Past gaming events: gamescom 2019, Day 2

The second day of gamescom 2019, Wednesday, August 21, featured press appointments with publishers Tripwire Interactive, SoldOut, Daedalic Entertainment, THQ Nordic, R8 Games, and Revolution Software, but also a brief look at the consumer area with indie games.

After the first day at gamescom was only for press and business, this one was open to the public as well, which became obvious with the high number of people already passing through the main entrance after a brief security check.

Unfortunately, unlike the years before, the press wasn’t allowed to enter the premises before 9 am, which became something of a problem for those who had an appointment at 9…

Because I didn’t have anything before 10, I took a quick detour into the consumer area, specifically the Indie Village to check out the individual indie booths that would be crowded in the next hours and days, too.

As everything was just being set up, there was time to take a few photos of some creatively designed booths.

Application Systems Heidelberg didn’t have a booth in the business area, so I dropped by here to see some of their games…

… although I only had time for Wabisabi Play‘s Growbot.

The game is a classic 2D point-and-click adventure about robot (or growbot) Nara whose home, a biopunk space station, is threatened by a dark crystalline force. While training to become a captain, the station is attacked by fast-growing crystals, so it’s up to Nara to save it and its many plant-y inhabitants. Gameplay revolves around the typical exploration and environment interaction with picking up and using items. What looks similar to relaxing games like Machinarium and Botanicula also feels like those titles, mainly because of the alien world and all the fantastic plants that seem to be somehow real. There’s still a nice twist with the puzzles, as one uses one’s Brain(apilla) that has jumped into the growbot’s head to solve them.

Growbot has certainly a unique hand-drawn art style with many details in the environment and character designs, but it also has something one usually knows from RPGs, namely a book that is slowly filled with information about the world and its lore. So anyone who likes to dive deeper into it, can do so, especially since some of the puzzles require reading about plants or other things. As long as it doesn’t go the same route as Unforeseen Incidents that took realism and learning by reading to extremes, that’ll be fine.

The title is due to release on PC in 2020.

Official website

More indie booth impressions of so many games and so little time to play them or speak to developers…

Finally a stop I’ve planned to go to for some time, actually since devcom 2019, Day 2 when I briefly met the PR and some developers: Mixtvision Mediengesellschaft mbH‘s and Studio Fizbin‘s classic point-and-click adventure game Minutes of Island. Alas there was only time to talk about gamescom in general, even though I had a quick look at the loading screen, but that should be reason enough to keep a close eye on this title that has some lovely hand-drawn graphics which might not really be suitable for children.

This was actually a good thing, as The Inner World was playing it a bit too safe for my taste. Still, this reminds me to play the sequel before finally getting my hands on Minutes of Island that will be released on PC in spring 2020.

Official website

Just as the day before, the first press appointment was with Tripwire Interactive, only this time it was VR time with Digital Lode‘s first-person stealth/action game Espire 1: VR Operative.

Despite having my reservations about doing a virtual reality game in the early morning (see Gamescom 2018, Day 2 with multiplayer FPS Telefrag and especially first-person space adventure title Detached), Espire 1: VR Operative managed to induce no motion sickness. Even if the game was inspired by Metal Gear Solid and one could choose the silent approach to sneak behind enemies, shout “Hold!” to get their weapons or simply knock them down, I chose the more violent Max Payne way of using two guns at the same time and mowing down baddies.

It’s difficult to describe, but one really felt like an overpowered hero, picking up weapons, holstering them or holding a machine gun with both hands to avoid recoil. Slow motion helped to aim better and get rid of enemies that could be around each corner. While there were some control problems climbing ladders and getting on upper levels without falling down, this was only a minor concern, as the sheer fun to blast away in VR was unparalleled. There might obviously be more titles like this for VR, but as the game also offers the stealth possibility, it might still find a wider audience.

The game is already due to release on September 24, 2019, on Oculus Quest, PSVR, Oculus Rift S / CV1, Valve Index, HTC Vive / Vive Pro, and Windows Mixed Reality.

Official website

Before rushing to my next official press appointment, I had to pay a visit to the Polish Pavilion and check out Hexy Studio‘s point-and-clicker Brassheart.

Brassheart offers some lovely cartoon graphics, but isn’t really a comedy game, even if there is some humor in it. Set in the alternative dieselpunk 1920s, one plays as Pola Zagórska, an aeroplane pilot. She has to save her father who has been kidnapped by the rebellious supermachine Valkiria, one he also created. It has gathered an army and wants to both mechanize and militarize the whole world. In order to stop it with Prof. Zagórski’s mysterious invention called ‘Brassheart”, Pola sets out to find the parts of this mechanical heart that is scattered across the world.

I only played the game for a very short time, but it was a lot of fun, as it didn’t burden the player with too many objects to carry around or too many locations to visit. This might change in the course of the game, but as I was told, the classic principle of combining objects and solving puzzles in the environment should not rely on trial-and-error, rather focusing on logical puzzles. The few I solved also involved automaton Pascal who can carry out various tasks the pilot isn’t able to. In adddition to some great graphics, the voice acting and music was particularly good, too. So this game should be added to any adventure game fan’s wishlist.

Brassheart will be released sometime in 2019 on PC.

Official website

It’s always a pleasure to go to the UKIE Booth, not only because there’s a chance to get something to eat and drink (neither was possible this time), but because it celebrates the UK industry with some nice decorations, some of which should be known to anyone who’s been a gamer since the early 90ies at least.

