E3 2019 Day 2 – Going Hands-On

Taking a closer look at some of the big games coming later this year


Graphic: Alinna Boonklun/ SAC.Media

Swarms of people flooded the Los Angeles Convention Center as E3 officially opened its doors. Both halls of the center were packed with attendees scurrying about trying to find where the lines started for the various demos that were set up. I was no exception. The lines were brutal, easily exceeding wait times of one hour, but my patience was rewarded with opportunities to go hands-on with “Monster Hunter World: Iceborne,” “Pokemon Sword and Shield,” and “Borderlands 3.”

The “Iceborne” demo was divided into three different quests according to difficulty: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. One of the booth attendants asked people in line what they believed their skill level was, and I answered advanced. This worked in my favor; a group of 3 other advanced players were waiting for their fourth and final teammate, so I was able to join them at the front of the line.

The advanced-level quest pitted our team against the Tigrex, a hyper-aggressive flying wyvern originally from “Monster Hunter Freedom 2.” Before departing on the quest, we were able to change our weapons and armor. I went with my trusty dual blades. The quest took us to the new locale, Hoarfrost Reach, where we proceeded to track down our quarry. The map being completely new to me, I had no idea where I was going. It was by pure chance that I stumbled upon some tracks that pointed me in the right direction.

Eventually my teammates and I converged on our target in an ice cavern and started hacking away. Almost immediately I saw my comrades making use of the new clutch claw feature, wherein they would zip onto the Tigrex and deliver a punishing blow to whatever part of it they attached to. This weakened the defenses of certain body parts, enabling us to deal more damage for a short time. These clutch claw attacks were particularly useful for me since I could quickly follow up with a flurry of attacks.

The Tigrex fled to a glacier-like zone where we resumed our attack. The fight continued as normal, until the corner of the glacier collapsed. At first, I simply thought the floor had shifted, offering some verticality to an otherwise flat area. This was not the case. This piece of the glacier completely broke away, taking me and two of my party members with it. We fell to a separate part of the map and had to find our way back up. Our remaining teammate was left alone with the Tigrex.

He fainted. We had multiple faints available, so all wasn’t lost. Our deadline was fast approaching though, as we only had 15 minutes to complete the quest. Once we saw the Tigrex start to limp, we launched a frantic assault to finish it off. We used all of our traps, throwing knives, and whatever else we could find to stop it from running away. Finally, around the 14-and-a-half-minute mark, we felled the wyvern.

My teammates and I reveled in our victory and shook hands before going our separate ways. The fight itself was about as intense as expected. For veterans of the series, it will feel familiar. However, this doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. It was a good fight, and I look forward to the rematch.

Next, I headed to the Nintendo booth to try out “Pokemon Sword and Shield.” This demo was very short, but entertaining, nonetheless. I found myself in the game’s water-type Pokemon gym. The first thing that caught my attention was the visuals. In terms of style, “Pokemon Sword and Shield” are not at all departures from what one would expect from a Pokemon game. The games deliver the same charming appearance fans have come to expect; they just look better doing it this time around.

The design of the gym consisted of multiple walkways with grates that were colored either red, yellow, or blue. Large pipes running along the ceiling would pour impenetrable columns of water onto the colored grates, blocking the path. The water flow could be cut off or reactivated via color coordinated switches located along the walkways. Ultimately, the goal was to shut off the water that was blocking the door leading to the stadium where the gym leader awaited.

When it came time to play, my first thought was to take inventory of my Pokemon. I had a full cadre of new Pokemon including the three starters Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble, as well as a Wooloo, a Corviknight, and a Yamper. I mainly used Grookey, the grass-type starter Pokemon. For those who don’t know, water-type Pokemon are weak to grass attacks.

Navigating the gym wasn’t difficult. Each of the three opponents in the gym had only one Pokemon and were easily defeated. The battles were a pleasure to watch though, as the hardware of the Switch allows for not only wonderful attack animations, but a smooth frame rate that can be maintained during especially flashy moments.

The water pipe puzzle was a simple matter as well, and I made one mistake that took around 10 or 15 seconds to rectify. In just a few minutes, I had cleared the way to the gym leader. There was an attendant at the entrance of the gym that could heal my Pokemon, so I made use of his services before moving on.

