Bypassing the troublesome Shadwell Overground stairs via the elevator once again proved a dream, especially the smell, but the lack of fish in the ornamental canal was of great concern to me. Where had they gone? Why? And could they ever truly exist in those two-inch deep waters? So many great questions, but only one certainty: I was back at Tobacco Dock for EGX Rezzed 2018.
This year’s show had so many playable games that even two days worth of attendance was insufficient to see them all.
First up was Lake Ridden, a first-person puzzle-adventure set inside the guts of a gloomy lake, largely devoid of water. The puzzles are cryptic enough, the setting has a creepy edge, and the story is intriguing. Let’s see how it develops.
I followed-on with a selection of games from cracking London-based publisher Chucklefish. I’ve mentioned Wargroove a few times on the site - most notably as one of my most anticipated games of 2018 - and I have no qualms in reiterating that this is going to be essential gaming. They also had “Stealthvania” game The Siege and the Sandfox on show, as well as Pathway, another fabulous strategy game. All three titles are a great showcase of Chucklefish’s brilliant expanding roster.
Curve Digital - another splendid publisher - had a few games on show ‘ere too. I thoroughly enjoyed the arcade-stylings and twin-stick fun of Rogue Aces, cartoony aircraft-sim Bomber Crew, and strategic RPG For The King. The former is available now on Switch and PlayStation platforms (that’s PS4 and Vita), whilst the middler and latter are currently available on Steam.
My time in the Indie Room (above-ground branch) came to a close with two biggies: Disco Elysium and Phoenix Point.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty; be they booze, smoking, drugs, memory and/or mental health related. Tasked with solving a murder, this unique isometric police RPG gives the player a staggering amount of choices, featuring multiple skill sets (these affect your character’s perception of the world, and how he interacts with people), a gorgeously gritty hand-painted art style, and ever so much replayability. I can’t help but be excited!
Phoenix Point is the latest strategy game from master of the genre Julian Gollop. In time-honoured fashion, you take control of a team of grunts armed with big guns, rippling muscles and cheesey dialogue as you tackle objectives and blast alien scum. Fans of all things XCOM can PARTY now.
What goes up must surely come down, so, like morning toothpaste finding its way to trouser leg, I stumbled downstairs to the Indie Room (basement branch). Just like its above-ground brethren, the basement room was chock fulla great games.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty, and I can’t help but be excited about this unique isometric police RPG!
PQube’s selections caught my eyes and ears first, which lead me to enjoy time with sinister text adventure Stay, 8-bit side-scrolling slasher Aggelos, and produce-focused karter All-Star Fruit Racing. They also had the wonderful Cat Quest on the go - if you haven’t already, go and check it out!
It was great to see Aperion Cyberstorm being enjoyed by many in its Switch incarnation, Hipster Cafe Simulator providing many laughs, and beautifully animated (and darkly funny) adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, all running side-by-side.
The highlight of the room was local multiplayer communicate-‘em-up Catastronauts. You and your associates are placed in charge of a spacecraft, tasked with blastin’ away other crews. Much like the genre-defining Overcooked, Catastronauts uses the rising panic of putting out fires, removing bombs and firing lasers to create real laughs. Look out for this one when it drops later in the year.
By now the bells were tolling, so off I toddled to the land of the well established: that’s right, it were time for PlayStation, Sega, Xbox and Nintendo.
PlayStation had a paltry amount of titles on show this year, but as if to paint quality over quantity, what was there was truly fabbo. Guacamelee 2 provides more hectic, Mexican rasslin’-infused fun, there was silliness aplenty in The Adventure Pals, and irresistibly cute graphics in The Swords of Ditto.
Gorgeous adventure Heaven’s Vault is what really stood out, though. Featured in my seven to look out for at Rezzed piece, HV surpassed my already high expectations of what the open-world point-and-click adventure would be. Taking control of archeologist Aliya, I interacted with helpful/humourless robot chum Six, investigated the ruins of a beautiful lost world, and attempted to translate lots of hieroglyphics. The alluring blend of 2D character art and 3D environments is a triumphant success, as was the slow-burn quality of the gameplay. One of my games of the show, for sure.
Microsoft’s ID@Xbox room was lacking in space (at least for corpulent Milky Bar men like myself), but did exhibit some superb games. Our esteemed Editor, Monsieur James Michael Parry, joined me for a blast at Metal Slug-like Huntdown - which is really good old-school fun - Terratech’s Minecraftian vehicular combat, and the joys of reigning over the proletariat in Kingdom: Two Crowns. The highlight here, however, was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person cooperative shooting. It was great fun, and even better when played in a group, as Jim lad will testify to.
