In a few random stations at Microsoft's E3 booth, many of us serendipitously found Dust: An Elysian Tail. If we hadn't known this was an independently developed title by Humble Hearts, you could have told us this was the latest VanillaWare title and we would have believed you. This 2D side-scrolling action-RPG features gorgeously animated, hand-drawn visuals, solid music, and engaging gameplay. Aerial combat is the order of the day and pulling off multi-hit aerial combos is smooth and satisfying due to the taut and responsive controls. What's even more impressive is that even with tons of action happening on the screen, there was no slowdown. Dust: An Elysian Tail closes out this year's XBLA Summer of Arcade and we hope it sells well enough to see a future release on other platforms, such as PSN, because this slick title looks, sounds, and feels more fluid than many AAA titles out there.
It's no secret that this Studio Ghibli RPG looks gorgeous in screenshots, but we're happy to report that it looks even lovelier in motion. The animation, the movement, the seamless transition between in-game action and anime cutscenes, and the never-needs-adjusting camera all add up to an intuitively fluid experience that fits like a favorite pair of jeans.
The gameplay is pretty solid too with semi turn-based battles within free roaming battlefields that feel like a happy blend of Final Fantasy's ATB and Grandia's IP systems. Add to that above average voice acting and music, and you have a JRPG even more worth getting excited about than before.
There are many gamers who are tired of shooters, or at least claim to be. GearBox Software's Borderlands 2 offers a twist – besides being an RPG/FPS hybrid, it also comes with a much lighter, less serious atmosphere than its pure FPS counterparts. (It helps that the game's visuals are easy on the eyes.) The RPG side is much more than just seeing numbers float across the screen once you manage that all-important headshot; your character's skill tree is also vital for building him (her) the way you want.
For those of us who put an excessive amount of hours into the first Borderlands, its sequel throws in new classes, like the gun-loving Gunzerker from the demo, but holds onto familiar faces such as the Siren. And, of course, you could always bring the classes together and talk some friends into joining you in co-op mode: the way Borderlands is meant to be played.
Pokémon and Nobunaga's Ambition are two things that few sane people will think go together. Well thank goodness for those folks who throw caution to the wind and think, "This is so crazy, it just might work" because Pokémon Conquest is one of those games that make perfect sense once you play it.
Do not let the Pokémon cutesy-ness fool you, because this game does not water down the Nobunaga's Ambition elements. The turn-based SRPG battles are challenging and robust. There is also a deep kingdom and party management system. On top of that, if you can make an enemy's pokémon like you better, said pokémon will join your side. Not since Pokémon Colosseum have players been allowed to steal an opponent's creatures.
For not only turning the Pokémon franchise on its ear, but also offering an incredibly deep strategy-RPG experience, Pokémon Conquest is one of the most memorable games from E3.
Daedalic's The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is a graphic adventure based on Germany's popular and long-running tabletop RPG series. The Dark Eye is to Germany what Dungeons and Dragons is to the US. Because of this, The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav has some of the most gorgeous production values we have seen in an adventure game lately. Everything in the game is hand drawn and hand animated down to the minutest details. Complementing the visuals is an involved storyline featuring a snarky protagonist with plenty of vitriol in his dialogue. Like any good adventure game, the puzzles require some lateral thinking to solve while remaining logical within context. Some of the most interesting are the "teamwork" puzzles where players need to use the protagonist's destructive power with the heroine's restorative power to see situations through. This is definitely a title that genre fans should be excited for.
The sheer number of MMORPGs supersaturating the market these days is so staggering that it takes something truly special to stand out. We walked into Snail Games' booth with minimal expectations and walked out pleasantly surprised. This wuxia (Chinese literature harbored by martial arts) inspired MMORPG may have an endorsement from Jet Li, but we're not sure that's necessary because it stands strongly on its own merits of lovely graphics, deeply involved gameplay, and a unique and immersive setting (15th century Ming dynasty) rarely seen in MMORPGs.
The character seen in the playable demo was smoothly doing all the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon "wire-fu" moves we wished we could do, like running on water, scrambling up walls, and engaging in complex aerial combat across rooftops. The multidimensional nature of wire-fu combat, particularly aerial combat, promises a level of depth not found in classic MMORPGs. We look forward to seeing this lush MMORPG make a splash in the US gaming market in the way that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did in cinemas.
Oho! What a surprise! Darksiders II, the sequel to a game we didn't even cover on RPGFan, made quite the splash with those of us who had a chance to check it out at E3. The stylish art design of Joe Madureira (or Joe Mad) is back in full force, and the game looks absolutely stellar from both design and technical standpoints. What's changed this time around, though, are the expanded RPG systems, including full loot and trading (of weapons and armor), leveling, and a branching set of skill trees, all of which should let you tailor Death's smiting prowess to best suit your personal tastes. The demo we played showed off some environmental exploration easily on par with the original game. The tight platforming controls made it very easy to get Death from point A to point "murder all the enemies." Combat was still as fluid as ever, and felt not unlike the recent (and sadly, orphaned) Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Even the relatively low-leveled character we played around with had a nice collection of abilities with which to reap, reave, and rend enemies, so one can only imagine what the later levels will bring.
What you should really take away from all of this is that Darksiders II definitely looks like a game worth your time. Fans of the first game will naturally take notice, but if you're at all interested in action RPGs with fluid and customizable combat, this is one game you should keep an eye on.
Nintendo's press conference made big claims about being "all about the games" regarding the Wii-U and 3DS, but quite frankly we weren't impressed by Nintendoland. What Nintendo offered that was relevant to our coverage was as fleeting as the glimpse of Mass Effect 3 coming to Wii-U at the press conference. We were happy to see Paper Mario Sticker Star get some attention, but it was not playable on the show floor. In fact, the only 3DSes available were attached to booth girls via tendrils (creepy, right?) and none carried Paper Mario Sticker Star. What made us laugh was the accidentally forced surprise announcement of Fire Emblem: Awakening. We are happy it's coming, but not so happy that it was ignored like the red-headed step child the family tries to keep hidden.
We were promised there would be games for everyone: from the most casual to the hardest of the hard core. Unfortunately, the games the "hardest of the hard core" really cared about were absent, ports, or accidentally leaked. Even the casual games we saw didn't make "killer app" use of the Wii-U pad the way Wii Sports did for the standard Wii controllers. We were promised "all about the games" and the games we saw were either more of the same we've seen from the Wii, remakes or ports of popular games from other platforms, or new titles that feel like half-hearted launch shovelware.
We're not entirely sure what audience Nintendo seems to be targeting, but it sure as day is not us and that is why we left E3 disappointed by Nintendo.
[Ed's Note: Following E3, Nintendo of course hosted their Nintendo Direct video feeds, and discussed some of the titles they left out of E3. It's clear Nintendo prefers making announcements outside of E3, so some of our concerns were addressed by this. Not that we knew any of this during
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