I was lucky enough to spend a few days at EGX in London last weekend and dived straight into getting some hands on time with all the biggest upcoming games. I’ve picked out five of my most interesting titles (in no particular order) that wont be out for awhile yet to give you a little insight into what you can expect. I should say of course that some of these were only small demo’s and they still have a long way to go before release but these are my thoughts on some of the best games heading our way in the future.
For people looking for an experience to really call ‘next-gen’ then Evolve is definitely just such a game. Turtle Rock Studios know how to make a multiplayer game, as they showed us with Left 4 Dead, and that expertise has continued here. Evolve is graphically stunning and everything about it has that real next-gen feeling of high quality and excellent presentation.
There are plenty of decent and enjoyable multiplayer games out there but Evolve does a very good job at being pretty damn unique and inventive. We’ve seen games before where the two sides in a match are wildly different but nothing quite like this. As Turtle Rock themselves explained, Evolve is essentially like playing out one huge boss fight, but when that boss being controlled by another player, it takes things so much further; it’s a giant boss monster that will come at you with a plan, with tactics and reasoning.
What strikes me the most about Evolve is how finely balanced everything is. The monsters are enormous and imposing, but that doesn’t mean you cant bring them down, even when fully evolved; and likewise, as the Hunters, there may be 4 of you but your team can easily be pulled apart by a clever monster player. At the time of the demo there were 8 Hunters and 2 Monsters to choose from, though more will be added for the final release. The two Monster types available so far play differently to each other, with the Goliath focused on charging into the enemy and hitting them with brutal melee attacks and its flame breath while the Kraken can take to the air and attack from much greater distances with powerful lightning abilties.
Likewise, the four Hunter classes also have different playstyles and an important role to play which offers plenty to suit all kinds of players. The Trapper seeks out and hampers the monster, the Assault keeps up the pressure and deals heavy damage, the Medic keeps team-mates alive and resurrects the fallen, and the Support helps with the damage while protecting and cloaking allies. Such a well balanced team works wonders in most games to bring down a boss, but when your opponent knows exactly what each team member can do, it makes team work even more essential to bring down such an imposing beast.
The matches aren’t just a case of tearing into each other to see who dies first either, there’s a clever level of tactics to consider. For the Hunters, it’s essential to find the Monster quickly. The environment will offer up clues to the creatures whereabouts and the Trapper can use their own skills to help with the search. There will be more than just the Monster to look out for though, as many areas are filled with hostile creatures that offer their own risks if engaged, though many of these offer additional rewards if killed so deciding whether to fight through these creatures is another part of the Hunter’s plans. Meanwhile, the Monster will need to be busy devouring those alien creatures within the maps to grow stronger and of course evolve into more powerful forms. If fights break out in this early stage then they are often fleeting skirmishes. The Hunters will desperately try and trap the Monster, chasing it down, while the Monster player will try to disrupt the team, split them up and cause casualties before retreating back and regenerating its health and armour.
Once the Monster player reaches the final evolved form however, everything changes. That player then receives an objective to destroy the power-plant within the map and will head straight for it. The Hunters need to stop it at all costs but, even with all four working together, the fully evolved Monster takes a hell of a lot to bring down. This final showdown is a real set piece fight that feels like something straight from a sci-fi movie, when the games reaches this stage, both sides go all or nothing for the win.
Just like Left 4 Dead, Evolve has that extra something about it that even attracts players who aren’t all that interested in multiplayer games. It feels pretty fresh and exciting to play and very much offers a next gen experience. Providing Turtle Rock continue their plans to add many more maps with varied terrain and hostile creatures, more Hunters and wildly different Monsters to choose from then I can see Evolve becoming just as much of a multiplayer hit as Left 4 Dead.
When Bioware recently announced that Dragon Age Inquisition would feature a multiplayer mode, it seemed to get a few fans quite worried. Sure the same surprise announcement for Mass Effect 3 ended up being quite a fun additional feature that gave the game some extra life, but would the same thing still work for Dragon Age? Well EGX gave us the chance to try out this new multiplayer mode and, though its different to the Mass Effect multiplayer, its still really well made, a lot of fun and very, very challenging.