The ID@Xbox highlight was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person co-op shooting. It was great fun, especially when played in a group.
Nintendo and Sega offered slim pickings this year, as they both showed games already available on other platforms. Mega Drive Classics will definitely be a day one pick up for myself, but I don’t see why they needed to bring it; the just-announced Shenmue re-releases would’ve made more sense. Nintendo’s appeal rested solely on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We’re pleased to announce that it’s shaping up to be another Suda 51 classic, the auteur's crazy combat, retina-destroying colours and self-aware dialogue all being intact.
Are you still with me, comrades? If so, let’s travel into the dark heart of the Unreal Engine Showcase to sample Another Sight, Metamorphosis, Space Cows, some fishing, and the brilliant Lost Ember.
Another Sight puts you in the dual-role of blind gal and nimble cat, as you explore Victorian-era underground London - sewers, trains, et al. Space Cows carries the same charm as clumsy controllers Octodad and Manuel Samuel, as you traverse a colourful world in search of milk and cows. It was hilarious.
Metamorphosis casts thee as a man trapped in the body of a spider: Why are you here? What are those men doing to your friend? How will you return to human form? The game's sneaking and scuttling was good fun, as was currently-available-on-Xbox-Game-Pass carp-botherer, Dovetail Fishing - maybe this is where the ornamental canal’s dorsal-equipped water breathers had vanished to?
Lost Ember was the real winner here though, with its attractive visuals and possessing gameplay mechanic. You play a wolf, who, with the help of a spirit mate, can possess other animals to help traverse a natural world free of humans. I got tinges of Journey and Abzu playing the game, but there’s definitely plenty of originality lurking in Lost Ember’s characters and story. Once polished, this has serious potential.
Coatsink and Wired Productions had some quality stuff up their sleeves this year too, with games that really honed in on fun.
Wired had gravity-defying speedster Grip on show, as well as the glorious return of Shaq-Fu. Shaq was a personal favourite, featuring Saber Interactive’s pleasing NBA Playgrounds art style and side-scrolling, button-mashing bouts straight outta the 90s. Add to that rich colour comic book cutscenes with hilarious writing and voice over, and I cannae wait for this one.
The hockey/football/Micro Machines mash-up that is Coatsink’s ClusterPuck 99 thoroughly entertained myself and herr-Editor, as we managed to win both of our games against fellow attendees. Coatsink’s highlight, however, was the fabulous Phogs, a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
Jam and I played in co-op mode, using the same controller to immensely increase the hilarity of the experience. You each control one end of a double-ended dog, aiming to progress through some exquisite locales via the medium of hungry giant worms. The game had a real Nintendo-at-its-most-joyous feel to it, and trust us when we say, this is going to be the game to play at parties.
The fabulous Phogs is a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
My voyage around Rezzed finished at the glorious Leftfield Collection this year, a place that truly encapsulates the spirit of the show, in one’s humble opinion. The feeling of community was present as soon as I entered, gazing upon hand-drawn posters above each title, friendly faces from all over the world, and some superb games.
Leftfield was a true exhibition of the arts; from design, to visual presentation, to music, it all came together as my personal combined star of the show. A cop-out maybe, but there’s no doubting the reality: Leftfield displayed the true nature of gaming, and maybe even life (if you’ll forgive my pretension) - personal, meaningful, fun. It’s for that reason you can expect to see an article focused squarely on the great Leftfield games on show, which really deserve the spotlight.
With that, I downed my last coffee of the weekend, checked one last time for fish, and disappeared into the night. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, farvel - see ya next year, Rezzed!
For plenty more EGX Rezzed 2018 coverage, stay tuned to Pass the Controller.
Music rhythm games are pretty old hat these days, having been run into the ground at the height of their popularity, around ten years ago now, through a greedy and endless stream of cookie-cutter releases. By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the genre back into the fold when it hits Steam Early Access on 11 April.
By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the music rhythm genre back into the fold.
Whilst carving a bloody path through the USA - across 15 stages set to the game’s original soundtrack, which spans light rock through heavy metal - you’ll get to know the head-banging fivesome comprising the Double Kick Heroes. Text-based interactions during interludes make reference to all aspects of pop culture, but they’re so ham-fistedly frequent and obvious that it can feel like there’s a sleeve-tugging child shoving their collection of “cool” toys under your nose. The aim here was never to produce an artsy, postmodern pastiche though, with the foul-mouthed stereotypes quickly establishing the desired sense of character.
Story mode currently runs around three hours, but that’s set to double as DKH continues its development and the band embark on a European tour. There’s also the mysterious Hellgate mode to be added, but in the meantime polishing your skills in Arcade mode and creating/downloading custom stages via the in-depth-but-straightforward Level Editor should be plenty to keep you busy.
