The Under Appreciated Best Part of The Division

The DivisionWe’re officially one week in to the life of The Division. That means that the super hardcore community is going to start shifting focus around to nitpicking and going a little off the beaten path. We’re already seeing it in the Dark Zone with Level 30 players decked out in High End gear just focused on ganking lower level/geared players for the hell of it. That means that we’ll probably see a whole lot of communication between the player base and Massive in the next couple weeks or so about the game moving forward. But before that potential confrontation really shakes out, I want to stop and talk about the one aspect of The Division that I don’t know has been getting enough attention.

In the maybe 24 hours of playtime I’ve put into the game so far, I would easily say that the bulk of that time has been spent just roaming around Manhattan picking up all of the collectibles scattered around. And in doing that I’ve seen maybe the best job of crafting an atmosphere and world in a modern themed game since probably Grand Theft Auto V. Massive has done an incredible job of making New York City feel like it actually is the real deal. The little touches like the NPCs fighting over supplies, looters looking in the windows of abandoned cars, and even though they’ve kind of become a meme, the dogs wondering the empty streets. And that’s just little touches involving the inhabitants of Manhattan. The world itself feels alive even in the face of the pandemic. Walls covered in memorial posters for missing people – especially the ones that appear in safe zones – really help put the human impact of the Green Poison in perspective. With the story revolving around this super-bug, and the fact that such an outbreak is actually a very real and terrifying prospect in the real world, seeing how much work Massive put into the human side of the game is really impressive.

The Division Collectibles

For me though, the most impressive part of building this world and making it feel alive is in the intel/evidence scattered around Manhattan. The intel pieces you get from completing the main story missions are visceral, dark, but still do a great job of explaining just what the hell is going on in the story. The Division isn’t a particularly gory or visually brutal game, but it is absolutely still an M-rated game thanks to the sheer brutality and realistic basis that the violence takes. The first Found Footage video you find, showing Cleaners clearing out a little bodega from the perspective of a terrified woman is so damn intense. It does an incredible job of advancing the overall narrative, and also outlining exactly what the Cleaners are all about – ruthless efficiency in destroying and burning the virus – all without any real dialogue. The phone recordings that are all over Manhattan are probably my favorite though. They’re written strongly across the board – even ones that could have easily been cheesy or goofy like the “On Fleek” recording come across as authentic. Add in that they’re acted well, with the voice work sounding much more like normal people instead of actors, and they come to life. I also like that Manhattan in full of different people with different lives – they aren’t all carbon copies. There are people of color, different economic classes represented, gay and straight, young and old all are in these phone conversations. They do a phenomenal job of giving the world of The Division before the outbreak a foundation, then as the outbreak happens and spreads, you can hear the panic and fear in the conversations. The collectibles were something that I was dreading a little going in to the game, just based on how damn many there are, but since there’s an upgrade you can take to mark them on the map, along with how well they’re organized in the HUD as well as how well they’re written makes them a big part of what I like getting in the game.

It’s still early on in The Division‘s lifespan – and in truth, I don’t know just how long the world they built will feel as strong as it does now – but regardless I am super impressed with Massive’s work here. I still think that The Division is the first really great game of 2016, and does a great job of setting the bar moving forward this year.

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Deeper Thoughts on The Division: Day Two

The DivisionYesterday I was able to get a little more in depth on The Division, hitting level 12, playing through some content that wasn’t in the beta, and playing around with my builds a little bit. A lot of what I wrote yesterday still stands – I am liking the game as a whole, but there still are a couple questions I have that are slowly getting answered. One thing that I forgot to mention yesterday was just how much I’m in love with the visuals in The Division – it’s definitely one of the best looking games on the Xbox One right now. The standout for me is the environmental effects – the weather in particular is spectacular; step out in a snow storm and you’ll be in for a vastly different experience than in clear weather.

What I really have been digging into is the real depth to the combat and potential variety in the builds. Only having three stats might seem a little simplified, but I think it actually helps drive players to realize that focusing on one or two stats makes you a lot stronger than trying to go Jack of all Trades. Even without explicitly talking about it, my group has already started to establish some different roles based around the builds we want. I’m focusing on raising my health and skill stats as much as possible – I am forgoing DPS a little bit in favor of being more of a medic/tank build. One of my buddies is going pure glass cannon – DPS and skill over health; he’s sitting around 2,000 health, while I have over double that. We have another who’s definitely building around per-bullet damage, with a strong marksman rifle and playing a little more defensive. That simplified nature of stats makes slipping into those builds really easy, and that’s why we didn’t even need to talk about the roles we wanted to take. It just happened, and that’s a sign of good game design. Sure a little of that was initialized by the random rolls we got in loot drops, but that’s easily changed as we progress.

