Opening the floodgates as E3’s first official pre-show showcase, Electronic Arts chose to play it safe. Loyal fans of franchises like FIFA and Madden will find no cause for alarm, but players searching for innovation or surprise will be better suited elsewhere.
Regardless, we watched (and streamed) it all. Here’s our recap.
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Two weeks ahead of E3 and at the tail-end of a multi-hour stream, Bethesda dropped a teaser trailer for a new Fallout title, Fallout 76. Here’s what we know so far.
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Game: Civilization VI
Made by: Firaxis
Published by: 2K
Available on: PC, Mac, iPad
A step forward for the series with a compelling (though divisive) art-style and a number of new gameplay features; buyer beware, the AI leaves something to be desired.
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Game: Jackbox Party Pack 3
Developed by: Jackbox Games
Published by: Jackbox Games
Available for: PC, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, NVidia Shield
For years, when I’ve gathered to play games with friends, the Jackbox Party Pack has been a staple, and though the Jackbox Party Pack 4 is out now, the third party pack offers a separate selection of games that all hold their entertainment value steady. As with all Party Packs, though, your enjoyment of the pack heavily depends on your enjoyment of the individual games included.
NOTE: Setting the Jackbox Party Packs apart from other games is that you and your friends need only one internet-connected device each to play. Put away the controllers, as long as everyone’s got a phone, laptop, or tablet, you’ll be able to play.
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Game: Fallout 4
Made by: Bethesda Softworks
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Available on: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
Fallout 4 was the game I was most excited for in 2015, and it wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest it was the game I was most excited for for several years leading up to that point. Fallout 3 introduced me to action-RPGs, and Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite games of all-time. Naturally, I was excited to sit down the night of November 9, 2015 to experience the next entry in an esteemed series. Now, two years later, I think I’m ready to put together a real review of the game.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Fallout 4. I think there’s a lot the game does right, and I think there are some areas of major improvement when comparing the game to Fallout 3 or New Vegas. That established, I think one of the core design philosophies of Fallout 4 was experimentation; trying systems and ideas that hadn’t been attempted before. Some of these, like changing up the game’s gunplay, found success and acclaim, whereas others, such as the game’s inclusion of a voiced protagonist, have been received with criticism. Continue reading below and I’ll give you my take on the game the best I can.
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Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Made by: Obsidian
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Fallout: New Vegas is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. A follow-up to Bethesda’s Fallout 3, New Vegas brings back a number of writers and developers from the original Fallout games and offers them Bethesda’s development tools to craft a new Fallout experience set in Las Vegas and the surrounding Mojave Desert. What results from this merger is one of the most captivating and well-written roleplaying games of its age.
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Game: Stardew Valley
Made by: Concerned Ape
Published by: Chucklefish
Available for: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Switch
Stardew Valley may be the most relaxing game I’ve ever played. A spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon series, Stardew Valley opens by taking you away from crowded and chaotic city life and carries you away to the coastal Pelican Town where your grandfather’s farm awaits. From here, your path is your own — you can dedicate yourself to farming and living off the land, travel deep into the town’s mines, try your hand at fishing, or make an attempt at bolstering your relationship with the local townsfolk.
What captivated me about Stardew Valley was the game’s invitation to players to explore a variety of things to do in Pelican Town, all of which are fun and engaging. Stardew Valley, in its entirety, is a one man project, a fact made all the more surprising by just how much content this game has. Perfecting your farm or mastering the fishing skill can take years (in 13-minute days and 112-day years) of in-game time, but each planted crop and each fish or ore feels like a real step in the right direction. Stardew Valley’s progress is finely-tuned, and every day offers opportunity for accomplishment.
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Made by: Messhof
Published by: Messhof
Available for: PC, Mac, Playstation 4
Nidhogg is an incredibly simple and incredibly fun one-on-one party game. You and your opponent spawn in the middle of the screen and, with easy-to-learn controls, your goal is to vanquish your adversary and sprint to their side of the screen as quickly as possible. As you progress, your opponent will spawn again in your path in an attempt to stop you from proceeding to the edge of the screen. If they’re successful, it’s their turn to run the opposite direction until you can stop them. After a few screens, one of you will reach the end of the level and be triumphantly rewarded by being eaten by the giant, grotesque Nidhogg, the creature for which the game is named.
Again, Nidhogg is simple. The concept is simple, the graphics are simple, the game’s four levels are simple. All of that established, this game is fun with the right group of people. Nidhogg can absolutely be played with a two-player setup, but I’ve found the most fun is to get a group of people together and set up a tournament (which is an option in-game). In my experience, these tournaments are a lot of fun, with the last few games being an edge-of-your-seat-worthy ordeal.
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Game: Jackbox Party Pack 4
Made by: Jackbox Games
Published by: Jackbox Games
Available for: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Switch, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, NVidia Shield
The Jackbox Party Pack is a library staple of the party gamer, and the Party Pack 4 is the series’ latest addition. As with all Jackbox Games, your experience is entirely dependent on how you feel about the five (or six) games included. Below, I’ve listed and explained each of the pack’s party-oriented games.
It’s worth noting if you’ve never played a Jackbox Party Pack before that each game can be played with groups of at least 3-7 other players and that players need only a phone or internet-connected device to engage in the game.
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Game: Thomas Was Alone
Made by: Bithell Games
Published by: Bithell Games
Available for: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U, iOS, Android
Thomas Was Alone is the game that made me care about colored rectangles. The game’s general concept is simple; a platformer where different characters have different abilities, and the player can cycle through and play as all available characters to complete the mission. Rather than design a set of well-drawn and composed characters, though, developer Mike Bithell chose to keep the game simple, opting to make them all different-colored rectangles.
The platforming in Thomas Was Alone is fun, though simple, but where the game finds its shine is through Danny Wallace’s narration, which adds depth and personality to an otherwise very average puzzle game. As you progress through the game’s hundred or so levels, Wallace vocally assigns each of these mute, expressionless characters an identity that sticks with them as they interact with their newfound colleagues. Here, the story isn’t necessary exceptional, but there’s something special about exploring themes of uncertainty, loneliness, jealousy, and love through a set of solid-colored quadrilaterals. Thomas Was Alone doesn’t revolutionize the platformer, and it doesn’t tell an epic story, but at its end, it had me honestly rooting for a collection of small, colored shapes to find their own forms of happiness.
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