Most user-generated levels are based on established songs, for example Metallica’s Master of Puppets, which means you’ll need the relevant MP3 file for the game to sync up and have you play along with. It’s a clever little way around hefty licensing fees and should serve to keep devoted metalheads indefinitely busy.
Provided you held on to them, you can also use your old Guitar Hero or Rock Band peripherals to play; you’ll have no issue plug and playing with a USB drum set, but old wireless guitars require forking out for a signal receiver, which is unfortunate when they’re precisely what most people will have to hand.
That’s not an insignificant blunder, but it’s ultimately outside of developer Headbang Club’s control. The team have otherwise done a great job on the technical front, maintaining a solid 60 frames per second during gameplay to ensure there’s no chance of dropping notes through no fault of your own.
Even at this pre-Early Access stage then, in spite of some largely par-for-the-course flaws, Double Kick Heroes is a very playable evolution of the music rhythm genre. It’s a game with a specific audience that does everything it can to cater to its niche, so, if you fit the bill, add DKH to your watchlist as it can only get better from here.
2017 was a pretty great year for games, wasn’t it? Games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Wolfenstein 2 were just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating new Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi titles for the Switch, not to mention a potential new Pokémon game, as well as the remastered versions of Bayonetta 1 and 2 that are just around the corner. With a fresh suite of reveals from the recent Mini Direct topping things off, Ninty look set for another strong year.
With yet more exclusives and, of course, an endless supply of multi-platform releases on the horizon, allow me to present my picks of the bunch to help focus those wandering eyes.
The Last of Us Part 2
A bit of a cheat pick straight out of the gate, I know, as it isn’t confirmed to be releasing this year, but a girl can dream, no?
I was unfashionably late to the PlayStation 3 party, finally getting one after watching a trailer for what I deemed at the time to be a Western Resident Evil, without the awful voice acting and story that has often gone hand-in-hand with the (in)famous Japanese series.
The game turned out to be a great deal more than that, combining stealth gameplay and brutal combat with fully-formed characters and a story that far surpassed the usual zombie apocalypse garbage. The multiplayer was pretty damn good, too.
The two trailers released thus far by developer Naughty Dog have shown a glimpse of returning characters Joel and Ellie, alongside some newbies and one helluva lot of violence. Fingers crossed we get to continue this story by the end of the year!
Sea of Thieves
I grew up on Rare’s marvellous Nintendo 64 years - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, et al - but have to be honest when I say, I haven’t enjoyed a great deal of their Microsoft output in the ensuing years. This all looks set to change with the colourful pirate plundering of Sea of Thieves.
Band together with a shoal of chums, hitting the high-seas in a quest for treasure, adventure, cannon and cutlass-based skirmishes, and a good few tankards of grog!
Personally, this is exactly the kind of fun-filled experience I was looking for when I climbed aboard the good ship Xbox back in 2016, so I can’t stress how much I’m looking forward to getting lost in Sea of Thieves’ world with the PTC mob.
The granddaddy of open-world RPGs finally returns, after way too many years in the wilderness.
Regular visitors to PTC may recall my plea for remastered versions of the original two games after part three was first announced, and although things have been quiet on that front, 2018 seems to be the year that we’ll finish Ryo Hazuki’s slow-burn quest to avenge his Father’s death.
A truly groundbreaking game on release in 1999, Shenmue set the precedent for open world adventure/RPG titles. The main quest was fleshed out beautifully with a brilliant Virtua Fighter-influenced combat system, side quests and mini-games to play, along with some of the most unintentionally amusing script writing and delivery of all time.
For me, these extras are as vital as the story and combat, so here’s praying Yu Suzuki and his team get it right and we finally get to duff-up that bastard Lan-Di, with or without sailors.
Charming art, beautiful music, a rich colour palette and an isometric viewpoint; I could easily be talking about any of the top-down Zelda games, but it’s a different adventure I’m most looking forward to in indie-land this year.
You’ll be exploring a massive world as a little fox, encountering baddies to battle, secrets to search for and puzzles to ponder. What’s really impressive here is that the bulk of the work has been done by one man: Andrew Shouldice. Check out the first of his developer updates and try not to be impressed by what you see. I can’t wait to delve deeper into Tunic later in the year.
Intelligent Systems, a Nintendo second-party studio, are famous for their output in the world of strategy RPGs, most namely with the fantastic Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series’. Both of these great franchises are a clear influence on Chucklefish Games’ Wargroove, a pixel art strategy title releasing across the major platforms.
