The EGX 2018 Report – Strategy, Horror and Eternal Trips to Hell

The EGX 2018 Report – Strategy, Horror and Eternal Trips to Hell

I talked about the absence of Microsoft and EA at EGX in my opening show report, but that isn’t to say there weren’t any games to see at the show. There were plenty to see and play, and while my focus was, as ever, on the Rezzed section, I did make time for some other titles that were on show. Read on for my takes on Total War: Three Kingdoms, Man of Medan and Diablo on the Switch.

The first game I saw down and played was Total War: Three Kingdoms, the next full blooded entry in the Total War franchise. Why was it the first game I played I hear you ask? Well, my usual habit when first getting into an event like EGX is to take a wander around the show floor to get a feel for where everything is, and spot what potential gems there might be that I hadn’t previously planned to see. At the end of that initial wander, I wanted to sit down, get involved in a game and start to ease myself into the show. Three Kingdoms was perfect for that.

As is always the way when a Total War game is put on show, it is the real-time combat that is on offer. This always saddens me, as I tend to play the Total War games for their grand strategy layer. Having heard that the Warhammer entries in the series were more combat focused, I’ve been out of Total War practice since the good old days of Rome II.

My rusty skills were put to the test in the Ambush of Sun Ren scenario that The Creative Assembly were showing off. Faced with the choice of Hard or Normal difficulty modes, I duly dived into the Normal mode. I found the idea of surviving in the battle for more than five minutes mighty appealing.

It was a good thing I toned down the difficulty level, as this ambush scenario pulled no punches. No sooner had I finished watching the introductory video than the battle was under way. I had two generals in my arms, leading a small mixture of cavalry, spear and swordsmen and archers. My mission was to either defeat all the enemy forces, or escape through to the valley beyond.

Maybe I should have taken a beat to pause and consider my options. I didn’t, I let my troops immediately engage with the enemy, while pulling one of my generals and a solitary cavalry unit away, across a river and closer to the escape point. Back at the ambush site, things were getting messy. It would have been glorious for any Total War veteran, but all I could see was a mass of humanity smashing each other to pieces. I wasn’t helped by the friend and foe indicators being a green/red combination, which, when set against the backdrop of a battlefield, meant I wasn’t able to readily identify which units were mine, and which were the foes.

I did have the nous to pull my archers back from the frontline, so they could provide help in the manner they were designed to, and after initiating a cavalry charge to the enemy flanks, I thought I was in good shape to succeed. The initial waves of enemy attacks had been repelled, and I set about bringing my forces back together.

It was at this point that I realised my lonely general was under attack from a massive enemy counter-thrust. Not only had my tactical skills deserted me in the initial skirmishes, so had my strategic vision for the wider battle. Thanks to some hasty ordering of units to rush here and there, I brought my forces back together…only for another wave of enemies to launch an attack.

With my generals surrounded, and enemy generals closing in, it was time to duel! I selected one of my leaders, clicked the duel button, and selected the nearest big bad. This led to a great sequence where a space appeared between the hordes of scrapping infantry and the two generals faced off, one on one. It was a wonderful cinematic moment, as I zoomed in close, ordered my general to use their special abilities, and ultimately let out a quiet sigh of relief when they were victorious.

It was only then that I realised the rest of my army was fleeing the battle, clearly unnerved by the lack of due care and attention I gave them. It proved to be a crushing defeat, with only one of my generals making it to the safety of the extraction point, and my army torn to shreds.

If there’s one thing it taught me though, it’s that the battle engine in Three Kingdoms is absolutely gorgeous, and series veterans will likely love the new tactical options opened up thanks to the focus on the different fighting styles of the Chinese factions. For me? It served as a reminder that I’m better off sticking to the Grand Strategy side of things.

While wandering around the show floor, I stumbled across a couple of banks of games from Bandai Namco. One of them had an eerily familiar style of artwork, a style that immediately reminded me of Until Dawn. It wasn’t more Until Dawn, but the next best thing – Man of Medan. This is the first in a new anthology series from Until Dawn developers, Supermassive Games. Going under the banner of The Dark Pictures, Supermassive are taking their exquisite blend of storytelling, horror and branching storylines multi-platform.

The demo was brief, and left me desperate for more. After some initial trepidation with Until Dawn when I first picked it up, I battled through my fear or the dark, and really enjoyed the cinematic experience that was being served up. It certainly isn’t a style of game that suits everyone, full of quick-time events and minimal interaction with the world around, but I loved Until Dawn, and Man of Medan is more of what I want.

The short demo gave me the sense of unease that I was hoping for, along with one great moment of horror, and of course, it ended on one of those key butterfly moments that made Until Dawn stand out. I am extremely keen to see more of this, the release next year can’t come soon enough.

Finally, I managed to squeeze in a quick blast of Diablo III on the Switch. I already have the game on PC and PlayStation 4, but I am fully planning on acquiring this evergreen gem on the Switch as well. The demo was a handheld experience, which is where the game is going to excel. It will be great on a big-screen, but I just get the feeling that it will look, and run, better when scaled down to the perfect form-factor that is the Switch.

Coming with all the prior expansions and updates, along with the opportunity to dive straight into Adventure mode without playing through the story ensures this is a must-buy package for me. The small additions of Nintendo exclusive armour sets are the icing on the cake.

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