Articles tagged with egx 2017


Sep
25
Posted by Mark at 17:57
Away from the first parties, the Rezzed (or 'Indie', if you'd rather) zone felt an awful lot bigger than it had been in previous years, particularly as larger companies have started muscling in, and groups of developers have started to band together to create showier booths.


There was a notable number of Switches dotted about on indie dev booths- certainly more this year alone than I remember seeing Wii Us in all the years it was going, and that's not including the demo units on Nintendo's own indie booth, featuring Flat Heroes, which is a multiplayer precision platformer which expects you to move around and avoid bullets, rather than reach a goal, Dandara, a retro-styled cross between a Metroidvania and Gravity Rush where the player traverses the world by bouncing from wall to floor to ceiling rather than walking like a normal person, Dimension Drive, a port of a PC shmup where you shift between two sides of the screen, Super Meat Boy Forever and Rogue Trooper Redux.

Being a 2000AD property, Rogue Trooper comes from the dubiously indie Rebellion, whose latest, Strange Brigade made a showing in a faux-Aztec booth with its own zeppelin.

While there's clearly a lot of very straight lines to be drawn between Rebellion's Sniper Elite franchise and this, it's also clearly the direct opposite. Short, linear corridor areas lead to slightly more open and chaotic combat arenas, filled with loads of easily-dispatched enemies and one big enemy that needs to be defeated to progress.

In order to help this process along there's various boobytraps you can trigger by shooting nearby orbs, and every kill you get charges up a meter which you can exchange for what is best described as a Shoryuken. Multiplayer communication is evidently key as a light puzzle element managed to elude the pair of us playing and could probably have been avoided. I'm blaming the noise inherent in expo halls.

Square-Enix Collective, the Japanese firm's indie label, had a large showing- much of this was repeats from last year, including what seemed to be the same demo of Forgotton Anne and the already released Black: The Fall. All are on PC, but some are getting released on one console or the other.

Games that are already out are slightly less disappointing in the indie section, so it's worth giving them the time of day. Goetia- out since April- is a point and click where you control the ghost of a dead girl from the Victorian era, it's mostly straightforward, but the ability to posess items suggests it could go a bit Ghost Trick later on.

The same developer, Sushee, also had Fear Effect: Sedna on the show floor, which is simply an isometric shooter, but in controlling two characters you can pause the game and draw a track for them to both follow for pincer movements, a bit like in the first Rainbox Six, before returning to a more traditional control system.

Batallion 1944-released in May- seems to be the publisher's attempt at getting in on the CoD/Battlefield market and everything that entails. Superficially, though, it resembles PS1-era Medal Of Honor. Deadbeat Heroes is a scrolling fighter from Lionhead and Rockstar alumni and influenced by comics from the sixties and seventies. Clearly early in development, as evidenced by some limited and as a result annoying barks, its relies on normal people acquiring superpowers (or special moves, if you like) infrequently.

The last notable game from Collective was Octahedron, a neon-soaked disco platformer where you traverse levels by creating platforms underneath your feet, like that New Super Mario Bros. U mode but with one player. It features some nifty tricks like platforms that appear and disappear based on how far across the screen you are.

No Truce With The Furies- which is begging to be mis-spelled- is a 'dark noir' Planescape Torment-'em-up with a wordy narrative focus and a strong oil-painting aesthetic.

Yoku's Island Express is a surprisingly compelling pinball platformer on PC and Switch about a dung beetle who's got a job delivering the post, and has to do this by rattling around pinball-like worlds collecting fruit because videogames.

Skye, which is getting a name change you were able to vote on on Twitter to avoid confusion with thatgamecompany's Sky, is a relaxing game where you control a flying snake and solve the problems of people living on floating islands- that's coming to XBone and PS4.

Still beating the pair of them for 'quirkiest premise', though, is the iOS-focused Astrologaster, replicating the real life 16th-century tribulations of medical astrologer (again, 16th-century) Simon Forman. This involves using astrology to give advice to his patients- good advice will see them come back for more and continue their story, while bad advice will not. This is all wrapped up in a pop-up-book interface which suits the tablet platform brilliantly.

Students of The National Film And Television School also showcased their works, the most notable being Jonathan Nielssen's Falling Sky, a spectacularly ambitious one-man attempt at being David Cage, but less pretentious. A short demo sees you visit home after repeatedly phoning up and getting no answer, because Mum's gone missing. You pick up your little brother and drive him to a diner, and the demo ends.

