This year’s Summer Game Fest just wrapped up its presentations with many game new game announcements and gameplay showcases. Summer Game Fest is hosted by Geoff Keighley, the creator of The Game Awards, and this year featured its first in-person event after starting in 2020. With E3 being canceled this year after several key presenters announced they would not be part of the presentation, Summer Game Fest picked up the slack and, after a successful presentation this year, has already announced plans to return in 2024. SGF follows a similar format to E3; the show aims to highlight upcoming games by showing exclusive gameplay and even reveal new games during the show. While SGF hosted triple A studios such as Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Capcom, there were also events dedicated entirely to smaller indie game developers. Gamers look forward to these events all year, and I am certainly no exception. Not every event was equal, and I definitely found some announcements way more exciting than others, but overall I love watching developers showcase what they’ve been hard at work on.
The first day of SGF was meant to create excitement and provide a glimpse into what the next five days might bring. There were many highlights, such as a new Prince of Persia game. I’d played a Prince of Persia a long time ago, maybe it was on PlayStation 2, and this new entry looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. Spider-Man 2 will feature Kraven as the villain and two Spider-Men: Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Get it, Spider-Man TWO? Other fun reveals included a playable Nicolas Cage in Dead by Daylight, Alan Wake 2, Path of Exile 2, and a new Star Trek game. But that’s not all…
My favorite announcement of the day was the release date reveal for Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, releasing on November 9th of this year! Even though the game is set to be a shorter interlude-style game, and not a main entry, this game should give some much needed context on what Kiryu has been up to since faking his own death at the end of Yakuza 6. So far, we know that Kiryu makes an agreement with a shadowy organization at the end of 6, but that he is also set to be a main protagonist in Like a Dragon 8 alongside Ichiban, so another game to help fill in the gaps is welcome.
I was also intrigued by Under the Waves, releasing at the end of August this year, where you’ll play as a professional diver who is sent on an extended mission under the sea. From the shown gameplay, it seems similar to Subnautica in that it’s a story-driven experience where players can explore under the sea. As the game is published by Quantic Dream, I’m not clear on if it’ll be as narrative-driven as its other games, such as Detroit: Become Human (which I’m a huge fan of), but I’m excited to learn more.
Tribeca Games Festival & Wholesome Direct
Staying on theme of showcasing new games, SGF had an entire event dedicated to indie game developers to show off gameplay and reveal new projects. Dubbed the “Wholesome Direct,” the panel featured mostly games with a cute and cozy feel, most of which used pixel-art for its design. I love seeing new indie games as these newer developers and studios can be seen as on the cutting edge of game design. As the gaming industry is extremely competitive and dominated by companies like EA, Sony, Bethesda, Microsoft, and more, new studios need to find new and interesting ways to differentiate themselves to gain popularity. It’s where the most creativity and improvement can be seen. Triple A studios are well-established through a history of smash hits, but over time larger studios get complacent and forget what it’s like when first starting out.
A plethora of adorable games were announced during the Wholesome Direct, but a few stood out to me. Pekoe is a game inspired by Animal Crossing except with only cats, and specifically cats who really like tea. Its gameplay is centered entirely on making tea for cat friends while running a teahouse, and upgrading the teahouse to allow for even more friends to enjoy. Frogsong can only be described as a frog-like RPG, and reminds me of earlier Zelda games except if Link was a frog. The developer of Frogsong was asked the very important question on “why frogs?” To which he replied “I really like frogs.” Moon Stone Island is a farming and life management sim, developed in collaboration with the makers of Terraria. Solar Punk is a sci-fi survival/exploration game in which the player can craft items and build a home base all while exploring the floating islands the game takes place on. It reminds me of Slime Rancher, and how the player was left to their own devices on an unfamiliar alien planet. And sadly, even though I wasn’t expecting it, Hollow Knight: Silksong was not part of the Direct meaning there isn’t a release date yet. Another panel, the Tribeca Games Festival, showed off more gameplay and interviews from the various developers.
Future Games, Capcom, and Ubisoft Showcases
Continuing on with indie developers was the Future Games Showcase, which had yet more gameplay and trailers! High on my list is Resistor, a party-based futuristic racing RPG with a story. This game had great timing, as I was just raving about the story aspect in Forza Horizon 5, and it looks like Resistor will similarly feature cool cars and a story, not to mention the added bonus of the party-based system. While this game doesn’t have a release date yet, it’s on my Steam wish list and I look forward to any new information about it. Steel Seed is another futuristic sci-fi game, although this one definitely won’t feature any racing. It’s a stealth game, and while I’m not the best at those after trying my hand at Dishonored, the world and art style are intriguing. I never thought I would want to play a game titled “Alaskan Road Truckers,” but, well, here we are. The trailer for the game was very well done and did a great job of showing off why truckers love their jobs. Being a sim, the game is focused entirely on delivering cargo while being set in Alaska. Finally, Life by You was showcased, which was exciting for me as a Sims fan. Life by You is being developed by a group of people who used to make the Sims games, and have seemingly been brought back together to attempt to make a Sims game with their own spin on it. Early Access is set to start in September this year, and I look forward to its progress.
