E3 First-Look: Square Enix, featuring Deus Ex: Human Revolution

So we begin, one company at a time, digging through all the hundreds upon hundreds of games displayed at E3 2010.

Square Enix was very cool to us at the con, and are always a fan favorite, so that seems like a good place to start…

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The last day at E3, I was fortunate to get a tour of the backroom at Square Enix’s show booth, and a look at a couple of their games in progress. We’ll start with a bang; a very talked about title, and probably my most anticipated title of the upcoming year…

 Deus Ex: Human Revolution- A fortunate few of us were given a look at the pre-alpha version of this title, hosted by Eidos Entertainment’s Lead Writer, Mary DeMarle. Given how early into development this game was, I thought it was completely stunning.

 Ms. DeMarle took us to the year 2027 (yes, a prequel to the original Deus Ex), into a world filled with chaos and strife. Those who played the rest of the series are familiar with the idea; a cyber-punk future where society is in a state of disarray, and the world is on the verge of anarchy, the streets full of decadence and rot. In the middle of this is security guard Adam Jensen, who works for a major cybernetic enhancement firm (this game is set before the introduction of nanotechnology). Your initial mission involves countering an attack maddx_hr_screenshot_adam_apartment_windowe upon your employers, but in doing so, you stumble upon a terrifying conspiracy. The game focuses heavily on story telling, choices, consequences, and branching character arcs. The ideas and emotions that connect to thoughts of human augmentation, transcendentalism, and human ascension are all present, alluded too none-too-subtly by protagonist Adam’s dreams of the Greek Myth Icarus.  

 The setting we saw in the demo was in China, a fictional city (though on a real island) crowned “the jewel of the Yangtze”. The city was lavish and detailed, with tons of NPC’s roaming the alleyways, every brick detailed in its decrepitude, and every neon sign animated with colorful brilliance. Immediate comparisons to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner can be made, and so I inquired about this to Ms. DeMarle. “Oh I’m a fan of all the cyberpunk works. [Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer] all that you listed, you’ll find elements of them in there. We did a lot of reading and research before we began the game, and not just for world-building. We read a lot about actual human augmentation and what we’re doing with it in the real world, and what we will be able to do with it in the future. Everything will have a real basis in something.”

 When asked about her role in developing the newly revamped gameplay, “I was lucky enough to be brought on-board in the initial planning phase. We’ve worked very closely with designers to make sure that the story and gameplay fit together seamlessly.” She stressed that there will be a reason for everything you can do in the game, and every function the developers thought up should have a function in the game’s story; she hoped to give players a seamless mix of story and gameplay.

 Players can expect a game that is versatile and fits their own preferred style of play. There are four focuses in the game design, Combat, Stealth, Social Interaction, and Hacking. A player can choose whichever of these styles they prefer, and develop their skills in any; any problem in the game should be able to be solved using any of the methods, so Stealth players aren’t jigged by being forced into a combat situation. Of course, much of it will require clever application of the skills.

 The demo Square was showing focused on the Social Interaction framework. This is something the developers were extremely proud of. In the immense city they had developed, each of the NPCs wandering around had their own daily tasks, their own objectives. Any person in the game can be approached and talked to. They aren’t all quest givers or important, but keeping your ears open can be a life-saver. In this particular mission, the player went to intimidate a local bar-owner and gangster out of some information. Choosing the wrong path in the conversation cost him the mission. It is entirely possible to fail by a slip of the tongue here. Luckily, wandering the hallway outside, a conversation gave him a bit of help. One of the guards had lost his Cell Phone somewhere in the club, and it had all their pass-codes on it. All he had to do was find it…

 This was a prime example of the interesting social element, in that it provided information to the player without thrusting it upon them. The conversation wasn’t part of a dialogue box, presented directly to the player, it was a part of the white noise of the bar. But stopping and paying attention to the NPCs netted results here. Had the player failed to notice the conversation, he would have likely tried to hack into the system next, or just kicked down the door, guns blazing.

