E3's most exciting esports titles
On its surface, E3 doesn't have much to do with esports. At the biggest games show in the world, the industry's largest publishers come together to push their best cross-marketing adages to convince everyday gamers that they absolutely need another Ghost Recon game.
When corporations are given the choice between cultivating a hardcore following into a legitimate form of competition or inviting Drake to give a speech, they make the obvious choice.
But Esports are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the industry. And that means the bigwigs at E3 are starting to chase the money. This year, we’ve seen a handful of new and established properties inch their way closer to the League of Legends, Hearthstones, and Dota 2s of the world. And some of them look very exciting.
There aren’t a lot of competitive video games with an emphasis on swordfighting. You either have your twitchy, half-a-second-and-you’re-dead first-person shooters, or your usual lane-based brawler like League of Legends or Dota. This makes sense: the advantages, bluffs, and positioning of a sword fight don't translate to the immediacy of a controller or a keyboard. It’s best to let players duke it out in three buttons or less.
That’s why For Honor is so exciting. The game was surprise-announced at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, and it puts a special emphasis on parries and dodges and everything else that makes swordfighting so alluring. All of that action is assigned to the right stick, which lets you decide which angle you want to attack or defend from. When you enter combat you’re entering a duel, which deliberately slows the action down and snuffs out the cheese.
The mode shown off at the Expo is classic three-control-point domination. For Honor also includes minions/creeps/NPCs/redshirts for you to combo off of. There’s been no mention of a leveling up or item system, so it’s hard to compare the gameplay to a full-on MOBA. What we can say is the idea of honest-to-god swordfighting entering the esports fray gets me really excited. Let’s hope For Honor hits.
Street Fighter V’s V System
That’s right. It’s the fifth numbered edition of the Street Fighter franchise and Capcom decided to introduce something called “V system.” That’s V as in the letter, not the roman numeral—I know, it’s silly. Let’s move on.
Okay, all jokes aside, the V system does seem pretty cool. Capcom has a knack for coming out with some new wrinkle every time they set out to remake Street Fighter.
The second in the series had the super attacks, while the third introduced parries and the fourth gave you focus attacks. So think of the V system as this year’s model. It replaces your ultra meter (that’s right, no ultra combos this time kids,) and works sort of like a buff. You can fill up your V meter and do a “V Trigger,” which is different for each character. Ryu starts glowing and charging his fireballs, Cammy gets a speed and damage boost, Charlie Nash gets a free teleport. Along with that, there’s also a “V skill,” which doesn’t cost any meter and is basically an extra line of defense. Ryu’s V skill, for instance, is a parry.
What does all of this mean? Who knows! The V system does seem more complicated than your comparatively static ultra combos, so it should make the game more complex. But ultimately, it’s the sort of thing we’ll fully understand once Street Fighter V gets in the hands of the community.
Battleborn is probably the highest profile MOBA in the chamber right now, mostly because it’s being developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. If the name Gearbox rings a bell, that's probably from such world-conquerors as Borderlands and the loved, forgotten Brothers in Arms series. This is the first time it's developed a straight-up competitive multiplayer title since it ported Halo to the PC, which might make you feel a little uneasy.
Still, Battleborn looks cool. It’s been described as a “hero shooter,” and one look at the HUD confirms that phrasing. You’ve got your character, a triptych of powers assigned to three buttons, experience points, and a progressive scaling of ability as you gain levels over the course of a 30-45 minute game. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a League clone, except that it’s also a first-person shooter.
I’m not particularly convinced that the twitchiness of your average FPS can translate to the grindy attrition of your average MOBA. I don’t know if I want to shoot an enemy player 30 times before it dies. The people on the show floor appeared to be digging it, but Battleborn seems like something that will only make sense once you have the controller in your hand. With DC Comics' League clone, Infinite Crisis, shutting down only a couple months after its official release, the capital potential for a game like this seems risky.
Good luck to Gearbox. They might need it.
We don’t know much about Gigantic other than that it’s being published by Microsoft, and it’s been in development for a while. Oh, and it’s a MOBA, which is something you can say about a lot of games in 2015.
This appears to be Microsoft’s big esports play, much like Gearbox with Battleborn and EA with the deceased Dawngate. Will it work? Microsoft certainly has the money to make a game happen, so if it’s marketed right and it plays right, maybe Gigantic will be a major player. But right now it’s too early to tell.
Elder Scrolls: Legends
It's crazy to think that, in 2015, two of the most prominent game companies in the world are duking it out over cards.
The only thing we know about Elder Scrolls: Legends is that it’s a free-to-play card game based in the Elder Scrolls universe. But frankly, that’s all we need to know, because it’s clear Bethesda is taking aim at another free-to-play card game set in the Warcraft universe.
Right now, Blizzard is the only name in town when it comes to digital card games, and even though it’s unlikely that anything will ever be able to exceed (or even match) the success of Hearthstone, Bethesda's move is clearly a warning shot. Then again, Bethesda once went for Blizzard’s MMO spot with Elder Scrolls Online—the less said about that the better.