EGX Rezzed is starting to get a mental reputation for being a stamina contest. Not necessarily because the walking around exhausts me even if it does) but more so because the train journey back and forth. It works out cheaper to do it than hotels in London but man, four hours a day travelling (at minimum!) can be pretty killer. In the end I scrounge four hours of sleep a day for the three days, at best, By the end of the third day, even when kept conscious via 30 second naps and a wallet-harming amount of energy drink, I was stumbling home more like a zombie than anything else. I’m sure if someone accidentally nudged me onto the tracks while I was waiting for the train on the final day, all anyone would get is a chuckling gurgle as I’d simply use the gravel as a bed to sleep on.
That being said though: it was all worth it. Conventions are warm atmospheres filled with wonderful folks. Even as appointment riddled as my schedule was, there were plenty of hours spent stumbling from one booth to the next in a semi-tired haze, soaking in the genuine, gleeful and truly enthusiastic atmosphere. It was fantastic speaking to developers who are less trying to sell you on a dream and more instead just want to share something they’re proud of and passionate about with the masses. It was also great seeing crowds that less act like swarms of collective consumers, but instead as just eager individuals who see video games in their own wonderful and personal ways. Even when swaying lightly from sleep deprivation while queuing on feet that feel like my shoes are hot broken glass, the atmosphere alone makes EGX Rezzed worth going.
That said, if the environment is the ice cubes then the energy drinks I spent the event downing endlessly would be the video games, which I got to try a fair few. I’ll talk about quickly each title I got my grubby hands on and then give them a grade. Then I’ll announce my ‘Game of EGX Rezzed 2017.’ It’s a two part series, so let’s go!
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Platform: PC, with hopes of a later Xbox One and PS4 release
Release Date/Price: Spring, 2017/ Unknown
To redeem is to pay the toil for your past actions, weighing down upon your spirit like hooks in the flesh attached to cement blocks. So it is appropriate for a game called Redeemer to star such a soul. 20 years after leaving an arms company and seeking sanctuary amongst monks, the net begins to close on you. So Vasily decides to punch, shoot and dodge their way to atonement.
It is a top-down action game where you can switch between melee attacks and guns, both having a limited amount of usage. Although you can always fall back on kicking and punching, as those have unlimited use. There is also executions if worn down or coaxed near environmental dangers. There are a variety of enemy types and also bosses, including one that’ll vomit flames at you.
Verdict: There is no denying that my first few moments were with curious wonder. After all, what person doesn’t love mashing someone’s face with your fists and then turning their gun on your foe’s buddy? Then I kept playing it and it begun to wear. I don’t know if it is Redeemer or me really. I love choices of approach. If I die once, I like to be able to rejudge my approach and take a new angle. However, with the levels taking a linear-line approach and fighting techniques offering few options (heavy or group attacks) besides what you can scavenge, I feel like it could wear. Even with the startlingly varied environments, from the burning remains of your prior home to a lab with rampant beasties, and the large variety of enemies demanding different approaches, I feel like I could become tired of it. It is also hard to ignore the aesthetic style and the tone of Redeemer lacks anything memorable, like grittiness, stylistic or heroic, more just simply functional.
So with that in mind Redeemer’s grade gets a functionally sound, if perhaps a little inoffensive, C+.
Game: State Machine
Developer: State Machine Production Committee
Platform: PC/ Mac
Release Date/Price: 2017/ Unknown
State Machine is one of those little indie titles that seem to want to tell a story with pixel art. No no, wait. It isn’t a walk-n-prod simulator, as it vomit words as you rub your face against interactable objects. I mean, poking the environment to have knowledge rubbed against your eyes is part of it, same with collecting knick-knacks to stuff in a limited inventory, but to use a phrase found only in adverts shown at 3am: That’s not all!
You also run programs on the various robots of the land. You’ll give them a command, or a list of commands, and then off they go repeating it over and over until either the salty air by the sea rusts their hardware or you stop them.
Verdict: From what I tried of it, it seemed like an okay time that is more going to lean on the writing than the coding gameplay. From what was there, it seemed fine. It was unique and had a nifty little back story surrounding robots taking over all the jobs, but didn’t quite have a sharp enough hook to bring me in. Plus, well, people keep lamenting about pixel aesthetics in indie games. I personally have no problem, but those who might will want to look away to avoid manic rage-induced frothing.
So what better grade to give something that is okay, but doesn’t quite have the hook sharpened quite yet, than a C-.
Game: Dick Wilde
Developer: Bolverk Games
Platform: PC & PS4, via VR. Oculus, Vive and PSVR supported. Motion controllers necessary.
Release Date/Price: Out now for PC, soon for PSVR/ £17.99/$19.99
Usually I veer away from games already released. Why give 250-500 words of thoughts based on 10 minutes of gameplay when someone can give you the full 1k word review after enough time to mull over the flavors like a wine connoisseur? That being said though, VR is still in its infancy and I’m not sure how many VR reviewers we even have on the team. Then there’s how the PSVR version isn’t out yet. Just… Shaddup! It counts damn it!
So Dick Wilde is a safe-for-work VR first-person wave shooter. Pick a redneck themed weapon and shoot all the animals trying to gobble your succulent bearded face. At the end of each round, shoot yourself a bonus and keep going.
