Whoever thinks that being shown games or playing them in the business area is relaxing fun, compared to the crowded public areas… should think again when it means running alone from one press appointment to the next, and even outside the Gamescom location… which is a completely different (Sony) story.
Quite interesting stories were told or shown in gameplay courtesy of Critical Hit PR, 11bit Studios, Deep Silver, Black Forest Games, Buschbaum PR, and CD Projekt RED, which of course entailed the presence of developers like Animation Arts or new upcoming indies like Mosaic Studios and IF Games, which all held some pleasant surprises under lock and key which were finally revealed to the press world.
Sitting down with developers and having a hands-on approach with the games in question involving immediate face-to-face discussions is a great thing, so thanks to Critical Hit PR, two very interesting in-development titles were presented.
The first came from very friendly and open German developer Mosaic Mask Studio.
(Germany TBA, developer: Mosaic Mask Studio, platform: PC)
A dark comic point-and-click adventure game set during the time of the Inquisition in 1850 England is a pretty good starting point with art direction not dissimilar to a Tim Burton movie. The presentation only revealed a few locations, but the atmosphere was already quite good, although the character models’s animations took a bit too long. As it is, the self-developed Moai engine showed promise despite recent Kickstarter games like the Broken Sword reboot and other 3D-adventures having the upper hand, so there’s a lot of work to be done if the game wants to compete in the graphics department.
But of course storytelling and puzzles are what makes a great point-and-clicker. The former seems to promise an interesting religious twist, while the latter wasn’t convincing yet with some solutions being too conventional for the genre. But as the game is still without a publisher and Mosaic Mask Studios has their work cut out for them, there might be some surprises ahead, as the story of an apprentice angel and the repercussions the real world has on him are an intriguing storytelling proposition.
Next up was Swiss developer IF Games who had an even bigger surprise up their sleeves with a potential sleeper hit for the iPad.
The Perils of Man
(Switzerland TBA, developer/publisher: IF Games, platform: iOS)
Now this is a strange one: A point-and-click adventure game only available on iPad with an episodic structure. Maybe iOS games are a lucrative business for casual games, but this could be a small obstacle to overcome on the way to success for the developer. It’s also a weird collaboration with Bill Tiller who was responsible for the (fluffy clouds) art in Monkey Island 3 and A Vampyre’s Story in addition to Ghost Pirates of Vooju Islands, both of which had interesting gameplay concepts (and some great graphics), but failed in puzzle design and storytelling. So first impressions and expectations weren’t good or high when being shown the iPad version.
But as it turned out, this is one of the most exciting adventure games in development right now due to some very good atmosphere due to the strong lighting effects, a comic look which is reminiscent of Day of the Tentacle, and also puzzle design which plays with manipulation of time. The most innovative aspect is the use of goggles which offer the main protagonist (teenager Ana Eberling) an insight into past and future events. Even at this early stage, this might just be the most accomplished iOS title of the genre which is not a remake of an already existing classic.
Interestingly, while discussing the game with the developer, a conversion to other platforms, mainly the PC, wasn’t considered, but they’d think about it. Hopefully, this will happen, because right now, the only way to experience the game is a demo for the first episode which can be downloaded on the iTunes Store, only restricted to the iPad.
Next up was a stop at Polish developer and publisher 11 bit studios.
Again, the shown love for their games made meeting the PR as much a joy to meet as seeing the newest tablet game in action.
(Poland 2013, developer/publisher: 11 bit studios, platforms: PC, iOS, Android)
Another contender for why-play-on-PC-in-high-res-if-you-can-have-it-on-mobile-devices? The original tower-defense RTS was already great fun and looked awesome, so it was interesting to see how this translated to iOS devices. Only shown on the iPad during the presentation (but at the time of writing now also available on Android), this simply looked fantastic and played smoothly, actually wanting me to finally buy a smartphone after seeing what the devices are capable of and playing some cool games on the go.
A short trip to publisher Deep Silver…
where the lunch break was just as appetizing… and asked for…
as the revealing of the newest adventure by Animation Arts…
After having played the rather over-hyped predecessor, my expectations weren’t high, but what was presented was surprisingly good, at least when it came to the transition from 2.5D graphics to full 3D. While the puzzles were on the easy-difficulty-side, the emphasis on on a more cinematic approach made up for this shortcoming. The game played more like an interactive movie than a typical point-and-clicker. Of course, this direction will probably make purists bark up the wrong tree, but considering how outdated inventory-object-combination mechanics have become in more action-oriented titles like The Walking Dead, it’s understandable why Animation Arts decided against more-of-the-same.
With some impressive graphics, a pounding orchestral soundtrack, this could just be what the genre needs to be more accessible to people used to action-adventures, although some of the camera work and the stealth sections definitely require more finetuning. Unfortunately, no trailer has been released, and the developer has kept news concerning progress very secret.
Unlike Lost Horizon 2, this looked and played almost identically to the former point-and-click titles, which of course isn’t a bad thing, as they were entertaining enough with nice backgrounds, character models and lots of object combinations. Being a spin-off of the second Secret Files of Tunguska game, the only difference is that one can combine objects in first-person object combinations, plus of course a whole new story. Already being released for just 9,99 EUR in Germany, one can’t blame the company for making a quick cash-in due to its reasonable price, although one shouldn’t expect the same amount of playtime.
