Though nearly everyone who watched the EA Play conference went in with lowered expectations thanks to prior experiences, the opposite applied to Microsoft’s Xbox briefing. That’s because we knew they’d have new hardware to show in the Scorpio, a more powerful Xbox One originally introduced through the boasting of its specs during last year’s E3 conference. They also needed to show games to sell the gaming audience on the system, since those specs meant it wouldn’t come cheap. The conference also marked their opportunity to prove they’re still committed to supporting their platform with first-party software, as it’s waned in recent years thanks to the lack of announcements, and cancellations for titles like Fable Legends and Scalebound.
Microsoft tried to make up for their software doldrums by highlighting anything even slightly exclusive. This was denoted with how “Exclusive” was said before each such title, and while it was fine for the first few, the gimmick wore thin after around a half an hour. Considering this was one of the longest E3 conferences Microsoft’s ever had, this was a little maddening.
They knew the introduction of the Scorpio was the most anticipated part, which is why this segment was first. The system will officially be called the “Xbox One X,” and it will play games in a 4K resolution and include super sampling so anyone can see their games in a more pristine form, even if they don’t have a 4K-capable TV. It will also have an 8-core Custom AMD CPU,12GB GDDR5 of graphic memory (remember when the PS4 having 5GB GDDR5 four years ago was a big deal?), and a 6 Teraflop GPU. It will also contain a liquid-cooled vapor chamber to keep the system from overheating. It will play the entire Xbox One library with enhancements, though some will be patched to fully utilize the system’s power, and nearly every title published for the Xbox One from here on will be made for the system. That includes every game shown during this conference.
One of the first key games will be Forza Motorsport 7, whose graphics will make it the most realistic simulation racing game yet, combined with the power to run at 60fps. It will also include the largest array of cars assembled in any game for the franchise, including Porsches, for all of your virtual car porn goodness. The game will release on October 3rd for XB1 and PC.
4A Games announced Metro: Exodus, the newest title in the Metro video game series (Note: It’s based on a series of novels). The last two were made for last-gen consoles, but remastered in pristine form for current gen systems in Metro Redux, so this marks the development team’s first opportunity to fully take advantage of current-gen systems. It will take place in the ruins of Russia, during the aftermath of a nuclear war, where players will have to dodge and fight mutated beasts and find enough resources to survive. The concept isn’t original, but it’s a sight to behold graphically. It will release sometime in 2018.
Nearly everything about Assassin’s Creed Origins was leaked before it could be revealed during this show, including the game’s name, the setting, the protagonist, and info from the new Game Informer issue. Fortunately for them, the trailer and gameplay didn’t leak, so they had something to surprise people with. Origins’ presentation is a large step forward for the franchise, and shows why the team decided to take a year off with the AC franchise last year. The combat still looks a little janky from the video, but could be better in the hands of someone who’s practiced how to utilize its new features. Origins will release on October 27th.
Microsoft promised to show a staggering amount of games at this conference, but of course, some were of the lower-budget and indie variety. That included PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a Massively Multiplayer Online survival game that will be a console-exclusive title (i.e. it’s on PC too). That also applies to Deep Rock Galactic, a co-op FPS with a colorful art style. It’s been a while since it was announced, but State of Decay 2 is still coming. It’s a sequel to the first multiplayer zombie survival game which looks to have more variety in its environments, though the animation needs some work. It will release in spring 2018. Finally, there’s The Darwin Project, another multiplayer survival title that will take place in a wasteland, which will have players competing with each other in the style of The Hunger Games.
Minecraft continues to be the largest game in Microsoft’s library, despite not having anywhere near the highest budget. But it’s about to get more expensive this fall. First, it will receive the “Super Duper Graphics Pack,” which will add improved textures and effects, and the option to play in 4K on XB1X. It will also receive the “Better Together” update, which will add a marketplace for players to sell creations, more servers so more players can play together, and — interestingly — cross-play between multiple platforms, including Switch, XB1, Windows 10, and mobile. Apparently, Sony didn’t want to play ball.
Several games were introduced through quick trailer showcases. The first of these was Dragon Ball FighterZ, a new Dragon Ball 3-on-3 fighting game developed by Arc System Works which uses Guilty Gear Xrd’s graphical style. It could be a solid competitor for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite among the fighting game community. Also confirmed for XB1 was Black Desert Online, a Korean MMORPG with combat that wouldn’t be out of place in a Japanese action game.
As for other indie games: There was The Last Night, a 2D sprite-based cyberpunk adventure game that takes inspiration from other works. (A pity about the creator’s opinions on other matters, though.) There was also The Artful Escape, a multidimensional rock-based adventure/platformer. Both games will temporarily be console-exclusive to Xbox One, and will contain XB1X enhancements.
