EGX 2016 Round-up
EGX 2016 was one of the most diverse expos to date, offering up a multitude of quality indie titles as well as polished sequels and some surprising curveballs. The Digital Fix has already chatted to the developers of Little Nightmares, Yooka Laylee and Mekazoo, but with almost 200 games on show we thought it worth sharing our pick of the rest.
Dishonored 2 was a huge crowd-pleaser at EGX and with the option to choose from two characters, each with very different abilities, it looks like the replay value of the sequel to one of the best games of 2012 will be immense. Of course, despite being an assassin, you don’t have to kill a single person. But where’s the fun in that? You’re an assassin. Final Fantasy XV proved to be a more divisive showcase. The combat mechanics didn’t go down too well with many players, who declared them unnecessarily complicated. And with a huge suite of special moves involving holding down multiple buttons, all whilst trying to control a party, the camera, and your health in real-time, we can’t help but agree. The demo was essentially a mob hunt to highlight the combat, so we have little in the way of a story to go on. However, with the remaster of the excellent (and underrated) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age due out very soon, we have to wonder how Square Enix’s latest is going to go down with its fans. On the plus side it appears to be a sandbox RPG, so the linear corridors of XIII have been all but banished, which we at The Digital Fix deem to be a Very Good Thing. As for the other blockbusters, we have covered Gears of War 4, and will be taking a look at Dawn of War 3, FIFA 17 and Titanfall 2 very soon - keep an eye out for our reviews!
Numerous multiplayer games were also on show, including Brawlout whose idea sprang from Super Smash Bros. Angry Mob Games removed the grabs and the shields to make it much more fast-paced and also added a Rage Meter, which fills as you receive damage. You can then enter Rage Mode and use this Rage energy to either utilise special moves for your character, or hurl your enemy further across the screen. The similarities to its Nintendo inspiration are plentiful, and the Xbox One in particular has been waiting for a mass fighting game like this, so we will be eagerly waiting to see if they can deliver the goods in the final release.
At the other end of the hall, Titutitech were demoing Oh My Godheads!, a bonkers and - as far as we know - only capture-the-head game. After picking from the zany character roster, your aim is to grab a statue head and bring it back to your team’s plinth whilst the other team tries to kill you and steal it themselves. The catch? Each of the heads has different attributes to trip you up. Whether it’s a head that screams louder the longer you hold onto it until it explodes (and takes you with it), to a different stone bonce which reverses your controls at random intervals, keeping hold of these noggins isn’t going to be easy. Throw in some exploding pies, dash attacks, and a number of environments that present hazards of their own, and all of the ingredients are there for a crazy couch party game which we’re very keen to see more of when it hits PC next year.
Of course, an expo wouldn’t be complete without the crowd-pleasing Gang Beasts, which has been in production for what seems like an eternity. The physics are as endearingly cute and/or frustrating as ever, but it seems like the latest tweaks to the gameplay have ruffled players’ feathers - not least with the reduced amount of time your opponents stay knocked down for. This leads to much longer and much more tedious fights, so we’re hoping that Boneloaf are just trying out a few tweaks to gather feedback rather than making major permanent changes to what was previously a silly, but ultimately fast-paced blob-em-up.
One of the stand-out experiences of the show for us was The Mannequin. A slow-paced horror in the style of Gone Home, it executed its scares in a non-violent, yet exceptionally creepy way. It may have pangs of the typical haunted house genre, but the reenactment of the exploits of the previous owners via static dolls not only unnerved us, but made us want to find out exactly what happened. When you add in a freaky female mannequin that stalks you around the house, you have a genuinely spine-tingling experience, which we cannot wait to get our hands on.
Point-and-click adventures are alive and kicking. At least, according to Charles Cecil - he of Revolution Software and Broken Sword fame - who was on hand to promote Pewter Games’ The Little Acre. If the game sustains the likeability and humour of the ten-minute demo we played, then we cannot help but agree. The animation is all done in-house by a talented Irish team, and many of the laugh-out-loud moments came not just from the dialogue, but the way the characters interacted. Watching a cat attack a scientist was possibly the funniest thing we saw for the whole of EGX. More please!
The Square Enix Collective were on hand to showcase a strong suite of games, including the excellent Turing Test, which we reviewed a few weeks ago. Other highlights included the world premiere of Forgotton Anne, a gorgeous Ghibli-esque side-scrolling affair which offered Another World-style mechanics as well as a potentially fascinating story. Tokyo Dark was another strong showing: a noir detective story dripping with atmosphere, branching dialogue outcomes and some disturbing and unhinged characters. Both of these are due out in 2017, so check out our reviews then.
Finally, Playstation VR got a decent airing and we can confirm that the headset is actually a lot more comfortable to use than both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Though Windlands - essentially a medieval Spiderman with hooks instead of webbing - was only controllable via the Dualshock 4 in our demo, it has been confirmed that support for the Move is on the cards. The game moved flawlessly and, after an initial orientation, pretty much free of motion sickness. Impressive stuff, but the controller support will make a huge difference especially given the tactility and versatility of its rival’s counterparts. The Vive has absolutely nailed the control design, at least until we have fully wearable gloves - Sony need to match HTC if they want to keep up. There are exciting times ahead for VR.
EGX 2016 truly offered something for everyone, from AAA titles through to impressive university Unity projects. If anything, it’s shown that this year’s silly season could potentially throw more quality games at us than we can physically play through; a wonderful position for gamers - and the industry - to be in.