The game promises an impressive twelve different campaigns, in which you’ll select a commander to follow from one of the four warring factions. Combine this with full co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer, as well as a map creation suite, and it really does seem like a generous package.
Having sampled the game at last year’s Rezzed, I can tell you first-hand how ruddy good it is. I got thoroughly lost in its world, art and gameplay, even going as far as to go back and replay it. Being an indie game, it’s very likely that Wargroove will launch at an attractive price point, providing yet another reason to take a look when it launches early this year.
Keep your eyes open for more from us on all of the games mentioned above, but, most importantly, have a happy new gaming year, folks!
From the painstaking recreation of 15th Century life in the Kingdom of Bohemia and its notable inhabitants, to the need to eat, drink and sleep in order to continue your day-to-day existence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG that shies away from the fantasy side of things in favour of a more authentic medieval experience. As the game’s tag line puts it, this is ‘dungeons and no dragons’.
The opening chunk of gameplay I was given access to was set not long after Henry, the game’s young protagonist, woke up in the town of Rattay after being nursed back to health following a raid on his village that destroyed his home and family, and left him gravely wounded. One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times; it’s clear a lot of research and effort has been put into making the world feel as authentic as possible, though an inconsistent frame rate did spoil the immersion a bit.
I soon bumped into Peshek, the miller whose daughter had kept Henry alive. He wasn’t blessed with quite the same generous streak as his offspring, however, and wanted payment for his hospitality; namely the illegal moving of a buried body, an act that was considered sacrilegious at the time (and is, probably, still frowned upon today).
This was an early example of the many choices players will face throughout the game, with most decisions you make having a knock-on effect in some way. For example, by turning down Peshek, I was informed that he would send men who would harass Henry throughout the rest of the game unless he was payed off or they were killed.
One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times.
It’s a rule that can be applied to a large chunk of your interactions within the game world; while doing the rounds as a newly employed member of the Rattay night watch (the culmination of my time in the opening chapter) I came across a heated dispute between the local blacksmith and a beggar, which ended in my ordering the ‘smith to be a good chap and give the poor girl some alms, in this case a couple of coins.
This was a decision that could have a negative influence on a player’s reputation within the town, specifically with the traders, who, as a result, may give Henry bad deals or even refuse to trade altogether. Thankfully, Tobias (the Warhorse rep) did assure me that it's possible to reverse a poor reputation, whether through completing missions for the townsfolk or by tipping traders some extra cash while haggling.
Given my limited playtime, it’s hard to tell how far reaching some of the consequences of my actions could be. I can’t be sure that the animosity between Henry and the irritatingly smug Lord Hanush – one of many Game of Thrones-esque characters lurking amongst the walls of Rattay – would have been so great had I not bested him in an archery contest and won his expensive hunting bow in a wager.
Perhaps I could have rebooted the chapter and deliberately lost, but after spending two hours exploring the town, talking to the locals, giving drunk guards a good rollicking and even finding time for a nap in a tavern, I’d had my fill of peaceful medieval life. My sword arm was growing restless, and to channel a certain Robert Baratheon - I needed to hit someone.
Luckily, hitting people is what the second act was all about, as I was to take part in a siege on a bandit camp hidden in some woods. The three-staged attack consisted of taking a lightly guarded bridge and then razing the main camp, before a showdown with the imposing bandit leader.
For a game that encourages you to favour diplomacy over violence, battles in KCD are pretty darn fun, although, as I quickly found out, Henry is no super soldier. On more than one occasion my eagerness to rush ahead of my allies led to a quick (and bloody) death, as I either ended up surrounded by enemies and cut down, or picked off by archers as I tried to limp away.
Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t a medieval Master Chief and learned to advance with others, battles became a much more tactical affair as I carefully picked my moments, taking on weaker, unaware or injured enemies in quick, hit and run attacks, whilst keeping an eye open for archers, who I would take out with my own bow.
While this section of the game was deliberately chosen to showcase the combat system in action, there were still hints of the freedoms KCD gives players to tackle situations in different ways, from the recce information Henry presents Lord Radzig regarding the best way to storm the fort, to more subtle and stealthier ways.
“Before this fighting quest, you could have snuck into this camp and poisoned the food, then most of the people would be a one hit kill,” said Tobias. “You can also burn the arrows of the archers, but this is super tricky because you need to sneak in and try to not get caught, though you can try to kill one of the bad guys and dress as him and they will not attack you.”
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more.
Combat in KCD uses a similar method to the one seen in For Honor, in that players can adopt a number of stances – high, low, left, right, etc. - while wielding a melee weapon to counter or attack an enemy. Dealing out damage felt accurate and weighty; I was able to target weak points in enemy armour and exposed areas, such as a bandit leader's completely unprotected head, which lead to him dropping very quickly. As for defence, I found it easier to just dodge an enemy attack rather than try to stop it with a correctly-timed block.