This preview is a no-brainer, as it suffices to say that it’s a 1:1 conversion of the original to the iPad. Like the Broken Sword titles, the point-and-click adventure is a perfect fit with the gameplay and graphics left intact, even if this means that the discrepancies towards Revolution Software newest outing become more prominent. No extra content and features found here, but for a nostalgic trip back to the user-friendly original, one can’t go wrong with this one, either.
After a hearty lunch (it was actually Koch Media who provided the culinary goodies), it was time to go deep into the forest of indie publishing/developing (okay, after a Sony press event, although, as it has been said before, that’s another story for another blog entry)…
Great Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams: Rise of the Owlverlord
(Germany 2013, developer/publisher: Black Forest Games, platform: PC)
As a DLC, one shouldn’t expect a lot of surprises from this game, as it looks and plays more or less like the original platformer. I’ve only been shown some concept art and a trailer, so first impressions weren’t that spectacular, although the original formula of colorful and enjoyable platforming with a world-shifting concept didn’t need much change anyway, although addressing the difficulty spikes would have been nice (as can already be seen by an update for its predecessor which fixed this to a certain degree).
The game is already available, but only on PC, hopefully getting a console release soon. With a small price to pay, this depends on what gamers want with their wallets. It would be too bad not to have a follow-up to this fun series.
Dieselstormers (formerly known as Ravensdale)
(Germany TBA, developer/publisher: Black Forest Games, platform: PC)
Despite the rather silly new name (and the enigmatic one presented last year), this looked like a lot of bloody (read: gory) fun, especially in multiplayer. Customizable weapons are used to blast one’s way through a colorful fantasy world full of orcs and machinery which explode in tiny little bits. Again only shown as a trailer and no hands-on, it’s difficult to say if this gets tiresome after a while, but watching it in action, it should be enough for a few short rounds of carnage. After reaching their target goal on Kickstarter, it might finally find a release window in the near future.
As is Buschbaum Media & PR‘s way of presenting games by browsing through a catalogue without showing actual gameplay, it’s difficult to give any first impressions here. But it became obvious that the casual games genre is a very profitable one and that it caters for all kinds of people and seasons, illustrated by the Dark Tales series with Edgar Allen Poe adaptations (already reviewed here with The Golden Bug turning out to be a surprisingly good adventure game), and Christmas Stories: Nutcracker. There were numerous other titles as well, but all more or less followed the same formula of having beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds and logic puzzles or simplified gameplay.
Of course, some more interesting titles for classic point-and-click adventure fans like the complete Jack Keane collection were present as well. Simulator games like Agricultural Simulator were obviously still going strong for a certain kind of audience.
It’s difficult to keep rondomedia apart from astragon, as the focus again lies on casual gaming with the same sort of mystery, adventure, history, literature adaptations combined with the hidden-object genre, exemplified by titles such as Gothic Fiction, Nightmares From the Deep 2, Path of Hercules, or even Hidden Runaway. The latter one was already reviewed here… and was sort of a disappointment. However, one shouldn’t expect the same from other games, because Nightmares from the Deep 2 already appeared in an Indie Royale Bundle and was quite good.
Again, simulation games which were mostly concerned with heavy machinery could be found in Subway Simulator, Eurotruck Simulator or Citrybuilding Planner. But as is always the case, there seems to be an audience for that, at least in Germany. And if you want to learn a bit about the mundane working world or how the transportation systems work, you can do much worse than try these, especially since they usually come for a bargain price.
Last, but not least, was a very impressive show in CD Project RED‘s booth…
…which was not all about the sword-wielding guy with an attitude and moral dilemmas who (like the giant troll in the public area) guarded the booth.
In addition to beer, other means of keeping the crowd busy and happy were used as well.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere with drinks and snacks, when it finally came to take a seat in the big cinema, photographs during the presentation (or even filming) wouldn’t have been such a good idea.
The Witcher 3
(Poland TBA, developer/publisher: CD Project RED, platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4)
It’s difficult to describe this RPG without using superlatives like “awe-inspiring”, “breathtaking” or “stunning”, because it’s all these three graphically with its “larger than life scope” in gameplay. Maybe it also had to do with the big screen, but seeing the world of the Witcher unfold without any loading times, without any pop-ups, with so many details to make out far and far away in the distance, was a thing to behold. The presentation was also pretty brutal with a visceral opening cutscene and bloody battles against monstrosities.
What was particularly striking in addition to the awesome graphics was the way in which atmosphere was created by the weather system. One scene took place in a storm-and-rain-beaten forest which was so creepy in combination with the hunt for a evil wood spirit who took possession of a villager that it was a chilling experience. It was also interesting to see how NPCs reacted to the protagonist dealing with the situation, exemplified by the village people trying to kill a woman who’s in league with this creature. All in all, this is a contender for the best-looking and probably greatest-playing RPG of the year, and the release date can’t come soon enough.
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