EGX Rezzed holds a bit of a special place for me as a journalist, as Rezzed 2015 was the first convention I ever covered as a journalist (without a press pass though) while also being the first convention I had ever been to. So this was an event I had been looking forward to for quite some time, even just before when I ran about Birmingham covering the older sibling EGX. I mostly tried games then but also accidentally got an interview with ArenaNet about Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns while there. I then wrote about the experience of doing my first interview as someone with anxiety problems… And then wrote about the experience of writing that… Trust me, a lot less confusing than it sounds.
So we have some interviews coming and even some VR headsets I got to try (including the fabled PS VR that was actually really hard to book).Meanwhile, I did actually get to preview some up-and-coming games.
Game: Snake Pass
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: Unknown
Collectathon games always sit awkwardly with me. I never grew up with Banjo Kazooie, Mario 64 or Spyro the Dragon and playing it now feels, well, tedious to me. In a similar way to speed-running, I understand and accept people enjoy the genre but it has never meshed well with me. So I went into Snake Pass with the type of reluctance reserved for a curiosity attempt that I likely wouldn’t write about.
Snake Pass is a platforming game where you must navigate terrain, narrow-platforms and ledges. This is while trying to collect golden eggs and activating the required amount of spindles to unlock the cage to free your fluffy hamster friend. There is a catch though, as there always is: You are a snake. As in you can not jump and your weight does not lie at just your feet but rather the entire length of your body.
Instead you slither around on the floor and wrap yourself around objects gently, as you slowly climb poles or crawl out over cliffs with just your clumsy snake body as your tool and your Achilles heel. You can raise your head to aid climbing as well as tighten your grip on whatever you’ve wrapped yourself around. There is also the option to crawl along the floor faster if you can time moving left and right well enough.
Once you’ve activated all the spindles by curling yourself around them, perhaps grabbing all 50 golden eggs on a level, you must then squeeeeeze your hamster friend until it bursts into a bundle of hearts. Please don’t try this at home.
Verdict: When I first began to play it, I still was unsure about it. I don’t like collectathons, I don’t like how I need to hold the “lift head” button in a vice-like grip to be able to climb worth a damn and I don’t like how I’m never quite sure if I’m moving faster as both slither and fast-slither speeds still feel sluggish.
…However, in the end I actually had a lot of fun with the physics puzzle of trying to navigate platforms, finding all 50 golden eggs (to the surprise of the developer at the booth, who didn’t know where they were) and then freeing my hamster friend so I could crush its ribcage with my body.
My only worry about Snake Pass, and it is a pretty large one, is I can’t help but get the feeling the unique puzzle that is manipulating a snake’s body to overcome obstacles is something I could get weary of after the first few levels. With enough imagination it could make for an easy sell for those with a Mario 64 itch, but not enough and it’ll sag with the rest of the games with good intentions, interesting concept and a nice idea but failing at the execution of it. Snake Pass snakes a passing (I’m sorry) grade of C+ .
Game: Man O’ War: Corsair
Developer: Evil Twin Artworks
Format: PC/Mac currently, although consoles could happen depending on success.
Release Date: Early access out now.
It still feels weird how we’ve gone many a year without Warhammer Fantasy, and then they all rush at once in wonderful different unique ways. We have Vermintide, Mordheim and soon Total War: Warhammer, each one operating radically differently. Now we have a new game within the setting with another unique interpretation of it coming soon.
Man O’ War: Corsair, if the title itself doesn’t serve as a hint, is a sailing game in the same vein as Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag with a heavy dose of Mount & Blade: Warband thrown into the mix. You are a mercenary who is thrown out into the sea on a boat, with the expectation that maybe you’d like to harvest the seas of its money. So you go around the ports, trying to trade wares based on floating rumours and take up jobs.
“What kind of jobs?”. These vary about a bit, as one example had me trying to take down an orc ship, sometimes having to attack them as they boarded my ship. A second one had me just taking people from one port to another, fleeing a plague. Although this job took a turn as suddenly I was jumped upon by plague victims who tried to tear open my jugular with their teeth and suck out my liquid insides like a freeze pop. So I had to shoot them down (with oddly a lack of reloading animation or melee weapon) as my crew wailed on them with swords.
There is also the option to help fight for one side or another in a waging war going on in the background. Although details of what this could involve are light besides doing jobs and attacking the other side’s ships.
You can even randomly be attacked while out at sea, sometimes not even by humanoid creatures as foul beasts lurk under the seas. At one point in the demom I tried a giant whale as it threatened to carve a hole into my ship, so I had to make like a Warhammer-edition of Moby Dick and blow out the waters with cannon fire.
Verdict: To be blunt: This is a game with a lot of ideas but a lot missing. Sailing from place to place turned into a tedious pain as even on the sped up mode I was taking a good few minutes to travel to neighbouring ports, let alone the fact the map is gigantic. This is especially made worse as you’ll hear a rumour of where items are being sold cheaply or bought highly which may be on the other side of the map, therefore expiring before you get there. The developers mentioned the idea of a fast-travel system, although punishing you for over-usage of it which makes me unsure.
