2013 marked the fourth time I have been to E3, and it quickly became the most exciting. I have been shaken up before, but this year was complete sensory overload. There are new consoles coming out, developers are starting to really get the hang of the latest technology available on the different platforms, mobile is finally starting to look like something worth caring about, and the RPG genre really looks like it will hit its peak once again over the next 18 months.
With all of that in mind, I would like to share with you the games that I felt were the most exciting and the most promising of many that were out there during the event. Before we get started, let me make this clear - I did not get to see every single game on the show floor or in the closed meeting rooms. That includes titles like Dark Souls II and what Natsume was showing their booth (sorry, guys!). However, from the several that I did have a chance to see, I felt I made the right decisions. Please enjoy!
Best Indie Game of E3 2013 - Transistor
One of the standout indie titles from the past few years was Bastion, a fascinating narrative-driven RPG from developers Supergiant Games. It also wound up winning multiple awards in our Best RPGs of 2011 coverage, so naturally, I was going to be keeping a close eye on what this small studio would be working on next.
When the team had first announced that they were working on a new game called Transistor, the first thing that popped into my along with what I am sure was a lot of others was that they were making the same game, but with a palette swap for a lack of a better phrase. That couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, there's a voice that follows along with the action and seems to interpret your every action. The line has also crossed from what was some semblance of fantasy into full blown science fiction. Instead of some ominous voice, our young female protagonist, Red, now carries around a sword named Transistor, voiced by the narrator from their first game, Logan Cunningham, who once again pulls off an excellent performance here. All of this takes place in a fully-featured world brimming with life (well, as lively as a destitute ghost town can be).
Also, instead of running around and mashing the attack button, the action can be stopped and players can map out moves that they want to make. These steps can be linked together, such as telling Red to run over to one side of the area, attack a certain enemy, then run to the other end and hide behind some cover to avoid a boss. With the tap of a button, those sets of actions are carried out automatically at a much quicker pace. In the demo I played, this worked against enemies, but also for certain puzzles that required prompt motion. An energy meter is in place to keep things balanced.
During my time with Transistor, I felt like my hands were welded on to the controller and I couldn't let go. As Red quickly rode her motorcycle off in the distance, determined to take down an evil organization, I really wanted to continue on playing. It was that sense of mystery where not everything is meant to become clear at once that again has me very intrigued, and I am really excited to play more when the game arrives sometime next year.
Runner Up: Dragon Fantasy: Book II
Best Handheld Game of E3 2013 - Ys: Memories of Celceta
Despite the fact that they only had the Japanese demo there at the time, words cannot express how excited I am to get my hands on Ys: Memories of Celceta. What is arguably some of the best Action RPGs out there, this series has always had that fresh, kinetic gameplay that has always captivated me, and has been delivering the goods for many years as a series that is older than even Final Fantasy. During the live combat, players are able to switch between three different active party members at any time with a single button, continuing on with how it was done in Ys Seven.
Utilizing the PlayStation Vita's controls, there were a few different puzzles that needed to be solved by using the touchscreen on the front, and you can issue commands to the other party members with the pad on the back. It was all pretty simple and not at all detrimental to what was going on. The strength of the OLED display made everything look vivid and the horsepower of the system kept all of the action running fluidly. No surprise, but the music also sounds incredible.
XSEED has always done a really good job when it comes to localization, so I have faith in their ability to deliver another top-tier RPG product when we finally learn when we can get the game in our hands. It is easily the game I am most excited to play this year (please say it's this year?).
Runner Up: Ragnarok Odyssey Ace
Biggest Surprise of E3 2013 - Lords of the Fallen
I already shared with you my thoughts on the upcoming hardcore RPG, Lords of the Fallen. To be perfectly honest, I barely played Demon's Souls or Dark Souls so I don't have a lot of experience in this realm. Probably the closest I have ever gotten was playing the Ys games since those can be a real pain.
As I mentioned in the article, this game caught me completely off guard. Sure, I knew the pedigree going into it, but there are plenty of examples of games that have strong developers spear-heading a project that wind up quickly becoming disappointing. With this title, however, I feel there is a real strong aspiration here. Plus, in the grand scheme of things, there are very few of these types of games being made outside of dungeon crawlers or Roguelikes.