Tom Clancy's The Division™_20160307161110

 

In regards to those build choices, I think the two I mentioned – Glass cannon with high DPS and Skill, and Tank/Medic with high Health and Skill – are the best all around options. I think going high DPS and Health is tempting, and with the right weapons and group makeup could work, but it’s definitely a little trickier to use in difficult content. I think skill power might be the most important stat overall, since it dictates not only the actual results of your skill (healing power, damage from attacks that sort of thing) but it also impacts cooldowns, keeping you at full power more often. It’s really tempting to chase crazy guns trying to find two super strong weapons to run with, but with guns you’re stuck playing around reloads. You need those abilities to fill the down time and keep the enemies at bay while those reloads happen. If you’re playing in a group – which I certainly recommend – you’ll definitely want at least one guy with high skill power.

When it comes to ability selection, that’s where the depth really shines. Gunplay in The Division is solid, but pretty straight forward. SMGs, assault rifles and LMGs all fill the same basic roll – sustained DPS and suppressing fire, while shotguns and marksman rifles are your pure damage options. It’s your abilities that add the variety and, frankly, fun to the combat. We had a group of three yesterday running through a mission, set to Hard of course, where we were a little underleveled – but we were able to power though because we had a mix of abilities. Even early game when you’re really picking and choosing your Base of Operation upgrades carefully, it’s not hard to get a good mix of different abilities in a group. We had one running turret and heal, I ran sticky bomb and heal, and we had our third with upgraded pulse and sticky bomb. Now, I probably am going to change up my skills as I upgrade my Base (I’m eyeing seeker mine and support station right now), but that mix seemed to work pretty well to me. And with my focus on skill power, my heals do more, and they come back faster – that’s why I am playing the medic role.

There’s still a lot to discover in The Division – I’m not even halfway to the level cap yet, there’s still a lot of story content to play, a slew of collectibles and I haven’t even begun to explore the Dark Zone. But even this early on, I feel pretty confident in saying that The Division is the first truly great game of the year. It’s not flawless, but the flaws it does have are pretty minimal and at the end of the day, it’s a damn fun game to play.

Tom Clancy’s The Division Launch Day Impressions

The DivisionYesterday saw the launch of what I would call the first big release of 2016, Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s a game that I’ve been interested in for a while now, having played both the closed and open betas, so I’m excited to really dig into the world that Ubisoft and Massive have created. I played a good few hours yesterday, some solo, some with just one partner, and a little bit with a full group of four. There’s still a whole lot of game to get into, but I wanted to put down my first impressions, and some thoughts that I think will ring true for the whole game.

Firstly, I’m pretty pleased with the actual launch experience. I know that at midnight the servers were a little overloaded and there were plenty of posts about people not being able to log on, but by mid-day Tuesday (at least on Xbox One) there really weren’t any problems that I saw or had. In this day when games are persistently online and launches are always a shaky experience, it was nice to not have any major issues. The question now is how well the servers handle the full first week load as more players get their copies of the game and get logged on.

In terms of new content that wasn’t present in the beta, I only played a little bit last night. I ran through one full mission, unlocking the Security Wing for my Base of Operation in Manhattan, and obviously the tutorial section in Brooklyn. It’s not a huge sample size, but I will say that each mission I’ve played – the two in the Open Beta and now the Lincoln Tunnel Checkpoint mission – all felt very similar in their execution. The details differentiate them enough to the point where they have enough individuality, but I am a little curious at just how much variety they can put into the missions. That said, that security mission is definitely my favorite of those first three initial missions – running it a little underpowered made it challenging without being obscene, and the flow of it just felt really fun. It’s certainly worth running that mission as soon as possible though, as the reward for unlocking the Security Wing grants you a +10% boost to XP earned.

