The 2023 Xbox Game Showcase and Starfield Direct, which followed the events of Summer Game Fest 2023, showcased the near-future plans for the Microsoft gaming division, and gave us an idea of what to expect from upcoming Xbox and PC games over the next year or so.
Bethesda’s much-anticipated hard sci-fi RPG Starfield was given a 45-minute-long segment, detailing several aspects of its vast and complex ambitions. We also got very quick looks at the upcoming Fable sequel, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and Forza Motorsport, as well as new looks at brand new titles from first-party Xbox studios, including Clockwork Revolution and Avowed from InExile and Obsidian. The showcase was also home to a first look of Ubisoft’s Star Wars Outlaws, as well as a brand new RPG from Persona developer Atlus, called Metaphor: ReFantazio.
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A digital version of British comedian Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) introduced the new gameplay trailer for Fable, showcasing its detailed, comedic fantasy world. Ayoade is eventually revealed to be a giant in the world – and eventually chases down the protagonist. The trailer ends with the protagonist sitting on his broken glasses.
No other details about the game were shared.
South of Midnight
A gangly, stop-motion undead blues musician named Shakin’ Bones opened the next trailer, as a young woman and her pet rabbit approach. She’s looking for a huge, sneaky creature. Bones refuses to help, and she prepares some kind of webbed power.
It’s unclear what kind of game this is, but South of Midnight is being developed by Compulsion Games (Contrast, We Happy Few).
Star Wars Outlaws
Ubisoft’s Star Wars game was up next. It’s being developed by Massive Entertainment (Tom Clancy’s The Division). The debut trailer opens with a bounty hunter, who quickly leaves her card game in the cantina to avoid pursuit, along with her furry little companion. She jumps on a speeder bike, and escapes into the city.
‘I just need a chance to finally be free, wherever that takes me,’ she says. She encounters a character called Jaylen on her ship, who urges her to join him on another job. We see her travel to new worlds, and glimpses of quite a few shady characters, before the trailer cuts to a high-speed starfight.
It’s coming in 2024, and more will be shown at the upcoming Ubisoft Forward showcase.
Thunder Lotus, the developer of Spiritfarer, then revealed its next game, the combat-focussed 33 Immortals.
It takes place from a top-down perspective, and involves four-player cooperative gameplay as the crusader-like protagonists fight hordes of enemies and solve puzzles in a quest to take down God, seemingly.
It’s coming in 2024, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
The sequel to Starbreeze’s criminal heist game Payday 3 was then shown, featuring plenty of familiar bank robbing, cop-shooting action.
It’s arriving on 21 September 2023, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
Persona 3 Reload
The trailer for the upcoming remake of beloved PlayStation 2 RPG, Persona 3, was then shown. Called Persona 3 Reload, it completely remakes the game in Unreal Engine, a dramatic upgrade from the original.
It’s coming in 2023, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
The next RPG from Obsidian Entertainment (The Outer Worlds) was then shown, a first-person RPG set in a fantasy world. It seems to be the company’s take on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, just as The Outer Worlds was its take on Fallout. It features melee combat, and plenty of magic.
It’s coming in 2024, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass.
Sea of Thieves: The Secret of Monkey Island
Next up, a big surprise: from Rare, a Sea of Thieves expansion based on The Secret of Monkey Island was announced. We were given a look at iconic locations like the SCUMM bar, as well as characters like Stan S. Stanman the boat salesman, and of course, Guybrush Threepwood.
Series antagonist LeChuck is involved, and it looks like there’ll be plenty of action-packed swashbuckling in this original story, which pulls Monkey Island out of the adventure game realm.
It launches on 20 July 2023.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024
From Asobo Studio comes the next instalment in its excellent Microsoft Flight Simulator series, which introduces all manner of aerial task simulations, like Agricultural Aviation, Mountain Rescue Aerial Construction, Firefighting, Cargo Transportation – even a charger service and racing. There’s plenty more, on top of that, including hot air balloons.
