My 5 Standout Games From E3 2021

So, another year of E3 has finished, and whilst some shows fell flat (Capcom, really, what was that?), there was plenty to be excited for – whether that was brand-new reveals, or new information on previously-announced games. As usual, our predictions were mostly way off the mark (a solid five out of eighteen correct, good going everyone), but still, I left E3 with some brand new games firmly on my radar. To go into a bit more detail, I have picked out five such games below, and gone into exactly why they stood out for me! Cutting it down to five is tough, but I think this way it shows the ones that really left an impression on me. Left out of this list are the likes of Life is Strange: True Colors, as whilst I remain eager to play that game, the new footage shown didn’t necessarily make much difference to that position. Right, let’s get into it!

Metroid Dread

It’s not much of a secret that I’ve been craving a new Metroid game (Prime 4 or otherwise) for quite some time, and so when Nintendo introduced a brand new 2D entry into the series during their Direct? Well, I may have gotten quite loud in voicing my excitement, especially as it uses a long-rumoured name; if you were not aware, Dread was a word that appeared in a text file in the Prime series years back, and had people theorising it was a future game. The fifth 2D and non-spin-off entry into the iconic sci-fi series, Metroid Dread follows on from Metroid Fusion, and will finish this story arc. This time, bounty hunter Samus Aran is on planet ZDR to investigate a mysterious transmission; intriguingly, this game has Samus battling up from the depths instead of going downwards into a planet (as is often the case in other Metroid entries). Key to both gameplay and story are the patrolling E.M.M.I robots hunting Samus down – they are seemingly invulnerable to attacks, and able to take down Samus in one strike if they get too close.

Subsequently, stealth and evasion are key to survival. Handy, then, that Samus is skilled in both, and has the new Phantom Cloak ability to help conceal herself. Seeing footage of this reminded me of Resident Evil 3 and Jill Valentine evading Nemesis, actually, and if that sort of tension can be carried throughout, we’re in for something compelling. MercurySteam Entertainment (who worked on Metroid: Samus Returns, the brilliant 3DS remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus) are again partnering with Nintendo, and this fills me with confidence; that team is being given this brand new entry into the franchise, one that allows them the extra graphical grunt of the Switch. The visual upgrade that brings is apparent, with strong colours and silky animation. Carried through from Samus Returns is the general dexterity of Samus, with some new abilities such as the slide thrown in too – the momentum of movement in Dread should be incredibly rewarding. Overall, this was a reveal that showed both absorbing story beats and a plethora of awesome gameplay, and I am so pumped to play it – and there is not even that long to wait, as it launches on 8th October! Metroid is back, y’all!

Death’s Door

Now, we arrive at a game which gave me vibes of the isometric action of Hades combined with the top-down adventuring charm of The Legend of Zelda; not a bad combination, eh? An independently-developed game from the two-person Manchester-based team Acid Nerve, Death’s Door popped up in several showcases during E3, remaining impressive whichever time it appeared. You play as a crow who helps souls on their way in the afterlife, and when one goes missing, you set upon tracking down the thief. Along the way, you will battle against a smorgasbord of enemies within an ominous and colourful world filled with charismatic characters and wry humour.

The weaponry appears very satisfying, from the lightsaber-esque sword to a bow (woo!), with equipment such as a grappling hook and, erm, an umbrella giving you some more options in combat. Even before I heard that Zelda was an inspiration for the game, the boss fights had me drawing comparisons, featuring quirky foes within various sorts of arenas. The almost clay-like, hand-crafted-style to the environments also has that vibe (think the recent remake of Link’s Awakening). Furthermore, I like how the world has a certain energy of movement to it, whether they be flickering neon signs, bouncing mushrooms, or the various particle effects floating by. From the trailers, Death’s Door seems that it may have the dual package of gameplay and charm that’ll have me falling into it when it releases on July 20th!

The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Well, it’s hardly a surprise this is on the list, is it? As a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda, I joined many others in eagerly awaiting news on the sequel to the groundbreaking Breath of the Wild this E3. We first glimpsed the game at E3 2019, so it felt apt for Nintendo to now shed more light on exactly how the game was shaping up. Indeed, it was the final reveal of the Nintendo Direct; to start off, we saw a bit more of the cinematics we have been theorising over from 2019, as Princess Zelda falls into the dark and Link is afflicted with some sort of dark entity on his arm – all whilst a mummified being (Ganondorf?) stands over them. As a scene change from the deep reds, blacks, and greens, we then see Link falling into Hyrule from above in a manner akin to Skyward Sword, soaring through clouds and – curiously – lifted sections of Hyrule that are now floating platforms. It reminds me a lot of those exploded-view documents you get showing the components of a piece of tech; Hyrule has literally been separated into layers, and somehow (we do not know yet… ) Link is able to travel between them.