A brief trailer was provided for Bandai Namco’s Code Vein, a Souls-like title with anime aesthetics reminiscent of the God Eater series. But unlike the last one, this one showed more polished gameplay. They also finally confirmed the intended platforms, which are PS4, XB1, and PC. It’s due for release in 2018.
A long, long presentation was provided for Sea of Thieves, with narration explaining what players will do in the game the entire time. Here, players will work together to fight enemies in caves and on other ships, which will come in the form of humans and creatures. They’ll also hunt for treasure and explore. In other words, it’s exactly what you might expect from a game that involves players controlling pirates, complete with a trademark love-it-or-hate-it art style from developer Rare. This demo went a little too long, but it was better than having four players commentate it like last year. It will release in early 2018.
Tacoma, a new first-person “walking simulator” adventure title from the developers of Gone Home, will release on August 2nd. Super Lucky’s Tale, an enhanced port of Oculus VR game Lucky’s Tale, is coming to Xbox and PC on November 7th. Also, the long-awaited Cuphead will finally arrive on September 29th for Xbox and PC (including Steam), and hopefully won’t receive another delay along the way.
Crackdown 3 has made constant long disappearances since its debut at E3 2014, thanks to switching between two development teams. But it resurfaced here through a trailer featuring Terry Crews, with confirmation that it will finally arrive on November 7th. The game will be using the enhanced power of the XB1X (and presumably “The Cloud,” still?) to render explosions and destructive environments in both its single-player and multiplayer modes. There was some upset about the multiplayer being MIA here, but hopefully they’ll show more this week.
A montage was posted highlighting several other indie games that are part of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, including Epic Games’ Fortnite and first-person title Observer. I couldn’t help but notice that quite a few of these games contained top-down camera perspectives, showing how many developers have the same ideas.
Ashen, originally announced at E3 2015, resurfaced for another E3. Here, players have to cooperate to survive in an open world covered in ash. It was originally announced as a console-exclusive, but has since become a timed-exclusive; no release date was provided. Also quickly announced was Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which confirmed rumors that a prequel was in development by Idol Minds. It will span three episodes, and will start releasing on August 31st. Note that this is different from the recently-announced sequel, which will be developed by the team that handled the first game at Dontnod Entertainment.
A lengthy demo was provided for Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the sequel to Shadow of Mordor. Anyone who played the original will feel comfortable with this installment, as it looks overwhelmingly similar to it, down to having the same mechanics and animations. As explained when it was originally announced, the biggest new feature this game will have is how it will let players take over enemy bases to establish them as their own to expand their influence across Mordor. The game will release on October 10th, following a delay from August 22nd.
The sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest is coming, which will be called Ori and the Will of the Wisps. No gameplay was shown, but this will likely be another 2D Metrodvania game with a beautiful art style. Its announcement was accompanied by a live piano performance from composer Gareth Corker. No release date was announced.
Another big hardware-related announcement pertained to how original Xbox games will join the backwards-compatibility family. Like 360 games, titles can be purchased from the Xbox digital store, while old discs will also work. The only game confirmed thus far is Crimson Skies, which is now available. It’s not confirmed as to whether third-party games will be included in this deal, but it would be a surprise if they weren’t.
Meanwhile, the price for the Xbox One X was saved until this moment, where it was confirmed to be a whopping $499, the same price the original Xbox One launched at. Given the specs, this wasn’t surprising, but it’s a risky move considering their original console had trouble selling at that point. While it won’t have all the baggage that came with the constant “Xbox 180s,” they didn’t show much software to sell the gaming audience on the system. There’s still time to give customers convincing reasons why they should purchase it between now and its November 7th launch, but it will be tough considering the Xbox One S can be purchased for half the price.
The final presentation was reserved for Anthem, Bioware’s new game that was previously given a teaser at EA’s conference. It’s evident the developer’s main team has been working on this for a good while, as it looked like a generational leap over the recently-released Mass Effect: Andromeda. It will be a third-person action/RPG similar in style to Bungie’s Destiny, which allows for four players to venture simultaneously through its open world. It’s planned for release in fall 2018.
Microsoft provided an okay showing this year, but it was devoid of any big surprises. And despite the overuse of the “Exclusive” voiceover, only three actual exclusives were revealed in this conference (Forza 7, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Super Luckey’s Tale). Their issue with console exclusives was on full display here, but it’s possible they’re not willing to put forth the investment to address this. It’s tough to deny that they showed a series of great games, many of which will be available outside Microsoft hardware. It will take some time to determine whether the company is really done with big first-party support, even though they’ll need it for the Xbox One X. But Sony and Nintendo could smoke them in this arena.
If you want to watch the briefing in full, feel free to here. Keep in mind that it’s nearly two hours.