Instead of the wave survival of Mass Effect 3, the multiplayer in Dragon Age Inquisition has more resemblance to a dungeon run in MMO’s. Your party of 4 has to move through and clear 5 sections of a large level while completing objectives, and culminating in an end of level boss fight. The objectives, and even the route through each level will also be randomized for each time you play to keep things from growing too repetitive. Additionally, there will be extra routes within the levels that can only be opened by certain classes and offer additional challenges for more rewards; it’ll be up to each party to decide whether to take them on.
The combat here isn’t the same frantic affair of Mass Effect 3, it’s much more tactical and cautious. Health does not regenerate which leaves you reliant of limited health potions, the only respite you’ll get is at the end of each zone where a checkpoint will refill the health of all party members. This all lends itself to good teamwork and tactical thinking; each member of your party will need to play to their role and support one another. Your skills aren’t just awesome set piece attacks either, but powerful, tactical choices. You need to leave your defensive abilities for the most opportune moments, save your stuns for powerful enemies or to protect your weaker party members, you have to think about how you fight at all times.
The final boss in the demo we played was brutally difficult, requiring very precise teamwork and coordination, something similar to a difficult boss in MMO dungeons, with each party member needed to perform their own tasks such as keeping the boss busy, picking off archers and stopping heals and the like from enemy mages. This high level of difficulty will appeal to a lot of people, especially groups of friends who want a strong challenge but it could well be a very different and less enjoyable experience playing with a random group through the matchmaking. Whether the levels become easier as you level up and gather more equipment remains to be seen but if everything remains as it is then this multiplayer mode is likely to attract somewhat of a love/hate relationship with those that look for a difficult challenge and others that find it too much to be enjoyable.
There will be a wide range of characters with different roles available on release and, after taking feedback from Mass Effect 3, Bioware have designed the multiplayer to have no impact on the singleplayer at all and there wont be any multiplayer achievements, so if you don’t want to play it, it wont affect your game at all. Providing Bioware keep the multiplayer updated with regular new content then this could easily be another very entertaining distraction from the main game and may keep you playing long after you complete it.
Excitement always surrounds any brand new ip that Nintendo announce because there’s always that chance that it might be another instant classic like so many that have gone before. Splatoon’s reveal at E3 was met with a lot of excitement; with Nintendo bringing their own unique flair to the world of multiplayer shooters.
Splatoon instantly stands out from the crowd when you begin to play it; it’s bright, colourful and welcoming, as you’d expect from Nintendo. Splatoon isn’t just a family friendly shooter though, it does offer some entertaining new gameplay that makes a nice change. Playing the game mode of Turf War, you’re objective is to coat as much of the floor in the arena with your ink (the walls don’t count), though you can also shoot your opponents like any other shooter. The bright visual style, along with the hilarious sound effects draw you in straight away and its brilliant fun to start splatting the ink all over the arena. You get a few extra abilities to mix things up; you can turn into your squid form to move quickly through your own coloured ink and refill your gun, and you can also use jump right across the arena to friendly team mates as a way of quickly navigating the large spaces. You also get ink grenades and after powering up for a short while, you can unleash a rocket launcher style weapon to blast ink everywhere and there will be various other special weapons upon release.
As always with Nintendo, the emphasis is on fun so you’ll see no info of kills and deaths to rub into your opponents faces, the only thing that counts is the end score of how much area is covered in ink. With so many serious and complex multiplayer games around these days its nice to have something that’s easy to pick up and play and provides huge amounts of fun. Could it become another Nintendo classic though? Well for that it would need a lot more content in my opinion. The Turf War mode is a lot of fun but it’ll need more than that to keep people playing for a long time, unless of course it’s priced fairly cheaply, in which case it might just fill a nice space in the market.
As a huge fan of From Software and the Souls games, Bloodborne was undoubtedly the game I wanted to get my hands on the most at EGX. The From Software developers were being typically brutal and dying meant it was game over for the demo, but like always with these games, that didn’t stop me coming back for more multiple times. So how does Bloodborne stand against its Souls predecessors?
Well Bloodborne is familiar enough to be able to pick up and play for any fan of the Souls series; you can jump into the game and feel at home right away. However, there are enough new features and mechanics to keep it fresh and separate from the games before it, and you’ll need time to learn and master all the changes. You may have heard before that there are no shields in Bloodborne and as such there is no block of any kind. Thankfully though, the evasion and dodging has been greatly improved to make up for it. You’ll still be able to roll around like normal but, when locked on to an enemy, you’ll be able to perform fast, proper dodges to avoid attacks.