The arches visible on the raised islands may well be gateways of some sort, or perhaps we could see the return of Loftwings from Skyward Sword (which, conveniently, is getting a HD remaster soon… )? One of the few things we do know is there is an expanded set of the physics-based abilities from Breath of the Wild, with Link seen reversing time and even moving through a solid platform! If previous evidence is anything to go by, the creativity this opens up in a sandbox world could be amazing. Clearly something is afoot that we need more info on, as we can see Link’s arm is blackened and wearing an intriguing brace of some sort – could it be temporarily holding back the affliction as Link races to save Zelda? It would be disappointing, though, if Zelda is sidelined again; I am holding out for the reveal that she is playable. Perhaps you can play as Zelda below Hyrule, whilst Link is above, with the actions of each affecting and helping the other? As often happens in the run-up to a Zelda game, the new trailer raises as much questions as it gives us answers; we will have to wait and see, with a 2022 release currently targeted…

Hunt the Night

This appeared out of the blue for me in the Guerrilla Collective showcase, wowing me with the gameplay, art-style, and character design. From Dangen Entertainment and developer Moonlight Games, this top-down action adventure dungeon-crawler is totally my vibe; a stunning sprite-based top-down art style is the framework for a dark fantasy aesthetic that brings comparisons to the likes of Castlevania and Dark Souls, whilst having a little bit of Zelda flavour thrown in. Playing as Vesper, a member of The Stalkers, you fight your way through imaginatively grotesque enemies that, from the trailer, appear to have a wonderful variety of attack patterns – in particular the chaotic dances of the boss fights. The premise is very intriguing; set in Medhram, humans thrive in the day, but are then attacked by creatures when night falls. After The Stalkers manage to suspend the world in one long period of sunlight, the consequence is then a feasting of the night that leaves the world in disarray.

Vesper (who, by the way, looks like if Cynthia from Pokémon became a dark fantasy hunter, which I am totally here for) is now venturing across the ruined world to save the remains of humanity – shadows creeping across the land as they do so. Deeply customisable loadouts of various weapons (including, of course, a bow) are available, which appears to encourage experimentation as you explore Medhram. In addition, there are side quests and Hunt requests to keep you busy along the way, so there may well be a lot of content to delve into here. Whilst lots of this might not sound particularly innovative, watching the footage screamed at me that Hunt the Night is executing each component with skill, and with an art direction that is super my style. Come on: awesome women protagonist, a fantasy world rich with lore, and fast-paced action combat? This is a William game.

A Plague Tale: Requiem

Of all the games in this list, A Plague Tale: Requiem is probably the one that had the most vague showing, with only a few glimpses of potential gameplay. It surprised me in a wonderful way when it showed up in the Xbox/Bethesda presentation, as I recently gained access to A Plague Tale: Innocence through Xbox Game Pass on my Series S; whilst I have not yet finished the game, I have found it a gloriously cinematic journey. Therefore, knowing that a sequel on the way is fantastic, and great motivation for me to finish the first game! There are The Last of Us vibes to A Plague Tale: Innocence; both in the polished visuals that range from horrifying to beautiful, and also in the narrative, which centres around the bond between lead Amicia De Rune and her little brother Hugo.

Going by the reveal trailer, it appears as though this will be tested further, as both the human and supernatural elements of the series (which is set in the 1300s) are on the march. The latter – the dense swarms of rats – are seen tearing down a street in the trailer towards a steadfast Amicia. Interspersed are clips of soldiers in battle, who I’m guessing are the Inquisition (who hunt down the De Rune family in Innocence). From the voice lines, it appears Hugo may be causing the rats to appear in some way, and Amicia is protecting against any oncoming attackers. This could be a fascinating conflict for Amicia to resolve, and I am excited to see how the endearing and fiercely determined lead tackles it. There is a refreshing feel to the French setting of Innocence – developer Asobo Studio are based in the country – and now we get to see how they tackle a sequel. The stealth was strong in Innocence, but one of my complaints is the lack of combat options outside of a sling that is relied on a bit too often. In the reveal for sequel Requiem, though, we see Amicia with a crossbow, so that criticism may well not apply for the sequel! Also, y’know, a crossbow is almost a bow… Maybe Amicia can get a bow at some point? Maybe? We’ll find out when the game launches in 2022, aha!

There you go, then; my personal pick of five games that stand out for me from E3 2021. Whichever games had the most appeal to you individually, I think it was clear how much strength of depth the upcoming schedule of game releases has overall. From big-budget first-party games to the selection of inspired independent releases, there is much reason to be excited. Have an awesome day!

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