Note: This article was written in cooperation with fellow editor Annagram.
Tuesday, August 21, was the first day of Gamescom 2018, and offered insights into lots of RPG, arcade action, strategy, exploration, and adventure indie games thanks to Marchsreiter Communications and Agnieszka Szóstak‘s PR Outreach.
Robot Gentleman‘s 60 Parsecs! is the follow-up game to 60 Seconds! I already covered in this GOG news article, and its gameplay is instantly familiar to those who’ve played it. One again has 60 seconds to collect as many items and people as possible in an arcade-like sequence, which will have an immediate impact on what resources will be available and what people one has to interact with in the larger management and adventure segment. This time it’s not just a nuclear bomb that destroys the US, but the whole world is blown up in front of some astronaut’s eyes who look at it from a space station. So instead of jumping down into a bunker for safety, one makes an escape into a claustrophobic space shuttle before the station explodes as well.
Choosing the captain’s character attributes has an impact on how good he or she can handle certain situations on a daily basis, although the decisions that have to be made also rely on a lot of luck. With people one picked up before having different personalities, each playthrough is different, as goals change as much as the status of relationships that can become friendships or even romances, but that can end up in disaster, too. Rationing food is essential, item crafting opens up new possibilities, and as there are many random situations that can either turn out good or bad, a nice risk and reward system is always at work. Everything is presented in great-looking comic-book stills, and while there isn’t any voice acting, the writing is quite fun. One soon finds an emotional connection to each crew member, but some situations are so ridiculous that even the most direst of circumstance don’t end up in too much dark realism. Of course dying is a constant threat, but during the roughly 30 minutes of playtime it didn’t happen, with just enough funny moments to pass the time and look forward to the next day, hoping that somehow the amount of food increases and the general mood of the crew members improves.
The game will be released for PC on September 18, 2018.
VARSAV Game Studios‘ Bee Simulator is one of those rare cases that make one think: Why hasn’t anyone else done this before? I can’t seem to remember the title, but there was a game that put the player in the shoes of a bug flying around, way back in the early 90ies, (and it wasn’t Mr. Mosquito), but of course this was all with blocky graphics. Thankfully, Bee Simulator isn’t one of those copycat sims that have cropped up since the Agricultural Simulator, as it’s more like an adventure game powered by the Unreal Engine 4. It looks quite beautiful, especially in the New York Central Park demo level we played, and with some wonderful music (composed by Mikołaj Stroiński who did the soundtrack for games like The Witcher 3 and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter) accompanying the accessible third-person flights through rings, memories of the sublime Flower (I reviewed with the Journey: Collector’s Edition) came up. It played like a light arcade game in an open environment, but later there will be a few puzzle elements as well, which make use of a bee’s special senses and perception of colors.
The story mode serves as an education tool for younger, but also older players to learn something about bees, and after completing it, one can get into the free flight mode. Clearly aimed to bring together families, there is even a split-screen mode in which one can compete in a challenge mode that can either mean picking up items faster or engaging in turn-based combat. The latter is obviously without violence, and pressing a button at the right time makes this a far simpler affair than one is used to in the strategy genre.
The game is scheduled for release on PC this year, with PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch versions following later.
Zaxis‘ Fimbul is an action-adventure that is based on Norse mythology and doesn’t only throw the player into difficult fights, but also into a world covered in snow. Unlike so many titles featuring vikings, few have been this consistent with the environment, not even the most recent Jotun that had way too much green and color. Just like the aforementioned title and unlike the classic Icewind Dale RPGs that also didn’t have snow landscapes throughout, Fimbul relies more on exploration and fighting than on leveling up and honing one’s skills in swords and sorcery.
Despite being presented in comic-book visuals, realism is prevalent throughout, even if it involves trolls stomping around, as this is “historically accurate, only people forgot”, our PR contact cheekily emphasized during the hands-off presentation. The game has different acts which can be replayed to try out other decisions that change the course of later events. But one shouldn’t expect a 100+ hours adventure, with 6-7 hours making it much easier to play through than the very time-consuming RPGs one is used to. As the game isn’t a simple button-smashing affair, but rewards strategic thinking in combat, the fights aren’t the easiest, though, although the difficulty shouldn’t be on par with Dark Souls, making the game more accessible to newcomers of the genre, too. One can even play a younger version of the hero without weapons, showing his becoming a man soon. This was a bit reminiscent of ICO, which is no bad thing, as the atmosphere was spot on in that game.
