While people were planning their trips to various countries for summer (e.g. Chris Newton tells me Ibiza was really good!), my only holiday of the year laid in the city of Birmingham. Stowed away near the airport was my main trip of the year: EGX 2017. For those who dwell in England (and perhaps in Europe), this is their big chance to celebrate their love of video games. A love expressed through showing us games (both released and unreleased), playing said games and wonderful cosplay. Even just walking through the event, watching the queues (some as long as 5 hours, thanks, Sea of Thieves), the various retailers plying their wares and the hustle and bustle of crowds, you can really sense an unexplainable warmth through culture being embraced, acknowledged and applauded.
So, I would like to discuss the games of EGX 2017; which where to start than the games that boast a budget higher than some countries make in a year? Often these are the games that lend an open welcoming palm into our culture to the mainstream, tempting people to just try our wondrous medium. Each game I tried I’ll share details what it is, chat about it in a brief review and then close each treasure with a grade from F to A+. Now we got that explanation out the way, let’s leap into EGX 2017 coverage of AAA or AA games, shall we?
Game: Call of Duty: WW2
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Format: PS4, Xbox One and PC
Release Date: 3rd November 2017
Price: £44.99 (Steam)
After Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare sold roughly around half as much as Black Ops 3 did at launch, it seems Activision wanted to head back to the drawing board. They wanted to shed new light on the series, reach out to fans who had gone adrift and bring in new audiences. Looking for inspiration they walked through rainy streets, lit only by orange lamp-light. It’s then Activision saw inspiration on a TV in a barred up closed shop. Pushing their hand to the glass, they watched the announcement trailer of Battlefield 1. Busy working on their sci-fi shooter they hadn’t seen this coming, Activision was blinded by their own focus to see what their competition was doing. The palm on the window curls into a fist, a smile creeping up a creased face. Activision breaks out into a run, back the way they came. Residents claim they heard a single shrill scratchy shout through the patter of rain:
“WE’RE GOING TO MAKE A WORLD WAR 2 SHOOTER!”
Verdict: And so it came to past that Sledgehammer Games made a WW2 version of Call of Duty. Playing the Team Deathmatch mode, that is very much what we got. I wish I could say some thoughtful insight, but it really does feel like recent Call of Duty gameplay has been dumped into a WW2 setting. If that is a good or bad thing is something you’ll be able to conclude on your own I think. However, there is a sense of low-effort in all this. I waved my old-man cane at Battlefield 1 being just a Battlefield game dumped into a WW1 setting, and I’m waving it again for Call of Duty committing the same problem.
For a low effort inoffensive title, Call of Duty: WW2 gets a D-.
Game: Super Mario Odyssey
Release Date: 27th October 2017
Price: £49.99 (Game)
Since the Switch was released, Nintendo has been trying to prove to the world that the console has exclusives to win the crowds. After all, PS4 had Bloodborne, Xbox One has… Something (…Gears of War 4? Killer Instinct?)… So what would the Switch bring to the table? This is especially as Nintendo has a reputation of their consoles being exclusive-heavy. So far their line up has been incredibly solid, with a lot of people already calling Breath of the Wild their game of the year. So, naturally, people are looking forward to playing with Nintendo’s mascot Mario, especially as it stars him as a victim to a brain parasite forcing him to collect moons via 3d platforming to an unknown (likely devious) end.
Verdict: I gave the city level a spin and it was generally okay. I think there’s a Banjo Kazooie vibe to this. You dash about doing side missions for moons or scavenging it from nooks and crannies like (probably) a hobo’s change cup. I just never found that hook that drew me into whatever gameplay is going on. Although my friend I think had a better time, as he managed to give the brain parasite hat ability a whirl. To attack you throw your hat, and to inflict invasive thoughts via hat form you throw your hat. I asked if there was a way to tell on sight which would die and which would be forced to do your bidding, but he couldn’t explain it besides a vague “I just knew, I mean, Bullet Bill for instance?”.
For a game that looks impressive, played okay but I’m sure others will have a better time than me with, Super Mario Odyssey gets a cautious C+.
