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The E3 Bulletin: Monday

Elder Scrolls! Xbox overload! No more loot boxes!

Our E3 2018 news roundups will run every morning this week.

It's E3 week, which means that E3 has already been happening for days now, and you would be forgiven for not having paid much attention. The traditional magic of staying up late to marvel at new games and laugh at men in chinos pretending to play pre-rendered trailers has faded since the rise of pre-E3 reveals and dominance of Games As Service: rather than ruminating on shock reveals of entirely new games, the chief sport of recent E3s was now seeing how rented celebrities can hype iterative updates to the games we're playing already, with an additional 2018 twist of seeing what synonym they've come up with for "Battle Royale".

It has been a considerable pleasure, then, to start the week with a barnstorming lineup of the new and exciting. It did not start so promisingly. EA kicked things off in its signature style, forcing everybody to endure an hour's cab ride to see stuff that it already showed to its crack team of Instagram influencers several weeks ago.

Top of that list was naturally Battlefield V, which has gone with the elegant minimalism of "Royale" but isn't actually showing it yet, because obviously Battle Royale is synonymous with polished and fully-working code. Trailer looks goofy which we're into. Unravel 2 was leaked ahead of the show and released during it, which was nice but not exciting, and meant a 100 per cent increase in Designated Indie Credibility because this year EA had two indie games. The newcomer is Sea of Solitude, debuted with commendable conviction by creator Cornelia Geppert.

Her introduction was a nice dash of heartfelt sincerity amid EA's usual cacophony of over-produced corporate messaging, now with additional promises of a lootbox-free future (as long as it's not FIFA). This may well have been equally heartfelt, but could just as easily be read as an extended plea to players to start pre-ordering again and to Disney not to take the Star Wars licence back. Key Business Stakeholders were presumably also the audience for the excruciating shoutcasted reveal of a new Command and Conquer... but on mobile, which the audience received like people who had played Dungeon Keeper, but on mobile. An EA game subscription service, with cloud elements no less, is the sort of thing that Xbox was crucified for five years ago but now barely registers. Somewhere in his money cave, Don Mattrick was cursing the screen.

On the Sports front Wes was excited by FIFA adding Champions League and Active Reload, Americans were excited by NBA, I assume, and Madden 19 is coming to PC without a Battle Royale mode, lol, announced two men dressed in rejected Fortnite skins. Vince Zampella had to be hunted down in the crowd to grudgingly confirm that Respawn's game exists and it has a name, which is the sort of news that people used to discover by crawling LinkedIn profiles and enjoyed revealing a lot more than Vince Zampella.

It ended with the big news: BioWare's Anthem! It's focusing on single-player, but you can't romance anything, so what is even the point. There's actually more of a Monster Hunter vibe than a Destiny one, but Bungie's influence was heavy over the whole enterprise, as was a tortuous Q&A session that made the game sound so dull that the actual gameplay footage struggled to lift it.

Then to Microsoft, which we entered with mild heatstroke, thanks to another queuing fiasco that left half the assembled media watching on their phones outside, and low expectations because, well, what could Microsoft offer with so few first-party studios? Quite a few more first-party studios, it turns out. Phil Spencer has been shopping, snapping up Forza Horizon's Playground Games, State of Decay's Undead Labs, We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games, Ninja Theory, plus a new studio headed by ex-Crystal Dynamics man Darrell Gallagher.

The latter two feel the most interesting because it means Microsoft could conceivably develop an interesting Horizon Zero Dawn rival rather than just bribing Square to be friends with Lara Croft, although in Ninja's case this vision involves overlooking Hellblade and forgetting Heavenly Sword. Still, they've all got interesting heritage that can only be improved by an infusion of Microsoft cash.

There were first-party surprises, too: a glimpse of a new Halo wasn't unexpected, and it was good to see Master Chief and interesting to note a name, Halo Infinity, that suggests a rather grander scope than previous releases. Battletoads is actually happening, apparently, although there's no footage so what it looks like is anybody's guess.

These were just two of many, many announcements which flew past faster than we could write them up. Just Cause 4 sure looked like a Just Cause sequel and so did Crackdown 3, only with additional neon and Terry Crews. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is apparently Soulsbourne with samurai, which is fine obviously, and Ori 2 contains both emotions and destructible environment puzzles. Kingdom Hearts gets Frozen characters, which is good, and delayed, which is not.

Forza Horizon 4 has variable weather and is, not unrelatedly, set in the UK. Devil May Cry 5 spent most of its trailer trolling DmC, which will surely add an awkward edge to the Ninja Theory onboarding meetings, and only snuck rather careworn Dante in at the end. Further trolling included showing off a game that could be Skate 4 but isn't, and now must become so in all but name or people will become cross.

