Every year our list of favorite video game experiences is filled more and more with various indie titles. E3 2019 is a great showcase for some of the many indie titles coming out this year and beyond, and these are some of titles that have caught our eye during the convention.

Be sure to come back to this list, as we’ll be updating it throughout the convention.

Cat Lady

Platform(s): TBD
Developer: Rose City Games
Release: TBD

The makers of The World Next Door have turned their eyes on something more cutesy and diabolically delightful. Cat Lady follows the adventures of one young girl in a haunted house as she and her army of cats fend off a legion of ghosts. Inspired by The Binding of Issac, the tough as nails roguelike gameplay loop proves that this adventure has more going for it than some lovely visuals and a killer soundtrack.

Embr

Platform(s): PC
Developer: Muse Games
Release: 2020 (Early Access Available Now)

Embr imagines a world where Firefighters have been Uberized, with civilians able to call upon you to come rescue them and then leave mediocre reviews complaining about it was fine you saved their lives but a real firefighter would have saved the house. Modern dark humor collides with funny mechanics, as you storm into houses, breaking windows, chopping down doors, and fighting fires to rescue ungrateful victims screaming their heads off or trapped on the toilet.

For anyone who loves the biting and fantastical humor of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, Embr is worth checking out.

No Straight Roads

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Developer: Metronomik
Release: Early 2020

Not every music-focused game is about hitting notes that come flying at you. No Straight Roads is a stylish action/adventure game is from new studio Metronomik, but it revolves around the power of music. The gameplay and soundtrack taps into the innate sense of rhythm everyone has; the music might serve as a cue for when to dodge an attack, or even as a storytelling device to indicate when a boss might be especially weak or powerful. We saw an impressive fight against a DJ that escalated from a small club to a cosmic battleground, with the two heroes (the game can be played co-op) dodging planets and firing notes – all while the cool and dynamic soundtrack kept the action alive.

Rawmen

Platform(s): PC
Developer: Animal
Release: TBD

Described by its developers as “Tony Hawk meets Splatoon,” this hilarious and colorful take on deathmatch, throws several apron-wearing, scantily clad dudes in an arena and demands that they duke it out by hurling great globs of soup at one another. The action is chaotic, with items like fish you can slap your foes with to KO them instantly and hot sauce to strengthen your attacks, making Rawmen live up to the surreal quality its punny name inspires. 

Its developer says that the company is currently seeking funding for the game and might turn to crowdfunding in the future, so if the game’s colorful visuals or goofy concept entice you, be sure to keep a lookout on the game’s web page here.

Samurai Gunn 2

Platform(s): Switch, PC
Developer: Teknopants
Release: 2020

The first Samurai Gun thrilled multiplayer enthusiasts with its fast-paced Towerfall-like action, with every player dying in one of a katana or bullet. The second game looks to expand upon the virtues of the first with better art, more maps, and a single-player mode. We played the versus mode at E3 and came away impressed by how satisfying it was to dash through swings of the katana to land your own fatal blow with your gun and your sword.

Spiritfarer

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC, Other Platforms
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Release: 2020

The concept of shepherding the dead to their final destination may seem morbid, but the souls in Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus (Sundered) pass their legacy onto you via their stories, making their final passage peaceful and joyful. The physical act of transporting them involves adding sections to your boat, which also lets you fish, grow food, and other activities as you traverse the map. Stella and her cat Daffodil (the game features two-player local co-op) travel to foreign lands, meeting new spirits, listening to their tales, and completing their transfer to the next world by helping with them via quests.

Totally Reliable Delivery Service

Platform(s): PC
Developer: We’re Five Games
Release: Summer

Hilarious physics and co-op mayhem combine in Totally Reliable Delivery Service, which has you and your friends teaming up to get various packages from one place to another. The controls are deliberately at the outer edges of precision, which leads to unpredictable situations and amusing outcomes as you try to keep your grip on your cargo. In order to make your deliveries quickly – and with minimal damage – you work together to operate vehicles (like carts and rockets), but it seems like even the best-constructed strategies are always on the verge of devolving into chaos.