The Division Beta

Where I’ve actually spent most of my mental energy with The Division is in looking at the abilities, perks and talents which weren’t available in the beta. In the two betas, you couldn’t even look at them – it just said “not available in beta.” Now that I’ve been able to look through the upgrades, perks, talents and abilities, I feel a little more confident that the combat and action will stay fresh thanks to the different build options. There’s a ton of variety in there – from damage boosting talents to keep your DPS guys strong, to great team healing buffs and cooldown reducers for your medic players supercharging the team. What I really like is that the perks you unlock with each upgrade to a wing of the Base of Operation are all passive abilities. You unlock them, and they take effect – you get stronger right away. It puts some value on grabbing some of the, maybe less powerful looking upgrades, to get perks that immediately help your whole team. If you’re coming into The Division from Destiny – which I’ve definitely seen a lot of audience crossover online – you’re probably in for a pretty big shock. This is very much an RPG first – stats and abilities/talents/perks all matter a lot more than thumbskill and shooting accuracy. If you have a background with RPGs – in particular ones like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or maybe a bit of Diablo – you’ll be right in your element. Min-maxing is the name of the game here – you’ll be chasing gear not with high damage or armor values, but with high stats in either Firearms, Health or Tech values to charge your DPS, Health or Ability powers. As long as you go in with that in mind, I think you’ll definitely enjoy The Division.

Now, that said, there are a couple things that I’m still concerned about. I already touched on that I’m curious about just how much mission variety the rest of the game has. There’s also some little details in the actual gameplay that I’m less that thrilled about. The A.I. is pretty dumb – sure they’ll flank you, but it’s more of a bumrush than anything resembling a concerted flank. They’re a lot more content to sit back in cover and just shoot a lot at you. The other thing is that the game really isn’t super difficult, even on hard difficulty. With crafting added – which is a little over generous calling it crafting – it’s not hard to get solid gear, level appropriately and go in with a partner or two and suddenly the missions are pretty simple. I’m still unsure that any end-game content is going to be enough to keep me engaged after I complete it. With other looter/shooter/RPGs (Borderlands, Destiny, Diablo) completing the end-game/raid content once is just the tip of the iceberg. The fun comes from running them multiple times to get different and better loot. I don’t know, based on what mission content I’ve seen so far, that The Division is going to have that same feeling at the end, but we’ll see. Lastly, the Dark Zone is still a huge question to me. In a perfect world, I think the Dark Zone would be the perfect end-game area. It’s got the highest leveled enemies, at their highest tier, and has the potential for PvP engagements. The problem is that I think the ganking method – camping those extraction zones, waiting for everyone to bunch up and start putting their loot on then pouncing – is too potentially rewarding with not a huge downside. And going in as a solo player is even more punishing – if you wind up running into Rogue agents, especially if they’re in a group together, you’re pretty much done for. Now, because the Dark Zone is divided up into six zones, instead of just the couple from the beta, maybe lower level players can use that first zone to get a start on looting; but there’s really no guarantee. That’s putting a lot of power into the hands of the anonymous gaming community. Regardless, The Division is a really strong game – the action is fun, the depth is surprising, and the game itself looks gorgeous. If you’re on the fence, I recommend it – just know that it isn’t flawless.

The Division Open Beta Impressions

The DivisionThe open beta for The Division went live on Xbox One yesterday, and I ran through up to the level 8 cap. It’s essentially the same as the closed beta from early February, just with one more story mission added in and updates to the Dark Zone to keep it fair and fun. With that said, there’s still enough there to talk about as we get closer to the game’s launch. So let’s look a little more in depth on this beta and the new content.

The open beta starts exactly like the closed beta did – you’re level 4, and I’m guessing, starting in media res. You set up the Base of Operations again, run through the Madison Field Hospital mission to unlock the Medical wing and Heal ability – just like in the closed beta. The side missions and encounters are also the same – enough to get you leveled up to the cap and unlock the second upgrade on the Medical wing. The new content is a second mission, set in the subway tunnels that have been overrun by the Cleaners – flamethrower wielding enemies set on burning away the infection in the city. Completing this mission will unlock the Tech wing of the Base, which unlocks a second ability in that tree – the mini-turret. There’s also enough Tech supplies to upgrade that wing one more time, unlocking the upgrades for the Sticky Bomb. Essentially what the open beta is adding is a full second ability to use, along with three ways to tweak the Sticky Bomb – adding variety to the combat. Sure, in a pure PvE setting there isn’t a lot of ways to really explore that combat, but that’s why you head into the Dark Zone.

