Dark Souls IIDark Souls II.Just thought I’d get that out of the way at the start.Yes, I have played it – and been killed by it – and also chatted with a couple of people who are making it. The good news is that it’s still very, very hard. The terrifying news is that it’s now smarter. Enemies will no longer stick with the same attack loops, but will learn from your attack and defence tactics and adapt to suit.This means that if you get away from an enemy and start drinking a healing potion, there’s a good chance they will notice and suddenly share at you. Turn you back on them and they will dart in and stab you in the back. Roll aside from every attack and they will start using sweeping attacks that catch you before you can recover.It also looks amazing with its all-new engine, and it will be coming to PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on launch day – no waiting times for anyone this time around. And let me just reiterate: the difficulty has not been reduced, despite the rumours. The demonstrator died repeatedly, and only beat the final boss twice over the three days of E3.Also at Namco Bandai, I played Project X Zone, a 3DS exclusive that is an unprecedented cross-over between Capcom, Sega, and Namco. It is a real-time Japanese role-playing game featuring a roast of around 60 playable characters from Street Fighter, Tekken, Virtual Fighter, and other properties like Megaman. I was completely baffled, but it looks great, and it will be out soon, too.I also played the new Armoured Core title, Armoured Core Verdict Day. It is more giant robot battling goodness, with a ludicrously deep and complex mech-customisation system. Swap around limbs, add and switch around guns, and then colour every piece individually with a four-colour palette. A must-buy for robot lovers.Next was the simply-titled Thief. This long-awaited reboot of the grand old series is looking stunning, finding a delicate balance between respect for the original design and allowances for the way gamers play today. Master thief Garrett is back, and his movement is fluid and agile. Combat is still a last resort, and getting cornered by multiple guards will result in your death, more often than not. This is a true stealth game, and my interview with the creative director filled me with hope that they will do it right.Elsewhere in the Square Enix booth, I got a quick look at both new Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XV, which used to be FF XIII Versus. I didn’t get hands-on with either, but the presentations I sat in on showed that both are vastly different from the Final Fantasies of the past. XIV is an online RPG, in which you pay solo with AI-controlled chocobos (yes really) or in multiplayer with friends, controlling a single character each.XV, which has been in production for nearly a decade now, is a controversial choice for a “main line” title. It is essentially a Platinum-style Japanese brawler, along the lines of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, though coupled with FF’s gorgeous design aesthetic and strong storytelling. Usually departures from standard JRPG mechanics are subtitled, like the “versus” in it’s original title, so giving it an unadorned number has some fans up in arms. Controversy aside, it looks pretty amazing, and I look forward to getting hands-on with it.Continuing my very Japanese day, I next got hands-on time with Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, plus a guided demo with development team members, and then an interview with creator Inafune-san himself. Again, interviewing through an interpreter is challenging, but we had a fascinating chat about this whacky new entry in the series.It features Yaiba, frequent adversary of series hero Ryu Hayabusa, who begins the game by dying under Ryu’s blade. What follows it an over the top zombie splatter epic as Yaiba rises from the dead as a zombie-cyborg-ninja and ploughs through hordes of zombies to get at his hated rival. Very politically incorrect, and lots of fun. The interview will be here on Screen Play in the coming weeks.The rest of the day came in a gigantic rush as I ran from appointment to appointment. I finally got to see Call of Duty: Ghosts in action at a closed-door demo, running live on a PlayStation 4. Wow, basically. CoD has needed a new engine for years, and the new hardware generation gave them the push they needed. It looks incredible, but still runs at 60 frames per second.Gameplay wise, it plays around with the CoD formula very smartly. The dog seen in the Xbox One reveal is a vital member of the team, providing reconnaissance, stealth attack, and distractions. I love that Infinity Ward finally has the chance to make something totally new, and I think this will be as big an event as the original Modern Warfare. It even has underwater gunplay, with scuba divers dodging behind coral and firing pneumatic weapons at each other. Oh, and while it is a showcase for the new generation, it will also be on PC, 360, and PS3, so don’t worry about being left behind.Next I nipped back over to Bethesda to interview the narrative designer for Wolfenstein: The New Order. As I mentioned the other day, this new title departs from the Nazi zombie vibe of recent games and instead brings back the original hero, B.J. Blazkowicz, fighting an ascendant Third Reich who won WW2 with mysterious and powerful technology. That interview will be online here soon.Finally I bounced back over to Sega to check out their two upcoming PC strategy titles, Total War: Rome II and Company of Heroes 2. These are both games of staggering scope and complexity, and hardcore strategy gamers will be in heaven with this duo. Rome II is a full empire simulator, focusing not just on the battlefield but also on diplomacy, trade routes, resource gathering, and recruitment. It also merges naval and land into a single battlefield, with one able to support the other.Company of Heroes 2 takes the WW2 action to the little seen Eastern Front, where Russia and Germany threw millions of bodies at each other in the deadliest conflict of all time. It may be the most realistic depiction of a real world battlefield ever made, with infantry and vehicles advancing through the bitter cold to take strategic points on the battlefield. The incredible engine renders real-time line of sight, with shooting lines being blocked by smoke, vehicles, and debris. It’s complex and difficult, but developer Relic promises that it will include plenty of tools and tutorials to help new players master it.I scored interviews with developers on both titles, so look for those in the next few weeks.So, that’s it! While I was sneaking in a few minutes of play on Company of Heroes after the interview, the voice came over the PA: “E3 2013 is now closed. Please make your way to the exits.” Not surprisingly, there was a loud “Aww!” from 50,000 attendees.I going to have a weekend in Las Vegas to relax and recharge my batteries, and will return to Australia next week. Tuesday I will list my highlights and try to decide on a “best of show”, and on Wednesday I have some excellent Your Turn submissions to run.Thanks for your patience everyone, and for those who are sick of everything E3, the end is in sight!- James “DexX” Dominguez
Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.