Thursday, August 23, was the third and final day (at least for press appointments) of Gamescom 2018 and had arcade games, third-person action, RPG gaming, but also classic point-and-click adventure, puzzle, and VR fun on offer, with courtesy of Marchsreiter Communications and Deep Silver.
Krillbite Studio‘s Mosaic is an exploration adventure game that deals with mundane work and city life, but there’s one commuter who tries to break out of this monotony. In order to do that, the player doesn’t have to solve inventory-based puzzles that are so prominent in the genre, but has to decide which path the protagonist should follow. What could end up as one of those feared “walking simulators” isn’t quite like that in reality, as one can simply choose the route other people take, reliving the same day again and again, i.e. go to the bus stop, take it to work, and then go home again. Of course it’s not an open world, but one still has options of where to go next. In the Gamescom demo the commuter went left instead of right, stepped into an area without buildings in the background so that sunshine could break through, and helped a cat in a tree to jump down into his arms (complete with a heart-warming cuddling animation) which would then get through a hole in a fence surrounding the city. This was just a small example, but it showed a contrast between emotionally connecting to an action unrelated to the daily grind of work instead of the bleak grey environment of the city.
Another example that also showed how cinematic perspectives are used was that the protagonist saw a butterfly in the foreground while he was walking in the background, focusing more and more on this animal than his monotonous walk to the bus stop or people engrossed in their smart phones without exchanging glances at each other. Instead of having direct control over the commuter, the player could now move the butterfly. Accompanied by beautiful opera music, it was an uplifting dream-like but touching experience, at least compared to depressing city life. With an expressionist visual art style, the first impression the game leaves is that it’s a weird, dark experience, but one that is intriguing enough to dive into. As there’s also a mystery behind the company the protagonist works for, it might not only rely on snippets of daydreams and nightmares, but also something more substantial.
The game will be released in summer 2019 on PC as well as PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Monkey Moon and BlackMuffin Studio‘s Night Call is a mix of detective story and taxi simulation taking place in the city of Paris at night. As a taxi driver one doesn’t only have to earn money, but also tries to find a serial killer who is known to ride in these transportation systems. As the passengers are procedurally generated and the identity of the killer isn’t the same in each playthrough, there’s always a reason to return to the game after completing it once, twice, or more times.
Presented in a film noir visual novel style, the game shows a darker side of Paris, but it doesn’t mean that the passengers one listens to have only sad life stories to share, as there are also quite a few funny ones, including a cat, so surreal scenes are a given. Despite the randomness of the passengers, it’s guaranteed that the moods conveyed through these stories constantly change so that one isn’t forced to hear only depressing stories. One can also decide not to listen to the stories anymore as well, but this obviously means that one won’t get a tip at the end of the journey. At this early stage of the game it isn’t quite clear what the end product will be, but with so many eccentric characters to meet and an investigative part that makes the player connect the dots, with a constant sense of fear that the killer is behind him, it’s definitely a unique slice of interactive fiction.
The game is scheduled to release on PC and consoles (which ones aren’t announced yet) in 2019.
Nine Dots Studio‘s Outward is an open world RPG that offers a more realistic adventuring experience. So instead of being killed and restarting from another savegame, one can wake up, robbed of one’s belongings, in a big city close by, or in the case of a bandit fight, as a prisoner who has to escape. As the game is constantly auto-saving there’s no turning back from one’s decisions or failure during conversations or fights. One also has to take into account sleep deprivation or cold and hunger while on the road, so sleeping in the open might not always be the best idea, although finding an inn nearby can be quite expensive and time-consuming.
The playable demo showed one very interesting feature: local split-screen co-op play which required to work together, so sharing one’s loot is as common as deciding who gets to sleep outside and who protects the place, so that it doesn’t get robbed or one isn’t taken over by sudden attacks. While this all sounds rather nice, the visuals weren’t that impressive or memorable, and the fighting mechanics weren’t that much fun, either, as it took way too long to aim and shoot at enemies, some (like Chocobo-like creatures) being way to fast, even when working together. Maybe it’s because the game tries to be more realistic, but as first impressions go, it lacked identity and finesse in gameplay. At least a split-screen mode isn’t something one sees every day, and playing on the couch with a friend or loved one might make the experience much more personal and fun.
The game will be released on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 in early 2019.
Revolution Software‘s Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is a classic point-and-click adventure game that receives a Nintendo Switch version with exclusive content. Having reviewed the original 2014 PC release, I won’t go into detail about the story or gameplay which are great for those who love old-school adventure gaming and hand-drawn graphics, so I’ll just focus on the Switch version’s differences. There are actually only two reasons to own the upcoming title: unlockable behind the scenes videos that feature never-before-seen interviews and a seamless transition between Joy-Con and touch screen controls. Having had a hands-on with the game, it’s safe to say that it looks and controls just as nicely on the small screen as on other platforms it has been released so far, and while it’s debatable if one really needs the special videos, having the game on the go is certainly a plus.
Listening to Charles Cecil, CEO and founder of Revolution Software, talk is always a joy, as people present during the presentation hung on his every word when he didn’t only talk about his Kickstarter experience with the fifth Broken Sword game, but showed his knowledge of history and religion that have been so prevalent in his titles. While this could have just been another PR show, in Charles’ case one could still feel real enthusiasm. Unfortunately asking him about a new Broken Sword game only revealed that the next game wouldn’t be one, but fortunately he expressed his desire to do one after the upcoming secret project, as there are enough ideas for it he’d like to follow up.
