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CyberPunk 2077 – EGX Preview

CyberPunk 2077 – EGX Preview

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.

Doom Eternal – Hands On

Doom Eternal – Hands On

There haven’t been many AAA games at EGX this year that I came into the show keen to check out, but Doom Eternal was one of them, so when I got the chance to get stuck into a twenty-minute demo of action taken from the middle of the game, I was excited.

Before the shooting started, there was a demo specific tutorial to refresh everyone with the basics of this generation of Doom games. It was a welcome refresher, and something that more companies could take note of when showing off big singleplayer games at shows like EGX. When trying to get your game into the hands of a wider audience, you don’t want them feeling put off by not knowing how to make the most of the game. A round of applause to Bethesda and id Software for that. The tutorial made a point of ensuring you knew how to wall climb, jump between walls and traverse the environment. Eternal looks set to be a much more vertical game than 2016’s Doom.

Upon getting into the action, it’s clear from the off that the id Tech 7 engine that is powering Eternal has taken things to another level from the id Tech 6 generation of games. It helps that the demo is being run on a more than capable PC, but the sheer scalability of the id engines should mean that Panic Button make another stunning port of Eternal to the Switch when it lands there later next year.

The levels I played through saw the Doom Slayer working to get back to Mars, fighting through a UAC station orbiting Phobos, a base falling apart under the weight of the demonic onslaught. Being a demo from the mid-part of the full game, you are already loaded with a bevy of weapons along with their respective mods. An early highlight was picking up a Super Shotgun. A classic of the Doom arsenal, this new version comes equipped with the Meat Hook mod which allows you to slingshot yourself towards an enemy. Extremely useful for crossing the many broken parts of the station, and for maintaining the fast-paced action established with the previous game.

Tying in with elements like the Meat Hook are the returning glory kills rewarding you with health, and a mega glory kill which can wipe out a group of demons in a stunning burst of melee inflicted gore. The chainsaw, provided you have fuel, will drop ammo while a new flamethrower will light up enemies who will drop armour once you finish them off. The new ways of keeping the Slayer topped up with his essentials might take a few moments of getting used to, but soon enough I was deep in the rhythm and blasting demons back to hell.

If you find a demon too far away to get an easy melee kill on, a dash move will get you up close and personal to finish the job. Dashing is another crucial element to keeping the action flowing, but fear not as there is always time to explore. Bringing up the automap will highlight objectives and the all-important pickups and secrets that are dotted around the levels. Rushing through head long will get you from A to B, but exploration and finding secrets has always been a key element of the Doom series and I was pleased to find a secret along with a few 1-ups.

These are new for Eternal and are another mechanism designed to keep you fighting, rather than restarting checkpoints when you inevitably die. It’s a great addition that keeps you in the moment.

New for Eternal is an element of destructible parts to the demons. The Aracnotron makes a re-appearance from the Doom 2 days, and you’ll find that a few carefully aimed rockets with destroy the cannon located at the top of the brain. Other bigger demons feature the same destructible elements, some might think they’re gimmicky, but I felt they added another layer to the action.

My one pause for thought came with an extravagant platforming section that reminded me of the worst moments of Xen in Half-Life. Obviously, movement is a thousand times improved upon Valve’s classic, but the sequence of hopping and boosting between floating pillars was a bit tedious. Where these platforms made you think about the game vertically, rather than what’s directly in your line of sight was welcome, but maybe I’m just too clumsy around the keyboard to traverse these sections as seamlessly as would be hoped.

It wasn’t too much of a blemish on what was an otherwise brilliant demo. If 2016’s Doom wasn’t up your street, then I don’t think Eternal will be. If it was though, then Eternal looks to be more of that goodness, just dialled up to 13. I’m on board, and have no issue with the delay until 2020, for a singleplayer focused game, I’d rather id take the time for a bit more spit and polish to tidy it all up.

My slaying was more than enjoyable with the twenty minutes going too fast.

Dry Drowning – Hands On

Dry Drowning – Hands On

The phrase “visual novel” is one that can spark hysterical reactions across the web from those who will argue that they aren’t proper video games. While Dry Drowning is being described on its Steam page as such a thing, after getting some hands on time through the first chapter, I’d argue there are enough “gamey” elements to put any fears to bed.

