EA @ E3 2018: The same old story

When you see the same thing over and over again after so long, it begins to get tedious. For the fourth year in a row, EA presented an E3 press conference on Saturday that was more filer than substance. The last time EA had a press conference at E3 that was actually great, Peter Moore wasn't the CEO of one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Battle Royale games weren't things and we lived in a time where Mirror's Edge was given hope again.

Since then, EA has been going for filler in its press conferences with little moments of glimmer, but for the most part subjecting us to dev diaries, long-winded interviews with celebrities, unwanted and unneeded shoutcasting and so much more.

This year was mostly the same, but with a slight tweak in the formula, bringing in Andrea Rene to host a majority of the show and did a fantastic job bringing some personality to a show that is otherwise hosted year-in, year-out with PR points and dull business talk by CEO Andrew Wilson and EA Worldwide Studios boss Patrick Soderlund (who popped up at several points to give, you guessed it, PR points and dull business talk).

And whilst EA was not without its moments - including one in particular - that gives them brownie points, the brownie points are mostly eroded by disappointments and eugh moments.


The Anthem Call is Not Very Enticing

BioWare is going all in on Anthem. You don't need to be blind to see that. After the failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda and thus the potential death of one of the most beloved franchises in games (even if BioWare GM and Mass Effect creator Casey Hudson says they intend to go back to it), its all hands on deck. Investigatory pieces have suggested this is win or bust for the Canadian developer, members from Mass Effect and Dragon Age - who are supposedly meant to be working on a fourth game - are involved, such as Mike Gamble and Mark Darrah and EA also providing a heavy marketing push across Los Angeles for a game it hopes to take on main rival Activision and Destiny, and actually seems like the biggest push of a BioWare game ever - something noted by former Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw.

EA's all in. BioWare's all in. But I'm... not. And you have no idea how gutted I am to write that.

Anthem's first real showing ahead of its February 22 launch next year was disappointing for me. It was not enticing at all. After years of games like Destiny and The Division, the sort of genre I'd like to refer to as the grind-to-win, I've no real excitement for Anthem. For the most part, what it showed looked graphically incredible and there was some stunning art concepts shown, but what was shown on a gameplay level just didn't entice.

Anthem will have more opportunities throughout the year to impress ahead of its February release and you have no idea how much I want this to succeed, if only for BioWare to survive for another day. Because you get the impression that if this doesn't go the way EA wants it to, it won't end well for BioWare. Just ask Pandemic Games and Visceral Games.

There's still time. But first impressions are everything. And I didn't have a good first impression of it.

Also, no romance options = major bust.


SoS for Sea of Solitude

Real talk for a second: my mental health has shit the bed in spectacular fashion recently. It's bad. Straight up bad. This isn't one of those episodes where you feel rough for a day or two mentally and then you somehow find a way to get over it and get back on the horse. In my case, it's bad. Real bad.

For the past ten days or so, I've been on a sort of self-desctructive path that has seen myself on a path of self-loathing, hopelessness and helplessness among others. Whenever it gets super bad, I feel unable to reach out to people for whatever reason. Whether that's because I don't want to talk, because I feel afraid of what other people will say when I do, because I feel like an inconvenience or I'm not worthy of it, like in the past week.

And in light of the tragic events this week with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the need to reach out to people has been more prominent than ever on social media and in the news.

So the timing of Sea of Solitude from EA Originals and Berlin-based developer Jo-Mei Studios could not be more perfect. Obviously, this wasn't something that was slotted in last second for positive press, but rather something that's been planned for the show for weeks or months (because planning E3 is a months-long effort that effectively starts near immediately after the last E3, even if slowly), but the timing was still perfect.

In SoS, an actual acronym for the game, you play as Kay who has become a monster. How? The game will reveal that when it comes out early next year, but Jo-Mei Studios creative director and founder Cornelia Geppert put it on stage, loneliness is what turns us into monsters.