This might be the most classic among the classics…

Of course I wasn’t simply there for taking pictures, but to see/play some games, in this case publisher Sold Out‘s and developer Metronomik‘s action-adventure rhythm game No Straight Roads.

No Straight Roads is pure indie punk rock power and even promotes this atitude with its storyline about band members Mayday and Zuke who fight against EDM empire No Straight Roads. After having been unfairly treated during their audition to join the company, they discover there are some evil intentions behind the NSR empire, so it’s up to the two rock artists to save the city, which can obviously only be done by music or at least music-based weapons and attacks. These have to usually be synchronized with the rhythm of the music and enemy movements, which also holds true for jumps and evasions.

This was one of the few games I had plenty of time to play through until the end of the demo, as there wasn’t much introduction, only some very nice and funny talks with the charismatic PR people. Having been a fan of music games for a very long time and also action-adventures, this combination worked wonderfully, which might have to do with a killer soundtrack, a great art design, and some very good voice acting. It also featured a big boss fight at the end that required different strategies to defeat. All in all, this is going to be a game any rock music fan will have to play when it releases.

No Straight Roads will be out in 2020 on both PC and PS4.

Official website

And yet another short trip to the Polish pavilion to see 7LEVELS‘s 2.5D side-scrolling platformer Jet Kave Adventure.

Playing as former chief Kave who has been banished from his tribe, one has to pursue an alien invader trying to casue a volcanic eruption in order to repair its crashlanded spaceship. This already makes for quite a silly story, but add a jetpack to it, and you have a winner. Of course there’s some traditional platforming involved, but being able to fly over pitfalls and smash through walls makes it that much more fun if clubbing enemies wasn’t great enough.

Platformers never seem to go out of style, but it’s always surprising how wonderful some of them look if they combine 3D with 2D. As all the cutscenes are also presented via in-game graphics, using camera zoom-ins and zoom-outs in addition to out-of-focus backgrounds makes the game more cinematic. What I’ve played in the short amount of time I had was a lot of fun and with the bonkers sci-fi story, this is definitely a game that sticks out from the rest of the platformer crowd.

The game is a Nintendo Switch exclusive and is already out on the Nintendo store.

Official website

Daedalic Entertainment had two games in store, the first one being fantasy RTS team game A Year of Rain.

It’s been a while since I’ve played together or against other people in a strategy title. It was probably the classic StarCraft (yes, it’s been that long!). So being thrown into a room with other journalists and teaming up after having chosen a faction felt awkward, but then the fun started. Building a base, gathering resources, recruiting an army and sending it out before the opposition does might not win any innovation prices, but it sure provided a great time, especially when taking control of a legendary hero and using all sorts of special abilities.

Upgrading in order to have stronger units and better buildings is as important as being fast enough to support the other team member. Together, our team might have won, if only the other side wouldn’t have sneaked and destroyed a base. Competitive gaming might just have found another great game that is both accessible and offers enough strategies to entertain for hours, weeks, or even months to come. It will be interesting to see how the story-driven campaign fares, though, as this is something the company has always excelled in.

The game will be released on PC sometime in 2019, but one can already register for the closed beta version.

Official website

Developed by Action Squad Studios and published by Daedalic Entertainment, tactical RPG Iron Danger‘s USP is its time-rewind feature.

It seems that time plays a bigger role these days in various genres. As could be seen with CrisTales I saw the day before, time travel can also work in another genre. By moving backwards or forwards, at least until the current situation, one can try different things and prevent death. This means that one never faces a game-over screen, as each situation, as tricky as it can be, can be overcome. Set in a world that combines fantasy with machines (or as the designers say “Lord of the Rings meets Transformers”), the game is clearly focused on combat with two playable characters.

This doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t offer customization, as one progressively unlocks skills that can be upgraded without level-grinding. As the game is pretty linear in level design, one won’t have to worry about missing something essential, and even if the levels are preset, there is still some experimentation in using the environment to one’s advantage, e.g. making a field burn with explosives or burning a tree and making it crush enemies. This turns the game more into a puzzle than an RPG title, which is certainly a nice change for the genre.

The game has no release date yet, as it’s in the alpha stage, but hopefully it won’t take too long.

Official website

I’ve been covering THQ Nordic for quite a while, but the last time I had a business appointment was during Gamescom 2013 when the company was called Nordic Games. So I was excited to have a look behind the scenes, even if it meant watching the latest news about their upcoming games in the cinema.

As there were so many games, I’ll keep it rather short, especially since I played most of them in the consumer area on Friday (thanks to a few fast pass tickets).

Airship Syndicate‘s Darksiders Genesis is a twin-stick hack-and-slash shooter, based on the popular action-adventure series. It serves as a prequel to the original game and introduces gunslinging horseman of the apocalypse Strife. The game has a fun Diablo-like vibe to it, mostly because of its isometric perspective, but also because of the colorful carnage on screen. Featuring lots of action in addition to upgrading skills, it’s very much action-RPG lite material. However, it offers two playable characters and local co-op multiplayer, plus a soundtrack by the same composer who did Ori and the Blind Forest.

The game will be released in 2019 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Stadia.

Official website

HEXADRIVE Inc.‘s and Oasis Games‘s Monkey King: Hero Is Back is an action-adventure game based on the animated 2015 Chinese movie that is not exclusively aimed at a younger audience. Anyone who’s seen the Netflix show (see Netflix watchlist: August 2018) will be disappointed, though, because this time it’s really a monkey hitting bad guys very hard where it really hurts. Offering a mix of slapstick comedy and martial arts action, this should appeal to any fan of animated movies and old-school brawling.

