The second day of gamescom 2019, Wednesday, August 21, featured press appointments with publishers Tripwire Interactive, SoldOut, Daedalic Entertainment, THQ Nordic, R8 Games, and Revolution Software, but also a brief look at the consumer area with indie games.
After the first day at gamescom was only for press and business, this one was open to the public as well, which became obvious with the high number of people already passing through the main entrance after a brief security check.
Unfortunately, unlike the years before, the press wasn’t allowed to enter the premises before 9 am, which became something of a problem for those who had an appointment at 9…
Because I didn’t have anything before 10, I took a quick detour into the consumer area, specifically the Indie Village to check out the individual indie booths that would be crowded in the next hours and days, too.
As everything was just being set up, there was time to take a few photos of some creatively designed booths.
Application Systems Heidelberg didn’t have a booth in the business area, so I dropped by here to see some of their games…
… although I only had time for Wabisabi Play‘s Growbot.
The game is a classic 2D point-and-click adventure about robot (or growbot) Nara whose home, a biopunk space station, is threatened by a dark crystalline force. While training to become a captain, the station is attacked by fast-growing crystals, so it’s up to Nara to save it and its many plant-y inhabitants. Gameplay revolves around the typical exploration and environment interaction with picking up and using items. What looks similar to relaxing games like Machinarium and Botanicula also feels like those titles, mainly because of the alien world and all the fantastic plants that seem to be somehow real. There’s still a nice twist with the puzzles, as one uses one’s Brain(apilla) that has jumped into the growbot’s head to solve them.
Growbot has certainly a unique hand-drawn art style with many details in the environment and character designs, but it also has something one usually knows from RPGs, namely a book that is slowly filled with information about the world and its lore. So anyone who likes to dive deeper into it, can do so, especially since some of the puzzles require reading about plants or other things. As long as it doesn’t go the same route as Unforeseen Incidents that took realism and learning by reading to extremes, that’ll be fine.
The title is due to release on PC in 2020.
More indie booth impressions of so many games and so little time to play them or speak to developers…
Finally a stop I’ve planned to go to for some time, actually since devcom 2019, Day 2 when I briefly met the PR and some developers: Mixtvision Mediengesellschaft mbH‘s and Studio Fizbin‘s classic point-and-click adventure game Minutes of Island. Alas there was only time to talk about gamescom in general, even though I had a quick look at the loading screen, but that should be reason enough to keep a close eye on this title that has some lovely hand-drawn graphics which might not really be suitable for children.
This was actually a good thing, as The Inner World was playing it a bit too safe for my taste. Still, this reminds me to play the sequel before finally getting my hands on Minutes of Island that will be released on PC in spring 2020.
Despite having my reservations about doing a virtual reality game in the early morning (see Gamescom 2018, Day 2 with multiplayer FPS Telefrag and especially first-person space adventure title Detached), Espire 1: VR Operative managed to induce no motion sickness. Even if the game was inspired by Metal Gear Solid and one could choose the silent approach to sneak behind enemies, shout “Hold!” to get their weapons or simply knock them down, I chose the more violent Max Payne way of using two guns at the same time and mowing down baddies.
It’s difficult to describe, but one really felt like an overpowered hero, picking up weapons, holstering them or holding a machine gun with both hands to avoid recoil. Slow motion helped to aim better and get rid of enemies that could be around each corner. While there were some control problems climbing ladders and getting on upper levels without falling down, this was only a minor concern, as the sheer fun to blast away in VR was unparalleled. There might obviously be more titles like this for VR, but as the game also offers the stealth possibility, it might still find a wider audience.
The game is already due to release on September 24, 2019, on Oculus Quest, PSVR, Oculus Rift S / CV1, Valve Index, HTC Vive / Vive Pro, and Windows Mixed Reality.
Before rushing to my next official press appointment, I had to pay a visit to the Polish Pavilion and check out Hexy Studio‘s point-and-clicker Brassheart.
Brassheart offers some lovely cartoon graphics, but isn’t really a comedy game, even if there is some humor in it. Set in the alternative dieselpunk 1920s, one plays as Pola Zagórska, an aeroplane pilot. She has to save her father who has been kidnapped by the rebellious supermachine Valkiria, one he also created. It has gathered an army and wants to both mechanize and militarize the whole world. In order to stop it with Prof. Zagórski’s mysterious invention called ‘Brassheart”, Pola sets out to find the parts of this mechanical heart that is scattered across the world.