The game will be released in November 2018 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, which should be the perfect time to get into the wintry season spirit.
Awesome Games Studios‘ Fury Unleashed (formerly known as The Bad Ass Hero) is a rogue-lite action-platformer set in a comic-book world. This is meant quite literally, because the hero (or heroes if one plays in local co-op) moves from one colored page to the next, which can be seen on a map, while hitting enemies with bigger weapons shows a satisfying “Booooom!” sign, too. Anyone who’s played one of the Metal Slug arcade games will recognize the obvious influences in art direction and the fast-paced action that doesn’t shy away from lots of cartoon-style gore.
Disposing of enemies with all kinds of weapons that can be fired with 360 degrees aim isn’t the only thing to do, as collecting ink they leave behind is essential to buy weapons and other equipment. Together with a friend, the action on screen is even more fun, and if one dies, permadeath isn’t the end, because all the collected ink is available from the start so that one can be better prepared next time. As the individual level screens aren’t too big, split-screen in local multiplayer isn’t necessary, so one can focus on surviving together on the same battlefield, which also involves some screen-filling bosses to defeat.
The game is currently on Steam Early Access and will launch on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in early 2019.
Awesome Games Studios‘ Yet Another Zombie Defense HD is an arcade-style action-shooter that might look simple, but becomes increasingly more difficult, even with up to three more people joining the undead slaughterfest. Anyone who’s played the survival modes of Alien Shooter, Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded, or the Zombie Shooter games will see obvious similarities, although they were done by a different developer.
However, something these games lacked was multiplayer, and with gameplay embracing the uber-violence and mindless mowing down of enemies with all sorts of weapons, it was more than a missed opportunity not to include local or online mayhem. Yet Another Zombie Defense HD doesn’t even care about a story, but throws the player right into the middle of a zombie attack night after night. Surviving each encounter provides money that can be invested in better weapons and more ammunition, but also gives the opportunity to build fences and turrets to fight back the ever-increasing number of the undead who become faster and more resilient. Even if the demo we played didn’t feature any blood and gore (after all, this is rather pointless for the subject matter, isn’t it?) because underage people could stop by at the booth, the lighting effects were pretty cool, while the movements of the attackers were also quite convincing. For short bursts of fun or after a hard day of work to let off some steam, this might be the perfect game, even in solo mode, although it’s clear that the more the merrier and bloodier it gets.
The game is already out on PC and Xbox One (we played the PC version), but a Switch version will be released in 2019 which will hopefully include all the blood and gore despite Nintendo’s former reluctance to feature less violent content on its consoles.
Lightbulb Crew‘s Othercide is a turn-based horror strategy game with Lovecraftian influences and a noir art style that sets itself apart from many other games relying on more colorful fantasy worlds and characters. The presentation is as mysterious as the story about strange beings trying to break through from beyond into our reality. The only defense is a group of female warriors (after all, it’s called “otHERcide”) who have to use all their weapons and skills to survive in battle arenas that are on the brink of sanity where nightmarish creatures try their best to destroy them.
Despite being presented in black and white, the color red permeates the action on screen, but in a much more stylish way than what one would associate with it. No blood and gore are present, as red is only used for the shawls that realistically flow behind the heroines or as a visual indication of when blades make contact with enemies. These fight back with scythes and look as otherworldly, as only the most feverish dreams can make them. The fighting style of dual-wielding pistol ladies is also highly reminiscent of the Devil May Cry series (minus the wise-cracking), but unlike the hack-and-slash combofest, this is hardcore turn-based strategy gaming. It’s made even more difficult because of permadeath that speaks only to those who like their games to be more challenging in the thinking department and less on happy trigger-fingers. It’s difficult to say what else the game has to offer, as the presentation only showed one battle screen, and the battle was still not coming to an end after almost 30 minutes, so one should definitely bring along a lot of time and patience. Suffice it to say that the dark presentation, together with some pretty cool rainy weather effects and atmospheric lighting that could be seen in the reflection of the cobblestones or puddles of water, is something one hasn’t seen before.
