Games come in all forms, and narrative led titles take on their own various guises. A modern title which combined roguelike elements with a healthy dose of narrative was Sunless Seas and follow up Sunless Skies. One of the lead writers on those titles was Richard Cobbett who is now busy working on Nighthawks, a narrative led vampire RPG which was successfully Kickstarted in 2018. …
I’m a massive fan of the Dishonored games from Arkane Lyon, with both titles appearing my Year in Games lists, and I can’t hide my disappointment that Dishonored 2 didn’t do the numbers to allow for another entry, with the series currently “resting”. Fortunately Arkane Lyon haven’t been resting, and are moving forwards with DEATHLOOP coming this holiday season for PlayStation 5 and PC. For me, DEATHLOOP was the highlight of Sony’s big PlayStation 5 unveiling, read on to find out why. …
If you weren’t into mobile gaming back in the first decade of the 2000’s, you might not have heard of the Revival games. Inspired by the Civilization series, they aimed to bring the 4X genre to the Symbian powered phones of that era before a period of dormancy. Now, the Revival name is back with HeroCraft targeting a public test later this year for Revival: Recolonization. …
As I look back through my drafts from last year during some time away from the day job, I realise that I haven’t written about Adventure in Aellion which I saw at EGX. As I catch myself up with the progress the devs have made in recent months, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they deep in planning for Early Access, and are also offering members of their Discord channel a chance to try out an even earlier version of the game.
But what is Adventure in Aellion? Coming from The Game Producion Company, comprising Luke O’Donoghue and Elliott Dodsworth, Aellion can best be described as a Zelda-like with drop-in drop-out multiplayer. After playing Aellion at EGX, I asked Luke about his inspiration for starting work on the game:
we were sat there thinking about why you can’t play Zelda multiplayer…we’re going for an older style Zelda mixed with Jak and Dax adventure. The main feature is the easy drop-in drop-out multiplayer, local and online.
I saw some of this drop-in and drop-out multiplayer action at EGX. I started the demo on my lonesome, quickly jumping on a horse and exploring the countryside…but in the opposite direction of the dungeon that was playable during the demo. After getting myself back on track, I was joined a companion as I neared the dungeon, from where we tried to work our way through the variety of puzzles on offer.
The puzzles were well crafted, offering a welcome mix of straightforward box manoeuvring to climb to different levels along with others which required more patience and logic to solve. Despite not communicating with my random partner, nothing was too difficult to prevent progress being made. Lone rangers should have no fears as the core experience will work for solo players as well, with Luke telling me:
the main story itself, which will cover 9 dungeons, will all be playable single player. We will have some special side-story quests and puzzles that will require multiplayer, but we wanted the story to be completed single player which was an important factor when we were designing the dungeons.
Luke revealed that the dungeon on show at EGX was taking players 30-60 minutes to work through based on their experience with similar games. Further dungeons are expected to take closer to an hour, even for experienced gamers, to complete. The final dungeon (complete with requisite boss) is expected to be a 90 minute encounter, although won’t necessarily be the most complex dungeon in the game.
You will be able to, in theory, head straight to the final dungeon from the very start of the game if you were feeling brave enough. By doing that though you will be missing out on the six distinct semi-open world areas. In the EGX demo I travelled through a handful of farms and small villages, testament to the idea that a large open world without stuff to do isn’t much fun. It means Luke and Elliott are focusing on developing a well populated world to explore and get stuck into, rather than a massive but sparsely populated lan.
Judging by the discussions in Discord, the team are making good progress already this year, with updates to their Discord community build expected to drop more regularly than before. Of course, if Discord isn’t your cup of tea, you can follow the game on Steam and wait for the Early Access release.
You might have figured out by now that I’m a huge rally fan. I’ve written about my journey to find a worthy rally game, I’ve been out in the forests of North Wales a couple of times to see the cars fly past, an experience which nearly undermined my initial enjoyment of GRID. It turned out that EGX this year came only a couple of weeks after the Welsh round of the World Rally Championship, and when I arrived at the ExCeL in London town, I was still in full rally fandom.
It all meant that while wandering the indie section, I was immediately seized by a need to check out art of rally. There was a lengthy queue at the stall, which I later found out from creator Dune Casu was likely thanks to his work on Absolute Drift which I remember hearing positive things about some time ago.
art of rally is described on the official site as a “stylized rally experience”, something which seemed quite apt once I got a chance between the crowds to play it. My first experience of this isometric racer was on a fast tarmac stage in Sardinia which ended up with my car against the trees more often than not. As Dune told me:
It’s not the easiest type of game, but for those who play racing and rally games they are pretty into it and seem to be getting along with it.
