The most exciting games of not-E3 so far

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With E3 cancelled, there was no reason to cram half of the year’s game announcements into a week-long shouting match. Instead, reveals are being spread across the summer. So far, EA and Sony have run livestreams, our own PC Gaming Show returned, and some new showcases have cropped up, including a one-off from CD Projekt to show us more of Cyberpunk 2077.

Even after all that, we’re only about halfway through what would normally constitute an E3. Microsoft still hasn’t taken its turn, and Ubisoft has a stream coming up, too. We’ll update this article as more shows happen, but for now, here’s what we like most from the not-E3 summer game reveals so far—with a bias toward newly announced games and substantial reveals. (We know Skate 4 is happening, for example, but almost nothing about it.)

Star Wars: Squadrons

The last thing I expected from EA’s Star Wars output was a genuine successor to the X-Wing and TIE Fighter flight sims of the ’90s, but here we are. Squadrons looks like a beautiful update of those games, with the most critical sim elements intact. It’s first-person cockpit view only. You have to manage power to weapons and engines and shields as you fly. There’s no convenient targeting reticle making it easy to land your shots. There’s even a story to augment the 5v5 multiplayer, which is its main focus. This is exactly the kind of Star Wars game we want to see on PC. —Wes Fenlon

Mortal Shell

Grimdark fantasy. Methodical melee combat. There’s no dancing around it: Mortal Shell‘s Dark Souls influences are clear and acknowledged by the developer. But Mortal Shell is prettier than the usual Dark Souls-inspired game and comes with a fascinating class system. You play as a nude ghost that possesses the bodies of dead warriors and pilots them mech-style. The more you use one of these mortal shells (hey!) the more you can expand its skillset. In practice, being a nude ghost is especially rad because you can flit in and out of the shells mid-combo during combat. Doing so puts you at risk (ghosts don’t have much HP, turns out), but the concept gives me some assurance that combat won’t just be the usual circle-strafe dance we’ve seen in every Soulslike in existence. 

Mortal Shell is made by a pretty tiny team, so we’re expecting a slim, focused game and not a big 40-hour RPG. But I’m curious to see how an action-exploration game feels with that kind of restraint. Is it enough room for interesting and subversive level design to stretch out? Or will Mortal Shell stick to challenging duels in pretty environments? Either way, I hope Mortal Shell finds its own identity in that smaller space. It screams Dark Souls, openly, from tip to toe, but I want to know what other noises this shiny thing makes. —James Davenport

Icarus

Despite its many issues, and the fact that Dean Hall left Bohemia before it was completed, DayZ is still one of my favorite games. So I’m eager to see what Icarus, the co-op survival game being developed by Rocketwerkz, is all about. I’m intrigued by the idea of a game split between the surface of a primitive world and a futuristic space station, and a session-based take on survival feels like an interesting hook. I still have a lot of questions, especially how the free-to-play Icarus is going to make money (how many cosmetic spacesuits does the average astronaut need) but I’m looking forward to learning more before it’s released next year. —Chris Livingston

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077‘s dialogue still sounds like stock videogame ruffian banter to me:

  • “Ready to get your cherry popped? Yea-heah-heah! C’mon!”
  • “But if you got the cojones, and know how to use ’em, you can do damn near anything.”
  • “It goes without saying, we do this on the hush. Ideally, no bodies, not-a-one.” 
  • “Don’t you worry mi amor, we’re bullet proof.”

I don’t love it, but I trust Andy’s judgment of actually playing Cyberpunk: “If the rest of the city is as dense, layered, and brimming with distractions as this [district], Cyberpunk 2077 is going to devour a large chunk of my life. And I’m going to let it.”

The appeal for him was the thoroughness of Night City’s rendering—right down to the magazine covers on display in a seedy shop—and I’m down to explore a meticulous simulation like that, even if everyone in it sounds like they’re just out of Videogame Character College. —Tyler Wilde

Gloomwood

You can find Gloomwood‘s Steam page by going to thiefwithguns.com, which says it all really. Here’s 1998 stealth game Thief: The Dark Project, only with a revolver and a shotgun. It’s still a game of crouch-walking and leaning around corners, and when I played the demo those guns didn’t save me from getting killed by weird animal-people in the sewers. You can even lean against doors to hear what’s on the other side, just like in Thief 2. That’s authenticity. —Jody Macgregor

Valheim

This survival game exists in a flux state between ugly and pretty. On first viewing, I thought the low-poly characters looked old and unattractive. On second viewing, they grew on me—ugly triangle Vikings, why not? And when the camera pulls out, the secluded green glades and seascapes look lovely. What makes Valheim exciting to me is the sense of spaciousness and freedom I get from our early look. In the PC Gaming Show trailer above, we see house building and monster chases, but also quiet hunting trips and lonely camping expeditions. —Tyler Wilde

