I have the pleasure of living near E3, so this year, IGN Entertainment chose me to help them with the MMO and RPG coverage for the vault. Therefore everything posted can be found at http://vault.ign.com, so please go check it out! Obviously they want the ad revenue from your clicks.

My buddy Brent has family that lives in the area, so I brought him along, crashed on his couch, and hit up the convention center all for the cost of parking…

After paying $30 for parking, our day began in Bethesda Software’s booth over at E3. Sure, our boss told us to cover MMOs, but how can someone walk past this amazing first- person shooter meets RPG game and not want to stop and play? Bethesda had a pretty closed off location in the corner of the showroom floor that was only available for viewing by appointment only, well for most companies. Of course, IGN walked right in and we got to view the new Fallout 3: New Vegas in all its glory.

Fallout 3

Everything you love about Fallout 3 remains the same. After all, who would remove things that have clearly been working since day one? Keep in mind that New Vegas is not an expansion. It is a complete stand-alone game that takes place three years after the previous Fallout 3, and does not have any of the same characters from the previous adventure.

Nonetheless, you still have your plethora of guns, and a few new ones to add to your arsenal. For players that enjoy the crafting aspect of the game, there are more powerful recipes available to whittle away the time. Our biggest complaint about the original Fallout 3’s gameplay was that the entire game seemed so short, but if you stop to smell the roses, and venture off the beaten path, then you are presented with some of the stuff that Fallout 3 does best, side-quests. We only got a few minutes of running around to really get a feel for this version, and to be honest, it felt a lot more like the same game with improvements than an actual new game. Nonetheless, for players looking to pick-up new content based on an award winning game, Fallout 3: New Vegas delivers.

Final Fantasy XIV

The Final Fantasy XIV character creation demo allowed for all 5 of the races to be created and customized down to a very detailed level. All 5 of the races should be familiar to players of Final Fantasy XI as the models are based off the same races. Elezen, Lalafell, Hyur, Roegadyn, and Miqo’te are the same as Elvan, Tarutaru, Hume, Galka, and Mithra respectively. Being the Final Fantasy XI player that I am, I first created a Lalafell (or Tarutaru). After selecting your race and gender, you are given an option of three general characters to use as a base to start the creation process. From there you can choose a multitude of customizable options ranging from avatar height to facial hair. I was able to adjust the hair color and styles, along with the height of my little guy, I made him the shortest that I could of course. This level of customization far exceeds any character creation from Final Fantasy XI, and was the first major difference between the games. This adds to the feel that this avatar is my owl, and while walking around in the world I didn’t get the feeling that I would be looking into a mirror as I often did in XI.

After the character creation, the developers made us stop playing for a few minutes while they logged into the next part of the demonstration. I was logged in to playable gladiator character, which started in a cave with the basic equipment needed to play the class. I was able to join a party with the player next to me and we were lead through the new questing system. We undertook a quest as a party that had us hunt down and kill a crab. The controls felt erringly similar to XI, with the exception of the mouse. I felt the mouse was able to play a more critical role in the targeting, which wasn’t a golden triangle above your targets head but rather three dots rotating in a circle on the body. After reaching our target I engaged and was able to perform a few special moves. The enmity system seems to be similar to that of XI, but as the crab ran low on heath it would flee down the cave to another set of crabs, which we would then have to battle. I noticed that while we were running I was able to sheath my sword and after a few seconds my health started to recover. That’s right, no more sitting and waiting out in the middle of a zone trying not to anger any stray goblins or rabbits. After completing the quest, the demonstration ended and our time was up.

Two Worlds II

While our time in the SquareEnix booth was indeed fun, there wasn’t enough of Final Fantasy XIV for us to really get a feel for the game. We really wanted to just beat up some enemies, and what do you know, we found ourselves standing in the Two Worlds II showcase. This action-based single player roleplaying game has a pretty involving history, but we opted to skip the introduction due to not being able to hear the sound over the 80th version of Rockband playing in a nearby booth.

Two Worlds II’s E3 demo really focuses on the action portions of the game. You pick one of 10 different areas, each with beautiful scenery and foes for striking. I struggled at first to figure out how to even wield a weapon, and finally gave up in lieu of kicking and punching my way to victory… within minutes I was dead. Some girl was kind enough to show us how to play the game, and it wasn’t long before I was hacking and slashing at enemies without regard. The combat is very fluid and fast, but at times feels a little disjointed. Many times I would wind up to strike an enemy on the ground, only to have him all of the sudden move out of range. What hopefully is the fault of an early demo, we felt the combat in Two Worlds II needed more visual cues and feedback. When I hit the enemy, I expect him to feel it and I expect to feel it as well. Perhaps it was the lack of sound, or perhaps the game just isn’t finished yet, but if they can address this minor annoyance, Two Worlds II looks to be very promising.

