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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

21 Stellar Games You Probably Missed From E3 2018

The underdogs of E3 2018

E3 2018 was packed with some fantastic games that immediately captured the attention of many. Whether it was CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077, EA's blowout of Anthem and Battlefield V content, Sony's impressive demos for Ghost of Tsushima and Spider-Man, or the reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's massive roster--there was definitely a lot to take in, leaving little room to properly digest some of the more lesser-known games. We at GameSpot explored the E3 show floor and its surrounding events, playing a number of different games coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

In this gallery, we've compiled a list of some of the most interesting games from E3 2018 that didn't get enough attention, many of which are releasing sooner than you think. In addition to experiencing the likes of Annapurna Interactive's Ashen and Donut County, Avalanche Studios' Generation Zero, and the recently announced Killer Queen Black for Switch at E3 convention center, we also saw many games from the Indie Mix event. At these smaller events, many indie developers, like Double Fine Entertainment and Team17, show off their upcoming games.

In many cases, all you need to stand out is a creative idea and the skillset to see it through, and these games made their presence known alongside the most talked-about games of E3 2018. While many of these games possess that familiar indie charm, they each have their own particular hook to them. Some focus on quirky adventures that have retro-inspired aesthetics and gameplay, while others go for a more somber or action-oriented experience. Here are 21 games you may have missed out on during the gaming industry's big show.

For more info on some of the most noteworthy games of E3 2018, be sure to visit GameSpot's E3 hub page for all of our content on this year's show and to see what's coming up next in gaming.

Ashen (PC, Xbox One)

After playing through From Software's Soulsborne titles, I developed an incessant itch for more video games that promise challenging combat and use a stamina system to weigh the risks of attacking or defending. Ashen is just the scratch I needed.

In Ashen, players take on the role of a faceless warrior who's looking for a home but finds death instead. Dying isn't the end, though, as this hero is resurrected each time they're killed. Good thing too, because you'll face off against some fierce enemies and challenging bosses on your journey. The second-to-last boss crushed me almost immediately on my first attempt. I got him to half health in a follow-up fight that lasted nearly 10 minutes before he killed me again.

Ashen's story is focused on forging connections, both with NPCs and other players. Plenty of NPC humans dot the snaking map, each offering opportunities to pursue either professional or personal relationships. Several of these characters come with their own fascinating questlines, too. Players can also enter others' games, but it's always to assist, not to invade. Certain areas of Ashen's world can only be reached with a companion, so jolly cooperation is vital to discovering every hidden secret. | Jordan Ramee

Arca's Path (PC, and PS4)

There is a definite gap in the market for relaxing video games. There are some, of course--Rymdkapsel, Journey, and Monument Valley are three that come to mind for me--but they're still few and far between. Arca's Path aims to change that; it's a VR-only pseudo-platformer, and the main emotion it evoked inside me was pure relaxation.

No controller is used in Arca's Path outside of your own head; you simply stare at where you want your ball to roll to, and it moves in that direction. Simple obstacles such as ramps and narrow gaps stand in your way, but they're there more for visual variety than for any meaningful challenge. A zen soundtrack and beautiful shapes and colors make this slow-paced game as soothing as it is attractive, and I look forward to playing more. No release date has yet been announced, but we know it's coming to PSVR, Oculus Rift, and Steam VR. | Oscar Dayus

Donut County (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Donut County is a solo project from developer Ben Esposito, who worked on What Remains of Edith Finch and The Unfinished Swan. It has a different tone from some of his previous work--Donut County is full of smartly used internet humor and stars a cheeky, morally gray raccoon whose favorite app wreaks havoc on a town.

Thanks to this app, you're able to control a hole in the ground that grows as you get more to fall inside of it. You start small with grass and pebbles and work your way up to cars, buildings, and even mountains, all while solving puzzles so you can get everything in the area into the hole. Each level shows how different objects or characters ended up underground, and they're broken up by funny scenes of those characters arguing about the events in the present.

Playing as a hole sounds really silly, but in practice it's meditative and relaxing. It's essentially a game about cleaning up a bunch of garbage, at least from a gameplay standpoint, but thematically it's about consequence and becoming aware of how your actions affect other people. I played an hour of the Donut County at E3, and I can't wait to play it all the way through and see how everything comes together. | Kallie Plagge

The Endless Mission (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Developer E-Line Media entered the public eye with Never Alone, a contemplative puzzle-platformer inspired by Alaska Native culture. The studio's latest project, however, is something radically different. The Endless Mission is a sandbox creation game that bears more similarities to Media Molecule's enigmatic Dreams than to E-Line's previous effort, and its ambitious premise makes it one of the most intriguing games we got to see at E3.