The Division Beta

Sure it’s still got a goofy name – Dark Zone still sounds like a bad show on late night cable to me – but the PvEvP zone is where the best gear in the game lives. We don’t get any new areas in the Dark Zone – the third area will have to wait until the full game launches – but Ubisoft did give the Dark Zone some attention between betas. I talked a little at the end of the last beta about a nasty exploit that let people run out their Rogue Status bounties by running into the boundary and being teleported back to the safe room. That exploit, along with a number of PC specific cheats, were fixed going in to this open beta. I spent a little bit of time in the Dark Zone – got a couple items, ran into a bunch of other players, and found the best weapon vendor in the beta – and I didn’t really encounter any huge issues. In truth, the Dark Zone felt a lot more populated than it did in the closed beta. I was at an Extraction Point with about 6 other players – who thankfully played nice and we all got our loot out. I saw AI enemies respawn at a rate that made it a lot easier to get loot to drop. I saw the chests in the Dark Zone actually have content in them more frequently. It’s a small sample size sure, but the Dark Zone feels a lot more fleshed out now, which really is a good sign moving closer to launch.

At the end of the day, this is still very much a beta. I had a couple weird lag issues that popped up that I didn’t notice in the closed beta – could be because the servers were dealing with more players. I actually got kicked from the game once last night too – but I chalk that up to the issues that Xbox Live was having last night. The loot is pretty limited, and it feels very much like Ubisoft tweaked the loot drops. In the closed beta, I was getting a much more even mix of weapons and gear – so far in this beta I’ve been getting a hell of a lot more weapons than gear; to the point where I was still wearing the default gloves even at level 8. I still think that the economy needs a little tweaking – credits are really hard to come by without selling loot. And my biggest question hasn’t changed at all – will this game have enough content to keep the playerbase engaged for longer than just March. Is the Dark Zone going to be deep enough to keep people playing? Is there going to be true end-game story content, or just capstone story missions? Is the full suite of abilities, traits and perks going to be deep enough over the course of the full game or are we going to be using Pulse and Heal the whole game? I don’t think any of those are invalid questions to ask, and I realize none of them could ever be answered by a beta realistically. But since The Division is the first real big launch of 2016 I think there’s a bit of extra pressure on Ubisoft to deliver here. Luckily we don’t have that long to wait to find out if they can – Tom Clancy’s The Division launches on March 8.

The Division Beta Wrap-Up Thoughts

The DivisionToday’s the last day of the beta for The Division after Ubisoft extended it 24 hours. I played a bit more since I last wrote about the beta, including a relatively extended stay in the Dark Zone, as well as playing the story mission on hard difficulty with my buddy. So since we’ve got about a full month before the launch of the game, I thought I’d wrap up my impressions on the beta.

The big question that I’ve been seeing over and over since the beta launched has to be “will The Division kill Destiny?” That question was really never a viable question – it was always going to be no. Games just don’t work that way – one game can’t “kill” another. Sure player bases might shift a bit, but that doesn’t mean a game is killed. The reason that has been coming up is twofold. First, it’s really easy to title a YouTube video with a crazy thumbnail and then do just what I’m doing here for a few minutes. Secondly, it’s the easy comparison to make right now. Both games are RPG’s with shooter trappings. But the execution of those mechanics are very different and really don’t put the games in the same place. The Division is an RPG first, Destiny is an FPS first, and that’s really all you need to know. A better comparison for The Division I think is Mass Effect, but we’ll talk a bit more about that when the game actually launches.

Let’s focus a bit more on what we got over the weekend. My biggest question going in to the beta was always one that was never going to get answered – end-game content. What the beta did was show that there might be a little hurdle to get over to even reach that end-game content. Leveling was a little slow, but that could be from the lack of beta content. The biggest thing to me though was that pretty much everything I did was all really, really similar. I worry that there might not be enough variety in the missions and side-quest content to keep the bulk of the player base invested to the end-game. That worry is compounded for me by the Dark Zone’s inherent wonkiness. Already in the beta people found a number of exploits, both on console and PC. PC players are going to need some kind of anti-cheat put into the game to combat some of what I was reading was going on. Aimbots, invisible players, infinite ammo and levels – all that in the beta. On consoles, people figured out that if you went Rogue and then reached the boundaries of the map, it would warp you to the safe rooms, where you could just wait your timer out. I really don’t see that making it to launch, but still, it’s a little worrisome.

The Division Beta

What I did really like was pretty much everything else in the beta. The guns all felt like I would expect in a third-person cover shooter RPG; the abilities we got each had their uses, both in solo play and in team play; and the playspace had a pretty unique feel to it. My personal favorite parts though were the real little details – the weather system is amazing, in particular the snow storms; the snow actually will accumulate on your player character if you stand out in it. The enemy A.I. is surprising good, not content to just sit in cover and wait for you to move to shoot them, they’ll suppress you while rushers push up to whack you with bats. The inventory, weapons and stats all felt very much at home in a min/max style RPG. Trying to figure out gear to max out your stats in the right mix to get weapon talents is definitely something that I think gives the combat some depth. There’s a lot of really good gameplay headed our way in The Division, to me the questions more surround the story and end-game level stuff. There’s still a month before launch, plenty of time to iron out some of the beta wackiness and hopefully enough time to address some of the Dark Zone inconsistencies.