The game will be released on PC and PS4 on October 17, 2019.

Official website

HandyGames‘s and Paintbucket Games‘s Through The Darkest Of Times is a historical resistance strategy game that takes place during the Nazi occupation in Germany. Playing as the resistance leader, one has to make tough choices and to make sure that one’s people won’t get caught, without losing sight of the mission to free Germany. Being a mix of turn-based strategy and choose-your-own-adventure game, this is an interactive history lesson that is especially important for the industry, because it’s one of the first titles that shows Nazi symbols in Germany, obviously for education purposes (see the Germany’s USK finally allows swastikas in games under certain conditions article about this controversial topic).

The game will be released on PC, but doesn’t have a specified date yet.

Official website

HandyGames‘s and Honig Studios‘s El Hijo is a stealth game in a Spaghetti western setting, but without the bloodshed, sporting a cartoon look, with a young boy as the protagonist. Trying to find his mother, El Hijo has to escape a monastery that served as his home of education, go through a western town, and survive the desert. Being non-violent, the game should be accessible for a wider audience, although with the lovely art design, it should attract anyone who likes the stealth genre and animated movies.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but doesn’t have a specified date yet, either.

Official website

Mimimi Games‘s Desperados III is a prequel to the original tactical strategy game with a Spaghetti western setting, but with a LOT of bloodshed. Offering new characters and skills, it’s all about timing and using the right strategy at the right time. With the showdown mode it’s even possible queuing up various actions while freezing time. Just having a voodoo lady who can control the minds of characters and connect their souls to do her bidding should be reason enough to get excited about this great-looking title that has everything which made the first game such a success. All the throat cutting and blood spurting from axes buried into heads makes the 16+ age rating quite questionable, though.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.

Official website

Purple Lamp Studios‘s SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a remake of the 2003 3D-platformer based on the hit TV show. Playing as SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy, each with their unique skill sets, one has to save Bikini Bottom from robots that have gone berserk, thanks to series’ nemesis Plankton. It’s even possible to play local and online co-op multiplayer, showing that there’s still life left in an old game that doesn’t only look great, but has also some content that was cut from the original game, like a big Robo Squidward boss fight.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but it will be ready when… um, SpongeBob thinks it’s ready.

Official website

Bad Dream Games‘s and HandyGames‘s One Hand Clapping is probably the weirdest, but most wonderful game of the THQ Nordic line-up, as it only works with a microphone. In a world in which the power of singing has to be brought back, one has to find the right tone, rhythm, melody, and harmoy in order to solve puzzles that are combined with platforming mechanics. Probably the most fun was to see or rather hear YouTube “celebrities” making fools out of themselves while trying to hit the right tunes… but except for that it looked like a wonderful game with an innovative gameplay idea.

The game will be released on PC with no release date yet, so there’s still some time to practice singing!

Official website

NUKKLEAR‘s Comanche was probably the biggest surprise of the show, because it’s a 90ies game that almost seems to have been forgotten. Being the epiphany of helicopter simulation action, it’s understandable that this has turned into a team-based online-multiplayer shooter set in the near future, including drones in close quarter action. Maybe it’s a bit disappointing for fans of the original like me that there isn’t a real single-player mode with lots of missions, but from the looks of it, the feeling of intense dogfights in narrow canyons has been preserved.

The game will be available on PC with an early access version arriving in Q1 2020.

Official website

Drone Champions League‘s and Climax StudiosDCL – The Game might have the worst name to search for on the internet, but any fan of drones will know that the abbreviation stands for something different than a misspelled “downloadable content”. Flying machines enthusiasts will be happy to hear that the competitive high-speed team sport has entered the digital world, and if one is good enough in the highest mode the game offers, then one can even qualify for the DCL Draft Selection and compete in the real-life racing series. With lots of different tracks around the world and many game modes plus the realistic flight physics one would expect, this might be a good starting point for people who don’t want to spend their money on a real drone and make it crash into the next tree, house, car or animal/person… if one has the stomach for the very fast movement, which should be quite a challenge in VR, too.

The game will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on December 2, 2019.

Official website

Black Sea Games‘s Knights of Honor II – Sovereign is a historical RTS game taking place in medieval times. Different nations have to be led to greatness by the king one plays as, which means diplomacy to grow cities and obviously battles to win in order to wrestle over control of Europe. However, micromanagement has been kept to a minimum, so that the title should also be something for a more casual audience.

The game will be released on PC in 2020.

Official website

Black Forest Games‘s Destroy All Humans! was the final game on show and also one of the funniest ones, being a remake of the 2003 sci-fi comedy shooter that gives the player control over alien invaders who have to kidnap cows they think are the dominant species of planet Earth for collecting DNA and get rid of the humans with their advanced technology. The 50ies setting adds to the classic B-movies vibe, while the toilet humor makes it even more C-movie material. By utilizing the Unreal Engine 4, the game looks slick, but there are also gameplay changes with more refined controls and a restored mission that wasn’t in the original.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2020.

Official website

R8 Games’s Pacer is a futuristic racer in the vein of WipeOut and F-Zero and was the perfect way of getting some adrenaline pumping again after such a long day. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of time, as the booth wasn’t easy to find in the business area. Still, what I saw was pretty fun and especially impressive in the soundtrack and visual department.

