Alex St-Amour

Game development is a big industry here in Canada. With major studios like EA, Bioware, Ubisoft and Capcom setting up shop all over the Great White North to make games with a global appeal. But there’s also a whole bunch of smaller indie developers bringing up the rear and providing Canadians, and people from all over the world, hours of fun with great games. Skylight Freerange from Manitoba based Dragoon Entertainment, is not one of these games.

What it is however is an open-world RPG that explores the aftermath of a Canadian Civil War (we’re way too polite for that) and the repercussions of bioengineering. Set in the year 2041 you are a special agent tasked with eliminating those responsible for breaking up our great Confederation.

Once you’ve selected your party you travel from point A to point B, searching for your next objective. The problem is the game’s controls are so atrociously bad you’ll likely get lost ten times on your way down the street. Things like, using the arrow keys to walk instead of the standard WASD but also using the mouse to control the camera and some other keys for options makes for a very uncomfortable play style. What’s even worse is that the game doesn’t feature any tutorials, so you’ll have to figure out the convoluted control scheme all on your own.

The actual combat is only marginally better in that, while it’s confusing as hell to figure out, your AI partners will take out the enemies for you so you don’t really have to do much. In fact you’ll start to love going into combat situations because, even though their repetitive, at least you know where you are and what you are doing.

What is an interesting concept however is that the game offers a surprising amount of freedom in how you approach the gameplay. From the character creation menu to the choices that dictate the story the game to the large amount of freedom given (you can start your own hockey team – the Canadian Dream). The game does give you a surprising amount of freedom for an indie title, the problem is none of the choices are particularly appealing. I mean sure you could basically build a virtual life for you character but the amount of work you’d have to do to make it even mildly interesting is enormous and would just lead to frustration.

Hey handsome.

Hey handsome.

The graphics in this game… I mean the mess of polygons slapped together are some of the worst I’ve seen. Seriously this game looks like an absolute disaster. The characters look  lifeless and ridiculous with their massive hands and feet. But it doesn’t end there, oh no, the environments are practically devoid of details including textures, making everything look like boxes in an empty field. Though I suppose that might be what parts of Manitoba look like.

However you’ll get a bit of joy out of these visuals, because there literally so bad it’s funny. Things like your characters taking strides that are longer than their body length to walking your character through the endless black wastes of Portage la Prairie are my particular favorites. Oh and when the game switches to night, all you can see is your characters face and clothes, that’s a good one too.

What is this? I don't even...

What is this? I don’t even…

But of course, this type of game is a pet project, a small indie developer’s attempt at getting noticed, surely we can overlook these flaws and get some gaming in on the cheap right? Wait it costs how much? $15.00!? Are you serious? For fifteen bucks you could not only download (or buy) some much much MUCH better games but you could also light that money on fire. Either way a better investment.

Am I being harsh on Skylight Freerange? Probably. But in this day and age releasing a game in this condition and charging such an exorbitant price for it is practically ripping off gamers. So at the end of the day I cannot in good conscience recommend Skylight Freerange. It may have some good ideas hidden within but those ideas are buried under layers and layers of awfulness that no one should have to pay to experience.

This review is based on Skylight Freerange for the PC. The game was provided to 3GEM by the publisher.

The Verdict

Gameplay: 1.5

Some interesting ideas buried under mounds of awful ones.

Presentation: 0.5

Value: 1.0

Fifteen bucks!!??

Overall Score

1.2Abysmal
*Overall score is not an average.

The weekend is now over and with it, the end of the this year’s E3. Yet, it was an exciting week with tons of promising games and content coming soon to our favorite consoles. Well, to make sure even the non-press related gamers got their hand on something to play, Bungie and Sony gave the opportunity for the PlayStation 4 owners out there to get their hands on Destiny, the upcoming RPG FPS from Bungie.

Let’s start by saying this preview is based on an ALPHA build of the game. A very very very limited first look that still has work needing to be done, but oh so good even if it’s still not in the BETA phase. I was doubtful at first; the hype for the game is generally a pretty bad thing expectation wise, so I tried not to expect too much. Maybe I was right to do so, or maybe not. But the fun I had all weekend just shooting fallens and the hive was definitely a pleasant surprise. The world is simply stunning and immense. I’ve explored all weekend, and even in the last few hours, I was still finding places I hadn’t visited yet. Heck, I’m sure most missed the few gems I found while killing things. Then there’s the gameplay itself – okay, again, it’s an ALPHA and I expect things to change between now and the release, but so far, the guns are fun, the aiming and controls work well and the powers and other things you get to use are (so far) very appropriate. You are always able to use three different guns with the press of a button and things are pretty smooth.