Dry Drowning, coming this August, puts you in the role of Mordred Foley, a disgraced private detective trying to make ends meet in the futuristic city of Nova Polemos.

Living Nightmare mode. Got to play your cards right!

This is a city built on some pretty nasty politics, with all kinds of elitist ideologies come to light as Mordred works to solve a murder, with a high profile politician the number one suspect.

Investigations are driven through conversations with your assistant-cum-partner Hera, various suspects or witnesses along with careful investigation of the crime scene. Clicking around where your cursor changes will reveal any necessary clues, and shouldn’t be too difficult to find, but it is how you interpret them that is crucial.

As events evolve, Mordred’ special skills become clear. He has a helpful trick of sensing when someone is lying to him, represented by a mask covering their face. With the evidence you have gathered you can reveal the truth, but interpret the evidence wrong and ask the wrong questions three times within a chapter will lead to a failure in the case, and the end of your journey.

It seems set to add some level of tension to your journey through this dystopian, cyber-noir world. Backgrounds to different locations are wonderfully drawn, which combined with the oppressive atmosphere of Nova Polemos and what seems to be, so far at least, some strong character work makes for a world rich in stories to unearth.

Lots of lovely text to read and find clues in.

The stories that you can unearth are multitudinous. Italian developers Studio V promise 150 story branches leading to three completely different endings. This will be possible thanks to a number of crucial moral decisions that you have to make through the game.

From the first chapter, they vary from how involved you allow Hera to become in your investigations, to deciding whether to prove the innocence of a key suspect, or to send them to prison in the hope that it will lead to a better world.

Whether the writing lives up to the high standards of the first chapter remains to be seen. I’ve come across a trans character, and one has to hope that the developers do her story justice. So too, with some of the political messaging going on, there will rightly be some worries that the tone can take a bad turn.

With only a few weeks until release, it won’t be long until I get my teeth truly stuck into Dry Drowning and deliver my Verdict.

Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

A couple of weeks after the Early Access launch of Satisfactory I was browsing my suggested video list clicking on some random gaming videos as we all do from time to time. I hate to say it but sometimes I’m a sucker for beatiful scenery regardless of the context of the game. The video I came across was one exploring some of the biomes of Satisfactory.

I was immidiately interested in the stark differences in the biomes and all the vivid colours. I’m not usually one for factory games but after some more investigation it was clear this seemed like much more than just a standard entry into the genre.

My original factory idea was far too small scale in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward forty odd hours and I’ve really had a lot of fun with Satisfactory. Not only are the intracacies of factory efficiency an enjoyable addiction, but there is also an interesting and beautiful world to explore, strange aliens to fight, rare resources to hunt for and things to build that you never thought a factory game would need.

A good example of the fun I had would be once I unlocked the jump pads. I found myself working out the exact distance the pad would fire me so that I could chain them together and fire myself all over and around my factory. It’s testament to the game that players have the freedom to these kinds of things. I always viewed this genre as one that was quite rigid, this could be my inexperience talking however and Satisfactory is certainly doing it’s part to bring me around to factory games.

An early prototype of my preferred mode of transport (the jump pad).

In it’s current Early Access state, not all content is yet available for Satisfactory. The developers have decided on a monthly update schedule that adds new features and makes quality of play improvements, meaning there are almost always new things to tinker with and factory processes to update. There’s a handy roadmap over on the Satisfactory website that lays things out a little more.

I’m excited for the future developments of Satisfactory, not only for the crazy (and completely unnecessary) factory ideas I’ll come up with but also the world building, combat and exploration side of things. Satisfactory also has the potential to be regularly updated after release, either minecraft style by the developers or by modders, who I’m sure would have no problems creating some wacky idea for the game.

I’ve had fun with Satisfactory so far, who knew a factory game could be so much fun!

The EGX 2018 Report – Vanguard: Fight for Rudiarius

The EGX 2018 Report – Vanguard: Fight for Rudiarius

Here we are, a couple of weeks after EGX 2018 came to a close, and I finally have a chance to write about Vanguard: Fight for RudiariusThe wait is not a knock on Vanguard, more a nature of my busy Autumn filled with wrestling, rallying and running a half-freaking-marathon. But here we are to talk about Vanguard. Let’s crack on.