Broadly speaking, The Endless Mission allows players to mash together elements of different genres to create new experiences. For instance, players can take the avatar from a 3D platformer and insert it into a racing game, then use that avatar to race on foot against the other vehicles. What's especially neat is that combining these disparate elements will cause other aspects of the game to change accordingly, so that regardless of which elements and genres you mash up, the game will still be playable. In the aforementioned example, adding an avatar to a racing game causes boxcars to appear around the course, which players can hop between to reach the finish line.

That's only one of the possible combinations afforded by The Endless Mission. The game puts a suite of different genres, elements, and other tools at players' disposal, with even more planned for the title as development progresses. Those who are so inclined will even be able to tinker with the code, although no coding experience is necessary to make use of its tools. The Endless Mission enters Early Access on Steam this fall, with a full release planned for next year. | Kevin Knezevic

Generation Zero (PC, Xbox One)

Avalanche Studios' Generation Zero wants you to feel outmatched and equally unnerved in its large open world. Set in an isolated region in rural Sweden during the late 1980s, you find many of the residents dead or missing, and the only things left are swarms of killer robots that lurk in the dense forests and fog. In this open-world survival game set during the early period of the robopocalypse, you and your group of survivors will have to scrape together resources from buildings and fallen enemies in order to stand a chance against the machines in the area.

The many items you'll find include weapons, clothing options, support items, and even scavenged robot parts that can boost your weapons' effectiveness. You'll initially encounter small runner bots, but over time, your group will come across bigger threats lurking throughout the world--which includes giant robot walkers that stand several stories tall. While you can play solo, the developers recommended playing through the game with friends, as many of the high-end challenges look to be quite overwhelming.

Coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019, Generation Zero seems to be an open-world survival game of a different flavor, focusing more on mystery and the errieness of its setting, which is definitely a welcome change of pace. With an atmosphere that recalls moments from Black Mirror's Metal Head episode, exploring what's left of the land will be just as challenging as trying to survive in it. | Alessandro Fillari

GTFO (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

GTFO handles a lot like Rainbow Six Siege, albeit with a horrifying twist. Each member of the squad outfits themselves with both a primary and secondary firearm, as well as a custom tool and melee weapon. Then, the elevator drops your team off at the mission location, where you can practically feel the tension in the air. It's really dark and eerily quiet, except for the occasional gurgle reminding your squad that they're not alone.

GTFO never holds your hand as you and your team desperately try to escape its monster-infested corridors. The creatures hunt by sound, so running and gunning is a terrible idea. To keep the horde off your back, you'll have to be stealthy.

You'll still die a lot, though. Both health and ammo are incredibly scarce, and mistakes are swiftly punished. The custom tools, ranging from explosive trip wires to a glue gun that can slow down enemies or plug breached doors, offer plenty of creative ways of handling the threats in front of you, but solid teamwork is ultimately the best weapon in your arsenal. Be sure to grab three friends you can trust. | Jordan Ramee

Indivisible (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)

The next project from the studio behind Skullgirls is shaping up to be a lovely new take on the classic Metroidvania genre. Titled Indivisible, the game follows the story of Ajna. She and her father live just outside a quiet little town, but when mysterious powers awaken within her, she must embark on a journey to discover the truth behind them.

Indivisible combines Metroid-style exploration with the combat system of cult classic RPG Valkyrie Profile. The combination sounds simple on paper, but Lab Zero Games tackles the formula with skill and finesse. Battles sport the nuance and complexity of a fighting game; each character in your party features their own unique attack and abilities, which you need to control quickly and efficiently. During my brief hands-on time with the game, it was a lot to take in. But when I got a knack for how to input and link together combos, I was instantly enamored by the possibilities.

Before I played Indivisible, I had my eyes on it mostly because of its beautiful art style. But now that I've played it, I'm very excited to jump back in to explore its world and unlock the full potential of the devastating attack chains packed into its combat system. | Matt Espineli

KIDS (Mobile, PC)

Discussion of "games as art" has become trite to the point of comedy, but clearly some games are more overtly reminiscent of other art forms than others. KIDS, from Swiss developer Playables, wears its arthouse minimalism on its sleeve.

