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E3 2015 Awards

What a year this was! There's certainly a common thread amongst almost every one of RPGFan's attending editors (hint: It has a "VII" in its name), but there were quite a few interesting titles to see this year. Here are each editor's own choices, and be sure to check out our overall "Best of Show" awards as well!



Andrew Barker's Best of Show

Best RPG: Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon came as a surprise to all of us, but its mix of futuristic yet hunter-gatherer setting intrigued me. At first, it didn't look like an RPG, but Guerilla later confirmed various RPG elements such as levelling up would be in place. We don't know too much about the game yet, but Horizon left me excited for this open-world adventure filled with mechanical animals and decaying buildings enveloped in vegetation. Make sure to take a look at Kyle's preview if you haven't already.

Best RPG - Runner Up: Disgaea 5
I was fortunate to have some play time with Disgaea 5 at E3, and I was suitably impressed. Sure, it ultimately delivers the same gameplay we've seen previously in the series, but as a fan of Disgaea, this is exactly what I want. Faster movement speed, new ways to learn skills, and new revenge attacks are just a few of the improvements and additions Nippon Ichi have made. Sure, I'd love to see some high-quality 3D modelling in Disgaea one day, but until then I'm quite happy to continue stacking my characters on each other's heads and unleashing attacks with ridiculously high damage numbers.

Best Non-RPG: Uncharted 4
Uncharted is one of my favourite adventure game series, and I was psyched at E3 in 2014 just to see a teaser trailer. This year, the Sony conference trailer blew me away, and the extended gameplay demo on the show floor took my excitement to new levels. It was great to see Nate and Sully together again, and the surprise inclusion of a favourite character of mine at the trailer's end was just icing on the cake. I'm certain Naughty Dog will deliver another terrific entry in the series, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.


Jesse Woo's Best of Show

5) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I didn't get to play or even see Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but from what I hear, it is a bigger, better version of Human Revolution. And that's something I am excited for.

4) Moon Hunters
A procedurally-generated world that feels alive with choices. I anticipate playing a lot of Moon Hunters with my friends when it comes out.

3) Chronos
It's hard to separate the novelty and wow-factor of the Oculus Rift from my experience with Chronos as a game, but even if you were to play it on a traditional platform, I think it would stand out for its atmospheric design and tight controls.

2) Final Fantasy VII Remake
Another one that I didn't play, and in fact only saw a short teaser trailer for. It must speak to my affection for the original that I would give it the number 2 spot on my list, or maybe it was just the electric reaction that shook the crowd at the Sony conference announcement. I'm excited either way, and no one can tell me to be otherwise.

1) The Banner Saga 2
I don't really have any more words to describe my excitement and anticipation for this game. If this trilogy keeps improving at the rate that I saw on the E3 floor, the final installment will be a genius-level work of art.

Best Non-RPG: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I seriously think Hideo Kojima channeled Psycho Mantis to peer into my brain and read exactly what I want in a Metal Gear game. Dynamic worlds, player choice, weapon crafting, base building? Yes please.


Robert Steinman's Best of Show

Holy Crap, This Sequel Looks Awesome! - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I was expecting to be disappointed with Eidos Montreal's latest after the complete disaster that was Thief. Thankfully, my expectations were completely shattered when Adam Jensen combined all of his powerful augmentations in unique and interesting ways. Watching him charge an enemy, slow down time, and then fire off exploding nanoblades made me almost giddy, and I expect MD will surprise everyone with its level of versatility and player agency when it's released next year!

I Had No Clue What This Game Was - Mordheim: City of the Damned
Take a second to watch one of the videos for Mordheim on Steam. Go ahead, I'll wait. Now, you're probably expecting it to be some kind of action-RPG or perhaps a medieval take on Team Fortress, but it turns out Mordheim is the closest thing to Valkyria Chronicles this side of Valkyria Chronicles 2! Permadeath should keep players on their toes when it comes to PvP and PvE, and your units can even end up permanently scarred or missing limbs. Here's hoping my undead peg-leg army can survive the onslaught!

Best Remake to Play with a Buddy - Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
Playing Divinity: Original Sin with Stephen on the show floor made me truly appreciate the game on a deeper level. All of the changes to the Enhanced Edition should keep both fans and newcomers happy, as Larian is making huge improvements to the UI and skill systems. Best of all, the game plays amazingly well with a controller, and should make Divinity and college couch co-op standard when we get our hands on it come this fall.

