I’ll be delivering my 2016 E3 report in three parts. Each will feature a well-known adventure game studio, as well as all of the other craziness I saw at this year’s show.
I’m always eager to see what Telltale is up to. The creators of The Walking Dead games, as well as The Wolf Among Us and Tales From The Borderlands has earned my respect as one of the best creators of adventure games today.
Its new project, simply called Batman, will be released in five episodes starting later this summer and extending through the end of 2016.
As I sat down to watch the demo, I thought, “I’m not and have never been a Batman person. Can Telltale win me over?” Well, let’s see.
It doesn’t hurt that, as usual, Telltale has assembled a stellar voice cast, featuring Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent; Troy Baker as Batman; Laura Bailey as Catwoman and Richard McGonagle (Sully in the Uncharted games).
One of the big points made to us at the demo was that the game is as much about Bruce Wayne as it is about Batman. This is a good thing, as vocally, I found Baker’s Batman voice definitely venturing into the same boring direction that Christian Bale occupied during his tenure as the Bat. Granted, Baker’s is less flat, less one-dimensional than Bale, but it’s still a dull (and predictable) choice. Luckily he sparkles as Bruce Wayne.
The demo consisted of two main parts: First, an action-packed heist sequence, full of lots of Quick Time Events to manage the action. And second, a talk-heavy sequence at a fundraising party for Harvey Dent at the Wayne Mansion.
As always, the Telltale designers are interested in exploring the formula of player choice, and then consequences from those choices.
Navigating this tension between action and dialog could make for an interesting game. I look forward to seeing more of it.
Final note: The story is not based on any specific story from the comic books.
Look for Episode One later this summer on all of Telltale’s usual consoles.
I’ve been a big fan of this series since its first game sixteen years ago. I’ve always found the combination of dystopian future and enormous player freedom irresistible.
I saw a demo of the upcoming game from executive director Jean Francois Dugas.
The game takes place two years after the events of the last game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Main character Adam Jensen has been keeping a low profile and is currently in a run-down section of Prague.
The main thrust of the new game is the tension created by an increasingly divided society consisting of augmented humans and non-augmented humans (or “naturals,” in the game’s parlance). The creators actually use term “apartheid,” for which they’ve received some international criticism. They haven’t backed down, however.
Dugas explained that the developers want every environment in the game to tell a story. In addition, they really explore verticality. This is something I find I always respond well to in games.1
The Prague environments in the demo were predictably gorgeous and I found myself itching to explore them myself. The objective in the demo was to get to an imperiled friend into his bookstore without engaging in a firefight with the authorities who had sealed it off.
The Deus Ex series has been about player choice ever since the first game debuted in 2000. You have a variety of ways in which to accomplish your objectives. In the demo, Dugas took the non-lethal route, which pleased me as, of course, that’s how I prefer to play Deus Ex games.
In fact, I played the last game, Human Revolution (2011), as a “no kill” game all the way through. This was extremely enjoyable. My feeling is, I can run around shooting things in any old game, but good stealth games are rare, and stealth is one of my favorite game mechanics.
Unfortunately, in the last game, playing in this manner led to a big problem. If you designed your character for stealth, pouring your skill points and augmentations into being sneakier, quieter and better at hacking, you ended up with virtually no combat skills. Consequently every time there was a boss battle you were at a huge disadvantage, because the game didn’t accommodate your pacifist playstyle during these encounters. This was a problem solved much more elegantly in Bethesda and Arkane’s Dishonored, which came out a year after Human Revolution. The game also featured lots of player choice. And even though you were playing an assassin, the game allowed you to complete the entire campaign without actually killing anyone – even your assassination targets!
I spoke with Dugas after the demo and asked him if this problem had been addressed in the new game. He assured me that it has. The developers were well aware of the problem in the last game. It was a result of time pressure and resources. This time around, he assured me, you will have no disadvantage in boss battles if you play a no-kill character.
One other note: I had referred to Human Revolution as the “goldest” game I had ever played. I’m happy to report that this palette imbalance seems to have been addressed in the new game as well.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ships August 23 for Windows, XBox One and PS4.
Live music! I counted not one but at least three live bands. This is a very good trend that I hope continues.
The brutal level of Controlled Access. In days of yore you could wander the great halls of the vast Los Angeles Convention Center and discover amazing new games at the booth. You could sidle up to a station and play them for a few minutes. This year almost everything was behind closed doors and only accessible after a multi-hour wait in a line. Where’s the DISLIKE button?!?
1 I remember what a breath of fresh air the verticality of the continent of Northrend was when the Wrath of the Lich King expansion dropped in World of Warcraft in 2008. It added a welcome new dynamic to the world of the game.