E3 2019 Day Two: A Few Strong Titles Can’t Save Ubisoft And Square Enix From Mediocrity

E3 2019 Day Two: A Few Strong Titles Can’t Save Ubisoft And Square Enix From Mediocrity

I’d hoped for day two of E3 2019 to potentially rectify some of what made the first day of press conferences a flaccid affair. Microsoft and Bethesda flubbed the execution with too much waft and a heavy focus on cinematic trailers over tangible gameplay. Devolver fared better with a hilariously entertaining presentation but had scant few actual announcements to make.

It was up to Ubisoft and Square Enix, then, to reclaim some of that lost magic. Aside from a very strong couple of showings from each though, that didn’t really happen. And again, the one ‘indie’ focused show was the unsung highlight of the day.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft started their presser in typical Ubisoft fashion; with a musical performance. Audiences and viewers were treated to a quick piece from the Assassin’s Creed Symphony, which was admittedly pretty cool, before the show proper could begin. Straight into it after that though, with what is undoubtedly one of the biggest announcements (and most substantial showings) this year in Watch Dogs Legion.

Good on ol’ Ubi to do what so few have dared to at E3 2019 thus far; show some actual gameplay. Some highly controlled, practiced and edited gameplay, mind, but it’s something. Legion looks like one of those really cool ideas that’s either going to pan out fantastically or fall pretty flat. The core gimmick, being able to play as any human in the game and have the world, the characters and even the cutscenes react differently, is quite a daring idea and one that I’m moderately confident the developer can pull off. It’s whether or not it’s worth pulling off in the end that concerns me. Still, it looks pretty dope so far and I really want one of those LED skulls from the collector’s edition.

Moving on, and for some reason it was deemed appropriate to reveal a TV show on an E3 stage? Whether or not Ubisoft had a consulting hand in it, and as cool as it is to see the It’s Always Sunny team at it again, I don’t get why this was shown here. Although I guess, as I’ll no doubt repeat more than once, this presser had a little too much filler in general.

Speaking of (!), and I don’t want to sound like a whiney, old man when I say this, but what’s with all the DLC announcements here? We have new content for Rainbow Six Siege, Brawlhalla, For Honor and The Division 2 all shown on Ubi’s E3 stage. I know these are popular games with fans who want to know about what’s new and happening, but surely this is pre or post-show stuff? Again it just feels like extra padding in an otherwise anemic showing.

What about the rest of that brand spanking new stuff? Well we’ve got a new Ghost Recon: Breakpoint trailer, some kind of new Tom Clancy mobile game with a trailer that didn’t really effectively communicate what it was, and of course Just Dance 2020 is coming this November. There were dancers on stage and at once point they were doing the dance from Little Big’s ‘Skibidi’. How fucking dare they. I want it.

As out of the loop as I am with Rainbow Six, the newly-announced Rainbow Six Quarantine does look kinda cool. It’s got three-player co-op and some kind of alien/zombie infection thing going on and it’s out sometime next year. Roller Champions, a new free-to-play roller derby-inspired sports title also looks very neat. As someone whose partner is skilled in actual roller derby, seeing it transformed into a futuristic ball sport ala Rocket League is pretty exciting. Cue my disappointment when it turned out to be PC exclusive (at least for now), so hopefully it catches on and makes its way to other platforms soon enough.

Something I wasn’t expecting to see (from Ubisoft, at least) that I didn’t like the look of was Uplay+. Taking a leaf out of the book of EA Access, Game Pass, etc, Uplay+ is a subscription service that gives players access to over 100 Ubisoft games (including Uno!) for a monthly fee. I’m actually not strictly opposed to the whole subscription model for games going forward, but can we please not fragment it into a dozen different services from different publishers? I already have too many TV streaming services draining my bank account as it is. I do appreciate that the games on the service will be their complete, DLC-rich premium editions as opposed to just the standard varieties.

The whole thing ended on one last surprise, and one of my favourite surprises of E3 2019. Gods & Monsters is a new game coming from the team behind Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and looks like that game mixed with a healthy dose of Breath of the Wild. From the gorgeous, colourful visuals to the Greek mythological world and beasts, I’m super keen to see more of what this one has to offer, and it’s out on February 25 next year! Not long to wait at all.

While not the worst press conference ever, and definitely not without some great reveals, Ubisoft just lacked that E3 magic this year. They’re not alone in that, and I wouldn’t go as far as saying they bombed, but I definitely would have wanted more.

Square Enix

This year was always going to be something of a gimmie for Square Enix because they had two very big games up their sleeves. With both the Final Fantasy VII Remaster as well as Marvel’s Avengers confirmed to be shown at this year’s Square Enix Presents showcase. It would come down, then, to the stuff around those two big hitters to decide whether or not the show as a whole was a critical hit.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the publisher (rightfully) opening straight into Final Fantasy VII Remake. You can read a few of my thoughts about the reveal here, but the short of it is that fans were treated to a lot of really great looking combat gameplay among promises that, despite not covering anywhere near the full Final Fantasy VII story, this would be a complete, standalone game. What that means for the previously ‘episodic’ plan still feels a little vague, but I think it’s safe to say that Yoshinori Kitase and the team are really on focused on telling this one story right now. They also revealed a sweet collector’s edition of the game, which seemingly hasn’t been confirmed for Australia yet but I can confirm I preordered for an eye-watering $350 USD just before.

