That was a truly great show. With no caveats, Xbox came through with this show.
Look, it’s no secret I have been extremely down on Xbox for a while now. I appreciate the hardware and services, and even a lot of the ecosystem initiatives, but with great new games for the platform slowing down to a crawl outside of third party multi platforms, it’s been hard to stay engaged or positive with Xbox for me. But this show really changed a lot.
The core thing here is that this was just a great show overall. The pacing was excellent, with it mostly being a bunch of trailers thrown together in seemingly random order, meaning there were no interruptions, very few interjections meant to segue into the next part of the show, none of that (well, with the exception of the Starfield portion, but we’ll get to that later). It was just, trailer after trailer after trailer. And while some of the trailers did disappoint me a little (I am a huge Fable fan, but them not showing any gameplay for it really bummed me out), on the whole, everything was at least very intriguing, and at best flat out fantastic.
Clockwork Revolution is inXile’s new project, and that looks fantastic, with a great steampunk setting and a doubling down on the concentrated dose of RPG mechanics that fans love about their games, but now backed with a seemingly substantial budget (leading to a bump in production values); we got another look at Hellblade 2, and the visuals of the game (confirmed to be running in real time on a Series X) really further sell the title’s “next gen visuals” pitch; Massive’s Star Wars game was revealed, and it looks great as well (I am really looking forward to the gameplay reveal on Ubisoft’s show); Dontnod’s next project, Jusant, looks incredibly great, with some extremely meditative gameplay paired with their penchant for fantastic but relatable storytelling; RGG Studio gave us the first real look at Like A Dragon 8 (now titled Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth), which seems to be doubling down on the shenanigans that new protagonist Ichiban gets into; Capcom announced a brand new IP, which looks like Onimusha but isn’t Onimusha; indie games came through with new games announced from the developers of The Banner Saga (which looked great); we got another look at Forza, we got a great new Sea of Thieves expansion that crosses over with Monkey island, Compulsion announced South of Midnight, Starfield got its most intriguing trailer yet ahead of the dedicated segment at the end of the show, and they even announced a new Xbox Series S model with more storage and a new all-black color.
It was, truly, a great show. Amazing pacing, great games, almost all of which showed very well, little to no padding, and a very healthy mix and diversity of games – multiple genres across the board, loads of great third party games, loads of excellent first party games (most of which had convincing showings with gameplay, and at least a release window attached, meaning they were by definition more substantive than Xbox first party announcements in the past such as Everwild or Perfect Dark, which feel premature and don’t materialize for years), updates for existing games, new showings for previously announced upcoming games, completely new announcements, big budget games, indie games, western games, new IP, sequels, this show truly and across the board had it all. It was one of the best shows in years, and is exactly what Xbox needed at the moment to start to turn the conversation around the brand around. I am so overall impressed with this show, I very honestly have little to nothing to complain about.
And that brings us to Starfield.
Starfield got its own dedicated segment towards the end of the show, the better part of an hour long (almost as long as the rest of the Xbox show by itself). It was intended to give us a very deep dive look at the game, so that players could finally understand how the game, which has not so far had the most convincing showings, would be coming together.
And it… looks…
It looks amazing. Everything about it looks fantastic and doubling down on all the best qualities of Bethesda’s best games. The staggering attention to detail in object modelling and backstory and lore, to maximize the immersion in the world; the doubling down on RPG mechanics, after Fallout 4 misguidedly started to dilute them a little too much. These RPG mechanics in turn seem to facilitate player authored and emergent gameplay, with not only a vast variety of builds supported (my test for the depth of RPG mechanics in any WRPG is – is a pure speech/pacifist build possible? And from the looks of things, it looks like it very much will be in Starfield), but also new mechanics such as traits and origin stories to further add more variety to the mix. The worlds seem stunning and imaginative (if still a little more grounded than I ideally would have liked), the exploration and discovery seems to be on par with Bethesda’s best efforts, and the overall emphasis and possibility for emergent gameplay and dynamic discovery seems like it will all be there. Tears of the Kingdom has staked its claim to the Game of the Year throne early this year, but Starfield looks like it will pose a credible threat to that claim – which is incredibly high praise.
Honestly, I don’t have anything bad to say. It all looked great. It was a great show across the board on every front, and starting with 2024 (it looks like Starfield and Forza will be our only first party Xbox games for the remainder of the year), it looks like Xbox will be looking at a good cadence of great first party games, which is exactly what it needed all along. The third party announcements were amazing, and Starfield itself looks like a true GOTY contender.
I’m on board. Xbox did great. Welcome back.
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