The Grand Mission, by William Blake, is a comedic game about managing a steampunk spaceship, involving very carefully deploying workers to different parts of the ship (engine rooms, weaponry and so forth) in order to re-open space tea trade routes- like a slower, Victoriana Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime.

Gracie Drake has created the most obviously 'gamey' game in the selection in Supremely Excellent Goblins, which is a dungeon crawler in the vein of the Zeldalikes that made up the Game Boy Advance library.

My Last Son, by Sam Rowett, is Ben-bait of the highest order, being an adventure game based on the five stages of grief. That'll probably get some attention from him on its own at some point.

There's more on all the NFTS games, including four we've not covered, here.

Back in commercial indie games, Attack Of The Earthlings pitches itself as "reverse XCOM"- not that you start with a load of permadead soldiers which come back to life, but that you begin as one alien infiltrating a spaceship and, by eating the human crew, birth more aliens and evolve them into different forms (or 'classes', if you're being traditional).

Much like Fear Effect above, this features a 'group attack' where you line up a move for each character in turn for them all to be executed simultaneously.

Oil was one of the few games showcased for Apple TV, and played using the remote. It's a two-player party game which is fundamentally competitive Minesweeper. One player places oil in a grid (while the other charitably looks the other way and isn't peeking, promise) and then they both take it in turns to dig the oil up, with the winner being the one getting the most.

The Occupation has a go at Proper Topical Politics, centering around the hours leading up to a Government vote on the secretive 'Union Act'- allegedly set in 1980's Britain but feeling very American, you play as a reporter trying to uncover the law's details and get them out to the public. The Union act is hinted to be highly draconian and invites paralells to current real-world laws surrounding protest and surveillance, such as our own Investigatory Powers bill and the US' PATRIOT Act.

Over in the Leftfield Collection, we see the flipside of this is in Off Grid- which concerns itself with a much more fictionalised near-future approach to the matter of big data and mass internet surveillance, and using the inherently insecure network it needs to achieve your goals. (Amusingly, the game's website makes a lot of press quotes about data being your weapon and Edward Snowden, but still has the obligatory EU-mandated "This website uses cookies for some of it's functionality, and to help us make it better. We use a Google Analytics script which sets cookies." message at the bottom)

Just up from that is Semblance, a platformer about deforming platforms by smashing into them, making them the correct shape to collect the tokens you need to progress. Pleasingly odd, and a proper head-scratcher when it starts to add rigid platforms and objects that reset the deformed platforms into the mix.

The two most compelling games of the Collection, though, weren't videogames at all. Mystery Box was a box covered in various buttons and switches, and you had to press the one highlighted on a screen attached to it, but always displayed from an obtuse camera angle. A bit like the bomb in Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, but nobody explodes. RotoRing, meanwhile was two rings of LEDs- you turn a dial to move the white one to avoid the red ones and reach the one that's not switched on.
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Microsoft
Sep 24
Posted by Mark at 18:25

Alright, I was wrong- Sunday was heaving.


Microsoft was the other absentee at last year's show, but they were back this year- although notably while Sony had the PS Access lot on stage all show, and Nintendo had not only their usual stage show but also announcers over on their tournament booth, Microsoft had nothing.

Well, they had games, obviously. But no stage, which is increasingly unusual for a show where Twitch rock up with a full arena and even Dissidia (ref. Thursday's article) got a stage to itself.

The three main pillars of their booth were Forza 7- skipped today because they just released a demo, Sea of Thieves- skipped since it's been on closed beta for donkey's, and Middle Earth: Shadow of War- skipped because I don't particularly care, even if it was guarded by a massive fibreglass dragon.


Tucked into a corner of the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (skipped because it's basically already out) area was Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

Much like with Total Warhammer II, being a big PC strategy game it's hard to get a feel for it on the show floor, especially as its surprising popularity meant people had to be swept through the booth on a timer. However, it's clear that this is closer to a 'proper' remake than AoE 2 HD was, which just seemed to be the original game running at 1080p.

Also managing to clock up the square footage was Super Lucky's Tale, the cartoon platformer unveiled at E3 which, going off the EGX demo, might not be shit. Admittedly it's not going to make Mario shake in whatever footwear the poor sod his hat's possessed was wearing, but it's an entertaining enough straightfoward platformer.