Verdict: I recall thinking about 3 or so months ago that wave shooters were dead, buried and had become oil. That said, if there was a singular piece of evidence to suggest that the genre had actually been hiding in a cave somewhere in Southern America, it would be Dick Wilde. I really had a blast as it had a basic structure with a lot of content. 7 weapons that all handle differently, including a bow and arrow you have to try to pull back and release with the motion controls. 9 environments to blast through. It is what it is, and it is unashamed. Dick Wilde is silly, goofy and just plain mindless VR fun. Perhaps the price point may cause some grumbling, but if you’re hankering for a VR game it seems like a title to at least look into.
Dick Wilde gets a B.
Game: Spellforce 3
Developer: Grimlore Games & THQ Nordic
Release Date/Price: 2017/ Unknown
“Hey! Have you seen this game?” followed by my co-worker sending me a link. “Spellforce 3? Name vaguely rings a bell...?” “It's a sequel to the 2006 title Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars! It's been 11 years man!” Then I was told that it was a blend of classic RPG and RTS. Blended well, it seems like a fantastic way to escalate an RPG. After all, once an RPG character gets powerful enough, wouldn't it make sense for them to carve out a piece of land serving their own ideals? So damn right I went to check this out!
Verdict: ...And then regretted it. I confess at this point I was beginning to slump in a day, feeling a bit drowsy. Although, even if I was wide awake and had chugged enough caffeine to feel every thumping heart beat, I think I'd be bored to tears. When you have a fantasy setting, these days you really have to distinguish fast and hard. Sadly, well, Spellforce 3 doesn't. Its setting is one that, while may have some minor differences, doesn't feel distinct enough to grab people. Maybe it is true to the series this way? Although in that case Spellforce 3 feels perfect for prior fans, and not much else. I sadly can't speak of the RTS part, as the setting and RPG gameplay felt generic to the point that I genuinely risked falling asleep in my sleep deprived state. A sensation that only Spellforce 3 pulled during the entire event.
So for that, Spellforce 3 gets a D-, with hopes that something cooler is hiding under the surface and it is just a game where the brilliance would have never gotten the opportunity to shine in a convention setting.
Game: Battalion 1944
Developer: Bulkhead Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date/Price: Closed alpha in May 2017, unknown beyond that point/ £49.99 for alpha access, £39.99 for beta access and £29.99 for “Early Access”.
We're back in the second World War. It's almost like an ouroboros. Maybe it feels more pronounced because we've had both this and Day of Infamy appear at Rezzed, not to mention it is hard to ignore Battlefield 1 and whatever Activision is going to call the next Call of Duty game set in WW2. That said, it seems cruel to write Battalion 1944 off as “just another WW2” game, so it seems better to dig in to see what makes it click.
Verdict: So I got to try a multiplayer mode, just a straight forward Nazis vs Americans scrap. Already the tone may already be hinted at, but if I said it was just a straight forward death-match running around a small arena then you may perhaps see where it is going. The devs claimed they were going for a title inspired by Call of Duty 2, and it does show. Run around frantically, one-shot kills and even the ongoing pop culture myth of “can't reload Garands half way through a clip”. Although the Germans getting the painfully slow bolt-action vs the fast firing Yank Garands, along with a system favouring first-shot, makes the asymmetry rather potent. It also feels strange that reloading is painfully slow in what feels like an arcadey title.
So, considering you already know if you want Call of Duty 2 in an indie form or not, and it still has a way to go with no ideas yet to really distinguish itself, Battalion 1944 gets a safe C.
Developer: Tim Conkling
Publisher: Versus Evil
Platform: PC/Mac, iOS and Android
Release Date/Price: 13th July 2017/ £10.99
Antihero is a turn-based strategy game where you control a couple of crooks trying to gain control of a section of Victorian England. As you gain coins, you get more options of what to buy including recruiting urchins/thugs/saboteurs/etc. You can also hoard oil to spend on the skill tree system. All this to help control buildings that give you resources, which you can use to eventually trigger victory conditions. Nab 5 victory conditions (which can be the same one over and over), and win.
Verdict: My problem is two part really, with the same root. The first is once you begin losing, you can easily become locked out. After all, if they are reaping more coins then it's hard to afford the thugs to displace that stranglehold. If they are hoarding oil, then they'll be more potent. There's no catch-up mechanic, even with the variation of victory conditions, as it all comes down to a singular thing: Money.
The second part, and it's one a similar game called Armello really makes clear, is symmetry. The problem with the lack of factions in strategy games is it can lead to a strategic dominance, where one strategy is king/queen. The same options are always available from game to game, with both sides operating under the precise same rules. So you don't have a side that, say, can move faster but is weaker to encourage a more active hoard-style strategy style than something more reserved and careful. Armello uses different heroes having different stats, which does encourage particular styles of play, which in turn can keep opponents more careful of how they play.
That said, I do have a lot of love for what it current is. I really dig the style, and I do enjoy the gameplay there. Just, I get the feeling it was on the cusp of something more with just more time. So, as such, the verdict is a B.
Which that's it for Part 1. Yep, this is a VHS job like last year's Rezzed! You're going to have to flip this tape over to see Part 2. Part 2 will feature not only more games, but also the Game of the Show and even a giveaway! So get ready for the second part of the games I saw!