Even in ALPHA, Destiny is a pretty game.

Even in ALPHA, Destiny is a pretty game.

The game also offer story missions that don’t feel like story because you can explore, see other places, and not even bother with your objectives until you want to. The leveling is seamless and the powers and upgrades you get don’t automatically work with your level. It’s rather separate where you gain XP for the level and the different powers and upgrades, but gaining a level doesn’t mean getting a power (still, most of the time it really does). And you can upgrade weapons and maybe craft some, seeing as you can loot and gain components by dismantling unused weapons to free space. If crafting is a thing in Destiny, it was not part of the ALPHA. What was part of it, though, is PvP, which I must say, I didn’t try. In my defense, just playing around and shooting at AI was just too much fun. That, and the fact that every place you went, you could meet other players doing the same as you (but no killing others during that time).

I must also say that Bungie so far has included three classes and three races, all of which play differently. The character customisation is rather simple, but effective. It could use a bit more options, but I will reserve that judgement for the final product. I was also very pleased with the random events that happen while you are doing your things. They offer a good challenge and provide with decent rewards most of the time. They also help you to complete bounties and gain marks, which seem to be used for the end game equipment. You can also encounter bosses, enemies more powerful and sometimes totally different from the others. They can hit very hard as well, and take some time to kill. They are usually part of the mission and not something you find in the wild. That is remedied by stronger than normal enemies called Major or Ultras. I digress – again, feature-wise and all are better kept for the final review. This game is, however, definitely fun in its current state, and I can’t expect Bungie to go wrong in the coming months.

We can't wait for the final release.

We can’t wait for the final release.

I also cannot wait to get into the BETA starting July 17th for PlayStation owners. This will definitely be a blast. The BETA is accessible only through pre-orders. Bungie has not announced any collector editions for Destiny and the game is set to release on September 9th, 2014. I am definitely looking forward to that release. Look forward to the review.

Game on!

This preview is based on the ALPHA build of Destiny for the PlayStation 4.

Leading into E3 2014, many fans weren’t happy with Nintendo’s decision to once again forgo a traditional press conference in favor of a digital presentation. Last year’s pre-E3 Nintendo Direct was lambasted by many as boring and out-of-touch with the current state of gaming culture. Well now that the dust has settled and the trailers have been put away, it’s becoming clear that Nintendo not only had the best showing at E3,  but also connected to gamers on a level that the other major publishers couldn’t match. This raises the question: did Nintendo just kill the traditional E3 press conference as we know it?

As it happens every June, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony gathered gaming journalists from far and wide, put them in an auditorium, and presented to them the games and updates that would mark their platforms for the foreseeable future. There they showed them trailers, gameplay, announcements, statistics, and attempts at humor in an attempt to get the best press and PR coming out of gaming’s biggest week. The problem is that while they were busy winning over journalists, Nintendo was busy winning over gamers.

The future of E3?

The future of E3?

Social Media

Like never before, social media has become a very important tool for game publishers to reach their fans; in turn, social media allows fans to interact with their favorite companies. While Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and EA all got their 15 minutes of social media glory, Nintendo absolutely dominated on the major social networks throughout E3. That’s right; from the moment the show opened all the way to the closing bell, Nintendo, the Wii U console, and the hotly-anticipated Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS  were trending topics on Twitter. In fact, they were they only gaming-related topics trending on Twitter during the last two and a half days of E3. Speaking to the media is one thing – speaking directly to your fans is a whole other ball game.

Social media’s reach also goes far beyond the “Twittersphere”. Nintendo also used E3 as a chance to connect to their fans on a personal level. From live showings of the Digital Event at the Nintendo World Store to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U tournaments at Best Buy to direct interactions with their fans over social media, it seemed like Nintendo did everything to connect with gamers instead of leaving it to journalists to do the job for them. The result was a more clear and more concise message to gamers and, more importantly, the message that Nintendo wanted to give.

The only console to trend on Twitter for most of E3.

The only console to trend on Twitter for most of E3.

A Personal Touch

While Sony’s execs were doing their best to make us cringe with their lame jokes and Microsoft was acting as stiff as corporate executives normally do, Nintendo’s top men were busy punching the crud out of each other in a live-action trailer for Super Smash Bros..  Add the self-referencing humor spread throughout their “press conference” courtesy of their partnership with Robot Chicken, and it’s made clear that Nintendo’s message at E3 was directed at gamers. In fact, I’ve worked as a game journalist for nearly five years now, and I’ve never seen Nintendo so in touch with the pulse of the gaming industry as a whole.