The gameplay is fast and furious, involving lots of tight corners and jumps, plus weapons to fire and boost pads to drive over. Speed management is key, and it was amazing how one became better and better the more one got used to the insane speed and got lost in the terrific music. Unfortunately there won’t be local co-op, as the team is aiming for a flawless 4K presentation, but it can be played online with a wide variety of modes to choose from.

The game will be out on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.

Official website

The final press appointment was a meeting with Charles Cecil from Revolution Software who presented his adventure game Beyond a Steel Sky.

As most of the development process was already talked about during devcom 2019, Day 2, there were obviously some things I already knew. But now there was more time to see more game scenes. Being the sequel to the 1994 point-and-clicker Beneath a Steel Sky, this one used full 3D environments and a cel-shading comic look, but still offered enough puzzles to keep hardcore adventure fans happy.

Charles has a background as a mechanical engineer, and it showed with various hacking puzzles in which one had to manipulate machines. It has already been said that the characters lead lives of their own, but it remains to be seen how life-like the dystopian sci-fi world will actually become when it will be populated by memorable characters.

The game will be released on PC and consoles as well as on iOS devices, but there’s no date yet.

Official website

After a very long day at the Koelnmesse I prepared for another busy third day, but before we’re going to cover that (and the fourth one), let’s have a look at what goodies I got from PR people…

Starting with Application Systems Heidelberg, this was actually the same press kit I got last year, but the new Growbot postcard was quite lovely. And you can never have enough Steam codes, as there might always be an opportunity to promote the company’s great games.

Mixtvision Mediengesellschaft mbH had a pretty big indie package with a sticker, cards, a pen and notebook (always helpful for reviews/previews), and even some sweets you can’t see (you’ll get the food you find during gamescom whenever the opportunity arises).

A nice token from the bonkers platformer.

Daedalic always knows that people like physical stuff, and these things could be used in any way one liked, as you can see here.

I’ll always have a love for buttons…

… but having a pretty thick comic book is even better.

Yes, this USB stick was all I got from THQ Nordic, but it really helped with press kits to write this article and find the right screenshots at times.

Finally a small comic book that I remember was also included in a comprehensive Revolution anthology box. But of course it didn’t have the personal note by Charles Cecil…

Yes, it was a very FUN presentation, and I didn’t start the sausage joke, Charles! Thanks for making me remember it, though ;-).

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Past gaming events: gamescom 2019, Day 1

The first day of gamescom 2019, Tuesday, August 20, included press appointments with publishers Tripwire Interactive, CD Projekt Red, the Polish Pavilion, a bit of Swiss Games, Wired Productions, Modus Games, and Kalypso Media GmbH.

Once upon a time, the first day of gamescom meant that it was reserved for trade visitors and press. But in recent years, thanks to wildcards, a more expensive version of the regular tickets, and apparently an easy way to get trade tickets if one is only remotely connected to the industry, people had been crowding the venue as if it was like any other day open to the general public. Watching so many people cross the streets, walking in the direction of the trade visitor entrance I used only a day or two ago during devcom 2019 wasn’t a pretty sight.

Differentiating press, trade visitor, or those with a wildcard became impossible, especially since it took a while for the Koelnmesse staff to check everyone’s badge… which would be nothing compared to what happened in the next days.

Finally arriving in the business area, the first appointment was at Tripwire Interactive, which had a very unique kind of game to start the day and gamescom in general.

Tripwire Interactive‘s action-RPG Maneater is promoted as a shark-PG, and it’s exactly that: a game in which the player takes control of a shark and levels up by eating all sorts of sea creatures and of course people. What sounds crazy and gruesome is obviously crazy and tongue-in-cheek gore with gameplay mechanics that are as simple as they’re ingenious. Anyone expecting a touching heart-warming story as in Pixar’s Finding Nemo (or Finding Dory) will be disappointed, as one only kills to survive and also to evolve from a small shark to a gigantic killer Apex Predator.

As with any good RPG, an open-world always helps to make things better, only in this case one travels the world with a shark and tries to become the biggest and baddest predator in each region. This means that other animals can feel threatened and attack the player, while hunters can be a nuisance, too. Thanks to some special abilities and upgrades like sharper teeth, higher jumps and faster movement (also on the beach), progression is rewarded with more bloody mayhem. My first impression was that this is going to be good unclean fun in short bursts. It remains to be seen how long-term motivation turns out to be, because so far there haven’t been any varied quests except for defending one’s territory and moving on. But maybe future DLC will fix that, even including a multiplayer mode.

The game is due to release on PC at the Epic Games Store at its launch before E3 2020. A year later it will be available on Steam as well.

Official website

The CD Projekt Red booth is always an experience, not only because the Polish company makes great games, but also because there’s always something surprising behind closed doors.

CD Projekt Red‘s upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077 is probably one of the most anticipated games, and what better way to celebrate the sci-fi punk attitude than in a bar that could also be an underground music venue?

Even the exclusive appointment ticket looked like one used in these sort of rock show venues. Finally entering the doors with lots of other people and finding a seat proved that the crowd was waiting for some more exclusive hands-off and camera-off gameplay.

I have to confess that I haven’t bought into the hype yet, although I can only applaud the company for trying something different than the dark fantasy setting of The Witcher. Using a first-person perspective is also quite a change. Based on the original tabletop game, Cyberpunk 2077 mixes FPS action with RPG leveling-up and decision-making. Playing as a female or male character who can both have different social backgrounds obviously lead to various ways to play the game. Using stealth as well as brute force, the player can choose how he or she tackles each scenario. The game goes even so far as that one can finish it without killing anyone. If one still decides to shoot or slash through enemies, one will be presented with a surprising amount of blood and gore, including lots of limbs to be severed.