The demo had you reunite three robot heads with their respective bodies in order to wake up a golem. The first of these was right next to the bodies- a simple tutorial- the next at the top of a small tower, and the third behind a more involved course including enemies and jumping puzzles.

Inside the Golem was another decapitated automaton whose head needed to be carried along a fireball-filled gauntlet, while Lucky himself was being chased by a larger, sentient fireball. Nothing new, but tighter and more focused than last year's Yooka-Laylee.

(Also, quite charmingly the Lucky demo pods all had bright orange controllers with light blue trim, and 'Lucky' laser-etched on them. Clearly an ad for their Design Labs customisation service, but clever nonetheless)

A few smaller games knocking about on their booth included Huntdown, which is doing the retro arcade run-and-gun thing very well, Robocraft Infinity which is combatitive Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts, and Away: Journey to the Unexpected which starts with a late-80's-early-90's, Samurai Pizza Cats-era anime opening and hammy Japanese theme tune.

It's a kind of RPG-like game, not dissimilar to Elder Scrolls, but aiming to be a little lighter and have a- quote- 'wacky' sense of humour. So it could be good, or it could be another Citizens of Earth.

GALLERY:
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Sony, Sega and (Ubi)Soft
Sep 22
Posted by Mark at 19:54

The Sony booth this year is the home of the Annual Update Games- specifically, FIFA and Call of Duty, with the more interesting games hidden behind them.


Notable also is the amount of space dedicated to Sony's desperate attempts to make Playstation VR a thing, including a massive VR helmet which makes the booth look like a Daft Punk tribute to Planet Of The Apes.


Like Nintendo's booth, it's full of titles that are already out, like expandalone Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Star Wars licence Battlefront II, inexplicable sequel Knack 2 and microtransaction shitfest Everybody's Golf. Some smaller new titles which were also there included Hob, which is a top-down-ish adventure game where you play as a guy with a massive hand, which he uses to solve puzzles in order to gradually unlock a tower by rotating bits of it.

I've not explained that very well. It does, however, look like what Knack was probably meant to, so there's that.

We saw Monster Hunter Stories on 3DS yesterday and today we say Monster Hunter World on PS4. A more 'curated' demo than its handheld counterpart, this does a much better job of explaining its mechanics and objectives- although this could also be related to the presence of Scoutflies, which effectively point out everything of vague interest to progressing through the mission.

The initial mission offered sees you trying to hunt a monster by first having some footprints drawn to your attention, then a scrape on the ground that the game nicely describes as "skidmarks", then another footprint and another until eventually the Scoutflies form a trail to follow to the monster. This is one of the new features added to make the game more accessible to people less familiar with the series, but it feels that it could turn the game into a box-checking exercise.

There was also Ni No Kuni II, which looks as pretty as you'd expect. The battle system can be a bit chaotic during boss fights, but it seems to work quite nicely in battles against smaller enemies in the world.

Also present was David Cage's new title Detroit: Become Human, which I didn't get the chance to watch today- although I did overhear one of the reps on the booth send one of the professional cosplayers they had manning the booth on their break by calling them over with 'Android, come here" and telling them to go into maintenance mode for thirty minutes.

Sony's recent push into phone-controlled games in the form of Playlink was represented by Frantics, by Affordable Space Adventures dev Knapnok. This is a series of motion-controlled party games, hosted by a slightly posh-talking fox, and controlled using the accelerometers in the phones- four top-of-the-line Sony devices, in the booth's case.

There were three games in my session, one where you have to avoid slipping off an ice platform by tilting the way you want to go, another where you fire yourself out of cannons so some (but not all) of you are on a platform, and another race game where before each race you secretly choose a player to have some modification to their vehicle which may or may not be helpful to them.

There was an interesting twist where, before the third game, the host 'called' one player's phone to give them a secret misison.

It's hard to fault the party games themselves, but the phone apps crashing exposed that each Playlink title needs its own individual app- Frantics ostensibly cannot be played using the app associated with That's You!, which has been out in the wild for some time- and that connecting your phone to your PS4 needs you to enter an IP address, which loses the immediacy of the browser-and-four-digit-code setup of the Jackbox games, and is a far cry from the apps-within-an-app world promised by xBox Smartglass.

