E3 2014: On the Show Floor — Part 1

Batman: Arkham Knight, Mortal Kombat X, Shadow of Mordor, Dead Island 2, Lords of the Fallen, WildStar, and much more!

The E3 show floor is a beauty to behold. Full of games we will be talking about and playing for the next year or two, this year’s show has a lot of fresh ideas on display. And some fan favorites, as well. E3 2014 is proudly boasting the return of Batman in Arkham Knight, as well another excellent installment of Mortal Kombat.

But I’ll start with the newer names first. 

City Interactive’s Lords of the Fallen is the newest action RPG in the “rage quit” line of games that have been invading our TV screens since From Software’s classic Demon’s Souls. Lords of the Fallen faces the obvious comparison: how close is it to a Dark Souls‘ ripoff? The gameplay is similar: you have to pace your attacks and learn the attack patterns of your enemies — one misstep and you’ll be chopped in half. Your best bet when going up against a group of enemies is to isolate them and take them out one at a time. Attacking too many enemies at once will undoubtedly lead to an early death. When you die you have to start all the way from the beginning of the level. As you fight your way through enemies, you gain experience, which allows you to power-up your weapons — in this case, a staff, a shield, and a fire-based magic spell.

If you die, you lose all the experience you gained throughout the level, but you’ll get a chance to recover the floating experience if you reach the exact spot where you died last. But die before recovering your experience and it’s lost forever. As you keep dying — YOU WILL DIE A LOT — you’re forced to fight through the same enemies, which grow weaker every time you kill them. Getting through a level after 8098098 tries is VERY rewarding. It feels good. 

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So how close is Lords of the Fallen‘s gameplay to that of its predecessors? Pretty darn close, but the gameplay is so smooth, fun, and challenging that you really shouldn’t care. I’d say Lords of the Fallen will earn the right to sit among the most hardcore gaming experiences. 

While walking through the Bandai Namco booth, I also had a chance to try out Rise of Incarnates, the latest free-to-play PC fighting game from the makers of Tekken and SoulCalibur. What’s immediately interesting is the arena in which the fights take place. Perfect for tag team matches, there is a lot of space to move around in. I played on a post-apocalyptic type map, and I had a choice to stay on the ground and take to the air, launching my enemies across the map with a well-timed combo.

As is the norm with fighting games, characters have special abilities. I played as Dr. Gasper Watteau, the poster boy of the title, who can summon a zombie horde to engulf his enemies. Rise of Incarnates falls a little short in the gameplay arena, though. The combos become repetitive way too quickly, and I found myself losing interest halfway through the first bout. While switching between ground and aerial attacks is like music, rhythmic in all the right ways, it does leave more to wish more once you’re in the air with a very limited amount of attacks. Unleashing the zombie horde is crazy cool, though.

Which reminds me, there are lots of zombies at E3 this year, thanks to Deep Silver and their newest Dead Island game. While I didn’t get to play the actual game, I did watch a presentation behind closed doors. Was I impressed by what I saw? Well, it’s nice to have another zombie basher in the mix (killing zombies is always welcomed), but I’m a little flabbergasted that Deep Silver is throwing this much heat on the zombie genre.

Along with Dying Light, which is being developed by the creators of the original Dead Island, this sequel is not exactly bringing anything new to the table. It doesn’t have Dying Light‘s parkour element to make it fresh. The big new things in Dead Island 2 are the motorized melee weapons — so a chainsaw staff thing or a motorized machete fan on a stick — which I think the Dead Rising series has been doing for a while, and the seamless 2-8 multiplayer experience. The latter is pretty cool. Your friends can drop in at any time during your game to kill zombies alongside you. Deep Silver did not show the multiplayer, but the idea is promising. Yager, the people behind Spec Ops: The Line, are behind this new installment, which one can hope means that the story of Dead Island 2 will be much more captivating, and a lot less shlocky.

