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E3 2018 Preview: Square Enix, Ubisoft, & The Rest

We take a look at what to expect from Square Enix and Ubisoft’s E3 press conferences along with the rest of the third party publishers that aren’t hosting their own show this year.

For the first time in a few years, Square Enix is hosting their own E3 press conference. This says a lot about their confidence in what they have to offer. Square Enix is the first press conference on Monday, June 11 at 1 PM ET/11 AM PT, and it should be a very busy day. Ubisoft returns to E3 once again with their annual press conference, though this one will be special now that the Vivendi is no longer looming over them. Ubisoft is right after Square Enix’s press conference, which is at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT.

Square Enix

The last time we saw Square Enix at E3, they announced the involvement of Platinum Games in the development of Nier: Automata while Yoko Taro stood on stage with his Moon mask on his head. To say it was a weird show is an understatement. This time around, they’ve got a lot of known games to show off, and it should be a solid show if that stuff looks as good as we expect.

Their two biggest games are easily Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy VII Remake, as both have disappeared for long stretches of time after their original announcements at one of Sony’s press conferences five or six years ago. Kingdom Hearts 3 resurfaced in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago with a press event where people actually got to play the game. Most who played had good things to say about the experience, which should be reassuring to fans that have endured countless spin-offs and remaster collections in the hopes it would pay off with the third mainline game at some point. Everything seems to suggest that Kingdom Hearts 3 is nearing completion and should be out this Fall, so let’s hope they’re going to have a final, final date at this show.

Final Fantasy VII Remake comes in with similarly huge expectations because the original game is a flawed but beloved entry in the genre-defining series that fans have been wanting to be remade since that PS3 tech demo many, many years ago. The worst news for the purists was that the battle system was being changed. It should be more like Final Fantasy XV’s action-RPG combat, which isn’t ideal for this game. The other questionable bit of news suggested it would be episodic  insome sense, which could either mean three short entries or that we’d get a more fleshed out experience to turn the original game into a meaty trilogy with some more story to it. Things were not going well with development at some point, which prompted Square Enix to take development in-house to get things under control. Inclusion in this show may signal that it’s on the right track and that it’ll be out at a point in time (that doesn’t seem like an absurd date out of some futuristic sci-fi movie).

Beyond that, Dragon Quest XI should get its first appearance at E3 with its early September release date. The one bit of news I could see on DQXI is an update on the Switch version, but that may show up in Nintendo’s E3 Direct. Shadow of the Tomb Raider should also be Square’s other big near-future release, but it doesn’t seem to have much hype at the moment since it has been drowned out by other releases like Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Dragon Quest XI. We will probably also see an update on the second year’s worth of DLC for Final Fantasy XV and maybe whatever is next for Final Fantasy XIV to add some more stuff for the Final Fantasy crowd.

There are a couple of interesting rumors of what could appear at this show and by rumors, I mean that Canadian Walmart leak a few weeks ago that seems to confirm Rage 2 and LEGO DC Super-Villains are on the list. Square Enix had two games on there with Just Cause 4 being the biggest of the pair, as this would be a great chance for Avalanche Studios to redeem themselves after Just Cause 3 did well enough while not living up to the expectations for a sequel to the amazing Just Cause 2. The other title was “Dragon Quest 2,” which could be Dragon Quest XI being read as Dragon Quest II or it’s a sign that Dragon Quest Builders 2 will finally get a Western release. That would be great news considering how surprisingly good the first game was a few years ago.

As for new things we don’t know much about, there is that Avengers project game from Crystal Dynamic that may get a reveal here so that we can see what the Tomb Raider devs have in store for the iconic comic book group with this recent Marvel partnership. It seems likely to be some sort of story-focused, open world game that could be a cool change of pace for Crystal Dynamic. Anything else they could be revealing is kind of hard to guess. If they let Yoko Taro make something after the success of Nier: Automata, this could be a great way to reveal whatever that could be. We could also see what Square Enix has in the works for VR and Switch, though those could easily be shown at Sony and Nintendo’s shows, respectively.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft was kind enough to send out word to the media about which announced games they’ll be featuring at their press conference. The Division 2 should be shown off in full for the first time so we can see what they’ve learned from the original game for its sequel. Beyond Good and Evil 2 will return once more as we try to wrap our minds around what this incredibly ambitious game has to offer to set it apart from everything else out there. Skull & Bones was recently delayed for a considerable amount of time, but we should get a progress report here. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a surprising return as a weird mix of space combat and Toys-to-Life ship customization mechanics that seems like it could’ve quietly died when Skylanders and Disney Infinity went down, but Ubisoft must have enough confidence in this project to keep it going. Transference is that really weird VR game from Elijah Wood’s studio that really stood out at last year’s show, so we will probably find out what that actually looks like as a playable game.