Transitions to areas are seamless, because there are no loading times. While the city graphics might not be as impressive as the wide vistas of The Witcher 3, one still gets a sense of immersion, which is probably due to the fact that many different languages like French or Chinese are spoken in their original tongues (translated via implants). Music is also dynamic, while riding a futuristic bike and listening to various genres like rock or techno enacts a certain GTA: Vice City feeling. Of course being a game about cyberpunk(s), customization with all sorts of outfits is key. The cyperpunk theme is further reflected in the way how one can hack into systems or even people’s minds for strategic purposes. This can be done by others, too, so one should be careful, especially during one particular boss fight in which the enemy tries to take control over one’s vision and movements.

All in all, the presentation showed that there’s a lot to experiment with and learn in Cyberpunk 2077 and even if the game’s release date of April 16 in 2020 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One is far away, the hype is still building up. So what better way to show one’s love for the game and promote it than giving away a very pricey jacket (yes, this actually sells for around 100 dollars!). I was actually a bit surprised when one should pick up the “shirt” and it was a bag that felt like two or three of them… It turned out that one could even turn the jacket inside out (I very much prefer the yellow version). But that’s CD Projekt Red for you: always good for surprises!

Official website

The next stop or rather stops were at the Polish Pavilion. Even if I had around 2 hours and my must-play/see list comprised 13 titles, I could only manage to get my hands on 5… so I had to return to one of the biggest and most interesting booth conglomerates in the gamescom business areas again soon.

Igrek Games‘ physics-based slapstick puzzle game Bug Academy was the first stop and one of my personal favorites. If you’ve seen the trailer, watched the bonkers gameplay and listened to that catchy LocoRoco-like music, then you should have already fallen in love with it, simply because of the cartoon graphics and funny sound effects. The gameplay revolves around taking control of insects one would normally avoid or squash with a newspaper or other things, but in this game one really cares for flies and mosquitoes in order to bring them to the level exits.

Similarities to LocoRoco don’t stop with the music, though, because it’s crucial to pick up insect buddies along the way in order to carry heavier objects or, in the case of mosquitoes, even suck up water and dowse flames. It sounds absolutely bonkers, and it’s wonderfully so. Just having a fly fall down from above and hit the ground with a squeaky toys sound (after all, at some point one has to get rid of one’s friends if certain doors in the levels only allow a specific number of them) or bump it against walls is a delight. I’ve only played a few levels, but these were simply a lot of fun, always introducing new mechanics, e.g. sucking up chili powder for the mosquito to literally have a boost and go higher, picking up elephants that are filled with water and crashing through windows of burning houses, or collecting cows and bringing them home while building barricades with all sorts of furniture. Definitely one of the fun highlights at gamescom 2019.

The game will be released on PC with no release date yet, but it will hopefully be very soon, as the steam page is already there.

Official website

Crazy Rocks’s Contraband Police is another simulation game that will be published by PlayWay. However, if you expect something like House Flipper and Garden Flipper or Cooking Simulator and Thief Simulator, you might look a bit worried at first, as this doesn’t appear to be one of those quirky titles, focusing more on the daily work of a borderland police.

Playing in first-person, one has to inspect vehicles that try to cross the border in an unknown country (so it’s not really political) for smuggling. Just as in Papers, Please, one checks documents, the identity of the car’s owner, and even how much it should weigh. Then one can either let the car driver go or arrest him/her, depending on what one finds. There’s certainly more to the game, as one can later upgrade the prison to hold more people. One can even call for supplies, while the use of a gun might come in handy in later scenarios. Graphically, it’s all rather static, and it might not seem to be the most exciting title, but if you take a look at the Steam page with some of the photos (yes, those with the middle finger and a police car with a heavy gun mounted to it), the politically incorrect fun might start later on.

The game will be released on PC in 2019.

Official website

Punch Punk Games‘ first-person adventure game This is the Zodiac Speaking is an investigative thriller that puts the player into the shoes of a journalist, someone who survived an encounter with the mysterious Zodiac killer who terrorized the US over many years and was never caught. By finding clues and investigating crime scenes, one tries to reenact the murders in order to find out where the killer strikes next and who he or she is, something that has puzzled the real police for decades.

The problem with gamescom is that one usually doesn’t have the time to dive deep into narrative titles, so my playtime was very limited in this case. What was already remarkable was that the visuals have an expressionist look and are quite surreal. Another thing was that one always knew where to go and what to do next, even if it meant going around the journalist’s apartment, turning on the TV, picking up the telephone, etc. A quest-like checklist will certainly help during further investigation which seems to consist of analyzing clues, while there will also be stealth segments, which obviously makes sense if the Zodiac killer feels as if someone is getting too close.

The planned release date of the PC version (which can already be wishlisted on Steam) is 2020, which will hopefully be enough time to polish the title, as it’s about time that the Zodiac killer theme receives a good game.

Official website

Baby Bison GamesSurvive the Blackout is a mix of choose-your-own-adventure and survival simulation about a group of people wandering the country after all electronic devices have failed and the fall of civilization is at hand. Only by following a mysterious light that can be seen over the night horizon, the group can hope to get through all the hardships, pain, and dangers that await them, usually involving other people.