A quick note on WildStar: there are A LOT of new things headed our way this summer. Carbine Studios has already created one of the most content-rich MMORPGs ever, and they’re only adding more and more. And we’re not talking a couple of little quests for the level cappers. We’re talking full-on NEW ADVENTURES and storylines that will keep players invested long after they hit level cap. Carbine has really planned this baby out, and after seeing the first big update, I’d say they’re gonna hit home. There will be way more news on the first big WildStar update next week! 

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Batman: Arkham Knight is everything I could have possibly hoped for in a Batman game. The Batmobile is a crazy cool addition to the game, which handles the signature vehicle in a seamless way. There isn’t a cutscene every time the Batmobile enters the fight. You press a button and it joins the fight, as you’re in the middle of a brawl, which means you could launch an enemy into the air with a well-placed kick and the Batmobile will shoot a non-lethal rubber bullet into said enemy’s gut, neutralizing him. Beautiful takedown. Moving into and from the Batmobile truly is seamless. You can be driving down a street at full speed and suddenly launch yourself out of the vehicle and into the air for gliding and rappling. Moving around Gotham has never felt so dynamic or so cool. I also got to see a bit more of the Arkham Knight, the guy everyone is wondering about.

Just how big is his role in the new game? From what I saw, his deep hatred for the Bat is at the forefront of the game, as he chases after Batman all over Gotham. The Arkham Knight seriously wants to destroy Batman. The way the Arkham Knight was presented to me, he is one of Scarecrow’s men. I wonder if it’ll stay that way? I bet we’ll learn a lot more about this new character once the credits roll.

What to say about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor except that it surprised the crap out of me. When I saw the very first trailer, I wasn’t very impressed. It was another Lord of the Rings game, but with an Assassin’s Creed feel. But there’s so much more here. Talion, our esteemed anti-hero, might as well have come from the pages of a Tolkien book never-written. This pre-War of the Ring stuff that fans of the books and movies will definitely love. The game takes place in Mordor before the fall of Sauron, who is the main antagonist of the game it seems, as Talion travels in the shadows, taking out the hordes of Mordor, one orc at a time. The sword play looks great, and the spells even better.

But it’s really in the way that the gameplay informs the story that the game shines. You can tell that Monolith Productions has really put an emphasis on telling a captivating story, which is something that past Lord of the Rings games have surprisingly been missing. Monolith understands something about this universe: the lore is so rich and expansive that you can really tell great stories within the confines of the world. Why hasn’t anyone thought about adding wraiths into a LotR game before?

We all know that Shadow of Mordor has an influence system that allows the world to change around you depending on your actions, which then changes the story a bit and gives this game a sense of endless possibilities. Each assassination has a consequence and the orc ranks will adjust depending on how you go about playing the game. This could be my favorite game on the E3 show floor right now…

If it weren’t for Mortal Kombat X! Guys, this is the Mortal Kombat game we’ve been waiting for. New fatalities, including Scorpion’s new “slice your face off with a sword, so people can see what’s left of your brain and tongue” fatality, which was the sensation of the hands-off presentation. X-ray vision is also back, so you can see all the gore very up close, as the neck snaps and bones go flying. Also, there are plenty of new characters to join the classic ranks, including a bug woman who can shoot venom at you, unleash a swarm, or attack you with her stinger.

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There’s also a big brute, who’s driven around by a crazed woman on his back, so actually you’re being attacked by two crazed killing machines instead of one. And you don’t just get one version of these characters. You get three for each. Depending on what power-up you choose, your style of play and abilities with each character change. For example, you can choose to give Sub-Zero a more offensive or defensive advantage. One allows you to turn your ice into weapons, like daggers, and another allows him to plant an ice decoy, which will freeze enemies as soon as they touch it. Fighters also interact with the environment. They can pick up makeshit weapons from their surroundings and bash each other’s heads in with them. It’s a really all-in-one Mortal Kombat experience.

Day 1 on the E3 show floor was great, and we have A LOT more going on day 2, including a peak at Alien: Isolation and Sonic Boom. Stay tuned for more E3 news at Den of Geek!

Part 2

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