After my glorious victory came the third and final chapter, which tasked players with sneaking their way into a monastery to find a murderer who was posing as a monk, but by now reality was calling (also known as the last EasyJet flight back home to Amsterdam) and it was time to say farewell to medieval Bohemia.
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more. Medieval Bohemia feels ripe for exploring, and there looks to be a progression and choice system in place that allows players the freedom to approach the game however they wish.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just around the corner, releasing 13 February on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
You might already be familiar with Raiders of the Broken Planet if you’ve seen our EGX 2017 interview or our Game Chat feature. If not, Raiders is a unique shooter independently developed by the folks at Mercury Steam (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow & Metroid: Samus Returns), which places a focus on intense, asymmetrical multiplayer missions.
Ongoing development is the reason you aren’t reading a full review, though we’re nonetheless going to take an in-depth look at what Raiders currently has to offer.
The titular Broken Planet is the Universe’s single source of Aleph, a powerful resource that attracts droves of Raiders to its surface in an attempt to claim it for themselves. War breaks out between the invading factions, and thus, a simple premise lays the groundwork for a well-humoured story told through a cast of flawed anti-heroes.
Mercury Steam are committed to implementing feedback from the established player base in order to build a better game together. The developer goes as far as to say they expect Raiders will look very different a year from now.
Over-the-top dialogue and confident delivery imbue the ugly, foul-mouthed characters with an eye and ear-catching quirkiness that should grow on you in time. Though the Raiders are undoubtedly the stars of the show, the game as a whole is awash with a bizarre and grotesque aesthetic that takes inspiration from the likes of Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Mad Max while feeling unique in itself.
Story segments are kept relatively light, due to multiplayer serving as the backbone of the experience, but there’s plenty of lore to read up on in-game as you wait on matchmaking. On that front, while finding a match on a Prologue level is snappy, expect to wait a while longer when looking to play the paid Alien Myths campaign. It’s not terribly bad, thanks partly to Windows 10 players getting in on the fun with cross-play, but it can be annoying to wait it out and then spawn into a laggy session due to the antiquated peer-to-peer hosting.
Going solo to bypass this is an option, but not a particularly attractive one. The premier way to play is 4 vs 1, as the game blossoms twofold with the addition of close cooperation and challenging competition. There are currently seven Raiders to choose from, each of which have a simple, customisable loadout that consists of a primary weapon, an ability, and passive buffs. While it might not sound like there’s much at your disposal, considering many games offer sidearms, grenades and ultimate abilities, there’s still a definite knack to mastering each of them and best fulfilling your role within the team.
Playing your part while remaining focused on the current objective is vital; enemy grunts and the player-controlled Antagonist respawn endlessly, whittling the Raiders’ limited life pool away as they delay. Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters - in which you might carefully shoot from cover, break away to run and gun, then launch into a rock, paper, scissors-style CQC encounter (dodge beats strike, grapple beats dodge, strike beats grapple) - a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival. Expect to do your fair share of dying, though accept that and persevere and the victories are extremely gratifying.
Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival.
In the event that the endless action becomes too stressful, either in reality or in-game, hiding will lower your character’s anxiety and allow you to go unseen for a while. All combatants in Raiders use Aleph to boost their combat performance, though a notable side-effect sees physical exertion betray your position, even through walls. While maintaining an entirely slow and steady approach isn’t necessarily realistic, you’ll definitely want to take a breather when you can to regenerate health and, critically, afford yourself an opportunity to stealthily take down an enemy in melee combat, replenishing a portion of your limited ammo supply in the process.
The same exact rules apply when you play the role of Antagonist, as you select from the same group of standard Raiders, rather than a separate suite of baddies with their own weapons and abilities. This is atypical of asymmetrical multiplayer games - just look at the likes of Evolve and Friday the 13th, both of which see the solo artist play as a comparatively overpowered monster - and somewhat stacks the odds against you in Raiders, even with the AI on your side. Winning as the Antagonist isn’t out of the question, and playing the part is still intense fun in spite of the slight imbalance, but we do feel this is an area in need of tweaking.
Raiders’ fun factor combines with a drip-fed rewarding of currencies - which are used to upgrade and customise character loadouts, whereas flashy skins require a further paid currency - to make its levels highly replayable. Varied enemy types and objectives keep things interesting as you bounce between missions, with repeat runs often proving more satisfying as you strategically pick a Raider (provided someone else doesn’t annoyingly insta-lock them) and tactically handle now-familiar layouts to ace sections that had initially proven to be a real struggle. The lengthy boss fights never cease to be an entertaining spectacle, either.