 And while we’re on the topic of blazing guns, the combat system this outing sees some revamps. The most obvious change over is the addition of automatic regeneration for your character, rather than bounties of hidden health packs. (Some players complained that regeneration wasn’t realistic but, c’mon a first aid kit ain’t gonna magically heal a bullet wound either. From a gameplay standpoint, this works) Lacking the Nanotechnology from the other Deus Ex games, players will find themselves armed to the teeth with bio mechanical add-ons for their arms that can contain guns, blades, grant augmented strength, and a variety of other powers. Computerized eyes grant thermal and x-ray dx_hr_screenshot_newsroomvisions. One big change-over is the more greatly varied weapon system, that allows you to get cybernetic enhancements for weapons and customize them. Our demo displayed how adding a simple pack to the side of your rocket launcher makes your missiles ‘smart’. Fire the memory unit at the target, and the weapons will automatically seek out their target. Of course, pre-Nanotech, each weapon will need its own individual ammo, as opposed to the all-in-one of other Deus Ex games.

 All in all, this game looked shaaaaaarp. Some of the character models need cleaning up, their animation was still pretty stiff, but the game looked wonderful for how early into the build it was, the environments themselves being wonderfully designed and full of atmosphere. It seems that the Eidos team is really pulling out all of the creative stops on this one and I can’t wait to experience the story that they have waiting for me here, first hand.

Sadly, there are no gameplay vids available yet, but check out this impressive trailer.

Dungeon Siege 3- Square Enix purchased the rights to Dungeon Siege a while back, and now they, along with Obsidian games, are bringing the franchise back. This time it finds a new home on console systems instead of just the PC.

 This is Square’s first RPG developed in the West, and you could tell Obsidian was very happy about that fact. The crew was very anxious to show off the game, and happy to answer questions.

 What they showed us was a land of Ehb that had progressed a hundred or so years beyond the previous game. The order of knights that once patrolled that land are extinct and you, as one of their heirs, has taken it upon yourself to restore the order of knights, and expel evil from the kingdom.

 The demo at E3 took everyone’s favorite aspects of roleplaying, and attempted to develop them: Combat, Sweet Loot, Storytelling, and Teamwork.

 While we don’t know much about the storyline, we know that the Dungeon Siege crew really wants the game to be open ended and full of choices for the characters. DS1 was very linear, and Obsidian wanted to get away from this. NPC’s can be addressed, but not many of them are ‘quest givers’. Quests instead appear in a journal as you explore the countryside, and whichever quest you decide to follow leaves ‘bread crumbs’ on the path for you to follow. Of course, since this is a game of choices, you should be careful about which quests you take, and which NPC you choose to help in what ways. A bad choice now might cost you some high profile friends later in the game.

 Otherwise, the combat looked good, even if there wasn’t a lot that seemed immediately new. Gameplay is similar to most top-down hack and slash titles like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. The developers were working hard to make a series of completely different character classes to choose from, however, each with new and unique play-styles. Only two were viewable in the demo, but eventually all of the classes should be equipped with different weapons, and have completely customizable attack and power trees, with combos that work with the other classes in surprising ways. Characters here were larger and better detailed than most other top-downs, and the world more expansive. The level designers put a lot of ‘verticality’ into the title, meaning there are a lot of cliffs that overlook towns and a lot of levels that descend down into the earth; the cliffs make good vantage points where you can see the dungeons and plan your paths and strategies.

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 One of my favorite additions to the play system was the jump-in/jump-out multi-player option. Player 1 generally controls the action, and has a party that follows them through the story. At any time, a second player can come in, pick up a controller, and choose an NPC to take the place of. If they get tired later, or have to go grab a pizza or something, they can jump back out and the computer will take over until their return.