But it didn’t just stop at their Digital Event.

Nintendo also hosted a program called Treehouse Live @ E3, where Nintendo developers, executives, and producers would stop by and give in-depth analyses about their upcoming games. But that’s not all; they even revealed new games during the show! Games like Project Guard, Project Giant Robot  and Codename: S.T.E.A.M.  all made their big debut during Treehouse Live, which let Nintendo keep all the attention on themselves for all of E3 instead of just for a few hours before the show opened.

What executives do you know who have this much fun?

What executives do you know who have this much fun?

Smash Invitational

E3 has (mostly) always been closed to anyone but gaming journalists. Fans have always been relegated to watching the proceedings through their TVs or computer monitors. This all changed at E3 2014 thanks to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Invitational. During this event, they opened up the doors of the Nokia Theater to legions of Nintendo fans who loudly and proudly demonstrated their love of the Big N for hours on end. The celebration continued at select Best Buy locations that were absolutely jam-packed with fans waiting to get their hands on Nintendo’s hotly anticipated brawler. All in all, the festivities surrounding Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS  easily made it one of the most talked about and anticipated games of 2014.

To say that Nintendo is pinning a lot of the Wii U’s future on the success of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U  would be a big understatement. Not only has their holiday schedule been mostly cleared out to make room for the game (Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker  being the only other notable announced  game), but they’ve also chosen the new Smash game as the vehicle to launch their line of amiibo products. Nintendo is clearly planning to make amiibo the cornerstone of the Wii U and 3DS’ futures by integrating them into many more games, but none are more important than Super Smash Bros.. Judging by the amount of people that waited hours just to catch a glimpse of the game, the future is indeed bright for the Wii U and amiibo.

A huge success for Nintendo.

A huge success for Nintendo.

Perfect Show

Having a perfect show is the ultimate goal of every company presenting at the expo. During E3, the eyes of not only the gaming world, but also consumers in general are on them – any little gaffe could be costly. From awful presenters (Jamie Kennedy) to infamous moments like Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation 3, to smaller things like corporate executives trying to be funny and only getting muted chuckles, these incidents can often have long-lasting repercussions on a company’s products and image, not to mention their reputation and credibility with gamers.

But with a pre-recorded event, all that goes away. Case in point: a few years ago Nintendo tried to show off the Wii’s swan-song in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.  It was, to put it mildly, a disaster. The Wii Motion Plus, the cornerstone of the entire game, malfunctioned due to interference from other sources, leaving a shaken Bill Trinen and Shigeru Miyamoto on stage pleading with the crowd to turn off their Wi-Fi. Of course, the game turned out great in the end, but the damage was done – the game’s big unveiling was ruined, all of which could have been avoided by simply pre-recording the footage.

Never again.

Never again.

So what does this mean for the future of E3 and its lauded press conferences? Will we soon see Microsoft, Sony, EA, and Ubisoft follow suit and host digital events of their own, or will the press conference soldier on? Are Nintendo’s experiments with digital presentations the wave of the future or just a company trying to stand out from the crowd? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of 3GEM Studios.

Another E3 has come and gone; as such, we have a whole new slew of games to look forward to over the next few months and years. A few days ago, some of the staff here at 3GEM picked our most anticipated games of the show; while we’re still super-excited for these games, a whole new bunch of games have now crept onto our radars. So with E3 done for another year, we present you our favorite games from the show.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Alex St-Amour

I called it my most anticipated game, and it stays that way. While I’m beyond excited for the new Legend of Zelda, there’s still so much mystery surrounding that game that it’s hard to say any reason why I’m excited other than it’s Zelda.  Xenoblade Chronicles X   looks absolutely amazing, and our first look at the story, gameplay, and massive open world have me even more excited than before – and I didn’t even think that was possible. 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Soon... soon.

Soon… soon.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Jacob St-Amour

This year’s E3 had many great games for all platforms. While I was really excited about all the reveals for my most anticipated game of E3 in Smash Bros., there was one game that got me so emotionally attached to it that I probably won’t have the heart to play it: Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts.  The game takes you into one of history’s darkest times, viewed through the eyes of man’s best friend in the same creative art style of games that brought Child of Light  and Rayman Legends  to life. But what struck me the most about Valiant Hearts  was how much emotion was poured into the trailer. Even if the game has a very cartoony look to it, it still brings out the hardships that many soldiers, past and present, go through in the line of duty.We may grow up to learn and to forget when we lose the ones we love, but to see it come to life through the eyes of a dog and to see the struggles that come with it is truly heartbreaking.

The feels.