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The EGX 2018 Report – Disco Elysium

The EGX 2018 Report – Disco Elysium

One of the most intriguing games I saw at EGX last week was Disco Elysium: A Detective RPG from ZA/UM. The demo opened with one of the most surreal introductions to a game I’ve experienced. Your character, a disgraced detective from Revachol West is having a conversation with his inner-self while you try to figure out whether you are dead, or just suffering a severe case of memory loss. 

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The EGX 2018 Report – Metro Exodus

The EGX 2018 Report – Metro Exodus

One of the big attractions for me at EGX this year was Metro Exodus. If you had asked me a year ago whether a Metro game had any appeal to me, I would have run away screaming in horror just thinking about the terrors of the tunnels underneath Moscow. However, after spending a snowy week at the beginning of the year exploring the world of Metro, my interest in Exodus is high, and excitement even higher after going hands-on at EGX.

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Bird Beak: A look at Phoenix Point

Bird Beak: A look at Phoenix Point

I like Xcom. I like Xcom2. I even like the ridiculously hard add-on for Xcom2. You may have seen me write about Xcom in all it’s recent incarnations at length. I like Xcom.

So this is why i’m rather interested in Phoenix point. Not only because it’s been made by Jullian Gollop and his team at Snapshot Games (Gollop was originally part of Mythos who birthed the original Xcom games back in the nineties, Yes, nineties) but because it is building on everything that made the remakes of Xcom so great. It’s certainly got my attention.

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They Are Billions – Early Access First Impressions

They Are Billions – Early Access First Impressions

Early Access arrival They Are Billions Steam page describes the game with tags like ‘survival’, ‘strategy’ and ‘base building’ and while these are certainly aspects of the gameplay my first impressions of it remind me more of a mix between RTS (real time strategy) and tower defence. As a long time RTS fan the initial moments feel very familiar. Locating resources, creating basic buildings, managing population and setting up basic defences. By mid game you are certainly base building with solid walls, advanced defences and armies but the lead up to that is more a hodgepodge of trying to become efficient and defending the small hordes that attack you, often with many automated towers.

In fact there’s a lot of automation going on and it seems to me developers Numatian Games are trying to focus the player more on the combat and less on the minor details of being the best possible base you can. For example, when a you place a building it is auto-built (as long as you have available population) and if placed next to a resource that resource is auto-collected. Some resources are collected over time and some are auto-generated as soon as you place a specific building. Towers also auto-attack enemies within their available range. This isn’t a bad thing though as on higher difficulties things can become quite hectic and this allows you to focus on enemy encounters and how best to tighten up your defences before the next wave hits.

There’s no tutorial in They Are Billions as of yet so I found enjoyment in my initial game discovering how everything worked and pieced together with each other. During my second playthrough I was disappointed to notice that I had completely explored the depth of the games base building and unit creation the first time around. It seems that at this stage of Early Access there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the game, but maybe that’s just my mind subconsciously comparing to other RTS games as the gameplay feels quite similar at times. There are no multiple development trees, no factions with alternate technology and no unique units. Everything felt the same from one game to the next apart from the difficulty which I increased after my first game. Explore the map, collect resources, expand, defend, attack, repeat. I think They Are Billions would really benefit from a bit of tactical depth, but who knows what is to be added in the future of this games Early Access phase.

I feel like I’m being unfairly critical as They Are Billions is a good game at heart. If you are used to the RTS genre then getting into this game will be fairly straightforward. You start with a fairly small area of available land on which to build, but can expand this area over time. Expanding too far to fast can leave you open to attack, but not expanding quick enough can leave you lacking on resources and stunt your recovery in between defending waves of zombie hordes. Building placement is key to success mostly because there is not a lot of time to recover on the hardest difficulties and having to rebuild and use resources which should be spend on units will most likely mean you get overwhelmed the next time around. This can be somewhat averted by using some smart tactics like funnelling the undead waves down a walled off corridor lined with turrets.

As this is essentially a game about managing units and resources it seems to be missing key management fine tuning like selecting idol units or keyboard shortcuts to make things easier. Of course you can pause the game to sort these things out too. Units also get stuck on each other quite easily which is frustrating at times. I get an overall good feeling about They Are Billions and enjoyed my time with the game but as this is early in EA there is still much that can be improved upon at least in my mind.