E3 2012 Roundup 2: ELDER SCROLLS, TOMB RAIDER, More

Elder Scrolls Online

After a reported five years in development, Elder Scrolls Online promises to bring a lot of new things to the crowded fantasy MMO genre. In setting the stage for these developments it was revealed that the game will take place 1,000 years before the events of Skyrim and feature exploration of the entire Elder Scrolls world from Daggerfall to Skyrim to Morrowind and beyond. While the game will feature a single player storyline of a hero trying to recover his or her soul from a Daedric Prince and who will along the way save the entire world, each player will also be a member of one of three factions that is vying for control of the land. The Ebonheart Pact (Dark Elves, Nords and Argonians), the Aldmeri Dominion (High Elves, Wood Elves and Khajiit) and the Daggerfall Covenant (Orcs, Brentons and Redguards) will do three way battle in Cyrodill in PvP matches that can support 200 players at the same time in a melee that resembled a battle in Braveheart, but with spell casting. A developer’s mention that the game will support even older, slightly out of date computers and these massive battles suggest a streaming game setup, akin to the OnLive service, though that is not confirmed. 

Along with single player crafting and quests that can be found though natural exploratory gameplay, just like the single player titles, PvE gameplay will feature a vast array of dungeon instances that evoke the look of the regions they are found in will support teams from one to twenty five players. Combat will be in real time with a minimal UI, dedicated block and stealth toggles, synergy attacks for teams that play well together (in the hands off demo, an allied fighter was able to smack fireballs of a protective fire-field spell cast by a partner) and individual finesse attacks executable as a reward for solid play. Elder Scrolls Online will release in 2013.


An under the radar title that could surprise gamers this fall is this supernatural steam-punk first person action adventure title. In an alternate world, your player character, Imperial Guard Corvo Atano, is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and is forced to join an underground revolutionary/assassination organization to clear his name. Now while he can do this by butchering people horribly using a dual weapon/magic system akin to BioShock, it gets a lot more interesting when he applies his mystical skills to make stealthy assaults instead (the game supports both with Deus Ex-style branching paths). These two gameplay options will also effect the storyline, as needlessly killing innocents that get in your way might make your case for innocence harder to prove.

In a demo mission to kill a pair of corrupt politicians, Corvo employs his Blink power to instantly teleport to any place within his line of sight. Applied cleverly this power can allow you to scale buildings in a literal flash, zap past patrolling guards or escape from them very quickly. His Possession power is not just mind control, he actually enters the body of his target and is employed in the demo to enter the politicians favorite bath house by ‘embodying’ a nearby fish and swimming up a drain pipe. The third standout power is the ability to summon a swarm of plague rats to viciously stun (and painfully slowly) kill foes. Finally a distinct 18th Century European influenced design ascetic sets the title apart visually. Dishonored is set for release on 10/9/12.

Tomb Raider

Opposed to the impressive, experienced young Lara Croft seen in the demo shown during the Monday E3 press conferences, Square Enix showed off a bit more of the initial stages of the game, in particular the moments just after she emerges from the scavenger’s cave. In vertigo inducing fashion, an uneasy Lara must cross a ravine using a fallen tree trunk and scale one of the islands many crashed airplanes to reach the site that other shipwreck survivors came ashore. Armed with a walkie-talkie and a single match, but with the sun going down, Lara makes her first camp out of the cold and the rain. It is at these camps that are scattered around the island that Lara will spend experience points and salvage she collects to upgrade her skills and the tools she finds.

In the morning after finding a makeshift bow on a strung up corpse, a short tutorial of how to use it is disguised as a starving Lara hunting for deer, proving that the year of the archer continues. After taking one down, an at first hesitant Lara uses a arrowhead to carve out a bloody slab of venison to cook for breakfast.  Its not long after that after transitioning an underground tunnel that Lara is reunited with one of her crewmates, who is taken hostage by a seemingly friendly island dweller. After a sequence fending off wolves with her bow while her foot in stuck in a bear trap, more allies arrive.

Deciding to split up for a search, Lara and a shaky professor armed with a gun speculate about the island’s creepy inhabitants, the mix of religious iconography found there. After getting ambushed and losing their gun to the professor’s naivety, they are dragged to a scavenger camp. Mistaken for being helpless after being pistol whipped and having her hands tied behind her back, Lara instead slips away and starts a stealth sequence as she tries to escape the camp without the use of her hands, after making good progress she is caught by a foe in a scripted sequence but is able to fight him off with a knee to the groin and an ear bite. After freeing herself from her bonds and a struggle over his gun, she is forced to shoot him in the face. Afterward, and just like with the deer, she is stunned for a moment, but then stands resolved and covered in even more blood and dirt.

From what has been shown so far, it can be speculated that this game will be split between platforming sections and scripted QTE sequences. If the island ever really opens up to a sandbox style game it is not evident so far. Armed now with the early and later game footage it is clear that the developers are going to deliver the promised angle of developing the rebooted Lara character from the shaky and scared to a true survivor over the course of the game.

Hitman: Absolution

The “original” assassin’s new entry is turning out to be a great jump on point for new players who may have been turned off by the steep difficulty curve of the pervious entries. At the same time however, it was confirmed today that experienced fans will not be left out in the cold. In a closed door demo of a late game stage, a string of necessary murders where performed with the franchise’s signature use of the environment as both a lethal weapon and one of distraction. Particularly clever was shooting a car with a silenced pistol, the bullet passing right by a bystander’s face, to trigger its alarm to call attention away from Agent 47.

The new Instinct meter will appeal to new fans by showing the location of all NPCs (even through walls) and their walking routes. This power can also be used in conjunction with silenced pistols to tag and execute a room full of people in a flash. Hitman vets will be happy to hear that Instinct, and any onscreen hints, can be disabled in advance to deliver the vintage Hitman experience.

The game’s point system has also evolved to show a running total of your score, rating your professionalism with points that will add or subtract in real time. Scoring will also now include challenges, prompting leader-board hungry gamers to kill in creative ways to earn the maximum number of points. Hitman: Absolution will be out on 11/20/12.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengance

I cut a helicopter in half, the long way.

Featuring a bulked up cyborg ninja Raiden, MGS:R is a third person hack/slash affair that is authentically hack/slash. In the demo of the game’s tutorial stage, you are introduced to the mechanics of Raiden’s blade: while you have a strong and a wide attack you can chain into combos, the real meat of the game is when you focus in on a single foe and use the right stick to angle your blade and slash THROUGH a baddie with a flick. While cutting a man’s head off  is fatal by itself, you don’t have to stop there. Your cyborg foes can be continually partitioned into smaller bits by a string a lighting fast sword slashes from any direction all while the game helpfully keeps track for you just how many pieces of person-hash you’ve created and ranks you on your performance. This is not just for fun (but it IS FUN), as your cuts can reveal an enemies’ auto-repair cluster which you can take for a health boost.

After a few practice dummies (including demonstrating how to free a hostage by cutting a gunman off of them with perfectly angled slice) and a portioning out a really big watermelon, you take on some humans and one of those cow-legged Geckos that you can reduce to a pile in a way that was only shown in a cutscene in MGS4, you are attacked by a drone chopper. After using a couple of guided missiles you bring it low enough so your can charge it down so fast that you can QTE hop from missile to missile that it is firing at you and get a chance to cut it out of the sky between the blades of the main rotor.

Among the fast action there is enough gore here to make Kratos retch, but one more surprise was the demo ending with a shot of a confident Raiden facing down a Metal Gear Ray.

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