The combat when you’re boarded is dull as you’re stuck with a rifle and no reload animation, and that’s assuming the AI isn’t busy staring out at sea wistfully rather than attacking. I also had hoped to try the other weapons the game promised existed, maybe a forward-facing cannon or a flame-cannon, but it wasn’t being featured.
The grade for Man O’ War: Corsair is a D-. While it is getting a release onto Early Access, it has a large hill to climb. Although if it does manage to mount the hill, it could be an exciting Mount & Blade sailing title to sink hundreds of hours into like I have with Mount & Blade: Warband.
Release Date: Early Access: end of April or early May
I’m sure you’ve heard this before: You are dropped in the middle of an abandoned insane asylum and told to escape. You are also told that some (to be precise: 1/3rd) of the inmates may look human, but when darkness falls they can turn into foul creatures which can gouge out your eyes with both claws and then rip your head open. So trust is low, but you still must group together as said creatures can pick off lone survivors easily. Not to mention, if you suspect someone of just wearing a skin facade you can kill them before they turn. Riding all the horror tropes, right?
Here’s the twist: It is an online-only game where the humans and disguised monsters are players.
If your immediate thought is the forum/board-game Werewolf (just minus all the roles), you’ve successfully hit the nail on the head… Mostly. Rather than voting each night who to break in their skull, you are able to do so yourself as you are your own free agent. You don’t even have to stick with the group, creeping the hallways trying to avoid the creatures of the night.
“But besides to combat the monsters, why shouldn’t I just hide away on my own?” Two answers to that actually. The first is you’re against the clock to get out still. Second, you can unlock the doors on your way out, and you must spend points that slowly recharge. While you can wait it out, it is faster if everyone contributes to buying off the doors.
Alternately, if you are MacReady, you can decide to use your points on weapons and flash lights (that not only lights the darkness, but blinds the monster) and take down the murderer of your allies. Currently there were only melee weapons I could try, with no idea if firearms and flamethrowers are going to be added to the mix. If you are a monster, you can use your points not only on weapons (while you’re still human to use) but also blood banks that do… Something (I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what they do as I didn’t get to try the monster).
Verdict: In the form I tried, which the developer admitted was early in development and was more focusing on getting the gameplay good, the graphics and animation simply were not good. Although that is okay, even with Early Access looming over, as I believe it isn’t a game about looking impressive but rather cranking up distrust through excellent gameplay.
With this regard, a lot of the game felt ill explained. I never felt like I understood how weak I was against creatures. In addition, if you do play the game, I highly advise communicating with each other. As I was playing with a collection of random people in the same room in a convention, we were completely silent which swiftly lead to our demise as we couldn’t work out who we could trust and who we couldn’t as we lacked any evidence.
Despite my dislike of such a generic setting, I do want this game to succeed. One of my favourite online game modes was Kane & Lynch: Dead Men’s Fragile Alliance mode, as you needed each other to do the mission but to win you had to betray at some point. It was amazing to observe how and when people would betray each other, and I think Deceit could recapture that feeling (albeit with less heisting, something of a shame as someone who loves the film Heat).
However, in its current state it gets a D-, with a D+ if you’re playing with friends and vocally communicating. Although this could change depending on price, as I’m mentally envisioning it with a £15 to £20 price-tag. I really hope it developments much more as it builds upon the base, balances everything and smooths over the kinks, as it feels currently (as well as appropriately) underdeveloped. If you are unsure about purchasing this game though when it is released on Early Access, they will also be appearing at Insomnia 58 in Birmingham with a much more complete build.
Game: The Dwarves
Developer: KING Art Games
Format: PC/Mac/Linux/PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date: Late Summer 2016
There are many games based on film properties, which tend not to end well for anyone involved. Some games are based on comics that have a mixed success rate (The Darkness springing to mind as an especially impressive game series). Oddly, it is adaptations of books that have reaped the most success. This is especially highlighted by The Witcher series, with Witcher 3 harvesting a huge amount of video game awards and Witcher 2 being given as a present by the Prime Minister of Poland at the time (Donald Tusk) to American president Barrack Obama. So it was unsurprising to see another adaptation of a book, this time by German developers KING Art Games of The Book of Unwritten Tales series fame after a successful Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingartgames/the-dwarves-a-new-storydriven-fantasy-rpg/description).
Based on the book series of the same name by German writer Markus Heitz, you play as a gang of dwarves who must stop orcs and an evil magus from invading the kingdom by tracking down and creating a powerful anti-evil weapon (which if it turns out to be an aerosol pest-repellent spray I’ll be disappointed). This gameplay is split into two parts. The first part of the demo had me controlling up to two dwarves as we mowed down an onslaught of orcs. Your crew will attack nearby orcs, but will also have stamina points that can be used to trigger one of three special attacks which said points can then recharge. This will often lead to pointing your crew in the right direction and cycling through whoever has their stamina points back.