Game: Far Cry 5
Format: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Release Date: 27th February 2018
Far Cry 5 is an open world FPS roamer within an American state now controlled by a fanatical Christian militia, in what feels like a modern-day Waco interpretation. You capture sections by clearing it of militia, work with an NPC buddy (which in the demo I could pick a sniper, I think a gunner or pilot, or the correct option: the dog) and frolic around the redneck lands…
Verdict: …Lands I’m surprised the national guard hasn’t swooped in to rectify. I can’t mentally move past that part: A county gets controlled by fantastical Christians and there is no military presence? Maybe I’d move past it faster if it felt like Ubisoft had moved on from trying to recapture the charismatic-antagonist format Far Cry 3 nailed so beautifully with Vaas. That said, there were signs there is less attention to the antagonist compared to 3 and 4.
That said, the receding of the focus from the antagonist to the gameplay sums up the issue: The gameplay feels stale, unfortunately. Far Cry 5 doesn’t encourage inventive careful plans or wild chance to remove militia from places (e.g. a random tiger walking into a camp and mauling all the soldiers from Far Cry 3), at least so the demo suggests, but just shooting the problems in the face. The buddy system could be good, if past the first shot (as you can give them a target to maul their jugular out upon the gunshot, this might include the sniper/driver buddies too) the game didn’t discourage their use. After all, why point and tell them to fire at someone when you can point and pull the trigger instead? The NPCs can also fight by themselves, even get downed, but with Ubisoft games having a tendency to be a bit on the easy side, the extra help feels like bringing nuclear weapons to a street fight at this point.
So, for a game that was generally okay, it gets an okay grade of C.
Game: Detroit: Become Human
Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: 2018
Price: £46.99 (Game)
Core blimey David Cage has a reputation, and I think it was Beyond: Two Souls that dragged his name so deep into the dirt people still consider it a burial. This time he is back with Detroit: Become Human, a cyberpunk stumble-n-prod game about the singularity and androids. You make choices that affect things, use general movements to simulate what you do in the game and it’s all very nice looking. Here’s the verdict after seeing Quantic Dream’s offerings at EGX 2017
Verdict: Up to the last two days, Detroit was honestly looking at being my AAA/AA Game of EGX 2017. You play as Connor who must negotiate a rogue android so it doesn’t shoot a child or drag it off the building. However, it is split into two sections. First, you must investigate what is happening, who is involved and anything else you can. Each snippet could be used after all to coax the hostage-taker from the edge or even lead to the child being let free.
Then you talk to the rogue android, using any negotiating tactic you can think of. You can fling promises, you can try to be realistic or you can even try to break them with verbal abuse. Details from before can help you, for instance maybe using the android’s name will calm them.
It actually ends up a pretty fantastic puzzle, combining searching for evidence, problem-solving and conversation trees into a tense bundle. I did find it a little easy my end, picking the obvious options, so I thought it wasn’t failable. That is when my friend pressed the wrong button (because he’s more used to Xbox controllers than PS4 controllers and had to press X for a conversation option) and splat went the child. However, I do have a bother with the “stabilisation” bar, as rather than trying to work out if you’re on the right or wrong track based on body language and speech you’re just playing the numbers game. If your dialogue makes numbers go up, pick that topic in the future if it makes it go down then avoid that topic. It feels like a rather inhuman approach.
However, I did still thoroughly enjoy the demo’s gameplay and really do hope it reflects the end product. I especially hope the final form comes with a difficulty increase. So the adequate grade is a B-.
Game: Sonic Forces
Developer: Sonic Team
Format: PC, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date: 7th November 2017
Sonic Forces is a platformer following everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog (a common enough species). The gameplay flips between 2d and 3d, in a manner akin to Sonic Generations. Although the big new thing is Sonic Forces’ avatar creator, as you can make a hedgehog character to fight alongside Sonic and Tails against Dr Robotnik.
Verdict: I feel awkward giving this a fair shake because there is just so much personal baggage walking in. So I think I’m going to first get my personal grievance out the way, the one that I am sure others will strongly disagree with and I confess this might just be a personal issue than a fault with the game. This is simply as a disclaimer for the second part where I talk about the other thoughts.
Here’s my personal issue: Sonic Forces made my skin crawl. It made me feel embarrassed to play in a convention setting, despite knowing no one would judge me for trying it. This mostly kicked in on the second level I tried, where Sonic and the avatar team up. The dialogue by Sonic to the avatar felt like awkward teenage fan-fiction, the type people think of when they imagine the darkest bleakest layers of deviantART. Combined with my personal dislike of cheese (which when you have this dialogue layered alongside Force’s equivalent of Sonic Adventure 2’s City Escape, you have enough cheese to render cows useless), I wanted out as soon as I could. Excluding what is pretty bad dialogue that reeks of fan-fiction, this is likely a personal problem and may have affected my enjoyment with the gameplay.
