Only one week before Gamescom 2013 begins (actually less, but this blog entry could only be published after a broadband internet company fixed a local cutting-through-telephone/i-net cable…), so it’s more than high time to see what 2013 brought with the press screenings of the business area, starting with TopWare Interactive, Daedalic Entertainment, Focus Home Interactive, and Headup Games.
Although it seems like ages ago and one usually discusses the games and their presentations shortly after or even during the convention, due to the aforementioned (see Gamescom Public Area articles) problems, it didn’t work out as it was planned. But if medical and time-consuming problems (plus Koelnmesse) won’t get in the way, the coverage will be much more on time this year.
Obviously, some (or actually most) of the presented games have already been released and even reviewed here, so only a few words on the impressions then and the reception now plus some videos will suffice. Despite the delay, there are still many interesting things to write about, especially considering in which environments the games were shown.
The first press screening was also one of the most comfortable viewing experiences (with the exception of CD Project Red’s The Witcher 3) due to a small cinema with a big screen and good soundtrack quality. One also has to say that TopWare Interactive has been around for a very long time, which is certainly no easy feat in the games industry. So it was only appropriate to celebrate it with an exclusive old-school 3.5” disk as a press kit plus lots of other goodies. Commemorating the company’s long history were also the glass cases with lots of games and other media they were involved with over the past decades.
There were two games, with the second one only giving a very small showing time.
An action-adventure which looks and plays more than a little bit like Assassin’s Creed IV: Blag Flag, the setting is very much on vogue with pirate themes. Sailing with large ships, fighting on sea and land, finding treasures is all present here. The first impression was quite good, even though the graphics weren’t mind-blowing. But then again it has also been announced for next-gen consoles, while quite a bit of reworking has been done over the past months.
Fluid animations were complemented by some nice vistas like tropical islands, evoking a sense of awe and discovery. The soundtrack was also atmospheric (highlighted by the recently released pirate drinking song video). Having a free-roaming environment with optional side quests which affect the morale of your men you can hire to your heart’s content is another plus for this game, while the added violence (rating: 18+) makes for a more visceral and realistic presentation of the era. All in all, despite Assassin’s Creed IV having already been released, this might be a much more interesting game due to its new characters and no convoluted modern times sequences.
For some more fun shanties, see
Now this was a pretty short presentation, which was unfortunate, because it looked like a lot of fun and maybe even the best showcase of Microsoft’s Kinect system for the Xbox 360. The concept of just flying through the air and performing stunts in a Tony Hawk-like way to highscore might sound simplistic, but with a rocking soundtrack and some rather nice, even if not photorealistic graphics, this was another promising title. It has already been released on both Xbox 360 and PS3 as a download-only title, so it’s worth checking out.
The German publisher and developer which rose to fame in its native country with the revival of point-and-click adventures like Edna & Harvey or The Whispered World also seemed to make a name for itself by presenting its games to an English audience and broadening their genre concepts, making this one of the most interesting companies around which still keeps its individual quirky touch.
(Germany 2014, developer/publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
After successfully translating the Dark Eye licence to the adventure game genre with Chains of Satinav and Memoria, this (already released) classic turn-based SRPG is much closer to the original pen-and-paper franchise. Despite its rather unspectacular graphics, the dark tale showed promise in terms of characterization with a less light-hearted and therefore more serious fantasy approach, while each level offered different ways to finish it. The game seemed slow-moving, but then again the adventure titles weren’t much different with their rather long dialogues. Still, the brief time spent with this showed some promise and hopefully, there will be a review coming up in the near future.
(Germany 2013, developer/publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
With only a very short time available for this one (due to another appointment), the first look at the game already promised the same level of slapstick, off-the-wall humor and cartoon graphics the first two games of the series were known for. As it turned out (with a 7.5/10 score), the reviewed version delivered more or less the same with the additional help of controlling three characters simultaneously. Still one of the more divisive titles in terms of humor, even though the bestselling momentum the trilogy is still kept alive, this is a title one either anticipated very much or was happy to see concluded, hoping that Daedalic would move in a different direction with new franchises, not only in the adventure game genre.
The French publisher is maybe best known for its Sherlock Holmes releases, but it also showed that it doesn’t only deliver good adventure games which get better and better with each installment, but that it’s open to new indie developments with interesting concepts as well.
Being different from the third-person action-platformer-adventure crowd is difficult, but Contrast just achieved that with its interesting light-shadow mechanic and visual presentation. Not only is the mature story, set in the American 1920-40s, about family relationships told in a shadow play style (an ingenious concept), the unique gameplay is also about switching between two different planes of existence.
Even if the character models and some textures didn’t look that great on the Xbox 360 (it might be a different story on next-gen and PC, though), the cutscenes and overall art direction were as great as the fantastic jazz soundtrack. Puzzles were also quite inventive, even if the controls and camera positioning were annoying at times. Still, as first impressions go, and considering there is nothing like it on the market, this was a pleasant indie hit surprise that is already available on all formats (with a retail version for PC in Europe).
The Sherlock Holmes games by Frogwares might not always be the most refined titles in storytelling and puzzle design, but there is always an improvement to be seen despite the technical inefficiencies. The newest game seems to become the best-looking and also best-playing entry yet. This could be seen by better facial expressions and environmental textures.
But the real highlight was the revealing snippet of information that Sherlock solves individual cases in an episodic structure with an overarching plot, making this an ambitious effort in storytelling. These investigations can be tackled in any order and in addition to this freeform progression, decisions might alter the outcome as well, a novel concept for the rather linear series. An overhauling of the deduction board also showed that the developer listened to its customer base, so it will be interesting to see how the end product turns out.
After having won the German Developer Prize for “Best Publisher”, it’s easy to see why when looking at this small startup’s lovely retail box art and goodies system in action, especially considering that it’s all about indie games which deserve more attention in the public eye than so many other shovelware and AAA games on the shelves display. It was also interesting to have it situated in a Bavarian summer terrace environment, while the direct communication with the indie developers themselves was also a refreshing take without the PR being too intrusive. It was a relaxed environment where one could actually get some decent food as well after a long day of running to and fro.
Meridian – New World
(Germany TBA, developer: Elder Games, publisher: Headup Games, platform: PC)
An RTS title which despite its one-man ship, took me by surprise with its amazingly detailed graphics. Even if the genre doesn’t seem to offer a lot of innovation, the sci-fi setting with its various planet locations burst with color and imagination. Voice acting and sound effects were also great, while the way missions varied in gameplay styles was also nice to see. As it is, this is a title which could actually steal the show of many current or in-development RTS games when it hits the stores online and offline. Now available in Steam Early Access and as a demo, this is worth checking out, just to see it in stunning motion.
Based on a tabletop board game, this fantasy strategy card-battle game looked fun and accessible even for those not familiar with its origins. Although relying on luck as well, watching the developer enjoy talking and playing it infused a feeling of trying it oneself. Also released on iOS and Android devices, this might not have caught the world by storm, but it’s nice to play nevertheless if found for a cheap price (recently in an Indie Royale bundle actually, although getting Headup Games’ retail version provides more physical goodies).
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