That’s very much true as my next attempt was on a lovely gravel stage in Finland, and with a car not quite over lethal as the Group B Audi Quattro alike that I drove on Sardinia. A more sedate 60s styled Lancia was my choice, and it proved to be much more welcoming. I still dumped the car off the track a couple of times, but was able to get around in one piece.
Dune explained that while career mode covers the “classical age of rally, so 60s through to 90s…the goal isn’t to win everything but to go through tracks and enjoy them.” I’m so happy to see indies getting into the rallying scene, and the concept of enjoying the action rather than feeling you have to win is music to my ears.
Those who are more competitive will be pleased to know that there will be daily and weekly challenges, compete with online leaderboards, but I’m going to be more than content to tootle casually around the various locales and soak up the atmosphere.
You can find out more on art of rally on the official site or follow Dune on Twitter. Did I mention that music is fantastic? No, well it is. art of rally will be out next year and can’t come soon enough.
Noita (the Finnish word for witch) is an early access rogue-lite with an emphasis on every pixel being simulated. That’s right, every single pixel in the game has physical properties and can be affected by the player in one way or another. Explosions gouge chunks out of caves and yourself, fire burns down anything organic including any wood you’re standing on and yourself, water fills up all the little crevices and drowns you if you’re not careful and many enemies have the same abilities. Indeed traversing your way through Noita can be as precarious and treacherous as fighting the enemies that dwell in it’s caves.
Combat and exploration come with a magical flavour, as you move around the underground landscape with what is essentially the power of a recharging jet pack. The game also adopts the no hands held approach which works well in generating a sense of exploration and a reasonable learning curve although I admit I did take a peek at the wiki a few times.
Weapons come in the form of wands and throwable flasks, each with their own properties and statistics. In the case of wands, the statistics of any given wand are permanent but they also come with spell slots and interchangeable spells attatched to them. Wands are plentiful at the start of Noita and this makes for some interesting experimentation as you try different combinations and find out a combat style that suits you. Flasks are equally as interesting and can teleport, polymorph, increase damage, burn, slow and many more things.
As you progress through Noita you find yourself passing through many different biomes, at the end of these biomes you are offered the chance to rest as you pass through a gateway chamber of sorts. You are able to replenish all spells, heal and are offered a choice of three upgrades of which you can only choose one. There are over fifty different types of upgrades currently in Noita and combining this with the different types of biomes and enemies gives the game a nice amount of replayability.
Noita may currently be in Early Access but even taking a quick look at the wiki shows the amount of content it has already is impressive. Developers Nolla Games reckon that Noita will be in development for a year before it’s full release. I’m looking forward to see how the game evolves during this time.
I’m a big fan of the indie games that Curve Digital publish, and their area is normally one of my regular haunts at EGX. This year the layout of the Rezzed area was so expansive that Curve’s games were spread out, not in one nice grouping like I’ve come to expect. It all meant that I missed the opportunity to take a look at Autonauts and Table Manners, but I was able to get some time with Narcos: Rise of the Cartels. Yes, this is a fully licenced take on the hit Netflix show which charts the fight between the DEA and Pablo Escobar’s cartel. And you know what? It’s damn good.
The full game, due out later this year across PC and all the consoles, will see two distinct campaigns taking you through the eyes of the DEA and protagonist Steve Murphy, or as the Narcos working to expand El Patrón’s brutal empire. The demo at EGX was played through the eyes of the DEA, probably for the best with the number of kids wandering the halls, with the in-game action cleverly interspersed with clips from the first season of the show and mission briefings from Ambassador Noonan. While Narcos won’t have the base building elements of the recent XCOM titles, the glimpses of “office” work I saw were solid enough to provide you with a sense of meaning to your work, and steeped in clichés like a massive pin-board plotting links between cartel members.
Aside from that you also get to manage your roster of DEA agents, Colombian cops, special forces and other leaders. The leaders, characters from the show like Murphy and Javier Peña have special abilities, but crucially only one leader can be taken into a mission as part of your squad at any one time. Looking after your leaders looks set to be important. While they may have special abilities, I tended to keep Murphy safely tucked away during the demo to avoid losing everything by foolishly getting him shot up.
The action itself takes place in artful surroundings in Colombian towns, cities and the jungle. The basic premise is different enough from XCOM or the turn-based elements of Age of Wonder: Planetfall to provoke interest in fans of the genre, let alone fans of the show. Rather than having control over all your units during a turn, in Narcos only one unit can take any action, but that action can be extensive. For example, I was able to take my demolition expert from the ground up a drainpipe towards a spot where I could fire my grenade launcher to take down a cartel member. Even after taking my shot, I was left with choices of reloading my grenade launcher or hunkering down and healing.