The monochromatic palette is striking, consisting of white silhouettes with black outlines on a white background. Interactivity is relatively subtle and minimalist as well. In one vignette, touching one of the figures may make them move. In another, it could make them point their finger at another anonymous figure. It feels like KIDS would be at home in as an interactive piece in a gallery space. The simple mechanics are used to illustrate different group dynamics: following a leader, shifting blame, being part of a mob. Every vignette shown so far ends the same way: the group plunges itself, lemming-like, into a pit.

A mobile release promises a tactile feeling to manipulating the mannequins, but the point comes across well enough on PC as well. This is bound to be the sort of game that inspires debate over "games versus experiences," given its linear interactivity and lack of a fail-state. Whatever it is, KIDS invites exploration and curiosity. | Steve Watts

Killer Queen Black (Switch)

Beneath its retro-style visuals and deceptively simple premise, Killer Queen Black is an intense and fast-paced game of strategy and coordination. A remake of the Killer Queen arcade game, Black has undergone a few notable changes in its move to Switch and PC, particularly in the number of players it supports (4v4 rather than 5v5 as in the arcade), but the competitive essence of the original remains very much intact.

Each contest in Killer Queen Black pits the two teams against each other with three ways to win. You can either collect enough orbs to fill up your team's hive, eliminate the opposing team's queen three times, or ride the snail that's slowly crawling along the bottom of the arena from one end of the screen to the other to secure a victory. On paper, each of the victory conditions sounds simple enough to complete, but it's much more difficult in practice with both teams vying to achieve the same goals.

As such, success in Killer Queen Black hinges upon planning and coordination between the entire team. For example, two players can act as decoys, collecting orbs while another tries to stealthily ride the snail to victory. Alternatively, players can take a more offensive approach and focus on eliminating the opposing queen, although that leaves open the possibility the other team could fill up their hive. With both local and online multiplayer support, Killer Queen Black looks like it'll make for a hectic party game when it releases early next year. | Kevin Knezevic

Knights And Bikes (PC)

Whether played solo or co-op, Knights and Bikes puts players in the role of two pre-teen girls, Nessa and Demelza, who are adventuring across a British isle during the 1980s. The only town on the island has seen better days, but the girls don't notice until the economic downturn begins to affect Nessa's family. They'll need to be brave to save the town. They'll need bikes too.

Every aspect of this Secret of Mana-like RPG, from the gameplay to the story, is seen through the eyes of two adorable kids. Nessa splashes muddy puddles with a malicious glee, reimagining her rain boots as powerful weapons that send troublesome enemies scurrying away. Demelza attaches real value to the pieces of trash, squirming bugs, and random knick knacks she and Nessa collect, so she's very confused as to why the shopkeeper would prefer actual money when the girls try to buy a new bike.

I love how Knights and Bikes does such a phenomenal job at capturing what it's like to be a kid who's dealing with the injustices encountered while growing up. Although both Nessa and Demelza initially face their ever-more adult situation with ingenuity and wide-eyed-wonder, I immediately recognized the slow creep of reality beginning to warp their childlike innocence. It's a bittersweet part of life that all adults can remember to some extent. | Jordan Ramee

Ninjala (Switch)

Coming to Nintendo Switch, this game is going to find an audience with the same crowd that was enraptured by the colorful aesthetic of Splatoon 2. Ninjala is a goofy multiplayer-focused arena brawler where bubble gum-chewing ninjas fight it out in the streets of Tokyo with baseball bats. It's bizarre, hectic, absolutely absurd, and insanely fun.

Players choose one of eight different teenage ninjas, grab their weapon of choice, and head into the arena. Only the baseball bat was available when I played, but GungHo Online Entertainment promises a few of the other greyed-out options will be added by launch.

In the eight-person Battle Royale mode, players blow up the bubble gum they're chewing to various sizes before utilizing it to run up walls or float to the ground. Players need to reach inside the bubbles they blow to acquire their weapon. Doing so pops the bubble. The weapon's size depends on how large the bubble was before it popped. Players score points by attacking others and can earn extra points by charging up and delivering a massive knockout strike. Regardless of whether the attack connects or not, once you swing, your weapon is lost and you'll need to blow another bubble to get a replacement. To keep enemy ninjas from escaping while charging your attack, you can spit out your bubble gum to temporarily trap other players where they stand. Matches end in just a few minutes so it's easy to just jump into one more round. | Jordan Ramee

Ooblets (PC, Xbox One)

While Harvest Moon has continued ever-onward and Story of Seasons was a valiant attempt to rekindle the magic, it was Stardew Valley that really showcased the modern viability of the candy-coated farming life sim. Enter Ooblets, an adorable entry in the newly revitalized genre that blends in elements of Pokemon for good measure. It's an altogether sweet and endearing combination that will be hard to pass up.