It’s coming in 2024.
Additionally, it was also announced that a collaboration with the film Dune, featuring the iconic Ornithopters, is coming to Flight Simulator on 3 November 2023.
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2
A new look at the upcoming action game sequel from Ninja Theory was finally shared, and it was visually impressive, and focused on the internal struggles that Senua will be dealing with this time around.
It opens on Senua struggling to crawl through a very thin gap, as the voices in her head whisper. Covered in dirt and sweat, she looks around a very impressive-looking cave, but it all of a sudden explodes into a strange surreal kaleidoscope as another deep voice pipes up, seeking her.
Senua is confused initially, and then slowly kneels down into a nearby pool of water and falls through her icy reflection. The demo ends.
It’s coming sometime in 2024.
Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Yakuza / Like a Dragon protagonist Ichiban Kasuga begins the next trailer by waking up naked on an American beach, confused and scared. That’s about it – a short and sweet teaser for the next game in the series, which seems to be leaving the setting of Japan for the first time, possibly in Hawaii.
It’s coming in early 2024.
A trailer for the next expansion for Bethesda’s live-service game Fallout 76 was then shown, demonstrating all the new locations and enemies coming to the game, including the gambling haven of Atlantic City.
Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Next up, a brand new game from Capcom (Resident Evil) premiered. Set in a mythological Japanese world, it features very flashy protagonists wielding weapons and magic in a colourful, saturated, and gruesome world with plenty of horrific creatures. It looks to be a cooperative multiplayer action game.
No release date was revealed.
A short history of General Motors served as an introduction to Forza Motorsport, announcing a partnership for the upcoming game. In-game footage of a race featuring GM cars like Corvettes then followed, including looks at car customisation.
The game is arriving 10 October 2023.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom
A trailer for MMO The Elder Scrolls Online was then shown, showcasing the action of the newest expansion, Necrom.
Overwatch 2: Invasion
A trailer for the next major update in Overwatch 2 was shown, featuring the cast of characters taking down the mechs of Null Sector.
The update will feature new game modes, hero mastery challenges, new co-op events, and maps. A new character was also teased.
The new content will launch on 10 August 2023.
Persona 5 Tactica
The trailer for the upcoming tactical strategy RPG based on the Persona 5 universe, Persona 5 Tactica, was then shown. The game features a chibi style for the beloved cast of characters, and involves them diving into new universes and taking place in turn-based battles.
It will be available on 17 November 2023, and be part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
A trailer for Starfield then followed, beginning with narration about the vast reaches of space. A quick montage of various worlds, cities, and human factions was then shown, before a bit about its plot was detailed. The game will involve the recovery of mysterious artefacts in an effort to save humanity’s existence in the universe.
Starfield will release on 6 September 2023.
The new game from Don’t Nod (Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, Life is Strange) followed. This trailer began by following an individual climbing an incredibly steep mountain with their little blobby creature buddy, to a mountaintop village settlement.
It looks like the game will heavily involve mountain climbing, climbing puzzles, and general vertical movement.
It’s coming Autumn 2024 (Northern Hemisphere)
Still Wakes The Deep
The next game from The Chinese Room (Amnesia, Dear Esther, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture) was then shown. It’s a spooky first-person narrative game that takes place on an oil rig in the 1970s, and is very intriguing.
It’s coming in early 2024.
Dungeons of Hintenberg
A third-person action game was then shown, featuring a brightly-coloured cel-shaded world. It involves lots of action combat, ziplining, and rail grinding, which is always a good time.
It’s coming sometime in 2024.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
Actor Keanu Reeves introduced the next trailer, and expressed sincere gratitude for sharing the screen with Idris Elba in the upcoming expansion for Cyberpunk 2077.
The trailer introduces the concept that V, who has a bomb in their head, has a chance to save themselves by undertaking a high-stakes mission that involves the evacuation of a VIP.
