All in all, it was a big day for Microsoft and they did not disappoint. I was worried when they announced Project Scorpio as the “Xbox One X (to which my friend Quinn and I both groaned at the sheer lack of creativity in the title)” and then chose to follow up with the typical announcement of a new forza, but the rest of the conference managed to hold strong especially since Microsoft finally recognized and solved its lack of exclusives problem by showing off an impressive 22 exclusives coming to the console (though time will tell if they’re any goodd). Even if there was a little too much focus on artsy indie games that looked very hit or miss, what did hit was a home run.
First, let’s knock out the biggest announcements:
This is not an announcement I was expecting but I’m glad it was there. Metro looks to change up the status quo by allowing players to visit the surface world without need of a gas mask and graphically it looks like a perfect showcase for the Xbox One… X. Take a look:
Next up was the announcement (FINALLY) of the next (and possibly first if the reboot rumors are to be believed) Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Taking players to ancient Egypt will mean gladiatorial arenas for combat, exploration of ancient tombs and the ability to slide down pyramids, which is super exciting. I am concerned about the fact that it doesn’t look to be doing much in terms of new ideas, and I don’t like the idea of RPG elements when it comes to equipping weapons, but I am eager to see more of the game to get an idea of just how much activities are on hand. Behold:
Afterwards, Microsoft made some announcements regarding Battlegrounds (which doesn’t look all that different from any other shooter out there) and Minecraft, which actually had some surprises both good and pointless. Cross-play will now be a thing, which is a very good step towards making it a standard everywhere if kids with a Nintendo Switch can play with kids with an iPhone or Xbox. They also announced a graphical 4K update which…okay? I’m not sure Minecraft has ever been regarded for graphics nor did it need an upgrade to begin with, but I’ll give Mojang credit because they’re milking the game for all its worth.
Next there was a showcase of indie titles, and the one that struck out to me was easily The Last Night. It’s a game that clearly takes influence from neo-noir and Blade Runner, and not only does it make the pixel art look gorgeous, there’s a clear sense of narrative here that I’d be very interested to see more of come release:
And I’ll have to say, while I was worried this game would just end up being a pointless “sail a ship with friends and do nothing else” simulator, Sea of Thieves is promising to be the next definitive pirate adventure. Solving supernatural clues for pirate treasure and fighting off other players or skeletons with friends, exploring new islands and launching yourself from cannonballs gives the impression that the game isn’t interested in taking raked seriously, and I think that’s just what an industry dripped in gritty realism needs (also the video could be worth watching just for it’s hilarious narrator):
The last big announcement that came as far as games go was more footage for the new Middle Earth: Shadow of War, which continues to look better and better with a focus on building your own army to counter Sauron’s. It continues to look beautiful and impress with its characters, and I’m hoping to play much more of this when it releases:
Finally, Microsoft made a huge announcement that endures competition between the Redmond giant and Sony is alive and well: original Xbox games from back in 2000 will soon be backwards compatible with Microsoft’s latest console. This is a huge boon for anyone who still has a collection of old Xbox games, and it proves Microsoft is rededicating itself to all of their players in impressive fashion.
Oh there was one more big announcement, the unveiling of an all new Bioware IP, Anthem. There’s not much I can say about it, but if it plays as great as it looks, it might be the game that gets Bioware back in the rankings of great developers:
No, it wasn’t a perfect conference and there were plenty of things to improve, but Microsoft managed to prove it knows its customers better than we thought, which is something to be impressed by. Microsoft focused on showing off more games and spent much less time talking about them, and time will tell if it ends up matching Sony’s conference in terms of showmanship. But for now there’s still Bethesda tonight, so let’s just see who will end up winning Sunday.