Rainbow Six: Siege Beta Thoughts and Impressions

Rainbow Six SiegeOver the weekend I got the chance to download and play the new beta for Rainbow Six: Siege. The game may have been delayed until December, but Ubisoft didn’t delay the beta at all. I actually think that this whole situation may end up being the best thing for the game. Pushing it back to December puts it right in the middle of Holiday shopping, plus gets it out of the super crowded late October/early November time period. Keeping the beta now also keeps the demand for the game up through the delay period. Of course we have to wait until December to really know if this is a return to form for the longtime classic series, but I have to think that we might be on that track after this beta.

We’ll start with what I didn’t like with the beta, because there isn’t a ton to talk about here – and the issues I have aren’t really deal breakers. In truth, my biggest issue is a personal one. In the PvP multiplayer, you only have one life. I have never liked game modes like that – Gears of War, Search and Destroy, and so on – just because my style of play is way too aggressive for it. In games like this where realism is a huge part of the play, it may make sense, but it also makes it super easy to die because of a tiny mistake. The margin for error is so small that it all but requires you to play slower and more defensive. But that’s not an actual problem with the game – it’s just a personal conflict with the mechanics.

In truth, I think the PvP actually works really well. It definitely better to go into the matchmaking with as close to a full squad as possible. This is a game where teamwork is paramount – lone wolf players will have a serious struggle, at least with what we have to play right now. Either side, attackers or defenders, need to coordinate their tactics in order to succeed. Attackers need to keep communication lines up to figure out not only where the enemies are, but also where traps are, and where they’re breaching and moving. Defenders need to coordinate how they’re setting up the defenses – which walls are being reinforced, where the barricades and traps are being set and making sure that if there’s a weak spot, everyone knows it. If there’s an actual gameplay critique here, it’s that the two different game modes really aren’t that different. TDM Bomb has the attackers diffusing a bomb – one player has to have the diffuser, while the other mode has attackers trying to find a biological weapon and then control the point for a set time. Not strictly bad, but I hope the final game has a few more modes in it.

Where I really think that Rainbow Six: Siege will shine is in the classic Terrorist Hunt mode. It’s a co-op mode for up to five players, tasked with taking out a set number of terrorists on a map. In the beta, we have two different maps – both feature in the PvP and co-op. Whether or not that’s going to be the case in the final game – in that the multiplayer maps will all feature as Terrorist Hunt maps – remains to be seen. Regardless, Terrorist Hunt is exactly what a game like Rainbow Six needs. There’s a reason that it was so popular in the two Rainbow Six: Vegas games. With the new feature of special operators in Siege I think that Terrorist Hunt could end up being the real meat of the multiplayer.

Those operators are all pretty cool – they essentially act as special playable characters. Each CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) has a selection of operators, and each operator has a special set of weapons and gadgets. They fit into heavy, medium or light archetypes too – heavy armored characters move really slowly, but can take a few more bullets. The opposite is true too – light characters move a lot faster, but are much more fragile. Getting to know how their actual gadgets does take a few games though – but could be cleared up in the final release when the operator videos are live. I assume that there will be at least a few more operators in the final build, per CTU – which means more options, which means more variety, and that’s always a good thing.

Ultimately, it’s really hard to say with certainty that Rainbow Six: Siege is going to be a winner. But I do think that it has a couple things going for it that set it up to succeed. There’s no other shooter this season that falls into that same “super realistic” style which means less direct competition. Pushing it out of the really crowded time frame adds to that – by the time the game launches, shooter players will have already beaten Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront and/or Call of Duty and they’ll have picked which multiplayer to stick with. Come December that should mean an audience that is ready for a new game, and Rainbow Six is dropping at that same point. We know nothing yet about the story – but Tom Clancy games are generally strong in that aspect. It’s a game that I think is set up for success and we just have to wait to see if it delivers.