THEY'RE ACTUALLY MAKING IT!!!! - Final Fantasy VII Remake
Holy sh*t. I still can't believe I was at the Sony Press Conference when they announced this sucker. Fans have been begging and pleading for the remake for damn near a decade, and I expect that no matter what Square Enix does, some fans will be super irritated when they finally get it. Will it have a traditional turn-based battle system? Can we expect some of the key story elements in Crisis Core and Advent Children to play into the narrative? WILL CLOUD CROSS DRESS?! Take a second to remember just how insane FF7 was when it came out back in 1997, and let's hope we get some level of that creativity with the remake.

Best Teenager Killing Simulator - Until Dawn
My wife and I love cheesy horror movies, so Until Dawn is going to be a pretty special experience in the Steinman household. The demo kept surprising me with just how many different ways the same scene could play out, and the death animations were so gruesome that I watched several people walk away from the booth in complete shock and disgust. That's exactly what a gory horror movie is supposed to do, people! Hopefully the story and characters will hold up, because Until Dawn could be something pretty special (and maybe wash out that awful pretentious taste David Cage left in my mouth with Heavy Rain).

Best Game I Played at E3 (again) - Below
I could have spent hours playing Below. The latest demo was so much more polished than what I played last year, and the new additions to the crafting system make this an experience where it truly feel like it's you against an entire world out for blood. The ecosystem and interplay between player, enemies and traps kept me on my toes in a unique way that makes Below feel like it came out of the Nintendo Entertainment System generation with a Dark Souls or Minecraft design philosophy. Mystery, intrigue and ambition abound in this Xbox One and PC exclusive, and I'm praying it finally releases this year.

I Hope This Game is Good - Dark Souls III
I think I'm burned out. I loved Demon's Souls, adored Dark Souls, liked Dark Souls II, and fell in love again with Bloodborne. Unfortunately, the demo for DSIII left me feeling cold and slightly disillusioned with the franchise. Even Hidetaka Miyazaki's return to the franchise as a (co)director didn't seem to infuse our presentation with any of the life I've come to expect given his previous creations. Maybe I'm just holding out for Bloodborne 2, but I would have rather seen a wider departure in order to keep the two franchises unique. Hopefully my misgivings will prove false, but I will gladly pass this game onto a reviewer who isn't feeling Souls fatigue at this point.

I Really Hope This Game is Good - Hitman
I talked everyone's ear off about the new Hitman game after the reveal trailer, and all of the interviews and previews I've read after the show have me doubly excited. I liked Absolution (despite the fact it was more of a traditional stealth game than the clandestine Rube Goldberg the series is known for), but Blood Money remains the best game in the entire series. Period. The promise of time-based targets and levels added over the course of the year means IO can listen to fan feedback and produce a unique experience you might just come back to again and again. It's good to have you back, 47. Now make good on all of those promises!

Wait, I'm Actually Going to Play it This Year?! - Fallout 4
I can't believe it's coming out this year, but the surprise release date announcement and stunning gameplay demonstration at Bethesda's press conference has me tickled pink to return to the wasteland. Here's hoping the developers have taken some cues from The Witcher 3, because it's going to be very hard to overshadow Geralt's latest adventure.

Needs to Happen Next Year - Trico (The Last Guardian) Plushy
MAKE THIS HAPPEN, SONY!!!!


Jeremy Harnage's Best of Show

Best "Are you serious?!?!" announcement - Final Fantasy VII Remake
I'm still in awe of this announcement, and the possibilities are endless. Now all I need is a release date!

Best "I'd totally watch someone play the hell out of that" - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I've never been too good at this sort of game, but I'd love to sit and play through this with friends. The cinematic air of Deus Ex only further lends itself to this idea, and you can bet that I'll be backseat driving on this at some point.

Best "Oh man I want everyone to get behind this game and help it succeed" - Death's Gambit
After meeting with one of the two creators, I have high hopes for the Metroidvania Death's Gambit. The tight controls, huge bosses, and varied playstyles already have me teeming with ideas and thoughts, and I can't wait to see what the community does with this title.

Best "Rob didn't like it but I am totally gonna play the hell out of it" - Dark Souls III
While some are burnt out on Dark Souls (and for good reason), I still find myself filled with anticipation for what comes next. I'm excited to fling enemies into the air like ragdolls and quietly "Whhhooaaaaaaaaa" at ash effects.