While the loop of a farming sim is mercantile--buying seeds to sell crops to buy more seeds--Ooblets brings your plants to life as tiny companions with their own strengths and weaknesses. Other plant types make nourishment or special items for your fledgling creatures, and you can take them into battle. But this game is cute as a button in every aspect, so combat is handled through a dance competition. All of this is wrapped up in a charming art style and with cheeky writing. Ooblets is due on PC and Xbox One this year, and it's going to be a real life-eater--especially if it ever comes to Nintendo Switch. | Steve Watts

Pode (Switch)

Pode is a beautiful, soothing, adorable puzzle game about a rock helping an alien star find its way home. You can control both characters at once in single-player or play the whole game in co-op, helping the two characters interact in order to make your way through the gorgeous world.

"Pode" in Norwegian refers to the act of two plants joining together to become one; it's also a cute word used by Norwegian families when talking to or about their children. The two meanings tell you everything you need to know about this game's wholesome nature. It also contains an exquisite soundtrack from Journey and Assassin's Creed Syndicate composer Austin Wintory.

From what I played, Pode is shaping up to be a gorgeous and heartfelt experience, and I can't wait to play the full game on Nintendo Switch. | Oscar Dayus

Satisfactory (PC)

The next game from the creators of Goat Simulator is nothing like that wacky, over-the-top game. You play as an engineer who goes out into the world to find resources to create "Project Assembly," which is a machine with a "mysterious purpose." Satisfactory is a factory-building simulator presented from a first-person perspective, which is different in the building sim genre. The game bears visual similarities to No Man's Sky, but there is no procedural generation. There is just one big, big planet that is 30 square kilometers, and there is also multiplayer support and combat as well, which is new and unexpected for the building sim space. It's cool and exciting to see developers known for one thing do something completely unexpected. The game will launch with an alpha period, though no dates or details have been announced yet. | Eddie Makuch

Shadows: Awakening (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

At first glance, Shadows: Awakening can look like a traditional isometric single-player RPG, but it has some incredibly interesting gameplay dynamics that take it to the next level. You play as a demon who takes control of the souls of long-dead heroes. While you command those heroes to explore and battle in the land of the living, your demon who possesses them lives in the shadow world--you can instantly switch between the two parallel universes, something that's necessary to win certain battles, solve puzzles, and get the best loot.

Shadows: Awakening takes a lot of the fun and appeal of multiplayer online battle arena games and brings it to a single-player, story-driven RPG with real-time party combat. There are tons of characters to play, more than 120 skills with which to customize your party's abilities, and 70 locations to explore. The developers say they want to inspire adventure, encouraging players to explore both the land of the living and the shadow realm (and using the two together) to find the best loot and discover the secrets of the world they've created. It's an exciting prospect to see a party-based RPG of this scale with real-time combat, all in a single-player experience. | Patrick Faller

Strange Brigade (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Strange Brigade is a co-op third-person shooter from Sniper Elite developer Rebellion. Set in 1930s Egypt, it has you raiding tombs and mowing down supernatural creatures--ghouls, zombies, and more gruesome monsters--using both standard-issue guns and an array of more inventive abilities. Slain enemies drop blue soul-like orbs that you collect to power your magical amulet, which can be equipped with deadly flamethrower and electricity powers. There's also numerous traps to trigger, such as spinning blades and spike pits, to aid you in your fight.