Speaking of Far Cry, the Ubisoft booth next door housed the fifth game in the series. The short part of the game available focused around the obligatory Ubisoft Game tower, and charged the player with killing all the cultists around the base of it. A number of ways of achieving this was offered, from flinging in grenades to fighting them in the streets to sniping them from the top of the tower.

This, alongside stablemate Assassin's Creed: Origins which seems to have ditched parkour in favour of putting things really far away from one another and making you travel to them, were the first games to really show any seriously large queues- although Ubi made use of the extra space available to them, running lots of demo units and moving people through quickly.

Most of the booth, though, was some Mario + Rabbids demos sparsely dotted about in an almost empty space dominated by a massive fibreglass Rabbid Kong. (There was also South Park: The Fractured But Whole tucked away in a corner)


Sega, meanwhile, chose to showcase Sonic Forces, which looks like it's as good an extension on the Modern Sonic/Generations format as we're going to see. Three levels were on offer, including one of the mental genre-flip-flopping arrangements Colours perfected, a boss level, and a new 'Avatar' level where you put together disparate elements to create your own Original Character Do Not Steal and play as that. It also doesn't quite work, which I'm assuming is satire.

Last but not least, there was a few PCs running Total War: Warhammer II. Which was Total War: Warhammer II.

GALLERY:
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EGX 2017 Impressions:
Mostly Nintendo
Sep 21
Posted by Mark at 17:48

But also Dissidia and Dragonball!


Where last year's EGX was notable for two platform holders basically not showing up, this year's, today at least, feels as if it's the punters that have skipped the show.

This may be a quirk of the show feeling a bit bigger this year- it's probably not so much fewer people as fewer people per square foot, with what seems to be a lot of (very welcome) empty space between demo pods. The event marketing alleges that there's more games than ever before, but that has to be balanced by the appearance of so many games that are already out- Nintendo alone brought ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario & Rabbids, Samus Returns, Sonic Mania (which also made a significant appearance at Sega's booth), Lego Worlds, and NBA 2K18- and that was just on their main booth. (As if to make up for lost time, Nintendo had three seperate booths this year- their main one, one for indies which we'll cover in the next few days, and a tournament booth in the eSports area)

The upshot of this is that for many games, there's not been a lot in the way of queueing- except for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, beset by technical issues relating to the game's 3-on-3 network play meaning that for a while at the start of the day nobody was getting to play while people scrabbled under tables fiddling with wires. A functioning single-player mode was eventually deployed. Gameplay centres around using high-powered, spectacular attacks rarely rather than small attacks more frequently, making it feel less like a teamplay beat-'em-up and more like Warriors but without the chaos which makes it make sense.

On the subject of Warriors, one of Nintendo's new games was the format's excursion into Fire Emblem- much like Hyrule Warriors before it there's not much to fault in the Warriors-ing, and this iteration brings the ability to switch between characters to the table. While only a pre-set group were playable today, players can not only cycle between the four characters at will, they can also be individually directed to specific areas of the map, using a grid in a nod to its turn-based strategy roots.

There are flaws in this process, at one point all four of my characters levelled up within very quick succession of one another taking me through the a full recreation of the Level Up ceremony from 3DS four times very quickly, but this is obviously an edge case. It's also a lot of fun to see your favourite characters from the 3DS games in Glorious High Definition, so we can probably overlook it for now.

There was also the opportunity to showcase the new side-game in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions- it's not a lot to write home about, as a crowd of what are traditionally enemies from the Mario series butt heads with another automatically with minimal input from the player. A nice add-on, but unexciting on its own.

Super Mario Odyssey was also present, but that appeared to be the same build Nintendo had already exhibited at Hyper Japan earlier this year- and since there's been big previews of that recently, we'll be stepping over it here.

What is probably one of the last examples of a big third-party 3DS game, Monster Hunter Stories was also available to play. Traditionally where Nintendo have presented specially curated demos of their console games at events like EGX, 3DS games presented tend to be final retail games and that appeared to be true here- which meant the game seemed a little directionless as you were effectively picking up someone else's save file and all the mistakes they made with it and it's hard to get a feel for it. It does, however, feel exactly how you'd expect a traditional JRPG version of Monster Hunter to be.

Floating about independently of publisher booths- or at least, those as obviously branded as the first-party booths was DragonBall FighterZ, which has pulled the clever trick of running its cutscenes at a lower frame-rate than the gameplay, imitating the framerate of the hand-drawn animation of the original TV show.
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