I only played the game for a very short time, but it was a lot of fun, as it didn’t burden the player with too many objects to carry around or too many locations to visit. This might change in the course of the game, but as I was told, the classic principle of combining objects and solving puzzles in the environment should not rely on trial-and-error, rather focusing on logical puzzles. The few I solved also involved automaton Pascal who can carry out various tasks the pilot isn’t able to. In adddition to some great graphics, the voice acting and music was particularly good, too. So this game should be added to any adventure game fan’s wishlist.
Brassheart will be released sometime in 2019 on PC.
It’s always a pleasure to go to the UKIE Booth, not only because there’s a chance to get something to eat and drink (neither was possible this time), but because it celebrates the UK industry with some nice decorations, some of which should be known to anyone who’s been a gamer since the early 90ies at least.
This might be the most classic among the classics…
No Straight Roads is pure indie punk rock power and even promotes this atitude with its storyline about band members Mayday and Zuke who fight against EDM empire No Straight Roads. After having been unfairly treated during their audition to join the company, they discover there are some evil intentions behind the NSR empire, so it’s up to the two rock artists to save the city, which can obviously only be done by music or at least music-based weapons and attacks. These have to usually be synchronized with the rhythm of the music and enemy movements, which also holds true for jumps and evasions.
This was one of the few games I had plenty of time to play through until the end of the demo, as there wasn’t much introduction, only some very nice and funny talks with the charismatic PR people. Having been a fan of music games for a very long time and also action-adventures, this combination worked wonderfully, which might have to do with a killer soundtrack, a great art design, and some very good voice acting. It also featured a big boss fight at the end that required different strategies to defeat. All in all, this is going to be a game any rock music fan will have to play when it releases.
No Straight Roads will be out in 2020 on both PC and PS4.
And yet another short trip to the Polish pavilion to see 7LEVELS‘s 2.5D side-scrolling platformer Jet Kave Adventure.
Playing as former chief Kave who has been banished from his tribe, one has to pursue an alien invader trying to casue a volcanic eruption in order to repair its crashlanded spaceship. This already makes for quite a silly story, but add a jetpack to it, and you have a winner. Of course there’s some traditional platforming involved, but being able to fly over pitfalls and smash through walls makes it that much more fun if clubbing enemies wasn’t great enough.
Platformers never seem to go out of style, but it’s always surprising how wonderful some of them look if they combine 3D with 2D. As all the cutscenes are also presented via in-game graphics, using camera zoom-ins and zoom-outs in addition to out-of-focus backgrounds makes the game more cinematic. What I’ve played in the short amount of time I had was a lot of fun and with the bonkers sci-fi story, this is definitely a game that sticks out from the rest of the platformer crowd.
The game is a Nintendo Switch exclusive and is already out on the Nintendo store.
Daedalic Entertainment had two games in store, the first one being fantasy RTS team game A Year of Rain.
It’s been a while since I’ve played together or against other people in a strategy title. It was probably the classic StarCraft (yes, it’s been that long!). So being thrown into a room with other journalists and teaming up after having chosen a faction felt awkward, but then the fun started. Building a base, gathering resources, recruiting an army and sending it out before the opposition does might not win any innovation prices, but it sure provided a great time, especially when taking control of a legendary hero and using all sorts of special abilities.
Upgrading in order to have stronger units and better buildings is as important as being fast enough to support the other team member. Together, our team might have won, if only the other side wouldn’t have sneaked and destroyed a base. Competitive gaming might just have found another great game that is both accessible and offers enough strategies to entertain for hours, weeks, or even months to come. It will be interesting to see how the story-driven campaign fares, though, as this is something the company has always excelled in.
The game will be released on PC sometime in 2019, but one can already register for the closed beta version.
It seems that time plays a bigger role these days in various genres. As could be seen with CrisTales I saw the day before, time travel can also work in another genre. By moving backwards or forwards, at least until the current situation, one can try different things and prevent death. This means that one never faces a game-over screen, as each situation, as tricky as it can be, can be overcome. Set in a world that combines fantasy with machines (or as the designers say “Lord of the Rings meets Transformers”), the game is clearly focused on combat with two playable characters.
This doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t offer customization, as one progressively unlocks skills that can be upgraded without level-grinding. As the game is pretty linear in level design, one won’t have to worry about missing something essential, and even if the levels are preset, there is still some experimentation in using the environment to one’s advantage, e.g. making a field burn with explosives or burning a tree and making it crush enemies. This turns the game more into a puzzle than an RPG title, which is certainly a nice change for the genre.
The game has no release date yet, as it’s in the alpha stage, but hopefully it won’t take too long.