Things don’t go to plan, of course, as the mission goes wrong. Idris Elba then features heavily as he guides the player through the aftermath, which has plenty of action.
It’s coming on 26 September 2023.
Cities Skylines 2
A trailer for the new city-building simulator sequel was then shown. It’s got a more realistic feel this time around, and it’s arriving on 24 October 2023.
It’s also coming to Xbox Game Pass.
A new game from Atlus’s Persona team was then shown, an RPG which involves a fantasy-style industrial world, a celestial theme, and a turn-based combat system.
It’s coming sometime in 2024.
A brand new game from the developers of The Banner Saga was then shown, and it’s very different. It’s a fantasy-themed co-op adventure game that looks like an homage to classic arcade side-scrolling brawlers like Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons game from the 1990s.
It’s coming sometime in 2024.
In a steampunk city, an oppressive ruler speaks about the ramifications of rebellion, threatening to chase any dissidents through space and time. It’s a first-person action game, and features footage of the protagonist causing aspects of the world to turn back in time. It has some very strong Bioshock influences.
Clockwork Revolution is coming from InExile Entertainment (Wasteland, Torment), but no release date was provided.
Xbox Series S – Black 1TB Edition
Xbox Boss Phil Spencer closed out the show by announcing a new Xbox model, an Xbox Series S with 1TB storage. It’s releasing on 1 September 2023.
A lengthy, 45-minute presentation focussed on Bethesda’s Starfield followed the Xbox Showcase.
President Todd Howard opened the showcase, speaking about Bethesda’s longtime aspirations for an ambitious game where you go anywhere and do anything, suggesting it’s far and away the most ambitious title the studio has ever done.
Starfield is a Bethesda RPG through and through, said Howard, only it’s over a thousand worlds now, instead of one. A quick montage showed several different planets and possibilities – which are procedurally-generated. Howard talked about the new lighting models and animation systems, which have been newly built for the title.
As the gameplay demonstrations kicked off, footage of both first- and third-person perspectives were shown. It began with the protagonist landing on a planet, mining some resources, and stumbling across a base populated with enemies called ‘Spacer Punks.’ Whipping out a submachine gun and pistol, the character flies around the base with their jetpack to gain a tactical advantage and take them out.
After collecting a bunch of individual objects from the world, a detailed look at the inventory was then shown, where every item is rendered in detail – including the many items of space-age food. The protagonist then returns to their ship.
Bethesda describes the style of Starfield as ‘NASA-Punk’, where everything is grounded but stylish, with the intention to make everything feel analog and lived-in.
A look at the world map was then shown, beginning on the planet, then pulling out into a solar system map, and then further still to a galaxy map, showcasing the sheer quantity of explorable locations – though you’ll need an upgraded ship to jump to locations further afield.
The demo then took the ship to a planet in Alpha Centauri called New Atlantis, the game’s primary city, from the perspective of the very chunky-looking analog cockpit.
New Atlantis is a very futuristic, space-age city, which the studio boasts as being the biggest city they have ever built, while emphasising the importance of the tiny stories it tells within it, which are what help to make it feel like a real place.
This kicks off an explanation of the story, which involves an organisation called Constellation whose primary objective is space exploration. The story revolves around a set of mysterious artefacts, which potentially serve as evidence of life outside of the settled human systems, vast as they are.
A brief rundown of Starfield’s cast of supporting characters was then shown, and following that, a quick rundown of a number of cities, factions, and colonies. These encompass various themes and presumably narrative styles, include a mining town, a Western-themed town, and a cyberpunk-themed ‘pleasure city’. Bethesda then detailed several uncolonised systems, which are populated with several different criminal factions.
A brief segment was devoted to the character creator and its improvements over previous Bethesda character creators, including the increased diversity of the characters and better-looking ethnicities. A look at the creator showed options for just about everything, including teeth.
The character system also involves background stories for your character, which can come in handy throughout the game, and also traits, which can affect how the world interacts with you in different aspects – religion, family, and combat prowess. Traits can come with both advantages and disadvantages and can be removed throughout the course of the game under certain circumstances.