The biggest thing that Ubisoft has to announce at this year’s show has to be the long-awaited return of Splinter Cell, which was sort of spoiled by that Canadian Walmart leak and it seems like an appropriate time to bring it back. The Sam Fisher event in Ghost Recon: Wildlands seemed like it happened for a reason, though it was also so bad of an event that it does this potential announcement a disservice. That said, the big question is what a new Splinter Cell looks like in 2018 with the way Ubisoft makes games now compared to when Blacklist was released last generation. Will it be an open world stealth game with lots of community events to keep the game’s life going well beyond launch? Even the genre itself has changed a lot with Metal Gear Solid turning into an open world game that was mostly finished before Kojima was kicked out of Konami and Hitman was turned into an amazing episodic experience that leaned heavily on densely-designed levels that rewarded replaying them over and over again to find all of the hidden secrets, so it’s not like the classic style of stealth game is much of a thing these days. It’ll be interesting to see what a new Splinter Cell game is like in 2018.

The other big Ubisoft game from that leak was Assassin’s Creed, which got a late reveal to be titled Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with the logo suggesting that this game is set in Ancient Greece. That could be a cool setting for a follow-up to Assassin’s Creed Origins. Having a new game in this series a year after Origins might be a bit soon with how well they’re supporting that game with post-launch events, but the right presentation could make that a non-issue.

For a bit of a longer shot, do we get a Watch Dogs 3 announcement? It seemed like we were poised for Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed to release in offset years, but Odyssey throws a wrench into this assumption that makes a third Watch Dogs look like a 2019 game that could easily just debut at E3 2019 unless it’s an early 2019 game. That might work to the game’s advantage to be Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 next Spring.

We’ll probably see some Switch news out of Ubisoft since they’re always strong supporters of Nintendo, which will at least get games like Just Dance on there. They’ve been dead silent on Steep’s port to the Switch, which either gets a date here or is another game on the pile of launch vaporware announcements that every console gets early on. Another Mario + Rabbids game would be nice to see after the first game did so well, maybe with some Wario and others joining the crew.

Ubisoft is also a big supporter of VR, which will at least get Transference at this show. I’d bet more will come with this show or in Sony’s show if they have a deal with Sony for a launch exclusive new game from one of their teams. The one hail mary I have to throw in here is for something new and weird from their smaller teams like the Trials or Grow Home teams that sticks out big time among their big budget stuff.

An Ubisoft E3 show without the weight of an inevitable Vivendi acquisition bearing down on them should be a fun show this year. They can do their weird French thing that everyone loves to see out of them.

The Rest

Atlus isn’t one to make big announcements at E3 since in the past they just confirm which of their Japanese games are coming to the West, which is mostly what we can expect from them this year. The many Persona spin-offs should get a confirmation of a Western release along with dates and such by the time that you see this. The Shin Megami Tensei game on the Switch should also be a big feature during Nintendo’s E3 Direct. Sega and Atlus have posted their E3 lineup, which includes Catherine: Full Body for Atlus and whatever is announced before the show. Sega has Shining Resonance Refrain, Team Sonic Racing, Valkyria Chronicles 4, Yakuza: Kiwami 2, and Total War: Three Kingdoms to show off in some form. A follow-up to Sonic Mania seems likely if it’s Sonic time at E3 since that’s possibly the only Sonic game that anybody has enjoyed this entire generation.

Capcom has confirmed the known games they’ll be showing at E3, which includes Mega Man 11, Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 + 2, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, and Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition’s upcoming “Cody release. Of course, that’s not all they’ll be talking about at the show, as things are heating up for Devil May Cry 5 and the long-awaited Resident Evil 2 Remake to finally get announced. Some new Monster Hunter: World content would also not be a surprise since they’re hosting a time attack tournament during the show.

Stay tuned for more of our pre-E3 coverage as we move onto previewing the big three platform holders to see what we can expect and what surprises might be in store for each company.

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