Deathloop

The Dishonored games were great, Prey was very good, and getting trapped in a time loop is just one of those premises that is immediately intriguing. So I’m down with Arkane’s Deathloop, which stars an assassin trapped on an island, desperately trying to break the time loop by killing 8 targets before the day ends and the whole thing repeats. It looks stylish as hell, and the twist is that another player can invade your game as a rival assassin who wants to keep the time loop intact. By killing you. Assassins, loops, game-invasions, weird-ass islands. There’s nothing about those words I don’t like. —Chris Livingston

Everspace 2

I never played the first Everspace, but Everspace 2 immediately grabbed my attention. It’s a gorgeous, open-world dogfighting space sim where you roam solar systems, trade goods, upgrade your ship, and shoot a lot of bad guys. That’s not exactly the most original idea—Rebel Galaxy Outlaw did it years ago along with maybe a dozen other games—but Everspace 2 is snappy and its promise of near-infinite ship customization options is certainly exciting. And, hell, I’m just excited to blow up more stuff in space. I played a bit of the demo on Steam, and enjoyed the cool gadgets that come with different ship types, like EMP pulses. —Steven Messner

Fights in Tight Spaces

Fights in Tight Spaces is a deck building roguelike where you have to beat up a group of bad guys in a confined space. Each turn, you’re provided a handful of cards that have helpful conflict resolution abilities like Shove, Split Kick and Suplex, each of which play out in stylish animated cutscenes. I look forward to seeing how each fight plays out, and how much room there is for clever tactics that take advantage of each locale’s specific layout. —Jorge Jimenez

Hitman 3

We know very little about Hitman 3 right now, except for one very important detail: It is Hitman. More of it. For me, that’s enough. As weird as 2016 Hitman’s episodic release schedule was, it was still an incredible way to rejuvenate the series—fixing many of the mistakes of the previous Absolution. Hitman 2 was better still: larger, denser, and full of fun ways to dispatch your targets. I’ll happily take some more.

This is, according to IO, the end of a Hitman trilogy—the culmination of a story I’ve mostly ignored in favour of sandbox stealth fun. IO has already stated it will be ‘darker’ in tone to previous games, which does prompt me to raise an eyebrow. The slapstick silliness of the series’ murder sandboxes is a big part of the appeal. Hopefully this sequel will retain that charm, and avoid the temptation to prioritise the story over what makes the series so special. —Phil Savage

No Place for Bravery

As soon as I saw the protagonist run inside a decaying giant’s mouth, I knew I wanted to play the pixelated bloodbath that No Place for Bravery appears to be. It tells the grim tale of an old soldier who is on a bloody quest to find his daughter in a world inspired by Norse mythology. I’m a big fan of Children of Morta, and No Place for Bravery was giving me the same dark, story-driven vibes. —Rachel Watts

Nuts

I get that setting up cameras to watch squirrels might not fit a lot of people’s definition of exciting, but those people are wrong. Squirrels are up to something in Melmoth Forest, and with a small camper as your HQ, you use video cameras to record them and then scrub through the footage to track and catalogue these furry little devils. Nuts is wonderfully physical as you print out photos, fax them to your boss, and arrange them on a corkboard to puzzle over the squirrels’ behavior. The demo was excellent and I’m incredibly eager to play the full game next year. —Chris Livingston

Solasta: Crown of the Magister

I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons since the 1980s when there was just Basic and Advanced to choose from, but I’ve recently been diving into 5th edition to learn the new (to me) rules. So it was especially fun to try the demo of Solasta, which licenses the D&D 5.1 ruleset, and see those rules in action. The demo was rough in a lot of ways, particularly the camera controls, but the UI is super easy to use and both the combat and interactions with the environments felt great. It feels like it could be a great alternative to playing D&D during those times when you can’t get together with your friends. —Chris Livingston 

Baldur’s Gate 3

Every time Baldur’s Gate 3 comes up in our work chat, we fight over the merits of turn-based combat as compared to real-time-with-pause. I am of the opinion that discreet turns are obviously the superior style of combat. Turns remove guesswork that doesn’t need to be there in the first place, so that every aspect of timing and positioning can be accounted for, and bad pathfinding will never screw up a plan. Either go full action RPG like The Witcher 3, or give me the luxurious, clearly defined turns of Divinity: Original Sin 2, I say. 

All that is to say: Hell yeah, look at the turn-based (aka correct) Baldur’s Gate 3 D&D combat above. —Tyler Wilde

Those are our favorites so far. What has caught your eye? Let us know in the comments!