Best "Not an RPG but still makes me excited in my pants" game - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
With their extended demo, I've found that not only can Naughty Dog still impress and amaze me, but that Nathan still has more adventure ahead of him. I'm incredibly excited to get into this game! Tack on the fact that they sent us on an actual treasure hunt after watching the demo, and I'm completely on board.


Stephen Meyerink's Best of Show

Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 1
This one's a no brainer. I adored Pillars of Eternity when it first launched, so more, better Pillars set in a wintry landscape (my favorite!) was, as I told the Obsidian folks at my demo, "an easy sell." However, it's clear that even in spite of the game's success, the developers aren't just pumping out more levels and calling it a day. You can read my preview for more details, but this is the kind of expansion whose content is so carefully-integrated that it will not only expand the number of adventures to be had, but make the core game itself even better, too.

Plus, there's a robot rogue. Like I said, easy sell.

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
The game that originally made me doubt Pillars of Eternity (let me tell you about how much I love being proven wrong, by the way), Divinity is getting a huge rework as it prepares to commit original sins all over the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The split-screen was a blast, the controller worked well, and I was able to shoot fireballs at Rob, all with newly-rewritten/voiced dialogue and a revamped skill system. Read the words of Palerobbie-on-the-boards for more details, but again, this one is a bigger, better version of a game that was already awesome.

Heart Forth, Alicia
I backed this on Kickstarter (blah blah disclosure whatever). Whether you want to call it a Metroid-or-Igavania, what I'm sure about is that it is going to be excellent. The graphics are charming, the music is great (seriously, Alonso Martin specifically told me to put the headphones on during the preview, and I respect anyone who cares enough about their sound to actually insist on such a thing), and the controls are super tight. I immediately fell into a fun rhythm of attacking, jumping, and exploring — that same sense of flow I loved about all my favorite entries in this resurgent genre. A particular highlight was a boss battle that demanded carefully-timed jumps over a fast-moving foe (great for lovers of a challenge). If you're a fan of the house that Iga evidently built, you should keep an eye on this for sure and probably also read Mike's preview.

King's Quest: A Knight to Remember
Tied with Phantasy Star and Sonic for getting me into gaming as a whole, King's Quest is one of the foremost formative experiences I've ever had as a lover of games and narrative. The new one looks and plays a little different, but channels the same playful spirit and humor that has kept bad puns and the phrase "zounds!" in my subconscious for over two decades. Go read my preview and then go buy this on July 28.

Kingdom Hearts III
IDPO{FGjaosignj;iakojge rp;ioskjda gna;oirskvgnj['oi akjngr['oikjer11 1g[fskdajmvb[ ofivgfkmdsvxz vnbkjfpgsvnfbjpid ols;vcovtgjfpdb ostv;n.jdpfbt sv[;lm!!!

...is what I'd like to leave it at, but as the site's main fan of the series, I have to report a little more carefully. The new KH footage debuted, looks gorgeous, marks the return of Donald, Goofy, regular attack/magic commands, and the same sort of style characterized by arguably the series' best entry, Kingdom Hearts II. The worlds seem gigantic, and most importantly, it seems like the game is an actual real thing. I'm excited and want to see more.

Also, seriously, missed opportunity if there isn't a Captain America shield for Goofy, Mjölnir for Donald, and a lightsaber keyblade for Sora. These things literally write themselves.

Best Swag: Sketchbook with sketch from Divinity: Original Sin's artist
It's cool. Rob got a dragon and I got a roguish lady in a cloak.

Best Final Fantasy VII Remake Trailer: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Being in the room when the air was sucked out of it as everyone's excitement slowly rose while this trailer played is going to be an experience I remember forever that will trump an infinite quantity of whatever cynicism you or the internet can muster for this remake. I can't wait to play it, whatever form it takes.

Best Footage You Didn't See But I Did (unless you watched a recent stream)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End


Derek Heemsbergen's Best of Show

Best No-Show That I'm Still Hyped For - Persona 5
Deep down, I think I still don't believe that it's coming out this year. Atlus says it is, though, and even without a presence at E3 (aside from an old trailer), I'm still outrageously excited for this game. I'm actually trying to take a different approach with pre-release media when it comes to Persona 5; normally, I eat up whatever trailers and info I can find for games I'm excited about. In the case of P5, I'm trying to do the opposite. I want to be surprised. I don't want to know who the entire playable cast is. I want to ride the narrative on the edge of my seat and enjoy the revelations along the way. I remember opening the artbook that came with Persona 4 and accidentally spoiling the true identity of a major character — what a terrible feeling that was. And yes, I know the book had a spoiler advisory on its opening page, but I missed it in my haste. I don't want to feel like that again. I'm ready for Persona 5 to obliterate what few expectations I have when it releases this Fall.