The feels.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege

Sean Robinson

Did you see that gameplay trailer? Wow! With strong team-based mechanics, limitless strategies, and fully destructible environments, Rainbow Six: Siege  seems like it’s the breath of fresh air the franchise was gasping for. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

The future of online shooters?

The future of online shooters?

No Man’s Sky

Dan Reintijes

Lets talk for a minute about No Man’s Sky  - how is this not the biggest news in gaming? I mean, if this game can REALLY do what they claim it can, this is a technological marvel that is going to change gaming. Seamless interplanetary space travel, seamless planet to space travel, entire planets with diverse environments and ecosystems INCLUDING deep sea exploration, an infinite universe where every player gets their own entire planet, and one that not even the developers know what gamers will find – I mean, my skepticism level is off the charts on this one but if it’s true, then this is the most mind blowing game at E3, hands down

The future of gaming?!

The future of gaming?!

Hyrule Warriors

Patrick Hamelin

This year my biggest surprise is the plethora of upcoming, interesting games from Nintendo. Finally, a lot of good stuff coming to Wii U!!! With Smash Bros.,  Hyrule Warriors,  Zelda,  Bayonetta 2,  Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,  Mario Maker,  Mario Party 10,  Star Fox,  Xenoblade Chronicles X,  and more, we’ll get a lot of action on the Wii U in the upcoming months. I’m really thrilled by Hyrule Warriors,  which should be released on September 26, 2014, and the fact we are finally learning more about it. It looks awesome, is packed with action, and has some really nice characters that we will be able to play for the first time but that we have known for a long time. A Zelda game that isn’t a Zelda game should be refreshing and give the opportunity to experience the Zelda universe in a different way. I can’t wait to get it !!!

Link brings the pain.

Link brings the pain.

The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

Carolyn Trombley

I honestly can’t wait for the new Zelda game to come out! A new Zelda is always exciting, and the fact that there’s the mysterious, androgynous, possibly-a-girl-Link character in the trailer makes it even more exciting. Is this a new direction for Nintendo? I can’t wait to find out!

Fem-Link?

Fem-Link?

What was your favorite game of E3? Let us know in the comments below?

One of the best part of E3 is of course, the trailers. These short (sometimes long) montages of gameplay or CGI get us all hot and bothered for the next generation of games. This year, with no new hardware to showcase at E3, all the major publishers gave their full focus on the games they had to show. It wasn’t easy to narrow down our ten favorites from this year’s show but we did. So let’s get all hyped up again and watch the top 10 trailers from this past E3.

10 – Scalebound

The latest from Platinum Games and Hideki Kamiya takes their trademarked, high-octane action combat to the Xbox One with Scalebound, a game where you control both a literal dragon and the dragon within yourself. While we didn’t get the chance to see any gameplay you know that Platinum never disappoints in this regard. This is an Xbox One exclusive to look out for.

9 – Devil’s Third

Where did this come from? A gory, intense action game with nudity, blood, guts and (gasp) vulgar language coming exclusively to the Wii U because Nintendo is publishing it? The times really are changing. Devil’s Third looks to bring a Ninja Gaiden atmosphere to the Wii U mixed in with a dash of Duke Nukem, except you know, good.

8 – Crackdown

The action genre was out in full force at E3 2014 and the charge was lead by arguably one of the best open-world action games in recent years, Crackdown making it’s next-gen debut. While the trailer didn’t show any actual gameplay it perfectly conveyed the series’ over-the-top nature and got us really excited to dive back into Pacific City.

7 – Uncharted 4: A Thieve’s End

While not exactly a “new” reveal, our first look at the world of Uncharted 4 got us feeling all giddy inside. Featuring a noticeably older Nathan Drake convincing his friend Sully to go on one last adventure, Uncharted 4 seems to be setting up the end of Nathan’s story and we can’t think of a better way to debut the end.

6 – NHL 15

Being a Canadian website, EA’s NHL franchise holds a special place in lots of our hearts. Some of 3GEM’s staff have been known to play the each game in the series from the day it releases to the day the next one comes out. So seeing the amount of attention to detail and care that EA put into NHL 15, well let’s just say we can’t wait to lace up the skates again.

5 – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS

If you’ve been following 3GEM you know we’re HUGE fans of Nintendo’s mascot brawler. And if E3 2014 is to be remembered for anything years down the road is the ridiculous amount of love and attention Nintendo gave the series at this year’s E3. With three new playable characters, Amiibo support, days of coverage and an epic tournament, if you’re not excited for this game, then you probably don’t like gaming very much.