I’ve been covering THQ Nordic for quite a while, but the last time I had a business appointment was during Gamescom 2013 when the company was called Nordic Games. So I was excited to have a look behind the scenes, even if it meant watching the latest news about their upcoming games in the cinema.
As there were so many games, I’ll keep it rather short, especially since I played most of them in the consumer area on Friday (thanks to a few fast pass tickets).
Airship Syndicate‘s Darksiders Genesis is a twin-stick hack-and-slash shooter, based on the popular action-adventure series. It serves as a prequel to the original game and introduces gunslinging horseman of the apocalypse Strife. The game has a fun Diablo-like vibe to it, mostly because of its isometric perspective, but also because of the colorful carnage on screen. Featuring lots of action in addition to upgrading skills, it’s very much action-RPG lite material. However, it offers two playable characters and local co-op multiplayer, plus a soundtrack by the same composer who did Ori and the Blind Forest.
The game will be released in 2019 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Stadia.
HEXADRIVE Inc.‘s and Oasis Games‘s Monkey King: Hero Is Back is an action-adventure game based on the animated 2015 Chinese movie that is not exclusively aimed at a younger audience. Anyone who’s seen the Netflix show (see Netflix watchlist: August 2018) will be disappointed, though, because this time it’s really a monkey hitting bad guys very hard where it really hurts. Offering a mix of slapstick comedy and martial arts action, this should appeal to any fan of animated movies and old-school brawling.
The game will be released on PC and PS4 on October 17, 2019.
HandyGames‘s and Paintbucket Games‘s Through The Darkest Of Times is a historical resistance strategy game that takes place during the Nazi occupation in Germany. Playing as the resistance leader, one has to make tough choices and to make sure that one’s people won’t get caught, without losing sight of the mission to free Germany. Being a mix of turn-based strategy and choose-your-own-adventure game, this is an interactive history lesson that is especially important for the industry, because it’s one of the first titles that shows Nazi symbols in Germany, obviously for education purposes (see the Germany’s USK finally allows swastikas in games under certain conditions article about this controversial topic).
The game will be released on PC, but doesn’t have a specified date yet.
HandyGames‘s and Honig Studios‘s El Hijo is a stealth game in a Spaghetti western setting, but without the bloodshed, sporting a cartoon look, with a young boy as the protagonist. Trying to find his mother, El Hijo has to escape a monastery that served as his home of education, go through a western town, and survive the desert. Being non-violent, the game should be accessible for a wider audience, although with the lovely art design, it should attract anyone who likes the stealth genre and animated movies.
The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but doesn’t have a specified date yet, either.
Mimimi Games‘s Desperados III is a prequel to the original tactical strategy game with a Spaghetti western setting, but with a LOT of bloodshed. Offering new characters and skills, it’s all about timing and using the right strategy at the right time. With the showdown mode it’s even possible queuing up various actions while freezing time. Just having a voodoo lady who can control the minds of characters and connect their souls to do her bidding should be reason enough to get excited about this great-looking title that has everything which made the first game such a success. All the throat cutting and blood spurting from axes buried into heads makes the 16+ age rating quite questionable, though.
The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.
Purple Lamp Studios‘s SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated is a remake of the 2003 3D-platformer based on the hit TV show. Playing as SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy, each with their unique skill sets, one has to save Bikini Bottom from robots that have gone berserk, thanks to series’ nemesis Plankton. It’s even possible to play local and online co-op multiplayer, showing that there’s still life left in an old game that doesn’t only look great, but has also some content that was cut from the original game, like a big Robo Squidward boss fight.
The game will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but it will be ready when… um, SpongeBob thinks it’s ready.
Bad Dream Games‘s and HandyGames‘s One Hand Clapping is probably the weirdest, but most wonderful game of the THQ Nordic line-up, as it only works with a microphone. In a world in which the power of singing has to be brought back, one has to find the right tone, rhythm, melody, and harmoy in order to solve puzzles that are combined with platforming mechanics. Probably the most fun was to see or rather hear YouTube “celebrities” making fools out of themselves while trying to hit the right tunes… but except for that it looked like a wonderful game with an innovative gameplay idea.
The game will be released on PC with no release date yet, so there’s still some time to practice singing!
NUKKLEAR‘s Comanche was probably the biggest surprise of the show, because it’s a 90ies game that almost seems to have been forgotten. Being the epiphany of helicopter simulation action, it’s understandable that this has turned into a team-based online-multiplayer shooter set in the near future, including drones in close quarter action. Maybe it’s a bit disappointing for fans of the original like me that there isn’t a real single-player mode with lots of missions, but from the looks of it, the feeling of intense dogfights in narrow canyons has been preserved.