The Nintendo Switch version will release in November 2018 (unlike the September date shown in the trailer).
Spike Chunsoft‘s 428: Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel game about five characters that are drawn into a conspiracy of kidnapping, bio-terrorism, and also cat fights. Yes, it’s all a bit crazy and therefore very Japanese. What sets it apart from countless other visual novels is that live-action videos are used to tell the story. With 50 different endings and branching storylines that change depending on one’s decisions which influence each character’s own fate, it’s more than just worthy to play again.
As the game wasn’t playable and facts were only shown in a Power Point presentation, I can’t say anything about the actual gameplay, but seeing a character as a part-time cat mascot certainly piqued my interest, while it’s refreshing to see FMVs make a return, which should make for some unintentionally (or in this case probably intentional) funny moments. It’s strange, but with so many visual novels released so far and me having a problem with the anime style, this has been one of the very few releases that got me excited about the genre again.
The game has already been released on PC and PS4 at the beginning of September.
Spike Chunsoft‘s Steins;Gate Elite is the remaster of the original visual novel game on Xbox 360 in which students dabble with time travel. With a successful anime series released since then, sequences of that show have been included in this new version, plus additional scenes for special endings. Players can make decisions to change the storyline, which is to be expected with time travel. What is so special about this release, though, is that there are different bonus contents depending on the platform one buys it on.
PS4 and Steam owners will get Steins:Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram, an HD remake that includes a collection of 10 additional stories, while Nintendo Switch buyers will receive 8-Bit Adv Steins;Gate, an alternative version with 8-bit graphics and chiptune music, probably the best for retro fans. As this game was featured in another Power Point presentation, I again can’t say much else about it. Taking into account how I have some problems with the anime style, it’s probably not the most interesting release I’m looking forward to, although the 8-bit bonus content has a certain retro value.
The game is due to release in early 2019 on the aforementioned platforms.
Spike Chunsoft‘s Fire Pro Wrestling World is an HD sequel to the classic arcade/simulation mix that has been in hiatus for over a decade. Grappling, kicking, and throwing the opponent on the floor or out of the ring makes a return and is more satisfying thanks to full customization of the fighters and the setting, so that one can choose between various special moves, but also which logos are visible on the ring mat or how the referee looks like. The Deathmatch mode takes place in a ring that can be a steel cage, surrounded by barbed wire, or even landmines, making the game stand out from the more realistic wrestle games (as far as the sport can be called “realistic”). Of course many Japanese and American stars of the wrestling scene are featured here as well, so anyone interested in the subject will have a blast choosing the ones he or she likes.
This was actually the only game one could play at the end of the Spike Chunsoft triple feature presentation, but unfortunately I was the only one who was interested to give it a go, which is a real shame, because with 4-player co-op this should have been much more fun in a group of people than playing it alone. I still have mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand it’s nice to play something more arcade-like, but on the other hand, the HD graphics can’t quite match the 16-bit aesthetics of classic games, while the animations were also a bit jerky, which didn’t only have an impact on the presentation, but on the gameplay as well. It happened a bit too often that one couldn’t turn around or evade an attack on time, as the fighter felt as if he moved on a grid with controls that weren’t that responsive. As there aren’t many alternatives at the moment for this type of game (except dusting off an old SNES or MegaDrive console), one could still have a bit of fun with the title, though.
The game is already out on PC and PS4 (at least in North America with the latter release).
Shifting Tides Studio‘s The Sojourn is a first-person puzzle game that tests the player’s skills in deduction and perception of reality. The story about light and darkness is also reflected in gameplay, as the player is born (or thrown) into this world and has to figure out how to best traverse it. In order to do this, the most useful tools are teleportation beacons that can be set anywhere if one can only look back at the first one. What sounds easy enough soon turns into a head-scratching task with more and more obstacles to overcome, usually associated with limited energy/time resources. So for example, a bridge can be erected out of thin air, but with each step that equals the passing of time it’s prone to disappear soon. Simply running fast doesn’t work, so one has to think about how to save time with the teleportation system. With each level, new mechanics are introduced, e.g. walking through darkness that doesn’t deplete energy/time, but in which one can’t use the teleportation system, so thinking in advance is essential to progress.
The hands-on demo was definitely a highlight of this year’s Gamescom, because the beautiful abstract art direction with great lighting effects added to this other-world atmosphere I was already in, because the lack of sleep with 3 days in a row had taken its toll on me. So it was even more difficult to get my head around all the conundrums I had to solve. But it certainly speaks for the game that it evoked that special one-more-go feeling only the best of puzzles games do. Just as the Portal titles, slowly introducing new challenges, but with the same simple tools at one’s disposal and no hand-holding in the form of text, just by trying to figure everything out in a learning-by-doing style made this so intriguing to play.
The game will be released sometime in 2019 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Yoozoo Games‘s Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming is an RTS browser game that brings the fantasy TV show into the free-to-play space. Giving players the freedom to customize their castles, conquer new territory by training armies, this won’t be a simple and casual endeavor, while the involvement of HBO and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment should ensure that even on small mobile devices, the attention to detail is always present and correct for fans of the show.
Unfortunately, this was a no-show at Gamescom, with only one or two screenshots. Being a world premiere, it might be understandable, but also a bit disappointing that one didn’t actually see how the game actually looks in action. If you’re curious, there’s already a pre-registration on the official website.
The game will be released in spring 2019.
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