E3 2015 – Third Party Press Events Wrap-Up

Today may be the last day of E3, but we still have a few more press conferences to look back over. Instead of going through each of the three shows (EA, Ubisoft, and Square-Enix), game by game – like I did with the Microsoft and Sony shows – I’m just going to hit the heavy hitters today. Much like the rest of the show, there are plenty of big games to talk about.

EA Logo

We’ll start with EA – the first of the third party pressers. The early focus was all about the new Need for Speed – due out this November. We got our first look at gameplay – it does look gorgeous, I’ll give it that. But the focus of the game looks a little dated to me – the idea of a Fast and Furious style car club/underground racing club seems like it was made for about 10 years ago. Add to that the fact that there’s serious competition – Forza 6, and I think there’s trouble for Need for Speed. Luckily EA had a couple other early moments. In particular the combo of the reveal of Unravel – a new physics puzzle platformer with a really cool main character; and the follow up with more Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. The combination really helped lighten up the mood, both games have a fantastic character about them. However, EA still struggles with how to handle their EA Sports games at E3. They need to talk about them – they are consistently the biggest selling games around the world, but really aren’t exciting to talk about. They try different things, but this year was pretty rough – I love Pele, but man, seeing him do an interview on stage really killed the flow of the show.

EA I think knew that a little because they kept the heavy hitters for after – starting with the reveal of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and closing with Battlefront. Both games stand to be massive games, for different reasons. Mirror’s Edge for it’s unique gameplay and storytelling, along with a strong player character. Star Wars: Battlefront for being Star Wars, and also an amazing shooter. Overall, I think EA had a show with pretty strong moments, but man, they continue to have real issues with the setup of their show. And also that Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced, but not shown during the show. Weird.

Ubisoft Logo

Next up was Ubisoft – always a fun show to watch, with a pretty unique format and Aisha Tyler hosting. Ubisoft knew enough that the tone of E3 was surprises this year – so they started with a couple. A brand new South Park game – The Fractured, But Whole; along with For Honor started the show strong. We got a look at more Division footage that looked really cool, except for the part where you can dick over your own friends in the Dark Zone. To me though, the first real highlight was seeing Rainbow Six: Siege again in action. This time was the return of Terror Hunt, the co-op mode that looks super great. This was also when we got the beta details – this September on all platforms, featuring PvP and Terror Hunt. Ubisoft had to show off Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – since this was before the Sony show, this was actually our first look at E3. The trailer from the Ubisoft show did a good job of setting the game up, introducing Jacob Frye and the setting of the game. And again, the show closed with a surprise, just as it opened with – the triumphant return of Ghost Recon. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen the team, and it definitely looks like there have been a good number of changes. Assuming that we’ll get hands-on next year with it, that would mean that Ubisoft is really pushing Tom Clancy games again, which is a smart move.

Square Enix Logo

Finally, we had the Square-Enix show on Tuesday. Square had an…interesting show. The format maybe hurt it, but damn, the games were really strong. Just Cause 3 looks like the kind of mindless, over-the-top crazy fun that the series is known for, just kicked up more. I was surprised to see a new Nier game announced, but at the same time, Square does things their way. We got more Tomb Raider, but just a little. To me though, the real meat of the show was coming up. We got the Final Fantasy VII trailer again, along with the news we’ll see more this winter. They then of course played with us a little bit, showing off Kingdom Hearts Unchained, a new Mobile game coming that will tie in with Kingdom Hearts III. Square didn’t tease us for long though, and we finally got our first look at gameplay for Kingdom Hearts III – and man, that game looks great. It immediately got me back into that state of mind – it looks just like Kingdom Hearts should, bright, colorful, and full of character. Unfortunately, we have a long wait ahead – I would be surprised if it came out next winter, but it could. Most likely it’s looking like early 2017. Square also showed off more of Hitman, which does look pretty cool. This was also the first glimpse of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, showing some looks at gameplay, but still in the form of a cinematic trailer. The close of the show though was a little weird to me. After Deus Ex, I expected them to close with Final Fantasy XV. Instead we got a super super early announcement that a new studio – Tokyo RPG Factory – is making a new series. Final Fantasy XV, probably their biggest in-house name, only showed up for a few seconds in a trailer montage. That seemed really odd to me.

Ultimately, when the Square-Enix show wrapped up, we were done with the press events and could really start looking for smaller, more focused reports. The press events this year were top-to-bottom strong. There were slow moments, in every conference, for sure. But there really was less of them, and hardware talk was way lower this year than it has been recently. Now that we’ve gotten some hands-on reports too, it really does look like this year has had one of the better E3’s in a while. It’s why I just plain love this week.