Best Time I Repeatedly Shouted "Are You [REDACTED] Kidding Me?" - Sony's Entire Conference
The Last Guardian nearly brought me to tears. Shenmue III had me grinning from ear to ear. But when I saw the Lifestream trailing across those three screens, part of me knew what was about to happen, and the other part dared not believe that the Final Fantasy VII remake could possibly be real. And yet it is. And what a magical experience that was, sitting amongst the cheers, the jubilation, the exuberant applause. Sony knocked it out of the park this year, and I'll never forget how it felt to be a part of that conference.

Best Game I Knew I Was Gonna Fanboy Over - The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
I love my Trails games. I knew what to expect when I visited XSEED's booth, but I was still giddy when I actually got my hands on Trails of Cold Steel. It felt exactly like I wanted it to, the music had my blood pumping, and I immediately started picking out my favorite characters — by design, at least.

Best New IP - Horizon Zero Dawn
Come through, Future Ygritte! I nearly turned my brain off when I saw the developer's name flash across the screen, but I'll be damned if Horizon didn't capture my imagination with its fascinating blend of the organic and technological.

Best Time I Dropped It Low With Teddie - Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Your affection. Your affection. Your affectiooooooooon. Please help me. I am not a good dancer. Shout-outs to Editor Jeremy Harnage on the right, helping me keep it real.


Mike Salbato's Best of Show

Best "Where Did This Come From?" RPG:
Horizon Zero Dawn

I don't follow the FPS world. I know of them, and while I know about Killzone, I could never have named its developer. Thus, seeing Guerilla Games (who, as it happens, are "the Killzone guys") take the stage at E3, I didn't know what to expect. What they showed of Horizon had me instantly captivated. Incredible world design, an interesting premise, and a level of detail in both nature and machine that is hard to believe was being done in real-time. Most importantly, it echoed a new trend of colorful games. So many modern games get caught up in presenting a "realistic" world, which often means a game blanketed in browns and grays. Fallout is the prime example of a post-apocalyptic RPG that fittingly uses this color palette. And while Fallout 4 shows a world more vibrant, that was once full of color, Horizon goes a step further, in a post-post-apocalyptic world in which deteriorating buildings are replaced with lush, overgrown vegetation. It's a setting we've technically been to before, but it's never looked like this, and I'm dying to explore this world.

Game That Finally Allows Me To Cover a Metroid-esque Title on RPGFan:
Heart Forth, Alicia

Not to disappoint anyone, but although I work for RPGFan, Metroid is my all-time favorite series. The Metroid game design would go on to inspire Castlevania, and these days, there are countless indie devs working on games in a similar vein (which should send a message to Nintendo and Konami that, yes, we still want these games). There are some great-looking ones in the future such as Timespinner, but coming more immediately is Heart Forth, Alicia. The best thing I can say about HFA is that the game controls exactly the way you hope it will. For an action- and platform-centric title like this, control is key, and developer Alonso Martin absolutely nailed it. The adventure aspect seems great, the story and world is intriguing, and the spritework is as good as it gets. I want this game now.

Mind Blown:
Final Fantasy VII Remake

I often refer to Final Fantasy VII as overrated. Mind you, "overrated" doesn't mean "bad," as it's a great game. But I still find other FF villains in particular more compelling than Sephiroth. Despite all this, I have fond memories of my 3 playthroughs, each of which I spent so much time on that I maxed out the in-game clock at 99 hours, 59 minutes each time. The materia system is one of my favorite FF systems to play with, and the world of FFVII is just so fascinating. This remake is the pipedream kind of remake we always hope to see. Upping the resolution on titles like FFX is great, but the thought of a full-on modern-day remake of an old classic just doesn't often happen, and I absolutely cannot wait to sink another 100+ hours into this one.

Beauty in Motion:
Kingdom Hearts III

KHIII has been hovering in the background for years, waiting for a reveal. In an otherwise horribly-paced press conference, Square Enix gave us the first true look at the game in motion, and it's stunning. It was a stark reminder that the "main" KH titles skipped an entire console generation — Kingdom Hearts II was on PS2 — so the leap in quality and visual fidelity is stunning. Combined with smooth combat, a gorgeous Tangled world, and the novel use of Disneyland rides in battle, seeing KHIII at last was a welcome surprise.

