This year, the biggest annual gaming show in Britain has moved. No longer am I travelling down the M4 to visit EGX in Earl’s Court in London while staying in a rip-off hotel. This time, I have travelled up the M5 to the NEC in Birmingham while crashing with some family. Bit of a difference I must say, but it means that I can sit here on my netbook with a can of Strongbow and the New Zealand v Namibia match in the Rugby World Cup.
My visit this year will last until mid-afternoon Saturday. One reason for not doing the full four days is that I want to be back in Wales to watch Saturday’s massive World Cup fixture as Wales take on England. Now that I’ve bored you all to the high heavens with logistics and rugby, I’ll proceed with the my Day One report.
As is my habit when I come to EGX, my first port of call was a visit to the indie area. This year, it is quite something to behold. In addition to always quirky Leftfield Collection there is an Indie Megabooth full of slightly more established games than the Leftfield Collection along with a complete Rezzed Section, which is packed with the more established indie titles. It might sound odd to start splitting indie games up into different categories, but it is obvious there are different levels of investment and support for different indies when you come to a show like this.
In addition to these indie game zones, there is a small area for Rezzed chats where some smaller Q&A sessions and developer chats are taking place. About half of the Nintendo area is taken up with indie games and the Prison Architect guys have a mighty impressive booth on the main show floor. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take a photo of it, but they have built themselves a mini-prison block where those who want to play the game can check it out.
The first game I checked our was Warhammer: End Times Vermintide which provided me with a brutal, but very very good, four player co-op experience. I’ll be trying to get some more thoughts on this put to paper in the coming days.
Next up was Iron Fish from Beefjack Games and Dean Edwards. This is an intense sub-sea exploration game with hints of something darker lurking under the depths. I might be seeing this again later during the show, but I’ll say this. I found a shipping container filled with floating body parts, a wrecked ship, and numerous sharks. Sharks who weren’t afraid to kill me.
Next up I saw Quiet as a Stone from Richard Whitelock. This was hiding out in the Leftfield Collection, and I nearly missed attending a Rezzed session as I was so wrapped up in the game. It is described thusly:
Quiet as a Stone is an atmospheric, relaxing, childhood countryside exploration simulator. The player moves from place to place up a vast steep hill near the family home, collecting Items and discovering qualities about themselves which you use to uncover hidden tales and artefacts with which they can make a world of their own.
It was very relaxing as I took part in the “Create and Collect” phase where I threw small stones at clay pots to unearth the goodies inside. These goodies would then be planted in a safe area. It is intriguing, and something to check out if you are down towards the Leftfield Collection.
After trying a few indie games, I made my way to a Rezzed session. Here, Hannah Bunce (@hannardynamite) and Andy Rboson from Testology shared their experience of the QA world. Tales of the job followed and provided a very good insight into the importance of those on QA teams. The most important takeaway from this session? QA work isn’t just playing games all day. There is a lot of work that goes behind designing test plans and accurate reporting.
I then bounced around the Nintendo zone where lots of stuff was going on. There were Splatoon matches going on, a highly interactive stage show and lots of Mario Maker pods. I’ve go Mario Maker at home waiting for me to play, so I thought it best to leave that to others. I played some Mario Tennis…which was as you would expect.
Star Fox Zero was…interesting. It took me a while to get used to the controls. Pitch was on the left stick of the GamePad and was inverted by default (urgh), while aiming was left to the tilt and turn of the GamePad itself with the gyroscopic sensor. Not really my cup of tea, and I couldn’t help feel like the experience was a bit shallow. If you played Knack at all, you might start to understand what I am talking about.
In more positive Nintendo chat, Xenoblade Chronicles X was very impressive. I came away from my hands-on thinking that I had something on the ‘must-buy’ list for this Christmas period. I’ll be aiming to get some more words on this in the coming weeks, but safe to say, it is looking set to be another exceptional Wii U game.
By the time that was all done (the Star Fox queue took for ever to move) and I’d had some lunch, it was getting surprisingly late in the day and I had time for two more games. I tried out the aforementioned Prison Architect which has come on leaps and bounds since I last played it at the last show. This will be something everyone should try out when it launches in a few weeks.
I also had time to try out Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. I haven’t played anything in the Assassin’s Creed series for a couple of years. My last taste of action was with Black Flag back on the PlayStation 3, and I didn’t even go hands-on with any of the games that were at the show last year. Syndicate though looks like it might be the refresh that the series has long required. It won’t solve the problems that everyone has, but it looks set to improve things quite a bit.
That was it for Day One at EGX 2015 for me. I don’t know what I will see tomorrow, but doubtless I’ll be spending some more time in the indie section while also trying to check out some of the bigger titles.