The game will be released on PC, but there isn’t any specific date for it yet.
Netmarble and Level 9’s Phantomgate is an episodic mobile fantasy RPG, inspired by Nordic mythology, that fuses turn-based combat, exploration, and even side-scrolling platforming elements. One plays as valkyre Astrid who has to save her mother from the clutches of God Odin who seems to have lost his mind. In order to reach him and overcome all the enemies he throws at her, she has to collect Phantoms who can be caught, leveled up and upgraded for all the upcoming battles.
Turn-based strategy titles are usually rather difficult to get into, especially in the JRPG genre, and having platforming added to this might not sound like the best idea. However, thanks to an automatic fighting option that lets the computer act on behalf of the player during these fights, one can focus more on exploration and puzzle elements. Featuring a lovely hand-painted anime style for backgrounds and characters in addition to fluid animations, it’s a joy to jump and even fly through the levels, especially with a wonderful soundtrack to listen to. Touch controls need some getting used to, but the sections we played so far weren’t the most taxing and were a fun distraction. With so many Phantoms to catch and to customize, some just looking crazy, this won’t be a game one will finish in a few hours.
The game will be released this September on both iOS and Android systems.
Netmarble‘s MARVEL Future Fight is a free-to-play mobile action-RPG that has been running for 3 years. It recently received an update with the inclusion of the characters Deadpool, Psylocke, Domino, Fantomex and Stryfe as well as X-Force uniforms for Cable and Colossus. Anyone who’s been a fan of the MARVEL comic universe will find something to love in there, even those who only watched the movies.
While not being a big fan of the cinema output and not up to date with all the various connections between the characters, the game itself was still a lot of fun to play, as it re-enacted certain set-pieces in the form of boss fights. Despite the touch controls, using all kinds of power attacks while evading those of the enemy, was quite entertaining, with some nice special effects and fluid character animations. As a button-basher it works in short bursts of fun, and those who want to delve deeper and invest more time, will find the various character attributes to upgrade while leveling up during special quests more satisfying. The game is definitely a nice mobile alternative for any action-RPG fan who loves the art style of the comics, too, as the characters are lovely to look at during the stylish cut-scenes.
The game will receive a notable update on September 19th with Infinity War.
Netmarble‘s Lineage 2: Revolution is a free-to-play mobile fantasy MMORPG that has 24 new classes to choose from with the new 2.0 update. As this was at the end of the presentation, there wasn’t much time for actual play, but this game again showed that online multiplayer games with some great graphics don’t necessarily have to be on PC, but can work just as well on mobile platforms. With a staggering number of over 1 billion dollars spent by players so far, it’s clear to see that this game is something very special indeed.
If one had all the time in the world, one could spend all of it in the world Netmarble created, choosing different classes and mounting steampunk-like vehicles to get to battles and quest-specific locations. The coolest feature, however, for those who don’t want to run aimlessly around, is the auto-questing function, as it makes the character automatically run to all these places and even fight enemies. Some might rub their noses at this, but considering that level-grinding isn’t for everyone and one still has a life outside an MMO, this might just be a time-saver the genre has been in desperate need of.
Aurora 44 and Annapurna Interactive‘s Ashen is an action-RPG that is all about survival in small groups. What sounds like The Walking Dead doesn’t take place in a world filled with zombies, but with fantasy creatures, and the people one meets can be either ignored or invited to join one’s camp, as growing in number can mean having a better chance to find a home worth living in.
The first part of the demo, playable in the Microsoft booth in hall 8 (but without the waiting queues thanks to the press back entrance), evoked the brooding atmosphere of the Dark Souls series. However, we only did a bit of exploration in the dark and barren landscape before jumping straight into much more colorful surroundings afterwards where the first fights took place. What is probably the most distinguishing feature, compared to other RPGs that lean more towards photo-realism is that people’s facial features are difficult to make out. This isn’t a bad thing, though, as it’s refreshing to see something done differently. The minimalist art direction and fluid combat animations are highly reminiscent of Absolver, although it’s clear that there’s more to this game than just learning how to fight.
The game is due to release in 2018 on both PC and Xbox One.
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