 The build we saw was very early, so a lot of questions still remain unanswered. Will we see 4-player co-op? Will we see online co-op? What kind of crafting ability will we see, if any? Will players again be equipped with a ‘mule’ to carry items? Developers were trying to fit as many customizable options and fun variations on gameplay as they could muster, we were told. Ultimately they hoped to have at least 4 player co-op, online, with variable challenge level reflecting the increased number of players by making enemies more tactical, rather than just harder to kill. Crafting would probably be left out of the game unless a new system for it was discovered, in order to save players from experiencing ‘the grind’ of finding items purely for the sake of finding them.

 It seems like Obsidian has their heart in the right place for Dungeon Siege III, a fun, story driven hack and slash with plenty of fat loots to find and monsters to kill; fun being their key word, hoping to keep out the repetitiveness and monotony of so many other RPG style games being published today. Its definitely one to keep an eye on.

 The 3rd Birthday- At long, long last, we get Parasite Eve 3 unfortunately, very little information was shared about the game, though we can rejoice simply in knowing that it was moved from cellphone download oblivion to the PSP.

 The game appears to return to its RPG style roots, abandoning part 2′s Resident Evil clone controls. The story revolves around ‘The Twisted” an unknown biological mass of monsters that descends upon the city, and seems to be unstoppable. The ‘Overdrive System’ should fight them off, but only one human seems capable of controlling it, Aya Brea.

 Trailer seems to suggest that Aya can swap bodies with other humans in order to tactically get a hold of weapons and vantage points… but its all just hearsay right now. Still, very excited for this title, and you’ll here more about it as soon as we do! In the meantime, the trailer.

 Mind Jack- Another game that takes the cool ‘body swapping’ idea of games like Messiah and Geist. This one is less puzzle-based though, and more of an action-shooter, as you send swarms of humans out to attack on behalf of your mind-jacking robots.

I wasn’t really a fan of the shooter nature of the game, or how incredibly long the multi-player games when you kept pulling humans into the fracas, but the single player game might make more use out of the cool mechanic idea.

Necromachina- From Square’s DLC collection comes this eclectic shooter. Combine Contra, Panzer Dragoon, and Einhander, and you might have an idea of this game’s flavor. It was pretty basic in execution, but the 4-player, frenzied action was fast and kinetic. Pretty cool. Necro_02

 

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light- She’s lost her Tomb Raider moniker and her 3rd dimension, but this is probably a healthy move for the otherwise tired franchise. Here Lara converts over to a top-down dungeon quest game, something like a Diablo, but with less RPG and more gunning monsters down. The pure fantasy elements are a little strange to see in a Tomb Raid— er, Lara Croft game, but I liked this game a lot, so I’m okay with the swap. Why did the Pitfall franchise never go this direction?

 

Kane & Lynch 2- Huge departure from part 1, and for the better. This game looks very good, though I’d have to play through the story mode to know for sure. Multi-player looked wonderful, but didn’t play much different than most shooter games.

The selling point here is the extreme realism of the game and weapon design, the gritty levels, the use of a ‘shaky cam’ style of movement to make you feel like you’re on an episode of Cops every time you go running. If you get motion sickness, this game will make you barf.

Looks like the story mode could be pretty real, and very intense. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Front Mission: Evolved- Mecha’s ‘Game of Show’. I’ll let him cover this one. Good to see the title back in the states, having been denied part 5. 

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And that, friends, is all I had time to cover. On the portable end we’ve got 2 new Kingdom Hearts games, the one on PSP being a prequel that will probably be pretty popular. On the DS we’ve got a new, original Final Fantasy game. And of course, there’s Final Fantasy XIV, which I couldn’t care less about since its an MMO, and I haven’t got time for those. Sorry guys, no FF Versus XIII this year…

 Overall, Square had a big, impressive display with lots of fantastic games, including two different ‘Game of Show’ contenders (Front Mission and Deus Ex) from two of our staff members. All the people there were friendly and informative, and I’d like to thank them for showing me around!