This past week Xbox did a massive showcase that showed off a wide variety of games. From massive first-party titles, like Halo Infinite, to smaller-scale games like As Dusk Falls. As with any game showcase, there are always highs and lows. This showcase was no different. There were some absolutely great moments, while other moments left us scratching our heads. Here are my personal highs and lows of the Xbox Games Showcase. It feels important to mention, these are my own personal opinions, which you are more than welcome to disagree with.
The High Points
Obsidian was a huge contributor to the Xbox showcase. As we saw The Outer Worlds will be getting its first expansion later this year. As well as Grounded officially launching into Xbox and Steam early access next week. However, the reveal of their brand new RPG Avowed absolutely stole the show for me. In a world where Bethesda has gone silent in terms of any news in relation to Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield. Obsidian seems to be wanting to fill that empty hole that has been left behind.
We saw it last year with the success that The Outer Worlds had. It was an RPG that did a fantastic job of scratching that itch that many Fallout fans had. Now with Avowed, it appears that Obsidian wants to take a crack at making their own Elder Scrolls style franchise. Avowed takes place in the already established Pillars of Eternity universe. While it was only a CGI trailer and not that sweet, sweet gameplay that everyone wanted. The fact that at some point in the future we will have a massively scaled Obsidian RPG in a magical world is very exciting. As a long time fan of their games and storytelling, I cannot wait to see this world come to life.
Fable Is Real
What could possibly be one of the worst kept secrets in gaming aside from the Demon Souls Remake? That would be the rumor that Playground Games was working on a reboot of Fable. Now we have official confirmation that Fable is coming. Bookending the show with Halo Infinite to lead, then closing with Fable was a great move. They are possibly two of the most recognizable franchises in the Xbox ecosystem. While it has been a while since we have had a new Fable game. Xbox has desperately needed diversity in their first-party offerings this generation. Variety is the spice of life. Using a long-standing franchise and giving it a fresh look in a new team’s hands is very exciting.
State Of Decay 3
Alright, alright. I can already hear the collective groans of people reading this already. I am a massive fan of State of Decay 2. It is one of my favorite games on Xbox One from this generation. Aside from Gears 5, there is no first-party Xbox game I have more time in. While it was only a simple CGI trailer, there were some cool tidbits hidden within it that made me excited. From the introduction of infected animals to teasing a snow-covered landscape.
I have a massive list of hopes for State of Decay 3. With the introduction of a frozen landscape, I am hoping that we will get even more survival aspects implemented in the game. The ambitious expansions that State of Decay 2, make me very excited to see what Undead Labs can do with the third installment in the series.
Ah, Halo. What started my love for console gaming. There are so many good memories I have associated with the franchise. LAN parties with friends, split screening Halo 3 on legendary with my best friend, and even competing in pro tournaments during the Halo: Reach era. Halo has always held a special place in my heart. It has been just over 5 years since we last had a Halo game. Halo 5 fell short for many long time fans, the story just didn’t deliver. Halo: Infinite feels like the last straw for 343 from long time fans of the series.
With the addition of the Banished, as well as adopting an open-world design is a risk. The gameplay we saw raised many questions regarding the graphical quality of the game. As a massive fan, I still cannot help but be excited about what we did see. How smooth the game looked at 60 FPS, with the variety of weapons cycled through to dispatch enemies. The grappling hook in my opinion is a fantastic addition. With no hyperbole at all, I can say there has never been a bad game with a grappling hook. It simply doesn’t happen.
Putting all this aside, I am excited to see 343 taking risks with the game. Even if they don’t necessarily pay off, change is very important in keeping a franchise healthy. No game has better exemplified this than the Doom franchise. Doom (2016) was a brilliant reimagining of the series by ID Software. Doom Eternal built even more on those changes and helped pushed it forward. I hope Halo Infinite can accomplish this growth for the franchise.
Hellblade II Being There But Not Really
I went into the show not expecting to see anything related to Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. After the shocking trailer at the 2019 Game Awards, I did not expect to see anything from Ninja Theory. Mostly because of work from home conditions and just the general havoc that COVID-19 has done to the industry. It seemed hugely unreasonable to expect a new trailer just 8 months after the games reveal. However, to see the game mentioned and only get a few minor details with a developer diary later felt at odds with the overall pacing of the show.
I want to make clear, I think developer diary’s and learning interesting details about an upcoming game is exciting. But when the focus is making a fast-paced and impactful showcase of games, it can be detrimental to the pacing of the show. While this was a very short segment, and overall not that big of a deal, it brought my hopes up for a second. I really just want to see more of the game in action sooner rather than later.