The flipside is that by moving my demolition expert, I’d left a fresh-faced Colombian cop in the open and ready to come under fire. Fortunately, he’d built up his counteract points. Replacing the classic overwatch ability of XCOM, counteract points are earned through limiting the actions you perform with a squad member. Once the ability kicks in when a bad guy approaches, you are thrust into a third-person mode where you can control the aim and timing of the shot, all while the enemy is moving in slow-mo towards you. It’s an innovative feature, although one that I didn’t fully get to grips with during the demo. I kind of glossed over that part during the tutorial level, too busy planning how to get Murphy out of a spot of bother I’d left him in.
There’s more to Narcos than the licence, although it is that name recognition that drew me to the stand in the first place. It does mean that I will need to finish watching season one of the show, so as not to get spoilt by the game. It’s a great marketing tie-in really, and one must expect that another game, or perhaps some DLC, will be released further down the line to cover the events of season two.
I came away from the stand pleased that I’d found a Curve title, especially one as potentially addictive as this.
Six months out from the planned release, and CD Projekt Red are being careful with CyberPunk 2077, showing off plenty in a 45-minute cinematic demo, but by keeping it out of the hands of the general public at EGX, ensuring people only see exactly what they want you to see. With some developers, you might start to have concerns that the ground-breaking new features they have spent months hyping will all fall apart when people get hands on. With CDPR though, they have The Witcher 3 in their history, a grand open-world RPG that stands out as a highlight of this generation, and you start to wonder whether CyberPunk 2077 might top Geralt’s adventure.
The demo that we were shown started with the team from CDPR showing off the character customisation options. While they only gave us a light touch run through, I got the impression you can go into quite some depth when making your version V. We were also given a glimpse of the life path that you choose for V, a overarching archetype that you will be able to tweak and change as you work through the game. These are the areas that I love to dive into in RPGs, and this demo sure as hell left me wanting to see more.
Once a male, hacking focused version of V had been created, Keanu Reeves’ character of Johnny Silverhand provides some augmented reality direction: find Placide from the Voodoo Boy gang and find a way to make contact with a legendary figure of the NetRunner community. As V explores his surroundings, making his way to a church to meet one of Placide’s handlers I was gazing at the world of Night City that CDPR have created. I’ve largely avoided bingeing on pre-release trailers and previews for CyberPunk, and so my first real glimpse of V’s hometown was quite something.
NPCs are everwhere, think Novigrad in The Witcher 3, but with an even greater cast of people milling about. The effort that has gone into making Night City must have been immense, and part of me wonders whether CDPR might look to push the release date back further to ensure all the various game systems are working in sync, and to potentially make this a cross-gen release. I can only imagine how beneficial the extra power of the new consoles will be to help immerse you in Night City’s life.
After being taken to meet Placide, the range of conversation options was shown off. Along with the expected class and skill specific conversation threads you can pull at, we were also shown action taking place in the background to the conversation which led to new contextual conversation options. It was impressive in the moment, but as it took place in a scripted and controlled setting in Placide’s office, it raised a question in my mind of how much you might see that take place out in the city itself. The rest of V’s dealings with Placide were focused on the biohacking elements at the heart of the game.
Jacking into Placide’s network leaves you vulnerable to his spying but will prove useful as you complete a job for him. The sequence around the biohacking and body-mods felt very Deus Ex, which is no bad thing, but left me wondering whether some of the messages and themes that CDPR will be trying to explore through CyberPunk won’t be as new and “hot take” as some might expect.
When it came time to infiltrate the base of the rival gang, we were shown two opposite approaches to handling the situation. A stealth focused method with a healthy dose of hacking, or a gun heavy onslaught augmented with strength perks opening different options. Personally, I found the stealthy approach much more interesting. Hacking cameras and silently taking down opponents is one thing, but being able to hack their own body mods adds to the fun and games that you would expect to take part in. The action focused offering had a more traditional shooter feel with a lesser focus on the hacking abilities and more on the bludgeoning your way through any spot of trouble.
Without going hands-on, it’s hard to say how the all guns blazing approach would feel. The Witcher 3 proved to offer brilliant, yet easy combat with the third-person perspective and mix of signs and swords. I’m just not sure that CyberPunk will best suit that style of gameplay, especially when the subtler approaches look set to be much more entertaining judging from the action shown at EGX.
CyberPunk 2077 look fantastic, and has a world that I have no doubt people will fall in love with. I have confidence in CDPR, but the sooner they get this into the hands of fans at events like EGX, the better.