Scavenging houses for supplies and trying to decide if one should trust people along the way is a given for the genre, but choosing one’s leader at the beginning might be the most difficult part, as this has an impact on the story and gameplay due to their unique abilities and responses to certain situations. Despite only having played the game for a short time, the atmosphere was gripping with a moody soundtrack and some disturbing silhouettes of people one sometimes meets. Even if it’s not strictly a horror game per se, the game made one frightened with each new scene. The art style with a setting or rising sun also added to the realism of feeling time pass. With some good writing, this should be another indie winner.

The game is due to release in early 2020 on PC with the Steam page already up and running.

Official website

Fireart GamesTOHU is a classic point-and-click adventure game in the same vein as Machinarium, as it doesn’t require text or voice acting, with its story and dialogues delivered in pictures. Taking place in a small world based on fish-planets, floating in an ether, one plays as a little girl who can turn into her alter-ego, the Cubus, a robot-like creature. After having lived a quiet life in a small house, the Sacred Engine, the heart of planet, is broken, and as all living things are in danger, someone has to be found to fix the machine and save the planet from chaos.

Switching between the two characters helps solving puzzles, e.g. with the Cubus being able to carry around big things. Anyone expecting lots of item combinations should look elsewhere, as the game is more about interacting with the environment and thinking about each character’s abilities. What made the game instantly likable during a short hands-on session was the attention to detail in all the hand-drawn backgrounds and character designs. It’s like being thrown into an alien world that lives and breathes, which is reflected in the way of all sorts of creatures that can be seen swimming or jumping around. Together with a great soundtrack (composed by Christopher Larkin who also did the Hollow Knight score), this should be a game on any adventure game fan’s wishlist.

The game is due to release in March 2020 on PC and can already be wishlisted on Steam.

Before going to the next appointment, I had a quick stop at Swiss Games, not to have a presentation of specific titles (that would be on another day), but to wonder at VR technology, mainly Jurassic Flight. After having seen a rollercoaster simulation in VR last year which I didn’t “play”, this one looked predestined for even more motion sickness, as every movement of gliding through the air was in tandem with the surgery-table-like contraption. However, who knows? Maybe the problem with motion sickness comes from NOT moving in reality, so this might actually work. We’ll see… but this is definitely not going to be a game for mass production, just because of the special peripheral.

Official website

Wired Productions had already a great portfolio last year at gamescom 2018, and it didn’t disappoint this time, either.

This was one of the few opportunities to get a rest, something to drink and something sweet to keep going. The company presented their line-up in a video presentation and commentary, but this was understandable, considering how much content each game had. So I’ll keep it as short as possible, too.

KeokeN Interactive’s Deliver Us The Moon is a sci-fi adventure game that doesn’t use the typical point-and-click perspective, but plays more like Dead Space, although without the monsters. Together with companion robot ASE one goes to the moon looking for a new source of energy that could save humanity. Of course, as with all sci-fi movies, everything goes wrong and one has to survive in an alien environment.

It all looks rather marvelous and sounds like that, too. Inspired by classic and modern cinema like 2001, Gravity, and Moon, which is also reflected by the dramatic music and some stellar graphics, this might just be the next best thing for feeling lost in space.

The game will be released on PC on October 10, 2019. The Xbox One and PS4 versions will be available in 2020.

Tomas Sala’s The Falconeer is a unique ocean world RPG that fuses aerial combat multiplayer with arcade/simulation gameplay. Playing as an airborne warrior, one uses ranged weapons to fight against other falconeers in the air, which means that old-school dogfighting sims fans will like this as much as multiplayer fans. Adding airships and all sorts of other beasts, this could just be the spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series.

Being an open-world (or open ocean) game means that one isn’t restricted to one area, so one can visit all sorts of different settlements with factions that react to one’s actions. Upgrading one’s gear as well as improving air acrobatics means it’s a game that keeps on giving.

The game will be released on PC in 2020.

Official website

Storm in a Teacup‘s first-person survival horror Close to the Sun makes it to Switch… even though I only had a hands-on session with the PS4 version, without knowing that it was already out. But with so many games released, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of them all. What’s striking about this title is how much it captures the atmosphere of a certain Bioshock, probably because of the art deco design and nautical setting.

Exploring the Helios in 1897, a big ship that seems to have been abandoned after serving years of scientific research, it’s a foreboding atmosphere with lots of wind and rain and not much light. Playing as journalist Rose Archer who is looking for her sister Ada, there’s definitely something very wrong on the ship. Despite only having a few minutes of playtime, the sound design and some great voice acting and music were enough to keep me intrigued. I’m not sure if the Switch version is the most suitable platform to have a survival horror game on the go, but the more the game is exposed to the public, the better.

The game is already out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, but it will soon arrive on Nintendo Switch as well.

Official website

Caged Element‘s sci-fi arcade racer GRIP: Combat Racing was great fun when I played it last year at gamescom 2018, and it was already released in November 2018. But there’s still life left in the fast-paced racer, with more DLC added.

Complementing the Summer of Combat, new cars and classes will be added, with the tank class Artifex Titan, aggressor class Artifex Fury and speedster class Artifex Atom, with 3 new Airblade and Roller vehicles. There are two free new tracks and a new arena, plus new garage cosmetic packs for vehicle customization. If this wasn’t enough, then there’s a special retro car DLC pack with a new car inspired by an 80ies classic. Say what you will about the DLC philosophy, if you want to experience that good old Rollcage feeling of driving on walls and ceilings, there’s no other alternative than this game.

The Artifex Car Pack is already out now on PC and consoles, but the 80ies classic car still has to be officially announced, which will probably be very soon.