Once you surmount the initial weirdness and learning curve, which can, honestly, be quite off-putting, you’ll uncover something unique and exciting in Raiders of a Broken Planet, which is one of the reasons we handed over our Best Newcomer Award at EGX. Mercury Steam have taken risks to produce a commendably different entry into a crowded genre, that only looks set to improve as it continues to develop with the input of its community.
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist. With The Nightmare from Beyond’s final release slated for Q3 2018, the current Steam Early Access build is far from content complete, but does it seem poised to deliver on the promising concept?
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist.
As Sanja, a young D’nyg woman in search of her sister, Dajana, you’ll traverse environments that seamlessly shift from stoney fantasy to techy sci-fi. While starting out linear, things open up to reveal some solid, looping level design that’s complimented by platforming and light puzzle solving elements straight out of a classic Tomb Raider game (as promised).
The disparate-yet-connected world, which houses interesting architecture and artefacts that make it enticing in the absence of impressive graphics, definitely has us curious to explore more in the hope of uncovering how exactly the scattered sections came to coexist. It serves as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story, which isn’t helped by a reliance on nonsense fantasy terms that haven’t yet been explained.
As a D’yng, you're marked with tribal patterns that emit a neon glow, dimly lighting your way through the bleak nightmarescape. When you encounter the mysterious creatures within, you’ll need to hold your breath to extinguish the light and sneak past them, avoiding a swift and inevitable death.
The one creature you directly encounter can’t be combated - though you do get some bombs used to open a shortcut later on, so it’s possible you might eventually be able to put these to use - and is obscured by a black smog to preserve an air of mystery, with otherwise indirect encounters seeing you relentlessly pursued or your ankles snapped at from an off-screen presence to push you through platforming sections at pace. What you don't see is often more unnerving than what you do, and that's the case here.
The disparate-yet-connected world has us curious to delve deeper, serving as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story,
If you're caught, you’ll need to go back to the last manual save point. These are fairly frequent, so you’ll never lose too much progress, and help to highlight the game’s '90s inspirations by feeling very Resident Evil.
Weighing in at around two flawed hours, what we essentially have at the moment is a paid proof of concept demo. As a result, we’d recommend waiting to see how The Nightmare from Beyond develops before laying down your hard earned, especially considering the price isn’t set to increase once the game leaves Early Access. There’s reason to remain optimistic in the interim however; The Domaginarium have put in a decent first showing and hold both a commitment to frequent updates and a development roadmap that looks set to iron out the acknowledged issues.
The Nightmare from Beyond is scheduled for release in Q3 2018 on PC, PS4 and PS Vita. It’ll set you back £14.99 or your regional equivalent.
Of all gaming’s many genres, fighters are my least favourite. They’re just not my forté. Back in the early 2000’s I was known to boss a game or two in Super Smash Bros. Melee, and going back further still I could just about hold my own in Street Fighter II on the SNES thanks to some full-on button mashing (so many blisters!) but my appreciation for fighters piqued with those two.
Even a rookie like myself had no trouble dismantling the AI opposition, which got boring very quickly.
It’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with Pokkén Tournament DX, it’s just the demo’s lack of online multiplayer did not feel like the best way to advertise the game’s arrival on Switch. Failing to include an online component was a particularly significant missed opportunity, as even a rookie like myself had no trouble dismantling the AI opposition, which got boring very quickly.
The unpredictability of human combatants is, in my admittedly limited experience with the genre, what makes fighting games - and multiplayer in general - engaging, challenging experiences. A simple control scheme coupled with a surprisingly in-depth tutorial means Pokkén Tournament is very easy to learn, but with the demo’s lack of a human element, it was impossible to tell if it would be difficult to master.
Yes, the Joy-Cons do facilitate couch co-op, and getting two Switches in the same room would also allow you to take part in local multiplayer matches in the demo, but unless you’ve got people on hand ready to jump into a game at a moment’s notice (and of a similar skill level) these weren’t really viable options.
In the end, the Pokkén Tournament DX demo served only to reinforce my desire to see Nintendo pull their finger out and get Super Smash Bros. onto the Switch in some form. If not as a new entry in the series or some sort of virtual console offering of Melee, then at least a port of the Wii U’s release, another well-received title from the doomed console’s back catalogue that remains frustratingly out of my reach.
MercurySteam, the Spanish developer behind Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and the upcoming Metroid: Samus Returns, are venturing into uncharted territory with Raiders of the Broken Planet. A self-published, multiplayer-focused third-person shooter set to release incrementally beginning later this year, Sam and James recently spent some time with the closed beta - here are their thoughts.