We Met In May

Platform(s): PC
Developer: Nina Freeman, Jake Jefferies, Ryan Yoshikami
Release: September

We Met In May tells the story of a developing relationship through a series of short vignettes that capture the romance, humor, and occasional embarrassment of being in love. This personal project comes from developers Nina Freeman (whose previous work includes Tacoma and Cibele), Jake Jefferies, and Ryan Yoshikami. The vignettes are inspired by moments in Freeman and Jefferies’ real-life relationship, like a day at the beach where you play around in the sand and dump out Sun Chips, or the awkwardness of a messy apartment when you show someone your apartment for the first time. Though the characters and locations are very specific, the sentiments being expressed feel surprisingly universal and relatable.

When Tales if Arise was announced at Microsoft’s Xbox conference, fans of the series experienced a moment of exhilaration and then hours to days of concerned questions. Ever since the reveal, which showed a more technologically advanced Tales game than the previous titles, fans had been wondering exactly how this title is going to change up a fairly traditional series.

We sat down with Yusuke Tomizawa, the new producer of the Tales series after Hideo Baba left the company, to discuss the newest Tales game. Tomizawa himself had a sticker of Sans from Undertale on his laptop, a game which he professes a fandom for. It has been a few years Tales of Berseria, which crossed generations with both a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 version, making Tales of Arise the first game in the series completely untethered to the previous generation and built solely for modern hardware. In the trailer, it looked like the game might be leveraging that technology for an open world RPG similar to games like Xenoblade X or The Witcher 3. Not so, according Tomizawa.

While screenshots and the initial trailer somewhat suggested an open world title, the structure of Tales of Arise is similar to other Tales games. Tomizawa pointed out that the reveal trailer had no UI, so suspicions about a lack of world map are not correct.

However, that does not mean everything is staying as it is. Tomizawa would not go into details about the battle system, but he did say that he plans to do exciting new things with it in Arise. When I mentioned the Linear Motion Battle System, he said there wouldn’t be too many changes to its core formula, as he wanted the Tales audience to find comfort in the game’s systems as well.

The subject of audiences was further discussed with Tomizawa, who explained that he wants to grow the Tales series with the western audience. A debut for Arise, and last year’s Vesperia Definitive Edition, at Microsoft’s E3 conferences was no coincidental. It gives Bandai Namco a chance to debut the title on a western stage and detail it immediately after at Japan’s Tales Festa. It allows them to cover their bases for marketing to the game’s multiple audiences while also trying to grow it.

Tomizawa clarified that Arise has two themes: inheritance and evolution, though he said explaining this would be a spoiler for the rest of the game. The main character was an imprisoned slave and the female heroine lives in a country that is warring with the protagonist’s kingdom. Unlike Tales of Xillia, you do not pick from two different main characters, it is one story told with the enslaved swordsman.

Bandai Namco was not willing to talk about other party members yet, but did say you could expect a size similar to other games in the series.

Tales of Arise is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2020.

At a one minute and 30 seconds long, it doesn’t seem like it’s the full theme that will be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate later this year alongside Banjo-Kazooie as a playable fighter, but it’s always exciting to hear new Smash Bros. arrangements. We heard this song during Banjo-Kazooie’s announcement trailer, but it’s nice to have it standalone without all those messy sound effects on top.

Click here to watch embedded media

For more on Banjo-Kazooie in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, head here and here.

[Source: Smash Bros.]

Pokémon Go Fest just kicked off in Chicago’s Grant Park, and trainers are currently working through way through a nine-mission quest that concludes with an encounter with Jirachi. This year’s Pokémon Go Fest runs from Thursday to Sunday, but a player can only participate for one day. This means if you play today, you can’t go back to the park to catch the event-specific Pokémon on Saturday.

The course that trainers will be exploring is much larger than last year, yet is once again themed with regions filled with Pokémon you’d find in those habitats. Trainers are reporting that shiny Abra is spawning at the park, and shiny Horsea is also out in full force. A special flower crown Pikachu is there, and the Unown on hand reportedly spell out WAKE UP. The only regional Pokémon spawning is supposedly Pachirisu.

I’ll be on hand at the Fest throughout the weekend and will update you on the quest and other Pokémon I encounter. Happy catching, everyone!

We recently had the chance to go hands-on with MachineGames’ upcoming Wolfenstein title, Youngblood. During our session, we learned that the game would have microtransactions, with the player able to buy cosmetics as well as weapon upgrades and attachments with real world money if they choose.

MachineGames was explicit in saying that you could get these items with in-game currency and that spending real world money would just speed up the process to acquiring them. The closest comparison one may draw is to Ubisoft’s progress enhancers microtransactions in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Far Cry 5.

You can read our full impressions of our time with Youngblood here.