Official website

Camel 101‘s Those Who Remain is a psychological horror adventure game about the sleepy town of Dormont where people disappear under mysterious circumstances. Playing as Edward who despite his good life with a wife and a little girl has been drawn to drinking and a secret affair, one tries to fix this situation, only to be thrown into a darkness that breaks through the realm of reality.

The video presentation of the game was rather short, so it’s difficult to say what kind of game this actually is. Drawing parallels to the dark dimension of Stranger Things (see Netflix watchlist: April to May 2017 and Netflix watchlist: January 2018 for both seasons), but dispensing with annoying kids, the game still plays with the perception of reality and the much more mature theme of (in)sanity. If this could be the next Alan Wake remains to be seen, but as it’s first-person horror, it might be even more immersive.

The game will be released in 2019 on PC as well as on major platforms like PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Official website

The day wasn’t over yet, as Modus Games had some pretty unique titles on offer.

Frozenbyte‘s Trine 4 is a return to 2.5D fantasy platforming co-op gaming for up to 4 players. One can obviously play the game alone, but as it was the case with the predecessors, this would require faster reflexes and coordination. Not that this wouldn’t be needed here, too. Playing as fantasy characters who all have unique abilities that have to be used to progress in the puzzle-heavy title, the platforming part is just as important.

Anyone who has played the former games will know what to expect: some wonderful background graphics and character designs, a beautiful soundtrack, great voice acting, and lots of humor (jumping on seals is even justified by the witty narrator) with an engaging storyline. While it’s all aimed at local co-op multiplayer, one can still play it on one’s own, as I did with the Switch version. While there were certainly some problems with the controls and the expected falling-down-getting-up-again moments when solving physics-based puzzles, the level I played was tremendous fun, even culminating in a boss fight that also required cooperation.

The game will be released on October 8, 2019, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC, coinciding with the release of the Trine: Ultimate Collection for those who want to have the complete collection.

Official website

Dreams Uncorporated‘s and Syck‘s Cris Tales is a JRPG with a time travel twist, presenting past, present, and future on one single screen. The first part of the presentation almost played like an adventure game, tasking the player to move through screens with seamless transitions from the three timelines that offer certain hints for puzzles. One can also send a frog to other times, control it for a while and help solve puzzles. As all characters can be seen in past, present, and future, one has to draw one’s own conclusions about the passing of time and what happened to each individual in their specific parts of lives. One can’t stress enough how beautiful the art design is that is inspired by Columbia, the place the companies originate from.

The second part of the presentation was about combat that felt just as fresh. The battles are innovative in the way that one can use time to one’s advantage. For example, one can cast a water spell on metal enemies and send them into the future when their armor will become rusty and more vulnerable. The same can be done with fire that can cause more damage the further the enemies are thrown into the future, too. All in all, this isn’t only a game that is amazing to look at, but that also tries to do things very differently, something that can’t be said about most JRPGs.

The game will presumably be released in 2020 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. If only there was a time machine to get there faster…

Stormind Games‘s Remothered: Going Porcelain follows in the footsteps of Remothered: Tormented Fathers (see preview) and offers survival horror at its giallo finest. One plays as a young housekeeper who is constantly hunted by madmen (and women) in the Ashmann Inn. Anyone who has played the Clocktower games will know what to expect: running, hiding, and distracting enemies, but at times also striking back.

The similarities to The Shining are obvious, as the inn is closed for the season, with mysterious things happening. However, the psychological horror also changes to some more disgusting scenes and violence, making this a title that would have had some problems in Germany due to censorship a while ago. Hopefully this won’t be the case here, as this is the closest one could come to experiencing an old-school giallo horror movie, maggots and scissors as weapons inclusive.

The game will be released in 2020 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, so it might be a good idea to play the predecessor before.

Official website

Kalypso Media GmbH was the last press appointment I had, and even if I had regularly covered their games and played them in the consumer area, it was the first time I met the PR people, which was a nice experience.

Torus GamesPraetorians HD is a makeover of the historical RTS from Pyro Studios and focuses on troops management, dispensing of the traditional base building and resource gathering mechanics. By invading villages and taking over, one recruits troops, so an aggressive, but also strategic approach is necessary to survive. As is to be expected from a leader, positioning troops is just as important as taking the terrain into account.

Fighting and winning awards the player with experience points that can then be invested for improving units. With different factions to choose from, there’s certainly a lot of historical variety, but one should be hardened against the high difficulty curve, because managing the population as resources, thinking about stamina for running doesn’t make this any less strategic. Graphically, one shouldn’t expect a complete overhaul, but as the gameplay remains mostly unchanged, any fans of the original hardcore RTS game will rejoice and the game might even win over more players.

The game will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in Q4 2019.

Official website

Yippee Entertainment‘s Commandos 2 – HD Remaster brings back another Pyro Studios strategy classic. Anyone who wonders what happened to the first game or if there’s a sequel in the making, will have to wait, as this might hopefully happen if this release is a winner. Considering that the original sequel still remains one of the best tactics-based WWII games that tasks the player to take control of a group of specialists with their unique abilities, testing the waters might result in a commercial winner.

Gameplay has largely remained the same, only with enhanced graphics and refined controls that will also be optimized for consoles and mobile devices. During the presentation it became clear that everyone knew the original and that some people (including me) even remembered certain key bindings. This is probably one of those games one can’t forget because of the varied mission design, freedom in how to tackle situations, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise that many games have followed in the footsteps of Pyro Studios’ title, but never quite bettered it.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch as well as on iOS and Android in Q4 2019.