James: Whenever you pick up a game you go in with certain expectations, but not knowing a lot this time kept those preconceptions to a minimum. Cover shooters were huge when I first got into gaming and, having largely been away from them for some time, I was excited to try a new twist on the formula. First impressions? I’d say it has my attention.
Sam: After actually going hands-on, I was initially torn over whether or not the game was a little too different. Raiders just about necessitates rock, paper, scissors-style brawling and engaging with a difficult stealth system in the midst of its relentless firefights, so it was a little jarring to find usual shooter tactics didn’t work very well in themselves. It definitely took some adjusting to on my part, but it was good to be forced out of my usual comfort zone.
James: There’s certainly a learning curve, in fact we were both reminding ourselves that our characters actually had individual powers and skills to use in battle, since it’s so easy to slip into old habits and play it like any other third-person action game. It remind me of when I first played the underrated Wanted: Weapons of Fate and kept dying over and over because, due to it’s in-your-face style, I failed to remember that I could use cover. Similarly, here I was a little too bold with my playstyle and it was often my undoing.
Sam: I found that the bizarre cast of ugly, foul-mouthed antiheroes were totally out there; they all play in very different ways, some of which weren’t to my liking, but once I found a character that I clicked with - and, just as importantly, we found a four-player team composition that we clicked with - I thought the game became really rewarding, especially when tackling boss encounters.
James: They certainly didn’t have much charisma between them, but I suppose if Raiders has a penchant for challenging expectations, perhaps something a bit different is refreshing? I’m waiting to be convinced on that front. Nice to have cutscenes to bring them to life a bit, just a shame they don’t grab you like their contemporaries might. Gameplay is king though and in action the moments where the characters’ skills started working together was promising.
Sam: One of the game’s big draws is the promise of 1 vs. 4 asymmetric multiplayer, but we’ve seen this can be a dubious prospect with flops like Evolve and Fable Legends. While I enjoyed both of those games for the most part (I got some time in with Fable before Microsoft pulled the plug), Raiders doesn’t seem nearly as committed to the idea. Levels play out in much the same way for the group of antiheroes whether the enemy is bolstered by a human player or not, while the antagonist doesn’t see any significant gameplay overhaul. What did you think of it?
James: I’d agree. Nothing much stood out that made the encounter decidedly dicier with a human opponent involved compared to just AI - perhaps because the AI hit the spot? Hopefully with a bit more time the nuances will start to show through and there’ll be some more variety to the PvP elements.
Sam: Raiders seems to me like a game that will grow more and more engaging as you engage with it more and more, learning new characters, strategies and compositions all the while. This is a perfect fit considering, if all goes well, players will dip in and out of the game over a period of time with the release of each new campaign. I’m quite optimistic on the whole - are you?
James: It’s definitely got a lot of ingredients, perhaps a few of them aren’t quite cooked yet, but I think the recipe is right. The way the developers are approaching it seems sensible, and actually quite exciting coming in on the ground floor. Hopefully as the community grows and develops a voice it will help to smooth some of the rough edges.
Have you played the Raiders of the Broken Planet beta? Whether you have or haven’t, feel free to join in on our game chat by leaving a comment with your thoughts on MercurySteam’s upcoming shooter.
Last weekend saw the second Global Test Punch (that’s a limited time demo to you and I) for Nintendo’s next first-party release on the Switch - ARMS. The motion control-friendly brawler looks like a natural evolution of the fondly remembered Wii Sports boxing minigame at first glance, but what’s it like to play? We trapped Liam and James in a room to talk it over.
Liam: As someone who is usually rubbish at fighting games, I somehow found myself in the unfamiliar situation of being one of the top players in a lobby at one point. Although great for the self-esteem, it wasn’t so good for getting into a match, as all the other players who could come close to matching my amazingness were otherwise occupied. Floating helplessly gets old fast, and while it’s cool that you can see how much real-time damage other players are taking in their separate battles, it would have been good if there was a proper spectator mode to pass the time.
James: I found the standard one-on-one battles bland but really important to get the hang of the game. Once you’re in there with more than one opponent, or a specific objective, things get hectic - fast!
Liam: I think I enjoyed the 1v1 matches the most, but it really depends on the quality of the opponent facing you. The modes featuring three or four players, while fun, could quickly get confusing, and they couldn’t beat the tenser battles one-on-one matches offered. Being backed into a corner with only a fraction of health left, only to emerge victorious thanks to some well-placed punches and flurry combos was awesome. Having multiple players in the same match made more sense in the more arcade-like modes, such as the one that has two teams trying to smash the most targets from opposite sides of an arena, or where a group of you would face off against an incredibly tough AI metal robot head creature.
