detail as that may be, I can’t help but imagine that fans were hoping for more. Similarly disappointing was Anthem‘s “reveal,” which amounted to roughly five minutes of pre-recorded gameplay following a lengthy Q&A with members of Bioware. The entire Anthem portion of the presentation occupied less time than the reveal of a new mobile reboot of Command and Conquer, which was played and commentated over for more than ten minutes. Considering the fact that Anthem was supposed to be EA’s headliner this year, the balance seems off.
The footage itself looked fine, and by all measures, Anthem is shaping up to be a functional, if unoriginal and generic, shared-world shooter. What’s clear, though, is that Bioware was not ready to show very much of the game this year, and that inspires stunningly little confidence in regards to it’s February 22, 2019 release date.
Nowhere was EA’s sparse lineup more apparent than in the reveal of Titalfall developer Respawn’s new Star Wars Game, Jedi: Fallen Order. As exciting as it is to hear any titbits about a game set between Episodes III and IV wherein the Jedi are being hunted down, it’s hard not to be frustrated when that highly anticipated revelation looks like this:
“Its Amaaaazing” – This guy, 2018.
Star Wars may hype itself, but having some guy in the audience say vague, non-committal words and refuse to give details isn’t exactly a surefire marketing strategy.
There were certainly a few pleasant surprises to be had, however. The brief trailer for Sea of Solitude was intriguing and evocative, and the surprise same-day launch of the co-op Unravel Two was an unexpected treat.
The thing for which I was least prepared, however, was how open and apologetic EA was in regards to the loot box scandals it spurred earlier this year with Battlefront II. Not only was the presenter for Dice open about the game’s rocky start, but others were also quick to affirm the publisher’s commitment to ending the controversy. Anthem will feature microtransactions for cosmetic items, but there will be no loot boxes and no way to “pay for gameplay advantages.” Furthermore, Battlefield V will launch with neither loot boxes nor premium passes for additional content.
While it certainly makes good PR sense to distance themselves from the negative press surrounding what many in the gaming community see as exploitative and unfair elements, it is, at the very least, refreshing to see that even a publisher as seemingly distant as EA is willing to listen to its fans on some level. Or, they realized that without a lightning-quick course correction, there was some serious money to be lost. Either way, to see progress is heartening.
Overall, EA Play 2018 was a by-the-books presentation that almost scattered enough little treats and apologies throughout to make up for the scarcity of legitimate content. If you weren’t already excited about yet another FIFA or Madden game, this show will hardly have changed your mind. If you were worried about the state of Anthem, you should probably still be practicing some healthy skepticism. If, however, you were really chomping at the bit to see over ten minutes of awkward mobile RTS gameplay live on stage, then the rest of E3 has a lot to live up to.
- Release Date
- EA/Origin Access subscribers & Delux Edition Pre-orders: Oct 16, 2018.
- Standard Edition: Oct 19, 2018.
- General Notes
- More destruction has been promised, including entire buildings, making no place safe to hide.
- Character customization will be introduced.
- Single Player
- The story will focus on human heroism because that’s a really fresh space in the genre.
- The devs want to tell war stories through the eyes of men women who faced the brutally of war, because (aside from including women) that’s never been done before.
- There will be no loot boxes and no premium pass.
- “Every day will bring something new.”
- A Battle Royale mode will be included, and the formula has been “reimagined for Battlefield,” with more details to come later this year.
- Release Date: Sept. 28, 2018.
- Uefa Champions League
- The Champions League will be active across single player, multiplayer, Career, and Tournament modes.
- It’s better, so they say.
- Some love for FIFA 18
- A World Cup update has gone live for FIFA 18 players on all platforms, immediately.
- For a limited time, the complete FIFA 18, including the World Cup update is free on all platforms.
- EA intends to focus on cloud streaming very heavily in the future. The technology isn’t ready for market yet, but it is in the works.
- Release Window: Late Summer 2018.
- Origin Access Premier
- Brings all EA games, including Madden NFL 19 (back on the PC for the first time in over a decade), to the service.
- Access to The Vault, which features a lot of games from EA and other publishers.
- It’s unclear what differentiates this service from EA’s current EA/Origin Access service, but more details will surely come.
Jedi: Fallen Order
- Release Window: Holiday 2019.
- The Developers aren’t ready to show anything yet, but they do have a title and a time period.
- Players will assume the role of a Jedi, purportedly with a lightsaber. It is set during the dark times between Episodes III and IV when the Jedi were being hunted down.
- It’s amaaaaazing.
- Han Solo season is set to begin next week, with new maps set on the planet Kessell.
- Dice is introducing a new “Squad” system to make it easier to team up with friends.
- A new aerial dogfight mode is being added soon.
- There will also be a new, large sandbox mode where players capture command posts sometime later.
- Dice has promised a deep dive into the Clone Wars, including the largest level they’ve yet built, which is set on Geonosis.
- New Heroes
- General Grievous
- Obi-wan Kenobi
- Count Duku
- Anakin Skywalker
- Release Date: June 9, 2018.
- A sequel to the original, which can be played in co-op or by one’s self.
- According to the developer, the game is about “About fresh starts, second chances.”
- When playing alone, players will absorb the second character during fast-paced sequences but will need to utilize both to solve puzzles.
Sea of Solitude
- Release Window: TBA
- Debut title for Jo-Mei Games under the EA Originals banner
- Gameplay details are sparse, but the developer said that the narrative focuses on how people experience different kinds of loneliness, but also how outsiders, friends, and family see those who struggle.
- A young woman named Kay has been overcome by feelings of loneliness, anger, and depression, so much so that she became a monster.
- The player’s job is to discover why, and to learn how to return her to humanity.
NBA Live 19
- Release Date: Sept 7, 2018.
- Sure does look like an NBA Live game.
Madden NFL 19
- Release Date
- Pre-orders: Aug 7, 2018.
- Standard Edition: Aug 10, 2018.
- Sure does look like a Madden game.
Command and Conquer: Rivals
- Release date
- Android Pre-Alpha: June 9, 2018.
- iOS: TBA.
- An online mobile RTS, this is meant to be “Command and Conquer for a new Generation.”
- The game is meant to be a dynamic, living, shared world.
- Bioware is putting a great deal of focus on making the story and characters memorable and satisfying, as one would expect from their trademark style.
- They described the division between open-world MMO elements and singleplayer story beats as: “Our world, my story.”
- Bioware intends to add story for years to come.
- The game will include cosmetic microtransactions, but there will be no ability to pay for gameplay advantages, no loot boxes, and is said to be complete from the get-go.
- The developers want playing with other people to feel like a choice, but warned that going solo, while optional, may be more difficult.
Stay tuned throughout the week for more impressions and summaries of everything that goes on during the E3 2018 press conferences!