When humans get too lonely, they turn into monsters. This is at the core of everything you will see, hear and hopefully feel whilst playing SoS. What makes this underlying concept so important and so unique is that nearly every human being can at least somehow relate to or remember the feeling of being lonely. In my case, I started writing the story when I felt the loneliest in my life. I think as an artist, you process your emotions by letting it out and putting it into your art. I’m still amazed how the concept flew out of me onto the paper. I think this is why too many people can instantly connect with the game because it’s not a made up story even though it takes place in a fantastical setting. In SoS, we try to show how people experience different kinds of loneliness, but also how outsiders - friends and families - see those who struggle. We achieve these in playful ways so those who want to enjoy simply enjoy a fantastic experience can do so. But [if a] player who wants to look a bit deeper can reveal a whole emotional; world beneath it all.
— Cornelia Geppert, Jo-Mei Studios

Sea of Solitude is not the first game to deal with mental health nor will it be the last. But SoS may actually be the first game that deals with what already was a significant factor that needed to be talked about in regards to mental health that is now amplified with the recent deaths of Spade and Bourdain.

The fact it looks lovely with a wonderful art design and its presentation from Geppert was honestly the most personal and emotional E3 presentation of all time helped add to its charm. But the fact its tackling an important factor with mental health and depression in loneliness - something I am incredibly, incredible struggling with right now and feeling rather rough and let down by - is something that should be not only plauded, but incredibly praised. And with EA picking it up, its Originals program goes from strength to strength.


SPORTSSPORTSSPORTS

After SoS though was a super jarring, tonal hard turn of US sports games, including Madden NFL and NBA Live 19 respectively, which was like letting off a massive, audible fart after the In Memorium segment of the Oscars.

NBA Live only got so much as a trailer, but Madden had a stage presence featuring some Pittsburgh Steelers player and someone who looked like the biggest dickhead ever who had somehow won the Madden Bowl. Essentially, after the emotions of Sea of Solitude and Unravel 2 (we'll get to that) came back to life the bro gaming culture. It wasn't missed.

Not to say there shouldn't be sports games, of fucking course there should be. But EA really should have picked its spot in regards to showing the sports games after those two games.

That said, FIFA 19 was the second game shown for the entire show, unveiling the Champions League as a massive part of the game from the tournament to the final chapter in The Journey and FIFA Ultimate Team. The Europa League was not mentioned during the show or in the subsequent press release for the game, but word is that'll be in too.

I've liked FIFA the past few years and adding in the Champions League will just add to it. Konami's loss is EA's gain.


Other points

- Unravel 2 was announced with co-op. And it's out now! Hooray. I didn't get on with the little I played of the first game, but yeah, I'll play it.

- Command & Conquer is returning. With Command & Conquer: Rivals. Which had a really grating presentation. Coming to mobile on iOS and Android with a pre-alpha on Android now.

- Blimey, Battlefield 5 looks incredible. But it took six minutes in into the event before the first mention of Battle Royale this E3 with BF5 including its own take - more details to come later in the year. Umm, okay. Anyway, more to come at Microsoft.

- We finally know of Respawn Entertainment's Star Wars game! Sorta! Kinda. It's called Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. It takes place during "the dark times" between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and launches in time for Episode IX for Christmas next year. That was fine, but could have given us something --- anything --- to see us a sort of guide for what it will be. Saying it'll have lightsabers and it'll be dark is not enough to go on.

- EA got humble with lootboxes and the launch of Star Wars Battlefront II. That's nice, but seeing is believing. Words don't mean much.


Whilst strong showings of FIFA 19, Battlefield V, an unveil and shadow drop of Unravel 2 and the wonderful reveal of Sea of Solitude save EA from the confines of an all-time E3 stinker, this was still not a show EA can look back fondly. Even with Anthem, it's for me EA's worst E3 showcase ever. Try harder, Andy and Pat.

4/10