Every year, without fail, gaming Christmas (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) descends upon the Los Angeles Convention Center, bestowing gifts and goodies to everybody in attendance. Even if this year was a bit quieter (as some of the industry heavyweights, such as Sony, chose to not participate directly), there were still a number of great games to be found on the show floor and at E3-adjacent events. Paste’s Dante Douglas was at the show for Paste, and has written about the best games he played and saw. Check it out below.
Developed by Experiment 101 and published by THQ Nordic, Biomutant is an open world, cyber-animal combat adventure, following a plucky young raccoon as they fight to survive in a human-less, post-apocalyptic world. The demo at this year’s E3 began with a fairly customizable character creator, which not only allows you to change the raccoon’s gender, but their fur length, color and texture, before diving into a guided tour of the game’s combat and exploration. Biomutant comes across as a stylish, smooth, and gorgeous adventure with a slick, unique aesthetic.
Presented as a hands-off demo available by appointment only, The Outer Worlds is as much of a spiritual sequel to Fallout: New Vegas as it is an ambitious dive into an entire new fictional universe. From what’s been shown, the game has just as much narrative choice as it’s post-apocalyptic predecessor, and developer Obsidian stressed that player choice in gameplay was at the top of their priorities. Outside of gunplay (which includes a slick integration of companion characters’ special abilities and a limited use time-slow mechanic), players can argue, hack, sabotage, or schmooze their way through encounters. It looks like Obsidian at their best.
A complete surprise on the show floor, from developer Cyanide and published by Bigben Interactive, Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood is an action brawler with a supernatural twist, as you play as a werewolf on a mission to stop economic development of natural lands and resources by a polluting megacorporation. While the game is nowhere near release (the developer guiding the demo stressed that it was in a “pre-pre-alpha” state), the mechanics and action were close to their final incarnation. Free form shapeshifting between man and wolf, coupled with a hulking werewolf form for melee combat, all to take down some corporations that are destroying the earth? Sounds pretty good to me.
A romantic comedy adventure game from developers Serenity Forge, Half Past Fate tells the story of six characters and their various connections, romantic and friendly, from a time of eight hours to eight years. Using traditional adventure game puzzle mechanics and visual-novel-style narration, it’s a cute, relatable story that hops between viewpoints and time periods to color in the entire story, with some top-notch pixel art and stellar writing to back it up. Expect a release later this year.
Created by 3D Realms (yes, that 3D Realms) and built on the Quake 1 engine (yes, that Quake 1 engine), WRATH is an old school shooter with new school level design, game design, and interpretations of classic run-and-gun gameplay. Taking cues from older titles but adding some nifty new tricks (like a secondary fire for each weapon, including a lunging leap with your standard melee sawblade), WRATH looks like a must-get for anyone interested in fast shooting, chunky polygons, and dark castles filled with baddies to blast.
Update: We initially reported that WRATH would be released in a shareware model similar to how the original Doom and Wolfenstein 3D were released. We goofed—that’s not happening. WRATH is scheduled to have a standard release. Sorry!
Combining a card-based roguelike with small squad tactical strategy, Trials of Fire is speaking my language. Command three characters from a variety of different classes, each with their own decks of cards, as you traverse a wide apocalyptic fantasy world. Keep track of your party’s resources on the overworld, and tackle a variety of enemies in turn-based, tactical combat on the battlefield. It’s a unique twist on both tactics games and card-based roguelikes, and looks to have enough variety to keep players hooked long after a single campaign—and looks good to boot.
The future of gig economy firefighting is now, and it’s available in Early Access on Steam. Embr places you in the boots of an Embr Responder, the app-based firefighting solution of the climate hellscape future (or possibly the climate hellscape now). Take on gigs, fight fires, save your clients sometimes, and get paid. If you’re lucky. Embr is funny, looks good, and since nearly every object is physically simulated, can lead to some extremely goofy scenarios. It’s the type of cynical that you can’t help but fall for.
Combining the best aspects of mecha combat from games like Battletech, combining that with the puzzle-solving possibilities of Into The Breach, adding on active timeline elements and splashing the whole thing with physics-based collision simulation and you might get close to what Phantom Brigade is doing. A tour de force of mecha strategy, the Phantom Brigade demo being shown at E3 was a masterpiece that’s sure to delight anyone interested in strategy games—but with a projected release date of the first half of 2020, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to get our hands on it.
Did you want more Advance Wars? This is how you get more Advance Wars. It’s a classic-style turn-based tile-based tactical battle game with cute lil implements of modern warfare scrapping against each other on various terrains and locales. It’s a tight, easy-to-pick up modern implementation of the same type of mechanics seen in classic tactical titles, and should be familiar to those who played its predecessor Tiny Metal as well as newcomers to the series.
It is not an easy task to make a game out of John Wick, the movie series that has gained notoriety for being not only a tightly told revenge story but also a lavish and excessive paean to the beauty of human violence. Oh, and Keanu Reeves is in it. Nevertheless, Bithell Games (who you might know from the duo Circular games, or the earlier Thomas Was Alone) has managed to smoothly encapsulate the feeling of Wick’s ballet of death into a tactical timeline strategy game. The experience is hard to fully explain without seeing it in action, but after a few minutes getting my bearings I felt more like Wick than I’d ever expect—as each movement was precise, each action deliberate, and knowing what each enemy was planning a few seconds ahead wove the entire experience into a tapestry of timed, well-executed violence. It is Wick at his most precise and most surgical, and a fantastic reinterpretation of strategy game tropes into an action game shell.
Dante Douglas is a writer, poet and game developer. You can find him on Twitter at @videodante.