As I walked through the now unobstructed door and into a large stadium, I was greeted by Nessa, the gym leader. After the usual bit of taunting, our battle began. She only had two Pokemon, the first of which was Goldeen. My Grookey took care of that in one hit. Nessa sent out Drednaw next, a new water and rock-type Pokemon. I knew that she was going to use Dynamax, the new feature that makes your Pokemon the size of a two-story house with two-story house sized attacks, but I figured that would consume her turn.

Immediately after using Dynamax, Drednaw conjured up an immense wall of rock and crushed my Grookey like an ant. So, I was wrong, obviously, and I lost my most valuable Pokemon because of it. I switched to Corviknight, the flying and steel-type bird Pokemon. Corviknight’s high defense shrugged off Drednaw’s attacks, and I claimed victory. The demo ended just after I had received my first badge.

A short demo, to be sure, but it did not disappoint. A battle in a stadium between two giant Pokemon is quite a sight. I’m particularly eager to see more Dynamax attacks; their animations are truly impressive. That water gym badge will be the first of many.

Last but certainly not least, I spent some time with “Borderlands 3.” There will be four characters to choose from in the full game: Moze, the gunner, Amara, the siren, FL4K, the beastmaster, and Zane, the operative. I was able to choose between Moze, Amara, and Zane, but FL4K was noticeably absent. I had enough time to try out two characters, and I chose Moze first.

For those unfamiliar with the series, each character has a special ability called an action skill that is unique to the character. Moze’s action skill allows her to hop into a mech called Iron Bear and wreak havoc. Iron Bear can be fitted with two weapons, with options including a minigun, a rocket launcher, a railgun, and a fist. I opted for a minigun and rocket launcher combo.

The demo tasked me with assaulting a bandit stronghold. I immediately noticed the drastic upgrade in the gun play. Firing my weapons had a much heftier feel than in previous entries, and the handling felt great. As an added bonus, the sound design was excellent as well.

It’s unclear if the demo was designed to be easy specifically for E3 or if the game is simply easier than past games, but I was able to play very aggressively, and it was immensely satisfying. Combat often felt like one fluid motion despite being a mix of various actions. I would smoothly and quickly transition from shooting an enemy with my assault rifle to blasting away a psycho with my shotgun before hopping into Iron Bear and laying waste with my minigun and rocket launcher.

It was hectic, violent, and very, very fun. I made short work of the stronghold and quickly reached the boss fight against Mouthpiece. The fight arena was a dance floor surrounded by weaponized speakers on steroids. I was smart enough to avoid the speakers when I heard them cranking up; the same could not be said of the many midget enemies who would liquify whenever the speakers went off.

Mouthpiece proved to be a pushover and I killed him rather easily, but the spectacle of the fight alone more than made up for it. The demo ended there, but I still had some time left to play, so I switched to Amara and started again.

Being a siren means Amara’s action skill is more on the mystical side of things. Amara has three choices for her action skill: phaseslam, phasecast, or phasegrasp. Phasegrasp summons a fist that holds an enemy in place for a short time, removing them from the fight. Phasecast conjures a projection of Amara that charges forward, dealing damage to anything in the way. I went for phaseslam, which sees Amara leap in the air, call forth six ethereal arms, and slam the ground, damaging anything in the surrounding area.

As with Moze, I was able to play very aggressively. I put some skill points into the Do Harm skill in her Mystical Assault skill tree, which granted Amara a stack of Rush whenever she killed an enemy. Upon casting phaseslam, any stacks of Rush I had would be consumed to make the attack even stronger. Shooting my way through a hallway just to enter a small room and nuke everyone in it with a buffed phaseslam may have been my favorite moment of the day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the run, but I thoroughly enjoyed my short time playing as Amara.

Needless to say, I walked away impressed and wanting more. I was originally planning to play FL4K when the game came out, but now I’m not so sure. I’m going to have some difficulty choosing my character come launch day.

Now obviously these demos could have been tailor-made specifically for E3, but I sincerely hope they’re accurate representations of what the finished products will be like. Each demo I played was great in its own way, and I eagerly await the day these games hit the shelves.

“Monster Hunter World: Iceborne” releases on Sept. 6, 2019 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One while PC players will have to wait until winter 2019. “Pokemon Sword and Shield” will be available worldwide on Nov. 15, 2019 exclusively for Nintendo Switch. “Borderlands 3” will launch on Sept. 13, 2019 for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC; the PC version will be an Epic Games Store exclusive for six months following release.