Which getting to that, it flits between humdrum to downright frustrating. Sonic Forces relies on being punished by being slowed down, but this would only work for those who care about speed. For those who do like every mistake leading to a decrease in speed, then you may have a better time than me with Sonic Forces, as I was unafraid to slow down and make sure I wasn’t about to suddenly connect my forehead with a brick wall at over 40mph. Where things became awkward was when the game itself also slowed down, focusing more on platforming puzzles than gotta go fast. Your character seems to hate slowing down with the game, the manic energy bubbling to escape as you suddenly find yourself propelled past every platform and into the ditch. I’m always told Sonic games don’t really work in a 3d realm, and Sonic Forces feels like another nail in the 3d coffin.
So Sonic Forces, I’m giving you an E-. Maybe I would have given an E or even E+ if I wasn’t so turned off by the music and writing style. However, the writing ability (style aside) and gameplay present either problems or mediocrity. So it deserves it’s grade, albeit with the warning: You’ll already know if you’re buying it and probably going to enjoy it in some way, but otherwise move on. Run away. Gotta go fast.
Game: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Format: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date: October 27th, 2017
Price: £49.99 (Game)
I confess that for me Assassin’s Creed has been absolutely forgettable for the past few years. Revelation left me unsure if I could be woo’ed like 2 did long ago, and 3 made me almost certain. Sure Black Flag was a neat bit of fun, but the relatively low difficulty mixed with a somewhat dull faceless protagonist left me burned out. Rumour has it Rogue, Unity, and Syndicate were games once released but occupies the same brain space that Medal of Honour does where information transmits into white noise. I did give the Chronicle series a punt, but found it started okay but returned to familiar mediocrity.
So it was understandable, perhaps praiseworthy, that Ubisoft wanted to take some time to reexamine itself. Maybe Ubisoft wanted to spend the extra year to “rediscover itself” before making a new one? So it’s time to head to Ancient Egypt, a land with few towers to scale but some new mechanics.
Verdict: Let’s run to the jugular and tear it out with our grinning teeth: Does it feel fresh? Definitely. The land is less parkour heavy than prior titles since Egypt isn’t known for monoliths to scale. Instead, there seems to be a greater focus on combat. You can equip different weapons and armor to aid taking enemies down, especially as levels are important now. If you’re over-leveled you’ll rush through, under-leveled then you’ll need to fight smart rather than hard.
…However, I suspect its new equipment system will lead to some difficulty problems. Want to explore the land, reap its fruit? Go nuts, but expect to out-level places in a game whose series already tend to be a little easy. I also found a little difficulty in the controls, especially as they seem more geared for in-combat tactics. I was even able to assassinate mid-combat, but I suspect that was a glitch.
In addition, the same ills return. If the side-mission is any sign, the stakes weren’t exactly delivered well. While I probably should be concerned about a slave wrongfully being threatened with torture and a lengthy death for a crime he didn’t commit, I was busy laughing at how this is delivered while the priest keeps slapping the slave in the back of his bald head while pinching his ear. It felt less like torture and death-threats and more like a headmaster giving the “lessons of life” speech to a child. Add to this speaking animation where only the mouth moves, I struggled to feel any investment besides busy work.
So, for a game that may hold potential but also suggests writing and difficulty management will continue to not be the series’s strong suit, Assassin’s Creed: Origins gets a C+.
Game: Star Wars: Battlefront 2
Developer: EA DICE
Format: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date: 17th November 2017
Price: £49.99 (Game)
Battlefront 2 had a lot to prove after its predecessor. While I wasn’t interested (as Star Wars does nothing for me), I still remember the shrill screams of a friend who still shivers every time he remembers EA’s Battlefront. After all, the released form had removed a lot of features from the prior games and replaced them with tacky inclusions like having to steal tokens on the field to access vehicles which ran linearly like a theme park ride. Graphical prowess aside, it was as though the series had stepped backward in content quality and quantity after 10 years. So would Battlefront listen to everyone’s cries or smother it in more disappointment?
Verdict: I got to try the online mode as the republic, fending off…Droids? The confusion isn’t the game’s fault, I’m just absolutely thick. First, we had to try to blow up their carrier, then stop them from capturing two points inside the palace and finally stop them from invading the throne room. There is a noticeable variation in objectives. While we did blow up the carrier, it seems the demo was designed to allow us to see it all.
