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Square Enix's First E3 Appearance in Years Makes a Splash

Zak Wojnar

Aqua with Evil Eyes in Kingdom Hearts 3.jpg


The last time Square Enix held an E3 press conference was in 2015. When it was announced they'd be returning after a three-year absence, fans got excited... Perhaps unreasonably so. After all, the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake was recently announced to be essentially rebooting its development cycle, so it was arguably unfair to expect that game to appear. Similarly, it proved to be way too early for a look at the upcoming Crystal Dynamics-developed Avengers title. Regardless, many were taken aback by the surprisingly short run time (only half an hour) of Square Enix's Nintendo Direct-style video presentation. Despite this, there were still some great nuggets of information and surprise announcements tucked away in the brief press briefing.


Shadow of the Tomb Raider


It's always tough to nail the ending of a trilogy, but we have faith that Crystal Dynamics can provide a satisfying conclusion to the origin story of Lara Croft, at least in terms of visuals and gameplay. While the story of the re-rebooted Tomb Raider games has proven divisive among lifelong fans of the franchise, few can complain about the winning mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, and engaging, cinematic combat offered by the new titles. And, of course, Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) is perfect as this version of Lara.


In addition to the return of Jonah from the previous two games in the form of some cutscene footage, the main hook of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider presentation was an extended gameplay demonstration which showed off the breathtaking graphics and enhanced stealth gameplay of the title. A closing sizzle reel featured all the high-adrenaline moments fans expect, including surprises like Lara battling a moray eel, swimming freely in underwater 3D environments, and – naturally – exploring tombs filled with ancient relics and priceless treasures.


Octopath Traveler


Square Enix's gorgeous Switch exclusive, Octopath Traveler, is nearing release. Described as an HD-2D game, Octopath Traveler combines the sprite-based work of SNES classics like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI and combines it with more realistically-styled backgrounds and distinctly modern post-processing and lighting effects. The final result is nothing less than striking, and it's easily one of the most distinct-looking games in recent memory. Hopefully it plays as well as it looks and offers deep RPG mechanics for all eight of its protagonists. We'll find out for sure when the title releases on July 13.


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Final Fantasy XIV


It's been nearly five years since the disastrous launch of Final Fantasy XIV was completely rectified with the game-changing release of A Realm Reborn. To this day, FFXIV is celebrated as a veritable phoenix which rose from the ashes of its own hubris as one of the hottest, most addictive MMORPGs on the market, and Square Enix is continuing to support the profitable powerhouse with a continuous outpour of new content for Eorzean explorers to devour.


They showed off two significant additions, the first of which is Patch 4.3, "Under the Moonlight," which offers a ton of new quests, a new raid, and assorted quality of life improvements. All in all, it's a pretty standard update, if still satisfying for ravenous XIV fans. The other new event is far more provocative: a crossover with Monster Hunter World. Level 70 players who have completed the Stormblood quest will be able to take on the task of hunting one of Monster Hunter's signature creatures, the fearsome Rathalos. Meanwhile, Monster Hunter World players will gain access to exclusive armor sets courtesy of a new hunt: Final Fantasy's signature recurring powerhouse summon, Bahamut. The crossover is expected to launch sometime this summer, but no dates have been announced yet.


The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit


Dontnod have been keeping busy. Between the recently-launched Vampyr and their upcoming Life is Strange Season 2 and the mysterious Twin Mirror, they are juggling a great many high-profile projects. While Life is Strange 2 was a no-show at E3, they instead offered an adjacent spin-off, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which expands the Life is Strange universe.


The new game stars Chris, a young boy with a vivid imagination, being raised by a single, widower father in Oregon. The trailer promises Life is Strange's signature mix of youthful whimsy and intimate characterization, though with perhaps a more childlike sense of wonder thanks to its ten-year-old protagonist. The biggest surprise about Captain Spirit is that it will be completely free when it launches on June 26.


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Dragon Quest XI


Japanese players have had their hands on Dragon Quest XI since last Summer, but the epic RPG adventure is finally jumping shores and gearing up to debut in the West. While the game initially released on both Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4, it seems only the PS4 version is making the leap to American and European shores, in addition to a PC port.


Nevertheless, the localization of DQXI is a huge win for JRPG fans. Worldwide, Dragon Quest is second only to Final Fantasy in terms of role-playing prestige, and the game has already sold over three million copies in Japan alone. Hopefully, the Western release, due out September 4, will be the breakthrough hit the series has long been seeking. Nier: Automata and Yakuza 0 proved to be surprise hits in the United States, so why shouldn't Dragon Quest XI follow in their illustrious footsteps? Oh, and by the way, the Nier sequel is making the jump to Xbox One X in the form of the "Become as Gods Edition," which includes the DLC and offers 4K enhancements.


Babylon's Fall


Platinum Games are always working on something new and different, and their latest project, Babylon's Fall, looks to be right in their wheelhouse... And by that, we mean it looks bonkers, full of dense lore, and impossibly kinetic action. Unfortunately, the trailer was purely CG and didn't appear to show anything from the actual game engine, so actual gameplay details are still unknown, but it's Platinum Games, so anything less than insane, over-the-top action spectacle would be way out of character for them. Still, the brief clip's focus on a historical timeline of lore suggests to us that Platinum are aiming to compete with the likes of Game of Thrones with their next game, which is due out on PS4 and Steam in 2019.


Kingdom Hearts III


The appearance of Kingdom Hearts III was hardly surprising during Square's press conference. However, its presence would have been more exciting if they hadn't announced the release date earlier in the week, and also released a nearly-identical trailer at the Microsoft Xbox press conference the day before. Basically, the Square Enix trailer was a rehash of the Xbox trailer, but with a couple of extra shots here and there, including the reveal of Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille, presumably as a summon character. 



Just Cause 4


There are few things more rewarding than causing ungodly levels or mayhem and destruction in a Just Cause game. Rico Rodriguez is back for Just Cause 4, which aims to be the most over-the-top entry yet. Boasting a new graphics engine and the most diverse setting yet seen in the acclaimed series, JC4 is aiming, like its predecessors, to be the open-world action game by which all others are judged. Our first reactions to the JC4 trailer can be found here.


The Quiet Man


Not much is known about The Quiet Man, other than the player character is more gorgeous than Cloud Strife and Squall Leonheart combined, and he has some sick hand-to-hand combat skills. The trailer incorporated live-action footage in addition to brief snippets of gameplay, but it's unclear if the New York City-based title will embrace a new-age FMV style, or if that was just a specially-shot sequence for the trailer. Square Enix, devilish teases as they are, promise more info is coming in August.




Overall, Square Enix's show was short, but sweet. They brought some cool surprises like Captain Spirit and the Final Fantasy XIV/Monster Hunter World crossover, as well as fleshed-out looks at big-budget action/adventure titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 4. Like any good presser, they also teased us with brief, provocative glimpses at unknown titles like The Quiet Man and Babylon's Fall. And, of course, there's a significant group of people who are beyond thrilled now that Dragon Quest XI has a Western release date... And we don't need to explain that any look at Kingdom Hearts III automatically puts this squarely in the "win" column.


How do you think Square Enix did with its E3 2018 showing? Let us know in the comments! You can watch the full press conference for yourself below. 



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