I am looking forward to the day that they finally put out the live gameplay demo that they showed us behind that closed door. Believe me when I say that the game looks incredible. The proprietary graphics engine is pulling off some amazing feats, and I think it is a given that they could push that architecture into other games from that company. Of course, the content is there as well, as Executive Producer Tomasz Gop said during the session that the game would be a fully-fledged RPG that wouldn't end in a single short sitting. Good news for Western RPG fans, even better for those like me who don't hold a lot of appeal for them but looking for something unique to capture their attention.
Runner Up: Kingdom Hearts III
Best MMO of E3 2013 - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
After making our way into a small room off to the side of the Square Enix booth, I got a chance to check out and play Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the overhauled update to the original MMO that had a lot of problems despite its traces of raw inspiration. During the discussion that took place before the hands-on session, there was this man off to my left who kept talking about what strategy to use to defeat Ifrit. Bringing the beast down would guarantee us a "Meteor Survivor" polo shirt that refers to the ending of the original Final Fantasy XIV, aka FFXIV 1.0 (look up some gameplay footage of that - it was nuts). I knew right then and there that I needed that guy on my team if I was going to win.
Walking close to him out the door, I signaled to the guy asking us what class we wanted that I desired a spot on his team. I don't think he took me seriously, because he repeated the question, so I told him I would like to join on as Marauder. Now, 99% of the time, I always go with the White Mage, or in this case, the Conjuror. But did I really want to take on the responsibility of being second in power to the tank with arguably more control when I was still fresh to this version of the game? Please! Oh, and I ended up on the wrong team.
After being teleported to the ring of fire that was Ifrit's chambers, we found out that despite the fact that we shared a similar level to the beast, we were wildly outmatched in terms of competency. Heals came infrequently and on the lighter end of restoration, the Gladiator hung out in the back, the Pugilist was sitting there trying to learn their controls before joining the battle, and the Lancer and myself, the Marauder, were trying our best to deal as much damage as quickly as possible since we only had the aforementioned 10 minute time limit. For the sake of the demo, each station had a different class, so while you may you have wanted a more customized party where you may have two Conjurors in the back with two Marauders and a Gladiator up front, I can't say it would have made a world of difference considering the inexperience shared amongst the group.
Suffice to say, we died pretty quickly the first time thanks to Ifrit's Hellfire pretty much wiping the entire party. After a short cooldown, we were able to hop back in, but there was very little time to spare. All of the damage dealers immediately ran up and started bombarding the fire demon with all of our best attacks available for our premade characters. Halfway through its lifebar, I once again found myself laying face down on the magma after Ifrit had focused all of his attention on me and none of it on the tank. Things got very intense from there on, for as Ifrit's lifebar depleted, I could only watch as the health of my other party members fluctuated back and forth. One by one, their lives were extinguished, until finally, with only a tiny fraction of health left, our last standing party member, the Puglisit, found himself killed as well with only 25 seconds to go on the clock.
And that guy I was talking about earlier? It turns out that he only won with ten seconds to spare. It just goes to show that no matter how good you are, you are only as good as your team is. Either that, or you're full of it - I can't decide. Anyway, chances are if you are interested in this game, you may be playing the beta right now, and I hope you are having as much fun as I did when I got to play it during E3.
Runner Up: The Division
Best RPG of E3 2013 - Witcher 3
Having played and ciovered The Witcher 2, the great thing about that game was that each town was teeming with things to do. Each town tended to be rather densely populated with a lot of people to meet and converse with, and plenty of quests to acquire. It provided that living, breathing world that you want from a game that hinged so much on its atmosphere with the story it wanted to tell.
For their next project, CD Projekt RED is clearly aiming for something big with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After seeing what Skyrim was able to accomplish in terms of open-world RPGs, they clearly felt that they could one-up the team from Bethesda with aspirations of their own, creating something where every corner of the map was overflowing with content. Announced as the final chapter in the saga, the game looks absolutely stunning. Not only did the rich, hand-crafted world look completely immersive immediately after the E3 demo began, but every facet of the game is non-linear. Main storyline missions and side quests went together so cohesively you could barely tell the difference between the two.
Boasted by the developers to include over 100 hours of normal gameplay and over 80 different monsters to encounter, The Witcher 3 is already shaping up to be the next great Western RPG. Like I mentioned in the review, though, I hope they have figured out how to improve the combat while fixing the tutorials and the quest system. They need to deal with the core issues of the previous game before moving on to create a world based off of an ambitious doctrine. Be that as it may, The Witcher 3 was not only what I consider to be the Best RPG of 2013, but the best game there overall. 2014 is so far away!
Runner Up: Dragon's Crown