Happy Adventure, Delightful Adventure:
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

I've actually missed on the last two Mario & Luigi games (I need to get on that), but every time one of these gets announced, I get a little giddy. I never expected the M&L or Paper Mario games to spawn full series, so that both are continuing, and now crashing together in another RPG full of colorful characters and inventive gameplay is just a delight.

The "How Is This Real?" Award:
Sony Press Conference

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the experience of Sony's conference this year was surreal. From the moment they opened with The Last Guardian — a game most people assumed was secretly cancelled years ago — I was blown away. That we then got another "this can't be what I think it is" reveal with the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and, oh yeah, Shenmue III is happening too, fifteen years later... it's hard to believe. It feels a bit like a dream, even now, that these things all happened in front of us. Best conference ever.

Best Game That Doesn't Make the Official List Because I'm Already Playing It at Home
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

Best RPG That Literally Has a Hashtag In Its Title
Genei Ibun Roku #FE

So Bizarre It Might Be Brilliant
Genei Ibun Roku #FE

Best Non-RPG That I Was Completely Terrible At
Persona 4: Dancing All Night


Liz Maas' Best of Show

Best "I Already Pre-Ordered This And Played The Day After The Show, But It's On My List Anyway Damnit!":
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

This was a pretty decent E3 for me — I met, interviewed and took pictures with producer Naoki Yoshida, got to play FFXIV's expansion a bit early, and hear Susan Calloway sing "Answers" live at Distant Worlds mid-E3 week. Sure, flying in Heavensward is pretty exciting and all, but a story arc that centers around the previously-closed city of Ishgard, plus the Elezen race and dragoons (not to mention dragons) is an expansion that's clearly made for me in just about every way. Even to this day, Yoshi-P and his team continue to impress years after saving Final Fantasy XIV from becoming an outright disaster.

Best Surprise Announcement: Final Fantasy VII Remake
I may have grumbled about the characters and jumped on the "Final Fantasy VII is overrated!" bandwagon in the past, but the truth is, VII holds a lot of high-school age memories for me, and a remake has me beyond excited. Having already seen the re-imagining of Midgar in the trailer, one can only envision how areas such as Cosmo Canyon and the City of the Ancients, not to mention the characters and music will come back to life in remake form. Sure, we'll probably be waiting three years or so, but I'm okay with that, knowing what Square could pull off here.

Best Non-Surprise Announcement: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Though Andromeda's announcement came to the surprise of no one and was overshadowed by several others at the show, Mass Effect, being so near and dear to my heart, will always make my day (or week, or month). Just the title alone told us all we need to know: we will find ourselves in another galaxy, far removed from Shepard's trilogy. Well... except for that N7 uniform, of course. We know what BioWare's writers are capable of, and if gameplay in Mass Effect 3 is any indication, the combat won't be lacking, either.

Best "I don't Know What This Is, But I Want It": Horizon Zero Dawn
I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to make of a world where cities were long overtaken by nature and where a lone female protagonist took down several robotic "animals" alone, but I knew I wanted more of this beautiful world and its intriguing setting. Horizon Zero Dawn's announcement and debut footage caught the attention of many at E3, and with very good reason. If you're looking for a fresh IP to get into, you'll want to look out for this one.

Biggest Disappointment... So Far: Genei Ibun Roku #FE
First of all, why is there a hash tag in its title? Second, anyone who knows me knows my love for both Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, so when a crossover was announced years ago, you can imagine my reaction. Sadly, the bubbly trailer shown during Nintendo Direct felt like neither IP played much influence here. There are flavours of the lighthearted, pop-like elements of Persona, and while there is nothing wrong with that, so far this feels like far from what I had imagined. Still, the final product is a while away, and it does deserve a chance.

Best Game I Knew I Wanted And Watching The E3 Demo Just Made Me Want It More:
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Eidos: Montreal took everything about my second favourite 2011 title, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and made it better. The world is much more colourful; existing and new augmentations are made to work together; and Detroit, now under martial law, feels more alive with the constant background action. Even the characters in the brief demo we were shown had an impact that made me want to delve into the story now, rather than in 2016.

Best Snack of E3
S'mores Oreos, obviously.

Best E3 Trend
Jetpacks!







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