 

4 – Halo 5: Guardians

The hotly-anticipated next entry in the Halo series might not be landing until sometime next year (like most games at E3) but that didn’t stop us from getting all giddy over the epic new trailer. Thankfully we’ll be able to scratch our Halo itch with the Master Chief Collection later this year.

3 – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

I’m not even going to try to write anything about this trailer, just watch it and reach for the tissues.

2 – Project Spark

The freedom to create was also a big force at E3 2014 with games like Little Big Planet 3 and Mario Maker making a splash but the biggest game to let you do what you want was Project Spark. The game let’s you create your own universes, stories and gameplay styles and looks absolutely fantastic. On and Conker’s in it so there.

1 – The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)

A good trailer should always leave us with more questions than answers and with the debut of The Legend of Zelda for Wii U Nintendo did just that. How will the game play? Is Link a girl? What’s with the crazy technology? Nintendo not only showcased the art style for their flagship franchise but also made us start counting down the days to E3 2015 in one fell swoop. Oh and let’s not forget that the whole trailer was running in-engine, proving that the Wii U might just have a bit more under the hood than previously thought.

 

Did we leave out your favorite trailer of E3? Let us know in the comments below!

Let’s face it folks, apart from the games one of the big questions we all ask ourselves after every E3 (we all do it) is asking who won E3 between the “big five” who hold pre-show press events. Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo all brought their big guns to the show this year and each had something special to show their fans making the decision as to who won the show harder than ever. But we here at 3GEM love a challenge so here are our takes on to who won E3.

Microsoft

Let’s start with the first company to make it’s presentation at E3, Microsoft. They opened the show in style with extended looks at games like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive, each of which looks absolutely gorgeous on the Xbox One. They also showcased a LOT about upcoming Halo projects which are sure to go over big with fans of the series. All in all though while I applaud Microsoft’s focus on games at this year’s E3, I can’t say that anything really blew me away as most of the games shown were either already announced or relatively easy to predict.

A big game for Xbox One this year.

A big game for Xbox One this year.

EA

EA did it’s best at E3. It’s best to try to put me to sleep. While games like The Sims 4 and NHL 15 were quite impressive almost everything else from their show was something we knew was in development. Where were the secrets? The surprises? Why tease a new Mass Effect game if you have nothing to show for it? But the worst offense of all? No new Star Wars games. Seriously you cancel 1313, you cancel that Darth Maul game and all you have to show us is some (pretty) artwork from Battlefront 3? For shame.

Almost too real.

Almost too real.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft’s press conference was probably one of the more entertaining ones of the year, mostly in part for the hosting chops of Aisha Tyler. They also had a fair bit of incredible games to show from Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Tom Clancy’s The Division and The Crew. But for every game that wowed us we had to sit through titles like Just Dance 2015 and Shape Up which don’t get me wrong, look very fun but really slow down the flow of your event.

A few years too late?

A few years too late?

Sony

Sony brought the pain at this year’s E3… if you’re a Microsoft fan. Nearly every game they showed that is set to release on multiple platforms will have some sort of exclusive content on Sony consoles. The one that hurts the most though is the highly anticipated Destiny which is getting a special bundle with a white PS4 console. Apart from third party games Sony also delivered on it’s own franchises with games like Little Big Planet 3 and Uncharted 4: A Thieve’s End. If theirs one thing we can fault Sony on though is spending way too much time talking about TV content. Oh and where are the Vita games Sony?!

All the exclusives.

All the exclusives.

Nintendo

Never ones to go with the flow, Nintendo opted out of having a single large press conference instead showing a pre-recorded Digital Event early today. During this (hilarious) video we saw many new games from Nintendo such as Yoshi’s Wooly World, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Splatoon and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Of course the big announcement of the show was our first look at the new Legend of Zelda for the Wii U featuring an absolutely gorgeous art style. Nintendo’s E3 showing is actually unique in that it’s still actually happening. Just moments earlier we got the announcement that Pac-Man was joining Smash Bros. and a new 3DS game is being shown tomorrow. All in all a pretty solid (but safe) E3 showing from Nintendo.

O.M.G.

O.M.G.

Who do you think had the best showing at this year’s E3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The last press conference of the day. Get set for the Sony press conference.

 

Join us for a live blog of Ubisoft’s pre-E3 press conference at 3:00pm (PST), 6:00pm (EST).

 

Starting at noon (PST) and 3:00pm (EST) join us for a live blog of the EA Press Conference.

 

Tune in tomorrow (June 9th) at 9:30 AM PST, 12:30 PM EST for a Live Blog of Microsoft’s 2014 E3 Press Conference.