Last weekend, Ash Williams went to EGX 2019 in London for Forge Press. This runs across four days, offering gamers the chance to try out some of the hottest unreleased games. Here’s what he got up to…
Possibly the best indie game of the show. Flotsam, in the vein of games like Frostpunk and Oxygen Not Included, is a city building game set out in the big blue. You start from a central node, and it’s up to you to decide on how to expand your territory, manage your workers and chart your course for strange new lands. Because what makes Flotsam stand out from other city management games of its type is that the floating vessel itself is able to be moved around to explore new territory. Doing so unlocks new features from level to level, like the ability to capture seagulls to help with fish collection (as yes, managing your workers needs are also a priority), and cleaning up oil spills to help out local narwhals.
It’s executed superbly, and I’d recommend checking out their early access page on Steam if you were interested. I was continually astonished at how polished and well made it was, even considering it was still an early access game. I saw gameplay footage of it at EGX Rezzed a few months ago, and considering how much seems to have changed since then, it might be one to keep an eye on when it launches on PC in September.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
What seemed like a pipe dream a few years ago is now on the verge of releasing. Showcasing a public demo ahead of its 3 March release date, Square Enix’s (arguably) most anticipated game of all time is shaping up to be worthy of the original’s legacy. I didn’t get into the original, but from playing the almost-half-an-hour long demo, the remake might finally turn me around.
It took us through the opening part of the game where Cloud and Barrett enter the Mako reactor. Almost instantly, we notice the drastic shift in gameplay. Gone is the active-time-battle of the original, and replaced with a hack and slash system more akin to the recent Final Fantasy XV, with a twist. Twist being, with a push of the X button, everything pauses. It gives you the opportunity to plan out your next move and cast spells, use items, or perform super attacks. It’s a decent blend of old and new, which will make the inevitable grind to max level a little bit more fun than usual.
Because of the system change, battles are more involved now, incorporating directional weak spots, cover mechanics and dodges, and the demo’s boss fight against the Scorpion Guardian incorporated all of these. It went on much much longer than the equivalent fight in the original, but it made for one hell of a spectacle. With the release date slated for 3 March next year, we’re looking at a strong start to 2020.
My game of the show so far. Getting almost an hour out of a behind closed doors session gave us a good taste of how the game is looking ahead of it’s 20 April release date. Finding the underboss of a Haitian Gang called the Voodoo Boys, we are given a job to take out the leader of another group that had taken over a mall within the Hatian-controlled area. During negotiations, the choices that you can make as protagonist V impact on the way things go, and the theme of player choice is ingrained in Cyberpunk’s DNA. Based on the tabletop game, it continues the trend of allowing characters to be built in any way imaginable to suit the player’s style. We were taken through two choices, a male hacker character who preferred to linger in the shadows and silently eliminate enemies, and a female powerhouse… who didn’t. From the demo we saw, there were tons of options to handle a situation, and tons of options when it goes wrong. Hacking a turret to turn on its allies, or just ripping it off and making a makeshift minigun, the playing field really is open to you.
The story is still an unknown concept, given how secretive CDPR are being about it, but teaming up with Keanu Reeves as chain-smoking Johnny Silverhand seems like a pretty okay way to rope me in. There’s betrayal, subterfuge and player-dictated story choices, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it next year.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced many blockbusters over the years, and the biggest compliment I can pay to Square Enix’s Avengers game is that it feels like watching a film. While that comes at the detriment of feeling overly linear, the demo level we got to play through was a blitz of flashy action, Hollywood set pieces and carnage that even Michael Bay would be proud of.
Taken on a whirlwind tour playing as the five main Avengers, we get a small taste of the structure of the game. Blending cutscenes into gameplay and back again seamlessly, we barely have time to breathe as everything falls apart around us. After a brief intro cutscene, we’re into combat as Thor, and it’s here where the excellent combat system reveals itself. Borrowing elements from the Arkham series and 2018’s Spiderman game, it feels amazing to throw Mjolnir at an enemy, and have it come back and take out another guy. There’s not a whole lot of combo potential, but every hit feels appropriately weighty, so a Hulk Smash for example, really does feel as devastating as it looks.
It seems a bit too early to assume the game will keep its seamless pace throughout, but as long as it offers enough action to match up to the MCU, you won’t find us too disappointed when it releases in May.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
We got an opportunity to sample some of the new sports in 2020’s edition of the Mario and Sonic Olympic series, as well as the new retro-style 1964 mode, where you can play as sprite versions of Mario and Sonic, as well as some accompanying characters from their respective series. In truth, this is the best addition to the series in a long time, a breath of fresh air that makes this game worth playing in my opinion. With easy to understand controls, it’s pick up and play goodness that is perfect for that party setting, when that bottle of vodka isn’t going to drink itself.
Also new to this year’s game is skateboarding. Now, it’s no Tony Hawk, or Skate, but there is a degree of skill involved here. Like with many of the other games in the series, timing button presses to rack up a higher score plays a huge part here, with the better presses filling up a super meter quicker. When filled, pressing A and R together nets you a large points boost and a flashy animation.
Surfing follows much the same principle, while incorporating balance mechanics when riding the tube of a wave. Point is, a lot of these games are fairly simplistic, aimed at breadth of content rather than the depth of it. But that’s okay. This series has always had its place among other seasonal sports games as a fun party game, and the small tweaks and additions like Retro mode add value to a title that already has an incentive for buying it. It’s no gamechanger, but it’s still a good time.
Dates. They’re important right? Big events; ones you don’t want to mess up? Well try telling that to Echo Chamber Games, the devs behind Table Manners. Inspired by YouTube smash-hit Surgeon Simulator, you control a floating hand (with difficulty) on a date with responsibility of pouring drinks, ordering food, seasoning plates and setting the mood by lighting candles. Using your mouse and the keyboard to interact with the many physics objects on the table is a hilariously clumsy task with equally as hilarious outcomes, from setting the table on fire to drowning your date’s steak with champagne.
It’s all geared towards getting the biggest laughs from its audience, a task this demo at EGX passed with flying colours. Every screen I looked at something was going horribly wrong, and everyone was having a great time with it. The best part is, the game knows. It doesn’t push the humour too far, but it’s aware of the right combinations of tasks to get the craziest possible outcomes. It hasn’t got a solid release date, but whenever it does get here, it’ll be one to check out.