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Machine Games
Release: July 26, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Reader, I love Wolfenstein. I love it to the point that it’s a running joke among my colleagues. I’m an absolute fanatic for MachineGames’ version of the franchise, where resistance fighters take on insurmountable odds as they seek to topple an evil empire in an alternate timeline where the Nazis won World War II. I know the lore and every level of The New Order, The Old Blood, and The New Colossus like the back of my hand.

When Youngblood was announced at last year’s E3, I was intrigued by the concept of playing as BJ’s twin daughters in a co-op adventure that takes place after the events of The New Colossus. At this year’s E3, I got to play an hour of Youngblood, which finds Jess and Soph Blazkowicz fighting Nazis in Reich-occupied France during the ’80s. 

I came away from my time with the impression that Youngblood challenges and tweaks a lot of my favorite things about Machinegames’ Wolfenstein series, and I’m not on board with a lot of them (at least within the context of my hour of gameplay).

So let’s talk about what works and what doesn’t.

The Universe Is Still Gripping

MachineGames has created one of the most dour and engaging settings in a modern first-person shooter, where a cast of complex characters fights to make the world a better place while struggling not to fall apart in the process. BJ and Anya are one of the few couples in games where their creators approach their relationship with poignancy and realism; they acknowledge the pair’s emotional and sexual attraction to one another and explore how that changes over time. The series also goes to great lengths diving into the traumatic mentalities of those suffering under oppressive systems and how they find joy and delight in small yet vital interactions with friends and loved ones.

Youngblood continues that tradition of deep characterization with a long cutscene that does a great job of contrasting the differences in personality between Jess and Soph. Sure, they’re both jubilant killing machines when it comes to Nazis, but their interactions thus far do a great job in making each feel like they’re their unique own character as opposed to just a model swap. Jess is the more confident and brash of the two, while Soph is often anxious, but cautious and tactical. They also seem to have resentment and jealously issues regarding their parents as well as a competitive streak.

As far as storytelling goes, there was a lot to mine in the brief time I had, and even more enticing unanswered questions lay over the horizon concerning the fates of characters from The New Colossus and the state of the world in Youngblood.

I Don’t Like The Combat

There’s this moment early on in The New Colossus where you first get the rotor-operated shotgun and then proceed to run down a hall in a train, blasting into a line of Nazis pouring out of their rooms, decking the halls with what’s left of them. To me, this is what defines Wolfenstein’s action: You are a constantly moving tornado of death, sucking up and ripping anything that comes at you to pieces.

Youngblood goes in the opposite direction. Enemies now have lifebars and level numbers floating above their heads. A lot of them, from the lowly grunts to the Supersoldaten are bullet sponges compared to their counterparts in previous games. During my demo, I had to blow through an entire magazine of shells to kill a single medium-tier grunt (most of my shots being up-close headshots).

There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with ideas or changing up a facet of a series. However, much of the reason I love Wolfenstein’s combat is that it eschews the RPG-lite mechanics of shooter looters like Destiny, Borderlands, and The Division. Youngblood’s hard pivot to that rigid design bums me out, and I did not enjoy a single moment of it during the demo.

The Leveling System Is Wonky (But Promising)

Machinegames’ take on Wolfenstein has always had a slight smidge of RPG with its perk system. In the three previous games, you unlocked permanent buffs and inventory-slot increases by reaching certain milestones (killing a certain number of enemies with grenades will allow you to carry more, for example). In Youngblood, the perk system has been replaced with a more traditional skill tree and leveling system. You kill Nazis, you gain experience, you unlock skill points that let you buy abilities.

On paper, this sounds like a pretty cool idea. However, the execution of it (thus far) is uneven. Alongside some stat buffs, a number of the early abilities you can unlock in Youngblood are things you could already do in every previous Wolfenstein game, like dual-wielding weapons. Having to grind to unlock abilities you should already be able to perform from the outset isn’t fun. Hopefully the later skills in the tree actually give you more novel powers and advantages so that they feel like rewards worth pursuing instead of gated content I resent.

The Co-Op Elements Seem Forced So Far

To be fair to the experience I had, I played my demo with a co-op buddy not well versed in first-person shooters. A lot of the dourness of my experience can be chalked up to having to constantly revive someone who struggled with the combat during that session. A co-op session with a good friend or something else who understands the importance of communication and is skilled at shooters could dramatically improve my enjoyment of the experience.