You are probably sitting there going “How could Halo be a high and a low point?” But let me explain. While I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw as a fan of Halo, there are still too many questions up in the air when the game is just around the corner. We essentially have no information in regards to the multiplayer aspects of the game. We have so little information that a rumor about the game not launching with multiplayer actually gained traction. Xbox has done a fantastic job of cleaning up its PR and marketing since the debacle that was the Xbox One launch. However, people’s faith in Xbox is just getting back into a better place over the decisions made in the past year.
A game that is only a handful of months away from launching should not have so many question marks attached to it. Halo Infinite is the game that Xbox has lined up to launch alongside Xbox Series X. How this generation has treated them, Xbox cannot afford to take the foot off the gas. Halo Infinite needed to blow people away, and leave them speechless. This reveal did not achieve that. While it showcased the world and what we could expect to see from the game, it still left many valid questions behind. The loud vocal minority are complaining about the visuals and graphical fidelity of the game. There are so many more questions left unanswered.
As a long time fan of Halo, I am still excited for the game. However, the criticism that many have leveled at the reveal is valid. You cannot just keep making a game that only appeals to hardcore fans. You have to build and expand that fanbase and introduce people to the game maybe even for the first time. I don’t think this reveal gave new players a real slice of what the magic of a Halo game really is. It felt hollow when compared to past Halo reveals. While I found a lot of things to like about the reveal. I can understand the criticism that has been leveled at the game.
Psychonauts 2 Being Delayed Into 2021
Delays are typically good things when it comes to games. Allowing developers to have more time to polish and improve their project is great. However, it was disappointing to see that Psychonauts 2 was getting delayed into 2021. The game has already been delayed a handful of times as it was originally set to ship back in 2019. Double Fine having more time to work and polish the game will no doubt be good in the long term. It is disappointing though that this means we might not see another project from Double Fine for a long while.
While I am very excited for Psychonauts 2, it was very hard not to think of another game when they were purchased by Xbox. Brutal Legends was a game released by Double Fine back in 2009. The game featured Jack Black, and was a unique blend of strategy, and hack n slash gameplay. All with the backdrop of heavy metal music, from Judas Priest, Motorhead, and more. I am so hopeful that Double Fine will be able to revisit the franchise. With the musical performance from Jack Black in the Psychonauts 2 portion of the show, it makes me wonder if that was a subtle tease. Regardless it feels like it will be a long time before we see a new game from Double Fine outside of Psychonauts 2.
Lots and Lots Of CGI
To be clear, I understand why developers use CGI trailers to announce and get fans excited for an upcoming title. However, it felt like too many of these titles are very far out for Xbox. Games like Avowed, State of Decay 3, Fable, and Hellblade II seem very far out. All these titles are games we most likely are seeing in our hands till late 2021 or early 2022 at the earliest for some. Now I have nothing against showing a roadmap of content. It is actually very important to keep people excited about the future of content on your console or ecosystem.
This is something that PlayStation has done a very solid job of in this generation. Creating a roadmap of future content for players to invest in and look forward too. Even if the games are far away, the fact those games exist will stick in the back of the mind of fans. A perfect example is The Last of Us Part II was revealed in 2016, and didn’t launch till 4 years later. While the game had some hiccups that pushed it back, fans knew that the game was coming. Xbox has now adopted a similar concept, which is a good thing to do. I think the disappointing thing was some of these games we might have felt would be coming sooner.
This was no more apparent than with the reveal of Fable. After hearing rumors about this game since 2017, and also with Playground Games hiring people in droves to work on the RPG team. Many people thought we might get to see gameplay for it. I myself was thinking that maybe the game might even land Spring 2021, or Summer 2021. However, with just a CGI reveal, it makes me wonder how long could we possibly be waiting to play Fable?
I think there is a disconnect in social media circles about what Xbox should be doing. I agree with the criticism that Xbox needs to make compelling software that spans a wide variety of players. This was one of the most diverse showings we have seen from Xbox since the early days of the original Xbox. The future of Xbox software looks promising with games like Fable, Avowed, Everwild, State of Decay 3, and more. Xbox will not be lacking games next generation. Too many on social media want Xbox to copy PlayStation’s formula of success. What I loved about this generation is that it felt like each platform was doing something different. Xbox has been on the upswing, and I don’t think that this event was a misstep. However, there are still many questions left unanswered.
When can we expect to see these games in our hands? We all know Xbox Game Pass is going to be a massive part of what Xbox is offering at launch. What other aspects are going to make me go out and purchase a Series X? I know Microsoft is 100% committed to Xbox as a platform. But as we head further into the year of a brand new console launch, it feels like there are still too many questions left unanswered. I’m hoping that the rumored August event clarifies these questions and doesn’t in turn raise more questions.