The game will be available on PC with an early access version arriving in Q1 2020.
Drone Champions League‘s and Climax Studios‘ DCL – The Game might have the worst name to search for on the internet, but any fan of drones will know that the abbreviation stands for something different than a misspelled “downloadable content”. Flying machines enthusiasts will be happy to hear that the competitive high-speed team sport has entered the digital world, and if one is good enough in the highest mode the game offers, then one can even qualify for the DCL Draft Selection and compete in the real-life racing series. With lots of different tracks around the world and many game modes plus the realistic flight physics one would expect, this might be a good starting point for people who don’t want to spend their money on a real drone and make it crash into the next tree, house, car or animal/person… if one has the stomach for the very fast movement, which should be quite a challenge in VR, too.
The game will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on December 2, 2019.
Black Sea Games‘s Knights of Honor II – Sovereign is a historical RTS game taking place in medieval times. Different nations have to be led to greatness by the king one plays as, which means diplomacy to grow cities and obviously battles to win in order to wrestle over control of Europe. However, micromanagement has been kept to a minimum, so that the title should also be something for a more casual audience.
The game will be released on PC in 2020.
Black Forest Games‘s Destroy All Humans! was the final game on show and also one of the funniest ones, being a remake of the 2003 sci-fi comedy shooter that gives the player control over alien invaders who have to kidnap cows they think are the dominant species of planet Earth for collecting DNA and get rid of the humans with their advanced technology. The 50ies setting adds to the classic B-movies vibe, while the toilet humor makes it even more C-movie material. By utilizing the Unreal Engine 4, the game looks slick, but there are also gameplay changes with more refined controls and a restored mission that wasn’t in the original.
The game will be released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2020.
R8 Games’s Pacer is a futuristic racer in the vein of WipeOut and F-Zero and was the perfect way of getting some adrenaline pumping again after such a long day. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of time, as the booth wasn’t easy to find in the business area. Still, what I saw was pretty fun and especially impressive in the soundtrack and visual department.
The gameplay is fast and furious, involving lots of tight corners and jumps, plus weapons to fire and boost pads to drive over. Speed management is key, and it was amazing how one became better and better the more one got used to the insane speed and got lost in the terrific music. Unfortunately there won’t be local co-op, as the team is aiming for a flawless 4K presentation, but it can be played online with a wide variety of modes to choose from.
The game will be out on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.
The final press appointment was a meeting with Charles Cecil from Revolution Software who presented his adventure game Beyond a Steel Sky.
As most of the development process was already talked about during devcom 2019, Day 2, there were obviously some things I already knew. But now there was more time to see more game scenes. Being the sequel to the 1994 point-and-clicker Beneath a Steel Sky, this one used full 3D environments and a cel-shading comic look, but still offered enough puzzles to keep hardcore adventure fans happy.
Charles has a background as a mechanical engineer, and it showed with various hacking puzzles in which one had to manipulate machines. It has already been said that the characters lead lives of their own, but it remains to be seen how life-like the dystopian sci-fi world will actually become when it will be populated by memorable characters.
The game will be released on PC and consoles as well as on iOS devices, but there’s no date yet.
After a very long day at the Koelnmesse I prepared for another busy third day, but before we’re going to cover that (and the fourth one), let’s have a look at what goodies I got from PR people…
Starting with Application Systems Heidelberg, this was actually the same press kit I got last year, but the new Growbot postcard was quite lovely. And you can never have enough Steam codes, as there might always be an opportunity to promote the company’s great games.
Mixtvision Mediengesellschaft mbH had a pretty big indie package with a sticker, cards, a pen and notebook (always helpful for reviews/previews), and even some sweets you can’t see (you’ll get the food you find during gamescom whenever the opportunity arises).
A nice token from the bonkers platformer.
Daedalic always knows that people like physical stuff, and these things could be used in any way one liked, as you can see here.
I’ll always have a love for buttons…
… but having a pretty thick comic book is even better.
Yes, this USB stick was all I got from THQ Nordic, but it really helped with press kits to write this article and find the right screenshots at times.
Finally a small comic book that I remember was also included in a comprehensive Revolution anthology box. But of course it didn’t have the personal note by Charles Cecil…
Yes, it was a very FUN presentation, and I didn’t start the sausage joke, Charles! Thanks for making me remember it, though ;-).