However, outside of that experience, there are things on a design level that just aren’t great. Similar to Left 4 Dead, there are segments where players have to work together to get past a gated area. Sometimes that means hitting two switches. Other times, it means fanning out to search for a floppy disc containing the key code you need for the door blocking you from progressing. These moments felt like chores more than anything else.

Hopefully the final version has fewer of these segments.

There Are Microtransactions

During the game, you collect currency that you can use to buy outfits for Jess and Soph, including suit colors and various helmets. You can buy gold bars with real-world money if you don’t want to waste time looking around for the in-game currency. For a game that’s never been particularly invested in fashion, it does seem like an odd enticement for players to spend money. Players can also buy weapon upgrades and attachments if they don’t want to spend so long looking for those upgrades, meaning that microtransactions do extend pass cosmetics.

I’m Still Hopeful

A lot of what I’ve said here might sound like I’m coming down on the changes that Youngblood are making to the series rather hard. I don’t do it in the spirit of someone grumpy that one of his favorite games is changing, but instead because I think a lot of what I saw are questionable design choices that directly impacted how enjoyable my experience was. All of that said, I still think there’s a lot of potential with that skill tree (if the later skills are powerful) and the dullness of the spongy combat is probably lessened if you have a bud along for the ride. The bits of story I’ve seen have also suggested that, if nothing else, the story here will be an interesting continuation of where The New Colossus left things.

For more on Wolfenstein, check out our review of The New Colossus here.

During Microsoft’s E3 press conference, at the end of its Gears 5 presentation, it teased a crossover with the Terminator franchise by showing one of the titular robots holding Gears of War’s iconic chainsaw lancers, but it didn’t offer many other additional details.

Appearing on The Game Informer show, however, Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson offered a few more details. The Terminator content will be called the Terminator: Dark Fate Pack (to coincide with the film) and it will include the T-800 (with a small redesign which you can see with the lights on the chest above), and Sarah Connor who will be voiced by Linda Hamilton. Fergusson says he will be recording with Hamilton in about two weeks from the time of recording, and she will probably do a lot of yelling.

You can watch the full Terminator/Gears 5 chat below. For hands-on impressions for Gears 5 at E3, head here.

Click here to watch embedded media

Click here to watch embedded media

We’ve got two days of E3 to catch up on, so today’s recap encompasses the Nintendo Direct, Dr. Disrespect’s Dr. Dishonorable discharge and more. Please enjoy this video cowritten by Jeff Cork! It was a blast to make as always, and I’d like to remind you that it has no informational content whatsoever. Please only watch this if you like our sense of humor. Thanks everyone!

If you missed E3 this year, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a quick tour of all the sights and sounds of E3. Trust us, you’re better off not smelling this on. Without further adieu, here is what you missed from E3 2019.

Sega has a sport climbing wall, which is great, but the javelin throw did not go well.

The crowd for the Super Soul Bros. was pretty wild. Personally, I think they … sold out.

Sure, he looks cute, but right after this picture was taken, he started throwing poop. I’m not even sure it was his.

I tried to save these people from alien abduction by yelling “Watch out!” Sadly, they’re all dead now. To be fair, I whispered, “Watch out.”

Maybe this is the droid I’m looking for. Sorry, I’ve never seen Star Wars. Is this a good reference?

This is how Marvel Super Heroes was always meant to be played.

Good to see that Facebook isn’t resting on its laurels.

The Video Game History museum section was full of cool old books, but the movies were better.

Now, this is Fortnite!

Even Atari’s old educational games looked cool.

Oh, that’s where I parked.

We’ve finally started to run out of beloved properties. Now we’re bastardizing franchises that no one still cares about. 

You couldn’t bring pets into the show, but Capcom got to bring this emotional support dragon. Loophole!

I don’t know, you kids like Fortnite right. Here have more. Eat it until you DIE!

In this area, a bunch of giants got to play normal arcade cabinets.

A quick tour of the Konami booth.

Make mine Mako! This is the Square booth.

What are these idiots doing?

I’m so tired of the discussion around “Are sneakers art?”

A pretty good encapsulation of the game industry.

Nintendo had these rad dioramas based on Zelda. 

They’re cool I had to show more than one.

This man is my father.

Half of Nintendo’s booth was dressed up like a Pokémon gym. I killed a man here, but it’s okay because it was during the heat of battle.

For more coverage of E3, be sure to watch Leo Vader and Jeff Cork’s video recap of the show.