At the Ubisoft and Capcom presentations, we were treated to more Prince of Persia gameplay and a new Ace Attorney title coming to PC. The Ace Attorney games are currently collecting dust in my Steam library, but I’d love to play them some day. Exoprimal is an online team-based shooter which features battle against Dinosaurs. The whole thing seems very over-the-top and action-packed, and the absurdity of fighting against Dinosaurs while set in a futuristic timeline is what pulled me in. Exoprimal is set to release in July of this year, and I’ll be curious to see what the gameplay is like.
Xbox Showcase & Starfield Direct
One of the events I was most excited for was the Xbox Showcase, being that there would be an entire section dedicated to information on Starfield after the main show. Before Starfield, though, were some other great announcements. A new Fable game, which has already been in development for some amount of years, received a new trailer which debuted during the event. The trailer heavily featured an in-game likeness of Richard Ayoade, star of the IT Crowd series, who may be featured as a villain in the upcoming game. I played the original Fable and quickly fell in love with its story and worldbuilding. For me, Fable cemented my love of RPGs and I look forward to this new entry in the series. A new Forza Motorsport will be available in October of this year, and seems to be a much more traditional racing game compared to the Forza Horizon series. Cities: Skylines 2, a city planning and management sim, is also set to release in October. But, most importantly, Yakuza/Like a Dragon 8 revealed a new trailer and subtitle. The next installment in the Like a Dragon series will be Like a Dragon 8: Infinite Wealth! While the title certainly raises some question on what’s in store for Ichiban and the party, Ichiban himself also certainly revealed a lot as well… Besides that, though, the trailer takes place in what looks to be a beach in America. Is he in Hawaii, California, or somewhere else? Why is he there, and where are his pants? These are the questions I have, which mostly likely will not be answered until Like a Dragon 8 releases in the first half of 2024.
The second half of the Xbox event was dedicated to Starfield, which will be releasing in September of this year. Starfield has commonly been described as “Skyrim in space,” which is the idea Bethesda hopes to convey with their first new universe in 25 years. It’s an RPG at its core, with places to go, tasks to complete, and people to meet, but also sci-fi. Bethesda has described the technology level in Starfield as “NASA-punk” – advanced tech that seems achievable with our current real-world capabilities. It’ll feature ship customization, a crew system which allows you to recruit crewmembers to perform various functions on your ship, and even possibly fall in love with one of them. While I never played Skyrim, I knew many people who became totally immersed in its world, and I’m hoping for the same experience with Starfield.
I am concerned about the “thousand worlds” that Bethesda boasts, and that it’ll just end up meaning the vast majority of those worlds are empty. While I am still very excited about a new space RPG, especially as Mass Effect has left a void in my heart, I’m curious to see how Bethesda will populate the galaxy with interesting planets to discover.
PC Gaming and Extended Xbox Showcase
The last day of SGF brought an extended look at Xbox games, which highlighted Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty DLC. While I haven’t played Cyberpunk yet, the addition of Phantom Liberty will include a new adventure and section of Night City. It’s coming out this September; perhaps seeing footage from Phantom Liberty will prompt me into buying the game, and stretching my schedule thinner than every before. One game I do play, though, is Phasmophobia, which will be available on consoles in August. Phasmophobia is tons of fun to play with friends, and with it still being in Steam Early Access, the developers are actively adding new features and improvements.
Another game on the list of ones I need to play is Hi-Fi Rush, which released in January of this year, and will have new game modes, enemies, and rewards added soon. Seeing the game on SGF may have bumped it up on my never-ending list of “need-to-plays,” and I do hope to try it out soon. Dune aircraft being featured in Microsoft Flight Simulator is not a collaboration I might have guessed, but it’s a welcome surprise all the same. As a fan of Dune, seeing the Ornithopters in Dune (2022) was incredible, and seeing them translated into a flight sim is a treat. The reveal featured a look at the actual Ornithopter props from the movie, which has made me impatient for when Dune Part Two comes out this November.
For me, the PC Gaming Showcase was all about Baldur’s Gate 3 details. Larian Studios had teased a first look at the city of Baldur’s Gate prior to the show, and they did deliver. Baldur’s Gate reminds me of their city designs from their previous games like Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin 2, yet on a larger scale. It looks to be the most detailed city they’ve created to date with lots of secrets there to explore. Baldur’s Gate 3 is finally out of Steam Early Access in August this year, and I’m ready for it.
With that, SGF 2023 came to a close after an exciting week of previews, gameplay, and new announcements. The last surprise of the season came in the form of an announcement from Annapurna Interactive, who will have their own dedicated showcase on June 29th and seemingly hosted by SGF. This is exciting to me because I absolutely loved Stray, and can only hope that they will be announcing a sequel or another exciting project near the end of the month.