The system shares much in common with the character creation system of past Fallout games.
Skills and levelling up
The character skill system was then detailed. As you level up your characters, you’ll earn points which allow you to unlock skills. Once you have a skill unlocked, completing designated challenges with that skill will unlock ranks within it, which will improve its effectiveness – a mix of previous Bethesda RPG skill systems.
Several skills were detailed, including alien mind control, pickpocketing, powerful punching, jetpacking, and persuasion via speech checks. A bit of time was then given to draw attention to the science-based methodology used to create the worlds of Starfield.
Ships and Companions
A focus was then given to the various starships that players can build, fly, and customise. Using spaceports located on various planets, you can buy, sell, and modify your ship based on your needs within the game, for example, starfighting or freight hauling. A brief demo for the shipbuilding mode was then shown, as individual components, compartments, and weapons were modified.
The different modules don’t just affect the stats of a ship, but alter physical space within it – we’re talking about bedrooms, mess halls, armories, and more, which you and your crew members will need to inhabit.
A variety of bizarre ships, like one shaped like a platypus and another like a very cumbersome mech, were shown to demonstrate the creative possibilities.
Companions were then given a focus. Many of the supporting characters can join you on your ship, and they come with their own traits, and are romanceable. You’ll also be able to recruit seemingly more generic crew members from cities, and find them out in the word, where you can then assign them to duties on outposts, in the ship, or in the field.
A brief glimpse of ship combat was then shared, which can take place in third or first person perspectives, and will make use of several different components like shields, weaponry, and engines to dictate your abilities, all of which are installed via the shipbuilder.
Destroying other ships in space will allow you to loot them directly from your cockpit, and you can destroy them for scrap materials, but you can also dock the ship personally, take down its inhabitants, and steal it for yourself.
You’ll be able to dock with friendly ships and space stations to explore them, conduct general piracy on innocent vessels, and generally meet a bunch of quirky characters and get sidetracked by their quests and stories.
Collector’s Edition, Controller, and Headset
A brief segment was dedicated to the physical collector’s edition of the game, which comes with a replica watch, identical to the one in the game. It’ll connect to your smartphone to display messages and notifications.
A look at the custom Starfield Controller and Xbox Headset was then shown. These are largely white, with some thematic details on them.
Planets and Outposts
Some details about the procedural planet system were then shared. This system will generate resources and some handcrafted elements to give each random planet at least some personality. No two experiences will be the same, allegedly, but some elements will be common to all experiences.
A brief demo on a procedural planet quickly shifted into a combat sequence on an enemy base, and then showed some more resource mining, exploration, and flora/fauna surveying. The option to build bases on these planets to take advantage of natural resources was also described.
These base outposts can serve as harvesting facilities, as well as homes. You can assign crew members to look after them, and they’ll be built with an improved base-building system from the one seen in previous Bethesda games, featuring a top-down perspective for easier planning. Outposts can also undertake research projects.
Some additional time was then given to the game’s lighting model, which aims to create a cinematic look and feel to the action.
Combat and weaponry
Focus was then placed onto the weapons of the game, which are moddable, customisable, and upgradeable. We got a good look at silenced weapons, explosive weaponry, and plenty of automatic weapons, too.
Some attention was then given to the different levels of gravity on each planet, and how they will impact combat. Essentially, you can jump higher and use that to your advantage. Zero-gravity environments however will affect gunplay quite a bit more – bullets will send you flying back, but energy weapons won’t. There is also a collection of magnetised weaponry in the game, as well as plenty of melee options and heavy weaponry.
A quick montage showed off a variety of enemies, including some kind of alien T-Rex.
The overall takeaway seems to be that Starfield is very much a Bethesda Softworks-style RPG, but on a much, much larger scale.
Starfield will be released on 6 September 2023 for Xbox Series X/S and PC.