Unboxing Video: EA Play at E3 2018

2017 was a disastrous year for EA, including a laughably bad E3 presentation and the Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box debacle. The company has spent much of this year apologising for these decisions, and this formed a recurring theme during EA Play. Gone were the Influencers and Game Changers, the phrase “Creative Cave” was uttered precisely zero times and EA CEO Andrew Wilson was limited to two appearances, one of which was to effectively apologise for the company’s actions. This year, EA delved extensively into sci-fi, shooters and sports and, with a couple of exceptions, provided a conservative showcase of the year ahead.

The show kicked off proper with a brief look at Battlefield V. Coming off its reveal last month, DICE’s Oskar Gabrielson and Lars Gustavsson talked about how Battlefield V will feature the ability to dive and smash through windows, the return of full scale destruction, the ability to move defensive weaponry, and in a series first, the ability to visually customise your character and weapon — all without loot boxes and no premium pass!

After a quick pitch on the returning War Stories campaign, we got the biggest reveal yet: Battle Royale is coming to Battlefield V as a post-launch update. DICE described the concept as being reimagined for Battlefield, focusing on the core of what makes that game unique: team play and vehicles.

FIFA 19 was next up, and this year’s big feature is the inclusion of the UEFA Champions League, the biggest international club football championship in the world. The UCL will permeate every facet of the game, from Career Modes, to content in FIFA Ultimate Team, and it will be the focus of Alex Hunter’s story in The Journey: Champions.

Fans of NBA Live and Madden will be happy to know their games got some stage time. NBA Live 19 got a quick trailer to showcase the more worldly version of their single player mode, The One. Madden NFL 19 got its usual trailer of Frostbite-powered NFL action, but was bizarrely introduced with Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster interviewing Madden NFL 18 Bowl winner Shay “YoungKiv” Kivlen about his rise to Madden esports prominence. It went about as well as you expect.

Speaking of Madden, it will be making its return to the PC this year after a long absence, and will be a part of EA’s newest subscription service: Origin Access Premier. It’s the next tier up from the already existing Origin Access, but instead of merely getting early access to trials of full games, you’ll receive early access to the full games in addition to access to the already existing titles in the Origin Access Vault. Pricing is $19.99 AUD per month, or $129.99 per year, and will launch later this year.

Arguably the highlight of the show was the EA Originals block. We were treated to two new games from two passionate European developers. Unravel Two showed off a second Yarny (in-game, no yarn people on stage) who’ll be your constant companion throughout the game, even if you’re playing solo. While I could tell you all about the much more action packed levels or how the two Yarnys have impacted puzzle design, you can experience it for yourself as the game is out right now!

The second game announced as part of this block was Sea of Solitude, by Berlin-based Jo-Mei Games. Sea of Solitude is a game about loneliness, and how it transforms people into monsters. Kay, the player character, is a young girl whose loneliness has transformed her into a literal monster, and is searching for a cure to his ailment. Not much was revealed about the game aside from its striking look, but it’ll certainly be one to look forward to.

Fresh off the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, we got our first taste of EA’s next big Star Wars game courtesy of developer (and recent EA acquiree) Respawn Games. Titled Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, you’ll be playing as a Jedi during in the 30 year gap between Episodes III and IV. It will come out during Holiday 2019.

EA then took the time to unveil the return of one of its classic franchises with Command & Conquer Rivals, a competitive 1v1 strategy game designed for mobile devices. The game might not be the return people would be expecting, and the excruciatingly long on stage demo isn’t going to do the game any favours (editor’s note: it was only four and a half minutes, but it dragged so hard I wish Albert Einstein used his time machine to put an early end to the segment).

After being announced at last year’s EA Play, we finally got our first proper look at Anthem. While it does follow in some familiar footsteps, Bioware was quick to point out the differences . Narrative will be a big focus here, and the team is aiming to bring the stories Bioware is known for to this genre.

Players are designated as Freelancers, with classes not set by choices at the start of the game, but what mech suit (known as Javelins) they choose. You’re free to choose what Javelin you wish, and you’ll be able to customise them as such. Like every other title as part of EA’s Apology Tour, you can’t pay for power, and the contents of any microtransactions will be very clear up front. You’ll have plenty of time to save up for those EVA Unit-01 colours, because Anthem is coming on 22 February 2019.

EA’s press conference was understated compared to previous years. A few surprises, but otherwise, pretty safe with minimal cringe. It made for a duller show, but given the last twelve months, it was probably a better move. Last year, my one hope was EA would tone down the influencer prominence, and the company certainly did that this year. For next year, I’d be happy to suffer a hundred bad demos of mobile Command & Conquer games for something, anything about a certain skateboarding franchise that needs to return. But maybe that’s just me.