Sadly, at this point, the demo crashed. Unaware this was not in fact the end of the demo I backed away from the booth. Fortunately one of the developers were there to talk about the other areas of the game I didn’t see.
There is also a more RPG element of the game, as you choose whatever you wish to do and talk with people after wandering a more town-like civil environment. You also operate from the world map, making sure your team (complete with, I believe, soldiers who will accompany you into large battles) have enough food to fight on. Sometimes random events will pop up to lure you to further adventures, promising things like food and equipable accessories which allow for more abilities to use in combat. Although this risks putting your troops through more fighting, therefore potentially killing them. In this regard, the developer described it as having a very Banner Saga style of gameplay.
Verdict: I admit that I found the gameplay of the combat a little basic for my taste, reminding myself of Dawn of War 2 and therefore letting myself down at the simplicity of it. Although I admit I am missing trying the more RPG centred areas of the game and the world map, which I think will have a large impact on if this game clicks or cracks. I confess I’m not hugely impressed with a plot that sounds like it can be boiled down to “orcs invade with an evil wizard behind them, so you must forge the sacred MacGuffin that can slay evil”.
I hope there is something more substantial that I’m just missing, creeping around behind the scenes with a clever cloak of crafty chicanery. As it is, The Dwarves gets an average grade of a C, with the hopes it is hiding something that makes the game click into place.
Game: Raging Justice
Format: Starting with Xbox One, PC/Mac, iOS, everything possible.
Release Date: Hopefully before Autumn
I believe there is a litmus test to weed out the games inspired by ones of old and games riding on the successes of old: To ask the question “What does it bring new to the table?”. After all, if nothing is changed (or if nothing significant is changed), then it proposes two things: Firstly the consumer has to work out why they shouldn’t just play the original form. It also could suggest that 15+ years of game design theory research later and the developers have no idea how to add an interesting twist that presents the game in a new light, potentially even due to them not understanding what made the game work before.
This is an important point in Raging Justice as it is noticeably a beat ’em up in the style of Streets of Rage, but with Playstation-era graphics (similar to Rampage World Tour’s graphics but upgraded a bit). It has 9 stages, offering 1 to 1 ½ hours of playthrough (without failure, which you will probably having to retry again), and a pick-up-and-play style of gameplay that offers 2-player local multiplayer).
After trying the game out and talking with the developer, I realized that fortunately it isn’t just a remastering of Streets of Rage but rather is its own interesting beast. There are a few special moves like ground-stomps, elbow strikes and dashing, but these are taught after hitting a score amount with future score goal successes giving things like lives. In addition, there are challenges you can try to accomplish, offering up replayability.
To go back to the 9 stages, you will be expected to complete them with your life amount following you from stage-to-stage. Despite this, you can repeat stages so you can start the following level with more lives.
Beyond that, according to the programmer (Nic Makin) on the two-person team, it is entirely up to the audience what happens as he’ll be working on it as much and as long as he can to deliver content with the highest demand from the audience. There are plans for ports to other devices as asked for by the consumer, with Linux, PS Vita and PS4 as strong possibilities, as well as Android mobile phones hopefully. He also wanted to include further updates as much as he can, including 4-player co-op, horde/survival mode, online multiplayer and maybe even new characters to add to the roster.
Verdict: I actually grew up with Streets of Rage a bit, and believe it still somewhat stands up as a neat little game to play around with. So I was especially interested when trying to work out if Raging Fury launches off games like that or exists in its shadows. Fortunately, with its use of combos, challenges, stage-structure and potential new features, it does exist on its own. I primarily tried the Xbox One version and had a lot of fun, laughing to myself as I’d accidentally punch another player in the back of the head (in game).
I also tried the mobile phone version on the iPhone 5S and while I could not personally get used to the controls (I’m just not used to touch-screen controls for games that operate in real time), it works incredibly well. I was also assured that with a controller or two hooked up you can play two-player multiplayer on the device.
If the aesthetic turns you off, as I admit it did for me at first, just try to look beyond it. You do get used to it and even eventually charmed by something so unique.
The grade for Raging Fury is a C+, with the potential to climb to even a B+ or an A- with enough updates. Although the extent of updates does seem to somewhat depend on the amount of people who do buy it (e.g. online multiplayer is a hard task to program and may require freelance help). If you have an interest in beat em ups, it is definitely worth checking out.
This is simply part one of the two part series about the games I got to try at EGX Rezzed 2016. I split it in half as I didn’t want to flood the page with every game. Before the end of the article, I’d like to show a cosplay photo I managed to take of Jayson Holmes in Fallout gear and two others as a Helghast Trooper from Killzone and Sylvanas from World of Warcraft (I’m sorry I didn’t get your names).
Until next time, bye!