Note: This article was written in cooperation with fellow editor Annagram.
Of course it wasn’t only press appointments that kept us busy at Gamescom 2018, as the public areas on Wednesday, August 22, also offered plenty of hands-on opportunities.
Anyone who’s followed the Gamescom coverage will probably wonder why Tuesday, August 21, wasn’t the first day of the public areas. The reason for this was that the first press appointment was early and the rest of the day was spent in the business area, so that there wasn’t any time to walk through the consumer halls (except for Ashen at the Microsoft booth, being the last station of the press appointments). Wednesday wasn’t much different, but at least we had an hour or so before the press stress started again. As the doors wouldn’t open for all the masses of people before, this was perfect. So here’s a quick rundown of the games we didn’t only see, but also had the chance to play without any waiting hours before running to our next business area appointments.
The first game we tried out was Square Enix‘ highly anticipated action-RPG Kingdom Hearts III which mixes the world of Final Fantasy, Disney, and now even Pixar. Hyped games aren’t usually a bit problematic, as they often end up to be disappointments. But in this case the high expectations were met, as the game looks absolutely brilliant, as if one watches an animated movie come to life, and that’s not only with the cut-scenes, as the in-game graphics are just as great. There were two playable demos: one taking place in the suburban setting of Toy Story (Andy’s room and the house’s roof in addition to the street) that involved a bit more talking, but also had its fair share of fighting against shadow creatures and robot-like enemies; the other one being much more action-focused and epic in scope, as one ran up a high mountain wall and evaded rocks thrown by a giant golem-like statue which one had to defeat in the end.
This demo was reminiscent of the God of War series, minus the bloodshed but with a fantastic orchestral soundtrack, as one climbed on top of the enemy after having brought it down on its knees with one’s Disney friends like Goofy. QTE action sequences followed, but they were also broken up by some on-rails shooting elements as well. Using Disney theme park attractions as special attacks, protagonist Sora suddenly jumped on a train (the one known from the Disney movie intros) and fired away, with all sorts of lights and fireworks effects trailing behind. Hopefully, this amazing experience will be replicated in many other scenes of the final game, because if it does, then this could be the best Kingdom Hearts game yet, at least when it comes to over-the-top spectacle.
The game is due to release on PS4 and Xbox One in January 2019.
We stayed in the Square Enix universe and played the next big title, the JRPG Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. Even if this wasn’t new for gaming fans in Japan where it had already been released a year before, localizing it for the rest of the world still made this another big hitter people had been eagerly waiting for. I still remember having played Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2 (yes, it seems like ages ago!), but what was on display really blew us away.
Of course the eighth installment had some nice cel-shaded graphics back in the days (which still look nice today), but the environments in this one were just breathtaking. Looking at screenshots and seeing the game in motion are completely different things. Grass moving in the wind, a horse one could ride galloping around, waterfalls, birds in the sky, and many other details made this feel like a painting that has come to life. Taking into account that I’m not a big anime fan, the artwork was simply amazing, while the soundtrack was also quite wonderful. Gameplay-wise one shouldn’t expect a lot of innovation, with standard turn-based combat being part of the experience. However, as the enemies are all lovely drawn, and one can see the lush environments in the background, it’s easy to overlook this and get lost in this fantastic world.
The game is already out now worldwide on PS4 and PC, while a Switch version should follow shortly.
Still not being fed up with the anime style, we tried our hands on some arcade action: Arc System Works‘ one-on-one beat-em-up Dragon Ball FighterZ. Even if the game was already released in January 2018 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the Switch version we played wasn’t released yet. While the the title certainly couldn’t hold up a candle to the epic scale of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (comparable because of the same character design artist), it still looked and played great.
With fluid combat animations accompanying the over-the-top attacks, it was visually pretty cool and sounded awesome with a rocking soundtrack. Even if one tried the button-bashing method, there was a lot of fun to be had on Nintendo’s console on which it played just as great as on the other consoles, of course with appropriate gamepads being highly recommended for fast and furious input.
The Nintendo Switch version will be released at the end of September 2018.
From colorful and vibrant worlds we went deep down into total despair and desolation with Virtuos‘ Switch version of From Software‘s action-RPG Dark Souls: Remastered. I still remember having tried my hands on the original Demon Souls on the PS3, but due to time management and too many other review copies, I didn’t even go for the other games of the company. Still what made the first one great was present in the handheld version: a foreboding, dark atmosphere and punishing difficulty.
Despite obviously dying during the first big boss encounter, walking through the silent and dark catacombs and smashing skeletons on the way was very satisfying, and while the in-game graphics might not be that impressive (compared to the amazing CGI intro that evoked a sense of awe and disgust in equal measures), they were still quite good on the console, but it’s probably the oppressive sound design that was the best, especially over headphones. It’s questionable if this is a game one would want to play on the go, as it requires all the concentration one can muster to survive, but if one doesn’t want to receive the punishment on home consoles after a hard day of work and one simply wants to relax at home, then this might be the best way to experience it.
The game is due to release in October 2018 on Switch.
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