Next up was an accolades trailer for Life is Strange 2 for some reason? Hope you’ve all played the series up to date and aren’t waiting to play it all in one go because spoilies. Damn. Anyway, next up are a couple of ports (yay!). There’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles which I’m pretty sure we knew was coming to Switch but it looks like mobile is on the cards as well. Then a trailer for Octopath Traveller on PC, which is out, and the announcement of The Last Remnant for Switch, out today/tonight!

Enough about ports though, next up we got a big tasty look at Dragon Quest Builders 2! I know myself and quite a few of the writers here at WellPlayed (and a couple of our biggest fans) are very keen for this. There wasn’t a huge amount of new info, but it was presented very nicely. Aside from a really annoying narrator. Oh, and we’re getting a demo on June 27! Neato. There was also some talk around Dragon Quest XI Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition S (yep) for the Switch. I’m still pretty salty that the cool new stuff like the fully orchestrated soundtrack wasn’t a thing in the initial PS4 release but hey, still cool!

After that was a quick look at what’s going on with Square Enix Collective, the company’s effort at indie curation and support, but I can’t say I’m particularly interested in the top-down motorsports sim Circuit Superstars or Battalion 1944. I’m sure there were people watching that are keen, though. After that a quick reminder that a buttload of classic Square Enix music is now available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, followed by a reminder that Square Enix showed some boring-ass looking DLC for Kingdom Hearts 3 a few days ago and everyone has already forgotten about it.

Final Fantasy XIV’s new expansion, Shadowbringers, continues to look cool and make me jealous of everyone that has the time to commit to an MMO. Some impressive player numbers were touted on stage too, which is nice to see. Then… Dying Light 2?! It’s always nice to see one of my E3 Predictions bear fruit. A short trailer but something different to what was shown at Xbox at least. Some trailers for a couple of obscure Saga games headed West and a new Final Fantasy Brave Exvius spinoff strategy game for mobile followed, and I tuned out pretty hard, I’ll be honest. But then!

Outriders. Yes, the game I predicted last year to be at the 2018 Square Enix presser found its way to the 2019 one. Only a year late. It’s by People Can Fly (of Bulletstorm fame) and seems to be some kind of sci-fi shooter with 3-player coop and some dope looking monster. Hopefully we find out more soon enough. Then a nice little showing of Tokyo RPG Factory’s new joint, Oninaki, which still looks awesome. I loved Lost Sphear and I Am Setsuna and this looks to carry that legacy wonderfully, and with a bloody gorgeous art style to boot.

The rest of this wrap-up is at risk of me just blathering and sobbing about how amazing it is that we’re actually, finally getting a Final Fantasy VIII HD remaster. Final Fantasy VIII Remastered (naturally) comes out this year, too. It’s definitely not much more than a touch-up as opposed to a full-blown remake, but it looks great for what it is. I haven’t been as excited at an E3 announcement since Psychonauts 2. Get. It. In. Me.

Closing out proceedings? Marvel’s Avengers, of course. Again, a little frustrating that proper gameplay footage came second to flashy pre-rendered sequences and hard details are lost in vague marketing talk. Still, it looks pretty and has one of the most video game voice casts around. An initial release will have a story surrounding Black Widow, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor, but will supposedly add new stories and new heroes as free (!) content as time goes on. Shared world action game ala Destiny or The Division, anyone? I feel like I was on the money more or less with my prediction here. Importantly, we have a date to look forward to as well! Marvel’s Avengers releases May 15, 2020.

So there you have it, far from terrible turnouts from both Ubisoft and Square Enix, but still some room for improvement and a heavy continuation of the CG flash and vagueries of the day before. I haven’t mentioned the Kinda Funny Games Showcase, which was awesome and featured a ton of great indie content wrapped in an entertaining and very KF presentation, but we’ll talk more about that on WellPlayed soon. All we have left now is Nintendo, so let’s see how they fare and whether or not I’ll regret getting up at/staying up until 2am to watch.

What did you think of today’s pressers?

Kieron started gaming on the SEGA Master System, with Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd and Wonder Boy. The 20-odd years of his life since have not seen his love for platformers falter even slightly. A separate love affair, this time with JRPGs, developed soon after being introduced to Final Fantasy VIII (ie, the best in the series). Further romantic subplots soon blossomed with quirky Japanese games, the occasional flashy AAA action adventure, and an unhealthy number of indie gems. To say that Kieron lies at the center of a tangled, labyrinthine web of sexy video game love would be an understatement.