Official website

Gaming Minds Studios‘s Port Royale 4 offers everything one would expect from the seafaring/trade simulation series that is presented in full 3D for the first time. Choosing between nations and characters with different abilities and attributes already shows how varied the gameplay can be, even if it doesn’t change the importance of where to place buildings on the islands in the most efficient way.

What is also essential is how to earn fame and reputation points to unlock buildings with concessions. Spending skill points on captain skills also helps progressing in the game, which makes sense, as there are quite a few sea battles to be fought. However, if one wants to, it’s possible to leave the turn-based fights to the AI, even if this automatic version might not always have the best results. All in all, this is a rather complex game, but one that looks very pretty with the new 3D visuals, as it’s a joy to zoom in and out seamlessly to marvel at each island’s flora and fauna, in addition to the sea waves, a soothing sight that never gets old.

The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch as well as on iOS and Android in Q4 2019.

Official website

This was probably one of the longest days of gamescom I’ve had for years, so writing about it took more time than usual. But before we’ll move on to the second day…

… let’s take a look at the other goodies, starting with the Polish Pavilion that had some sweets, a big catalogue, cool stickers, even some sweets, and a bag to carry it all.

Wired Productions only had a button…

… while Kalypso Media had a catalogue and a USB stick that helped with press material.

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Game release: “Blasphemous” (PC,PS4,Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

The Game Kitchen‘s 2D action-platformer Blasphemous is brimming with Gothic horror and gore.

Considering that the company did the subtle horror point-and-click adventure games The Last Door: Season 1 and The Last Door: Season 2, it’s surprising to see such an ample amount of violence and blood on screen with the newest title that also tackles a completely different genre. Playing as The Pentitent One, the sole survivor of the massacre of the ‘Silent Sorrow’, one has to free the world from the Miracle curse that has the land of Cvstodia in its grips, resulting in lots of hacking, slashing, and platforming.

The world is what happens if religion is twisted so far that it’s not recognizable anymore, with many monstrosities roaming it that have to be killed with weapon combos. By equipping relics, rosary beads and prayers, one can receive divine help, too. The non-linear world can be explored in a metroidvania style, offering plenty of opportunities to help tormented souls that all have their own stories to tell and maybe even support the Penitent One in his quest. The way how the player rips enemies apart has to be seen to be believed, while the gigantic bosses are also artistic nightmares to behold, making it clear that despite a change in genres, the company still knows how to impress and do something a bit differently.

The game is out now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, having a 10% launch discount that will last until September 23rd, 11am UTC. There’s even a deluxe edition that includes a digital comic, the soundtrack, an ‘Alloy of Sin’ skin, and a digital artbook. These can also be purchased separately.

Buy standard edition for PC on

Buy deluxe edition for PC on

Buy the game for PS4 on
the PSN store

Buy the game for Xbox One on
the Xbox store

Buy the game for Nintendo Switch on
the Nintendo eShop

Official website

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GOG releases: “Through the Ages” + “Through the Ages – New Leaders & Wonders” DLC

CGE Digital‘s strategy board game Through the Ages and its DLC New Leaders & Wonders are brought to historical life on GOG.

Through the Ages is the official adaptation of Vlaada Chvátil’s strategy title that is about making history by building a whole civilization from the ground up. This obviously entails technological advancements, better governments, and grand wonders, while the military also helps to guide one’s civilization to greatness (or its downfall).

As it’s the case with board games, having the right cards and using them to one’s advantage at the right time is essential. Managing resources and choosing the most strategic path also adds to complexity and replayability, while playing against the computer AI or online against other people makes it both engaging for singleplayer and multiplayer. With some colorful presentation, this should appeal to both boardgame and strategy game fans alike. Through the Ages was originally released in March 2018 and is now available with a 40% launch discount that will last until today, September 19th, 4pm UTC.

Official website

Through the Ages – New Leaders & Wonders is what usually happens if a board game becomes successful, which is also true for digital games: offering more of what made the original great. In this case, the DLC adds leaders, wonders, and military cards which have a big impact on the history and civilization one is making and building.

Most of these personalities are taken from real life, as they became famous with their individual creations and inventions, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to see some well-known names in this expansion. With the same attention to detail when it comes to the vibrant card images, the digital version won’t disappoint fans of the base game, especially since the expansion will come at a later date than the digital one. Through the Ages – New Leaders & Wonders is out now on GOG as well, even though it comes without a discount.

Official website

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GOG release: “Terroir”

General Interactive Co.‘s tile-based tycoon game Terroir is all about the wine business it brings to GOG.

What’s more relaxing than sipping on a glass of wine in front of the fireplace and reading a good book? Seeing the vineyard grow and tasting the fruit of one’s labor might be more work, but also more fulfilling in the long run. This is what Terroir encourages the player to do: managing his/her own wineyard, growing a variety of grapes, crafting the wine, while expanding the estate.

This all comes at a cost, though, as weather conditions and random events that can have positive or negative effects, change things up a bit. Learning about the individual processes like crushing, fermentation, pressing, and ageing is a bonus, too, and even essential when one wants to master each grape. By using tiles, one can expand the estate and, as in a board game, placing them is key to maximize one’s crop. With Wine Awards, one also has specific goals that can further boost income and production. All presented in a minimalist but beautiful art design of low-poly 3D models, this still retains a sense of relaxation despite all the hard work that has to be put into it.

Terroir is out now DRM-free on GOG with a 25% launch discount that will last until September 19th, 4pm UTC.

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