Strange Brigade lacks the polish of a AAA title, but there's something satisfying about being able to fry a dozen enemies in one go, and the game's bright, vaguely steampunky aesthetic and irreverent script help it stand out. It's coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 28, and I can't wait to see more. | Oscar Dayus

Transference (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Transference is a new game from Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood's film company SpectreVision and Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft. A deeply unsettling game made for VR (but also playable on standard platforms), Transference tells the story of a father who uploads his consciousness and that of his wife and son to the cloud. Something goes wrong and the data gets corrupted. Things get weird from there. The game lets you play from each family member's perspective. What's most interesting is that you might start the game questioning one of the character's motivations and mindset, but when you play as the others, you begin to feel empathy for their situation. And this messes with your head in some surprising ways. Transference launches this fall for VR platforms, as well as Xbox One, PS4, and PC. | Eddie Makuch

Tunic (PC, Xbox One)

Tunic's appearance during Microsoft's Xbox press conference at E3 2018 tells you everything you need to know about this adorable adventure game. In a beautiful isometric world that evokes the best of The Legend of Zelda, you control a courageous fox on a grand adventure.

I was immediately drawn in by Tunic's astoundingly cute art style and graphics, not to mention its nostalgia-inducing soundtrack. But after playing it, I feel confident that it's going to deliver on the gameplay front as well. Tunic feels like classic Zelda, with a touch of things more modern, like the maneuverability of Hyper Light Drifter and the playfulness of Fez. Just look at the cryptic, unreadable text in the E3 trailer--whatever language that is, it's present within the game as well, and it makes actions as simple as picking up a sword feel fun and mysterious.

In development by Andrew Shouldice and presented by Finji, Tunic is set for an exclusive release on Xbox One and Windows PC. And it's one I can't wait to check out again. | Mike Rougeau

What The Golf? (PC)

Right from the beginning, you discover that What The Golf? isn't really about playing golf. In the opening level, where you line up a putt on the green, the character--not the ball--is immediately flung from their shooting position towards the goal. You move onto the next stage right after. Referred to as an "anti-golf game for people who hate golf" by its developers, What The Golf? is a bizarre yet oddly endearing take on the idea of golf, but heavily recontextualized throughout stages that take a very loose and sometimes very literal approach to what golfing is.

What The Golf? is, as strange as this sounds, a puzzle-golf game designed through the whimsical and stylized lense of Katamari Damacy. Whether driving a golf club down the fairway, guiding a soccer ball past a group of rowdy kids, or even relocating an entire house to another space, your goal is to simply get the object to the goal post. In stranger cases, you're controlling a mound of dirt and transporting it into a large hole in the shape of the number one--a literal hole in one--or controlling a character in a platforming game. And just when you think it couldn't get any weirder, it tosses in stages parodying other games like Super Mario Bros., Portal, and even Superhot--complete with time-bending gunplay.

Playing What The Golf? had me repeatedly scratching my head, but always in a good way. The stranger it got, the more I respected how far it went with its weirdness. Expected to release later this year on PC, this quirky and always bizarre puzzle-golfing game never ceased to surprise me with just how far off the deep end it went. | Alessandro Fillari

Where Cards Fall (Mobile, PC)

Where Cards Fall is an isometric puzzler that takes its title both figuratively and literally. The game ostensibly revolves around manipulating and resizing stacks of cards to create platforms that can be traversed, but beneath the surface, it tells the coming-of-age story of a high schooler coping with the pressures and uncertainty of adolescence.

While the aforementioned cards are primarily used to navigate through the game's levels, they aren't simply a means of solving puzzles; they also form the buildings that in-game characters live in. Splay a stack out long enough and it'll pop up into a house that you can enter. We only got a glimpse of this in our brief hands-on time with the game, but it's a novel concept that is expanded upon as players create different types of buildings and interact with their occupants.

The underlying gameplay in Where Cards Fall is also clever and satisfying. It begins simply enough, tasking you with moving a stack and expanding it until it's large enough to allow you to cross a gap, but it quickly introduces additional stacks that you must expand, jump on, and rearrange as you work your way through a level. Where Cards Fall doesn't yet have a release date, but the game is coming to iOS devices, PC via Steam, and Apple TV. | Kevin Knezevic

World War Z (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Licensed video games might not be as popular or as prevalent as they once were, but Saber Interactive's zombie game based on the Brad Pitt movie World War Z looks promising. The four-player co-op game is set in the universe of the film but does not follow the film's story. Instead, it tells an entirely new narrative featuring four survivors who must band together to survive waves of zombies in a variety of environments, including the New York City train line and lush jungles. I played a 20-minute demo of one of the chapters and found the shooting tight and responsive. Additionally, the brutal melee attacks--I had a firefighter's axe--are a good way to clear out zombies when you get surrounded. And it feels satisfying. World War Z is due out in early 2019 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. | Eddie Makuch

from GameSpot

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