Lord of the Rings, War in the North

I will admit, when we ventured into this booth for our appointment for Lord of the Rings, we were a bit embarrassed to realize that we had made a mistake. Lord of the Rings: War in the North has nothing to do with Turbine Entertainment’s MMO and everything to do with Snowblind Studios’ upcoming action co-op roleplaying game. You and a few friends play the roles of Tolkien-inspired heroes and participate in an entirely new, never-before experienced adventure in Middle Earth.

The demonstration we got to see for this game involved three developers, each playing one of the three standard classes with the standard roles you would expect from an RPG: tank, spellcaster, and a ranged damage fighter. This RPG is very action oriented, but still contains many of the extras that you would expect from a roleplaying game. Players can collect armor and items, participate in gathering and crafting, as well as use special abilities that help them unveil secrets that other players may not be aware of. For example, the elf spellcaster in our demo was able to see footprints in the mud that would lead off the beaten path towards treasures and other small caches of goods. The dwarf warrior in this demonstration had the ability to see weaknesses in stone that could in turn unveil hidden treasures and gold.

Unfortunately our demonstration was limited to watching developers play the game, and we never got the opportunity to get our hands on, however, the action in the game appears to be very well done. The cut scenes we viewed were spectacularly displayed on the large HD screens, and the characters are able to make dialogue decisions that influence the progression of the game.

Tera Online

In the wake of other successful Korean MMO’s coming to the United States, Bluehole Studios is currently looking to release The Exiled Realm of Arborea, aka Tera Online, both in South Korea and the United States. Tera Online forsakes the normal targeting systems used in traditional role-playing games and opts for crosshairs similar to first-person shooters to aim at your opponent. Don’t let this confuse you though, this game is far from a first- person shooter. Tera is a very action packed hack-and-slash style game with all of the depth that you would expect from an MMO.

Our demonstration at E3 involved was focused on group play. Our five man party was made up of two of us from IGN, two other players, and one of the developers that played the healer. We got to play as melee damage dealers. The tank role was played by the Berserker class in this game, which was controlled by one of the other attendees. The developer had us all put headsets on and through his microphone he guided us through one of the many areas of Tera to defeat our very first boss encounter, or at least attempt to. That is right, even after our valiant effort, we still managed to wipe.

Tera Online is very fast paced, where a single mistake can cost you your life. At least on two occasions, our healer was utter destroyed in a mere one or two hits leaving the rest of the party to fend for our lives. However, with quick reflexes, and a sharp eye, a skilled player can really control the fight effectively. I managed to solo the boss for a short time after the rest of my party died, allowing the healer time to run back and resurrect our fallen friends. Unfortunately, even after two complete runs back, our healer managed to die again, which pretty much ended our demonstration as failures. That’s okay though because of all the MMOs played so far at E3, Tera Online takes the cake as the most fun demonstration and definitely one to watch in early 2011.

Rift: Planes of Telara

We ended day one at E3 over in the Trion booth. We were drawn in by their huge lush display, and it wasn’t until we were standing in the garden that we realized that we were about to get our hands on the upcoming MMO called Rift! This is the same MMO that we’ve seen over and over in online advertisements, but until today, we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on this beautiful game.

Immediately, the graphics stick out and is a huge draw into the world of Telara. Character creation is rather simple, but we were impressed with the number of specs that are available for a character. You have the usual classes: Warrior, Sorcerer, Rogue, and Cleric, but you can pick a specialization that can be further expanded upon as your character progresses all the way to level 50.

The gameplay and controls are very similar to just about every other MMO out there, which makes it very easy for us to jump right in and start doing quests. Currently, only the “evil” faction is available for play in this demonstration, so we begin our adventure arisen in a starter area, which is actually located off of Telara. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the sky, which shows the shattered world of Telara. How this happened isn’t completely apparent, but players will learn about the evolution of Telara, as well as its destruction by playing the game.

Rift is similar other MMOs, including the 500 pound gorilla, but brings a few new twists on familiar mechanics, and immerses you in a completely new world, and a completely beautiful world at that. Our demonstration lead us through the starter area, and we got a chance to spend a few minutes opening rifts. On Telara, very unstable rifts randomly appear throughout the world, and are displayed on the player’s map. Any player can then venture to these rifts, open them, and participate in repelling the invasion. These outdoor events are similar to the public quest mechanics experienced in other games, but are a lot more random and very graphic intensive. For example, when opening the death rift, all creatures in the general area took on a more evil visage and associated hatred for you.

Conclusion

All and all, while we are very excited to get our hands on Final Fantasy XIV, we were a bit disappointed with how little content was actually playable for us. Our guided demonstration was very limited, which took away a lot of the fun. On the flip side, taking on the General in a developer-led raid in Tera Online was an absolute blast. This is how a demonstration is done! The hack-and-slash nature of the game allowed us to jump right in, and as we felt more comfortable, the various special abilities really added some depth to the characters’ seemingly click-happy gameplay. All of these games were fun, but we are still searching for that Holy Grail among the crowd. Perhaps on Day 2? We shall wait and see.