E3 2016 - Opening Strategy Round-Up14 Jun 2016 2
Another year, another E3. Pomp and corporate bristle as far as the eye can see. For the strategically-inclined, the opening salvo from the big guns hasn't exactly been rousing. As these events go, most of the interesting fare is hidden away on the main floor, so it's up to agents in the field to seek them out in the coming days. All is not lost, as I've rounded up E3's strategy showcases thus far from afar, and the results are pretty pleasing. So, lay off the live-tweeting and see what might move your mouse in the months ahead.
ArmA III: Apex
A verdant expansion for the military manshoot par excellence was unveiled in Arma III: Apex. Taking its leave of sun-bleached Mediterranean hills, Bohemia Interactive's next parcel of open-world hits the South Pacific. Tanoa, a 100 km² archipelago of leafy isles, inlets and spits. New faction Syndikat feature as the chain's insurgent forces, painted somewhere between Fretilin and FARC, with NATO, CSAT and a local gendarmerie contingent to keep things very, very interesting.
With an expanded cache of player equipment -- firearms and gear -- as well as an increased collection of military movers like VTOLs and LSVs, the touted four-player drop-in-drop-out co-op element looks to be a barrel of fun, or a hardened evening of whispers on the comms and furious hand-signals through monsoonal mist. Bohemia Interactive have done a great job with support and updates since 2013, and it looks like Apex will continue the tradition. Preorders will net prospective gun-jumpers instant access to the current Apex beta, so get oscar-mike if so inclined.
Halo Wars 2
Making good on the oft-trotted promise that Microsoft does still care about the PC, the sequel to a 2009 console exclusive RTS is thankfully hitting the beige box, along with a remastered copy of the original Halo Wars. Not bad. Under the combined development of Halo custodians 343 Industries and Creative Assembly, buzzwords flew at the E3 PC Gaming Show, including 'action RTS' and 'feedback', aiming to produce a strategy game with a welcoming low barrier to entry that's quick and easy to play. With a gameplay showcase and the reassuring candor of 343's Dan Ayoub, Halo Wars 2 looks pretty serviceable.
Snagging Halo Wars 2 on PC will also grant a free copy of the Xbox One version, which is mighty nice. If you do happen to own the Don Mattrick machine, go and give the free multiplayer beta a whirl and see what you think. It wouldn't be truly Microsoft if they didn't futz it up with the illogical decision to make the beta console-only, so switch on the 'Bone or wait for a potential PC invitational before launch on February 17, 2016.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III
The relentless vigor of Games Workshop cannot be suppressed, even under heavy bolter fire. Relic returns to the grimdark fray with the third in their immensely popular Dawn of War series. Taking bits and bobs from both the 2004 original, its 2009 sequel, and the plethora of expansions therein, Dawn of War III looks to drop the intimacy of its prior series' offerings and go for a more traditional RTS scale. I'd be branded a heretic for uttering I'm not a huge fan of the original or Dawn of War II, but the rough pre-alpha footage of this new effort has me intrigued. Perhaps there's chance for redemption in the eyes of the Emperor.
Dawn of War III is set for release sometime next year.
Finji's post-apocalyptic cannonball run received a tasty trailer for the juggernaut event, painting a tactical intimacy that seems at odds with the bread and circuses of our cherished expo. Overland appears, ahem, on the right track in selling FTL or Neo Scavenger in a Buick. Cataclysmic events have players roaming the great concrete veins of the American mid-West, looking for safe passage and surviving against what appears to be interloper insects the size of Mitsubishi Colts.
We've been tantalised by Overland for a while, and while both eschatological survive 'em ups are a growth industry, Overland's art and sense of self has me quietly anticipating its early access release on Itchio next month.
Capitalising on the king tides of MOBA, Dropzone is, to quote, a revolution in the RTS genre. Laughable hyperbole aside, there's something making me want to ruffle its hair and tell the scamp to do what makes it happy. If Dropzone can indeed get its aspirations as a quick-fire MOBA scrap shored up, then you never know! Players square off with a trio of mechs, each of which outfitted from a pool of a thousand-odd parts, in claustrophobic arenas not unlike those once found in the defunct Starvoid. Lots of AoE pizzaz, fast and low-fuss encounters; I'm cautiously optimistic Dropzone can carve out its niche and maintain a hold on the pocket MOBA quadrant. However, I also own Starvoid, a delisted pocket MOBA, so what do I know?
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Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord
Much like ArmA, a cursory glance at Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord would have a wargamer raise their world-weary eyebrow and wonder what the blazes a third-person medieval hack-and-slasher is doing here. But again, like ArmA, there's a lot going on with Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord. Complex combat, deep tactical systems, intricate development systems and a sort of rousing alternate history make up the experiential meat of TaleWorld's labour of love. From politics and diplomacy to army-building and battle formations, Bannerlord is looking to be the go-to medieval mercenary sim.
I'd recommend having a good gander at the extended siege gameplay footage for a fine taste of things to come. The massed multiplayer combat in the original was splendid, so all signs point to the sequel as being even more exciting. Mull your wine, oil your dirk and prepare for battle sometime later this year.
With any luck, we'll see a greater range of strategy and tactical offerings surface in the remainder of the expo. I'll keep an eye on the sky, an ear on the ground and a hand firmly on the heart. Stay tuned.