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EGX 2015: Day 3 - Indie Heaven

Day 3 was dedicated to Indie. If you are not into indie stuff, read it, it will hopefully change your mind.

The third day of EGX started off with me running to the Ubisoft booth to see if I can jump onto a few of their games, and it worked. They where not letting press jump the queues. I'm somewhat glad I got there quickly, but at the same time the games are only good. On the up side, there are some amazing indie games I tried out that have me very excited.

Let's start with the less interesting games.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

It plays exactly the same as Assassin's Creed: Unity, but now you have a Batman style grapple hook, which I could only use on a very select amount of things. Generally, if it's metal I could grapple onto it, but it felt very limited. Other than that the game just feels very safe, nothing stood out to me at all. Assassin's Creed is still fun, so at least that's not lost, but that's all it is at this point. A shame, but not unexpected.

Tom Clancy's: The Division

No game can match the hype surrounding it, unfortunately The Division is no an exception. While it's not a bad game by any means, it simply doesn't feel or do anything different. It plays well, with a cover button which is responsive, and changing cover is fluid. It feels like the cover system from Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The shooting is well executed, you can blind fire or aim for a more precise shot, so just like all other thrid person shooters. As I said nothing different. Blind firing seems a bit too accurate. I was using a single shot M14 and small SMG, but with both I could blind fire almost as accurately as when aiming normally. Of course longer distance shots are harder to hit, and the reticule isn't as small as when aiming, but any mid range or less shots seamed rather easy.

The one cool feature is the simultaneous PvP and PvE, you could be fighting some AI and suddenly a team of 3 other players jumps out from behind cover. A nice feature for sure, but I don't think it does enough to differentiate The Division from the countless other third person cover shooters.

Graphically the game looks amazing, fire has a real sense of movement and natural motion to it. Overall a technically well done game, but I'm seeing a lack of depth to the gameplay.

Pollen

Before having an interview with the lead game designer, I managed to sit down and play Pollen, here are my thoughts.

Pollen is a psychological thriller set on a Saturnine moon station. You take the role of a replacement mechanic after the previous mechanic disappears. As the game goes on you uncover what is happening on the station by solving puzzles and exploring. While the premise is nothing new, which isn't bad by any means, the Pollen is best played with VR. It's built with a heavy VR focus, so much in fact that if you play the game in or out of VR then the game will be a different experience, with some changes to the gameplay.

I don the Oculus Rift DK2 (which after using the HTC Vive simply isn't as good). I've just been transported into the moon station. Instantly I think of Sevastopol station, without the darkness or alien, from Alien: Isolation. The developers then ask me to walk over to the central table, in my head I was treating them as someone over a tannoy, or ear piece. I walk over to the table, and pick up an item, in this case it was a bottle of pills. Then by holding another button I can rotate the item, and leaning in I get closer to further away. The detail on the items is amazing, just a shame that the DK2 was a little blurry as on the reference screen it looked far more crisp. I'm then told how to throw an item, so I spend a good 2 minutes just throwing things about, much to the amusement of the developers. I then set about looking around the station, turns out, you can play basketball, darts or use a treadmill.

I'm then directed to what I assume is the bridge, opening the door requires me to press the open button on the door, simply by looking at it and pressing the use key. It all feels very natural. Pollen is an intreaging game, which will be best played in VR. It will work with almost all forms of VR we know of, this includes the big three Sony VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Induction

You are a cube, you have time powers, and you solve puzzles to progress through to the levels. You can climb ledges which are 1 block high, so going next to them means that you are flat to the top. Your powers are fast forward, rewind, and the most interesting being you can recall your past self to pass some obstacles. While time travel may not be actually possible, the game uses the idea and makes it into something believable. Nothing has a 2nd effect or action, it always does it's one task. The way you combine these powers is what creates some very interesting puzzles which, when complete, make you feel very clever. Much like with Portal. I lovely little block puzzle game in the same vein as the mobile game Edge, but with better puzzles.

Herald

Greeted by the writer of the game with a sticker, and the words, "do you like adventure games?" In my head I was saying, "I tend to not like them, but this is a games convention, let's give it a go." I actually simply said, "why not?"