Todd Howard put in an appearance to confirm that Fallout 76 was bigger than Fallout 4 but not necessarily an RPG, and Square had a new Life is Strange-ish game which Aoife had played already. Previous indie darling Cuphead got some DLC, but then had to hand its artisanally-crafted crown over to Tunic, which is our new indie game BFF. It turns out we've seen this before, too, but we had failed to grasp that it was an adorable fox Zelda thing. We regret the error.

Dying Light 2 now has Chris Avellone, but seemingly no publisher. Black Desert Online still looks amazing, and PUBG looks a lot better although we won't put any money on it working on Xbox yet. Tales of Vesperia is getting a re-release, Sea of Thieves is getting an expansion, Metro and Battlefield look amazing, the Division 2 is in Washington now... on and on and on it went, an unending torrent of really rather exciting Stuff, and not a giant enemy crab or ill-advised TV partnership in sight.

Things were going so well that the announcement of a Gears Funko Pop game for mobile attracted a bare fraction of the opprobrium that Command and Conquer received mere hours earlier. This was made possible in part by the franchise just being called "Gears" now, which gifts Sony exclusive use of the "of War" suffix, but frees Microsoft up for much cuddlier forms of #brand synergy. We look forward to Gears Hello Kitty next year, but for now all we've got is Gears Tactics, and a proper sequel in the form of Gears 5, which appears to have a female protagonist and is thus sure to be warmly received by comment threads everywhere.

Proceedings closed with CD Projekt's Cyberpunk 2077, which also looked outstanding but is also going to be coming to other platforms and not soon either. As the trailer endorphins faded away it became clear that was true of most of what we'd seen - the new studio signings meant we weren't seeing a Horizon: Zero Dawn for Xbox, but rather the foundations that might enable it to one day exist, supported by a blizzard of third-party stuff that you can play in the meantime. Which is actually a much more cheering and grownup way of doing things, rather than buying up DLC exclusivity, and made for a show worth staying up for.

Bethesda had a much higher bar to clear on this, having picked the plum 2am slot when delirium has begun to set in among the UK contingent. Early signs were not promising, thanks to opening with an inexplicable Andrew WK performance and a livestream that repeatedly cut to a sea of baffled faces in the audience to confirm that they didn't know what was going on either.

This was eventually justified by the news that he's voicing a character in Rage 2, which we were then shown some of and looks pretty good - there's the expected Mad Max heritage from Avalanche which fuses very nicely with what is being described as a post-post-apocalyptic vibe. Proceedings then moved on to address, well, pretty much every cherished franchise the company has.

Most exciting was the announcement of Doom Eternal, although the enthusiasm was tempered by the lack of actual footage and a name that, like Halo Infinity, suggests the distant rumble of advancing microtransactions. Prey 2 DLC was finally confirmed and released, two things that did not surprise, and there's a new free-to-play Elder Scrolls RPG which looks quite good and which you can pre-order, two things which did. The new Wolfenstein shows what life would be like post-Nazi victory in the 80s, suggesting that we're mere years away from MachineGames' riff on Third Reich Britpop, and mobile hit Fallout Shelter is out on PS4 and Switch.

Todd Howard came back to finally confirm that Fallout 76 is an online survival game, but you can play it solo, so hopefully the obsessive bottlecap collectors can cohabit. Elder Scrolls Online is doing fine, actually, and is getting an expansion. Elder Scrolls Legends is also fine, actually, and apparently people play it as well. Quake Champions... you get the idea. We have updated our files accordingly.

Then not one but two closing megatons: confirmation of the long-rumoured Starfield, which is apparently Bethesda Goes To Space and is very exciting although they didn't actually show anything.

The coup de grace was the announcement that Elder Scrolls 6 will one day exist, which didn't really require confirmation for anybody who's seen the Skyrim sales figures but was presumably included to reassure fans that BGS hasn't had its head completely turned by zero-g. Absolutely nothing was confirmed save the genre, so pity the poor souls who will be churning out Google-bait articles despite from now until the game's release.

A very exciting weekend, all told, and we haven't even picked up our convention badges yet. Today it's Sony, Square and most importantly Ubisoft: the company we've come to rely on for announcements that others are too staid and financially responsible to consider. Watch along with us: times and details are on our E3 2018 schedule guide and we'll have another bulletin tomorrow morning.

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About the Author
Jon Hicks avatar

Jon Hicks

Audience Development Director, ReedPop

Jon has been writing about video games and technology since 2002, during which time he contributed to dozens of publications and spent seven years as Editor-in-Chief of Official Xbox Magazine. He has a terrible addiction to shonky open-world games.