James: Fighting those AI giant robots with about six ARMS each was pretty tough. Staying mobile and remembering to actually use the jump and dodge buttons was a constant struggle in that one especially. Some of the more specific custom modes worked better than others, I feel like the quicker characters had a big advantage most of the time. I didn’t play on a pro controller but the button mapping looked really odd…
I was surprised I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did.
Liam: I didn’t get a chance to try the game outside of motion controls either, which is a shame as I’d like to have seen how curving punches with a standard controller setup was going to work. I was surprised to find I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did, and for the most part, they worked quite well, with the only real issue I experienced being down to me forgetting to hold the Joy-Cons in the proper starting position.
James: So I guess the real test at this point is - does this demo make us want to buy it?
Liam: I can see this being a great party game, something to pick up and play for an hour or so when friends or family are visiting, but I don’t know if can see myself air-boxing solo in front of the TV very often, even for online matches with friends. In fact, using the motion controls anywhere outside of the living room is a definite no, unless you’re happy to be the crazy guy no one wants to sit next to on the commute to work. Unless Nintendo fail to deliver some form of Smash Bros. on the Switch in the near future, I can see this one passing me by.
James: For me, this was always an outside chance from both a competitive online play and a messing-about-party-style title - as you can see it sort of working in either camp but not really committing either way. It’s not as accessible as Splatoon 2 has been so far, from a similar amount of playtime from its demos, which makes me worry the barrier of entry will be too high to really get people on board and make competitive play interesting. That said, there is charm here, in an unashamedly Nintendo sort of a way, so something in the back of my mind whispers “Oh go on, get it anyway!”
What do you think of ARMS? Did you try the Test Punch? Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments.
The beta for CI Games’ Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 - the series’ first entry to boast “AAA production values” - goes live exclusively on Steam today. Having had an early look at the build, we’re left impressed by what could be the sleeper hit of the year.
Note: The game is now scheduled to launch on 4 April.
The beta’s first mission, Blackout, reminded us of Call of Duty 4’s iconic All Ghillied Up as we crept and clambered our way through a decaying apartment block. The tight corridors and small rooms weren’t by any means ideal stomping grounds, so utilising Scout Mode for careful traversal was a necessity. While it’s a similar mechanic to Batman’s Detective Vision, it isn’t quite the same solve-all, offering only hints as to unmarked enemy locations by visualising sound cues. After reaching our perch upon the roof, we located and assassinated our high-priority target before zip-lining the hell outta dodge; a cleaner exfiltration than Price and MacMillan suffered, we’re sure you’ll agree.
Through a budget injection and some strong influences, CI Games look set to make Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 a realisation of the series’ strong potential.
Next up was Cut Off, in which you’re assigned the task of manually realigning three satellites so that allied forces can intercept Separatist communications. It’s much larger in scale and draws another favourable companion, this time to one of Metal Gear Solid V’s base infiltrations. You’ll interrogate enemies for valuable mission intel, namely patrol and item locations, before repositioning their bodies to cover your tracks. Certain environmental elements can be tampered with to distract your opposition, but due to the scale of the base and the timed nature of an impromptu objective it’s likely you’ll be spotted. In this case we elected to go loud and eliminate any immediate threats, before utilising hiding spots to wait for things to blow over.
Breaking out a secondary weapon isn’t all bad, as switching up tactics now and then helps in the levelling process. Specific acts fittingly fall under the Sniper, Ghost and Warrior skill trees, earning experience and eventually skill points that improve and unlock abilities to aid in each area, ensuring you can always play to your strengths.
A tangible level of challenge made both missions compelling, but outside of their structure the open-world draws another, less-favourable comparison. The available secondary tasks - points of interest, outpost and item caches - each mimic Far Cry’s busywork and in much the same vein could become tiresome in time. That said, it’s all optional content and the sandbox setting is both easy to traverse and more than justified in affording the player great choice of approach.
While we’ll reiterate the game is in beta - and properly, it’s still two months out - the current technical performance left a little to be desired. Our resting frame rate sat ~80, yet there were sporadic and baffling drops to ~20 during even mundane scenes. Some items couldn’t be interacted with; locked and loaded weapons would frequently appear to be out of ammo until switching them out and back in; on one occasion the perspective even got stuck in third-person, forcing us to reload with nought but movement now functional.
None of its issues significantly impact the overall experience, however, and they can only be ironed out between now and launch come 4 April. Through a budget injection and some strong influences, it appears the developers at CI Games have been afforded the opportunity to make Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 a realisation of the series’ potential. The beta certainly earned it a place on our radar, and we’d recommend you find space for it on yours.