Herald is an adventure game about colonialism in the 19th century. You play as Devan Rensburg, a mix-raced steward on a ship called the HLV Herald. It was a beautiful hand drawn art style, which reminded me of Telltale games like the Monkey Island series. One thing I often don't like about adventure games is the pixel hunting, however Herald didn't appear to have that. Instead it relies on giving you clues from the environments, and from text. At one point it tells me that there is something hidden in a bookcase. It doesn't tell my anything more, so I search and find the bookcase, revealing a hidden compartment.

Something that will make Herald standout is the way the story is told, the demo starts out with a conversation happening in the present. During this conversation one of the characters asks Devan to tell her about what happened in the past. While Devan is telling the story, this gameplay section uses the past tense, so if you wanted to accuse someone of stealing something the text would read, "I accused him of stealing the bread." It's a nice touch which really makes you feel like you are telling a story, not just interacting with one.

Eugenics

Eugenics is the act of using genetic selection to create, or improve, a species. In the game you do just this. You start the game with two people, one male and one female. You then must work out which genes are activated to make them male or female. You can label the genes for later reference. Each gene has three 'modes', pink, blue and off. The labels have these two colours with them, so when you place the female label (which is pink) there will be a blue option which could be something like lazy.

The demo is only the games core gameplay, but that gameplay is compelling. The developer, La Belle, is planning to add an entire city which you can create your dream society in. But remember the golden rule of reproduction, you need a male and a female.

VR Karts

Mario Kart in VR sounds like a decent game right? That's basically what VR Karts is. Just with less power ups, but it is in Early Access, so more features will be coming.

While VR Karts isn't the most technically brilliant racing game, it does a very good job of proving that VR and racing can be done and be awesome. I'm very interested to see how this game progresses, as it looks like it has a lot of potential to be the Mario Kart of VR.

 

Being able to actually look into your mirrors is something only VR can do.

Giant Cop

You are a 70s cop. You are 200ft tall. You stop crime by literally throwing people in jail. It also has a really simple, but colourful art style. Sold yet?

The game isn't very complicated, it's your basic management one button deal, but with the hilarity of accidentally blowing up an entire car park. You start off with only your giant hands to deal with drunken trouble, but as you progress that part can be dealt with automatically while you deal with other more pressing matters, like public nudity or violence. Maybe even a bank job or two... or 5.

Aaero

This is a rhythm action game, with two main sections. Tunnels, where you have to guide your ship along the bass of a song to gain a multiplier (see image below), enemies will sometimes appear. There are then set peices in far more open areas, where you fight bosses and other enemies. Locking on and shooting is simple, use the right analogue stick hover over enemies and lock onto several of them, then the right trigger is fire. The right stick is used to move your ship.

That short paragraph doesn't really do the game justice. Just know it's wonderfully colourful, and you really feel like you are playing the song when following the bass. In the full release the light bar will represent what ever makes the most gameplay sense, be it vocals, guitar riffs, or the melody. I'm just holding out for Bohemian Rhapsody being in the game.

Rektangle

Get Rekt. Angle. That may or may not be the tagline for Rektangle.

Rektangle is a twin stick shooter, where when you hit someone else they lose a side, and you gain a side. You can only have as many bullets as corners you have, so if you are a triangle only four bullets for you. There is also a shield, but as it only covers 2 sides, so the bigger you get the less protection you have have, but you do have far more firepower. You get bullets by collecting them from the ground.

Rektangle will have multiplayer, and local split screen at launch. It see it as a very good jump in, have 1 or 2 rounds, and jump out game. It also has this weird sense of depth to it, like strategical use of size to allow for maximum firepower while also having maximum defence. Finding that balace will be something that takes time, and could even change from round to round. There is also the use of the shield, do you be defensive and stand your ground, or attack at risk of getting hit? Rektangle is great fun, and you should head over to Rektangle Steam Greenlight page to vote for it.

Day 3 is at an end, let's have a relaxing day 4 to end a wonderful show

We are done for day 3, and  my god there were some amazing indie games today! Prepare for a shorter day 4, where I become a tour guide, and listen to Mike Bithell talk about how privileged he is (he did a Q&A, and as he's such a great guy that no one really gives him much grief).

Published Sep. 30th 2015

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