With no blocking there is also no parrying so that has been changed this time around too. This is where the new gun weapons come into play as, when fighting an enemy, if you shoot them just as they are about to strike you it renders them vulnerable for a counter attack in the same way that parrying worked before. The most notable new mechanic is being able to restore health after taking damage. Basically when you are hit by an enemy you have a very short window of opportunity to strike back, which restores the health you lost from the strike. Many people have been worrying that this might make the game a lot easier but you only have a very, very short amount of time to perform the counter hit and chasing that bit of health can often lead to much bigger problems if you wade senselessly into your enemy’s attacks.
That though is where much of Bloodborne’s difficulty comes from. Having no block is designed to force the player to be more aggresive, sure you can dodge but the stamina drain means you need to be careful with it. Your options in combat are increased with the weapon transformations as well; you still get regular and power attacks but with the press of a button you can extend your weapon into a much bigger, more powerful version. This transformed weapon will hit much harder and usually hit with a wider arc but it will also attack slower so mastering how and when to use it is another part of Bloodborne’s learning curve. Enemies also react more to sound and disturbance so its possible for clever players to avoid dangerous group fights by drawing enemies one by one.
Running on the PS4, Bloodborne looks gorgeous. It’s still dark, menacing and gory, but that doesn’t stop it from being beautiful. The gothic architecture of Yharnam is incredibly detailed and offers amazing views all around. There’s more of sense of verticality here too, with buildings rising high above all around you and very richly detailed features all over the ground to catch your eye just as easily. Being on a next gen console allows for more beautifully detailed enemies too, with Hidetaka Miyazaki bringing back that trademark monster design, and you can often find much larger groups of enemies at once.
From the looks of it so far, Bloodborne has the making of yet another huge hit for From Software and Souls fans should have no worries getting excited for this.
Fable Legends is a game that seems to have caused quite a split of opinions between gamers. There are Fable fans who think the new change in direction and gameplay style is a complete travesty, while others think that it could be just what the series needs and it’s also caught the attention of some who weren’t previous interested in Fable games. So where do I sit after playing the game for a short while? Well that’s still not so easy to answer.
I found Fable Legends to be a lot of fun, it has some nice ideas and mechanics to help it stand out a little from other co-op style multiplayer games and it certainly looks great too. It’s set before the original game which means it goes back to that classic style of being bright and colourful with plenty of magic and wonder but without all those steampunk-style additions that filtered in more and more through Fable 2 and 3. A lot of fans wanted it this way so Lionhead have definitely delivered with the art department.
In a similar way to Evolve, having to team up against another player who has complete control over all the enemy forces means that matches aren’t nearly as predictable as regular co-op games. The Villain player can summon all manner of different types of enemies with different abilities and even decide how aggressive they will be. He also has access to various traps that can hamper and split up the group of Heroes; these include things slamming shut gates or throwing bombs to knock the Heroes back.
Meanwhile, the Hero players will have access to a number of different characters, many more will be added to the game in the future, and as you’d expect these all have different roles. Playing against a clever Villain player means that the levels wont be easy and each party member needs to play to their strengths. Ranged characters for example are typically weaker and will need to stay at the back to avoid damage, but they will also likely draw the attention of the Villain player who will try and single them out and separate them from the group. Since you are fighting through hordes of creatures, it’s often easy to forget that another player is directing them, that is until you walk right into a cleverly timed trap or get hit by an ability you never saw coming.
As with Evolve, I was impressed by how well balanced Fable Legends was. As well as my own time with the game, I watched various other groups take it on and the win rates of both the Heroes and Villain were very much evened out, neither seemed at all overpowered.
So is Fable Legends shaping up to be a great game? Well it’s fun to play but it still needs a lot of content. There will need to be a huge amount of levels and, more importantly, rewards to keep you playing through these matches. Lionhead still haven’t shown off the town of Brightlodge, which will house all of the more classic Fable-like features such as jobs, pub-games, appearance customization and the ability to meet up with other players – getting that part right will be essential to draw in the more traditional Fable fans. There are plenty of entertaining characters to pick from, and you will be able to customize them further but not being able to make your own from the start may put people off. Fable Legends will be a game to keep an eye on, it seems fun so far but there’s plenty more to be done with it yet.
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