We got the choice of four free classes to play as, although more laid in wait for those with the score to bargain a purchase with. This score is generated by doing objectives, killing the enemy, helping your allies and more. Really, unless you’re getting crushed you’ll eventually save up. You can even purchase heroes, from Darth Maul to Han Solo, with their own powers. There are also vehicles to buy, including jets. I at one point bought myself a jet, tried to help out and ended up just crashing into the floor. So safe to say, you can use the jets to fly wherever.
There is one grumble, a minor fly in this hearty porridge. Due to the points from your performance being used to purchase the vehicles, advanced classes and heroes, there is a concern of snowballing. After all, if one side is dominating the other, they’re gaining more points which can be used to be even more powerful to crash even harder. That said, if balanced well (including continuing to have the hero cap), this shouldn’t be a problem.
So, for a good cheap fun time, like having fast food for dinner, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 gets a grade of B-.
And thus we arrive at the final section: The Bagogames AAA/AA Game of EGX 2017. For the first time, since I’ve had to do these lists for three years now, we arrive at a tie. I did try to put one above the other, but I kept arriving at the same situation: They were noteworthy for me due to the same reasons. That isn’t to say they were similar, at least besides being the same genre. While one I can see being used in professional e-sport settings, the other is more relaxed and unusual. Yet both feel like they break and expand from established molds, providing unusual gameplay executed strongly in its wake.
So, Bagogames’s AAA/AA Game(s) of EGX 2017 award goes to…
Game: Dragon Ball Fighter Z
Developer: Arc System Works
Format: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Release Date: 2018
Price: £49.99 (Game)
Game: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 30th January 2018
Price: £49.99 (Game)
While both are fighting games based on established popular IPs, the similarities end firmly there. Dragon Ball Fighter Z is a 3 v 3 2.5d tag-fighter based on the Dragon Ball Z property. On the other hand, Dissidia is a 3d 3v3 fighter based on the Final Fantasy series, with each character either being controlled by AI or by players and both sides holding the same amount of shared team lives.
Verdict: Which damn they play differently to their competition. Dissidia is an ongoing series, but this marks the first time it has made an entrance onto consoles. Each familiar character you choose has a style of play (often split up into archetypes), there is a range of moves with some being customisable for you to decide upon (which can be pre-set as desired), you can pick a summon for your team and then off you go into large arenas. The combat often focuses on auto-lock-ons combined with damage being dealt to areas rather than being surgically targeted.
There is a definite sense of team-work being encouraged. Each side has a shared amount of lives which encourages defending weaker allies, rather than fighting for yourself. There is also nothing stopping you and an ally from just kicking ten bells out of one enemy in the corner to win. However, clustering together leaves everyone prone to vicious area attacks.
Dragon Ball Fighter Z, on the other hand, looks absolutely fantastic and fluid to watch as it blends animated scenes like you’d find in an episode, with gameplay. However, what it does well is the daring decision to reinvent the typical 2.5d/2d fighting control scheme. For instance, you now have a specific ranged-attack button. While on the surface this seems like a horrible plan cooked up in a poorly ventilated room with open paint tins scattered about, the inclusion of a single-button dash move that closes the distance avoids the frustration of ranged stun-lock in favor of ranged just being another trick in your arsenal. Overall, Dragon Ball Fighter Z encourages a new brand of tactical fighter play with its unique control scheme and possible basic moves to throw around. After all, the advanced chess-like plays are built upon the basic groundwork, and Dragon Ball Fighter Z has a new basic groundwork.
That isn’t to say they’re without problems. Dissidia has a very limited roster of 14. Dragon Ball Fighter Z does have a noticeable learning curve due to its new controls. Although these are minor flaws (and some could make a very good case of my Dragon Ball Fighter Z criticism not being one at all) in what look to be incredibly solid fighting game titles. They usher in fresh air, solid mechanics and a colorful beautiful animation style. So, thank you Dissidia and Dragon Ball Fighter Z for gracing EGX 2017 with your presence. Please don’t squabble over the print-friendly Bagogames AAA/AA Game of EGX 2017, there’s enough printer ink for all.
That isn’t to say that’s it for EGX 2017 coverage. We’ve got the Indie Games of EGX 2017 list, we have cosplay photos and more interviews than you can shake a stick at (if the number of interviews you can shake a stick at is a sufficiently low enough number). We’ve got plenty to come for those hungry to learn what wonderful electronic creations are coming in the forthcoming months.