EGX is a convention that happens every September here in the UK. Thousands of gamers flood the NEC in Birmingham to play a mixture of AAA and indie games, and I was lucky enough to be one of those people. I was there with Games Bulletin and we played our fair share of games while there. Below I’ve put my first impressions of the games I played.
I personally haven’t played a Sonic game since the Dreamcast days. No real reason, I just hadn’t bought one. When I looked into the Sonic games, I didn’t like what I saw. The homing attack felt like cheating to me, and the whole camera behind the character didn’t sit well with me personally. I had hoped that Sonic Forces would be something different, but alas I was wrong. The homing attack is still there. I got past the camera position, but what I couldn’t get past was the game itself. It felt like Sonic Forces didn’t know what it was.
There was a mix of levels. One was the “Classic Stage”, where players play as Classic Sonic in a side-scrolling level. This was a remastered version of the first Eggman fight in Sonic 1. However with some new bits added on; namely Eggman using a massive robot named Egg Dragoon. There are new levels based around the theme of stopping Eggman dominating the world (fairly standard for a Sonic game). They play very similarly to what I’ve seen in recent Sonic games, and players play as Modern Sonic. However the change to Sonic Forces comes from the addition of a third character: the Avatar. This is a custom player created character. There are 7 species to choose from, each with their own abilities. They can be equipped with the player’s weapon of choice, each of course having their own perks. These Avatars play in their own Avatar Stages, which play as a side-scrolling platformer.
Overall did I have fun with Sonic Forces? Not personally. The Modern Sonic level I played wasn’t fun; I just held up and moved occasionally. The Avatar level was somewhat fun but my character had the ability to hold triangle and be attracted to rings, meaning he moved for me if I wanted him to. The rest of the Avatar level was fun, and I played as a different Avatar that was equipped with a flamethrower which was cool. If it is standard AAA price I won’t be grabbing it; it doesn’t feel like £55 worth of game. For a cheaper price however I may be tempted. Fans of recent Sonic games like Sonic: Unleashed will enjoy this game, but if the recent Sonic games haven’t piqued your interest this one probably isn’t for you either.
Okay so I know Arms isn’t exactly a new game but I had to mention it. Me and a friend played this game because the day was nearly over and there was no queue. At first I was fairly uninterested. “Oh great, another boxing game like the old Wii one” I thought to myself as I picked up the joycon. Part of me hoped it would be more than that, and I’m glad to say it is. Playing the game is fairly similar to the Wii boxing game. You hold your arms up in a boxing position, and punch to punch in-game. Blocking involves turning your hands inwards. Fairly standard stuff so far, but it gets more strategic as you play.
As with all fighting games you deal with your opponent blocking by grabbing them (punching straight with both hands at the same time). However your opponent can counter your grab with a single straight punch, which momentarily leaves you vulnerable to an attack from them. When punching you can punch straight or hook; or if you’re good enough you can hook right, then rotate your wrist to make the punch swerve in the opposite direction. Spamming punches is something that is thankfully not a viable tactic in Arms. The game places emphasis on movement and countering, making for a fun and very enjoyable experience. In my eyes a must have for Switch owners.
This one is in early development, very early development. The game was there to test the mechanics the developers had planned so some of the things I saw are very very likely to change. The game was a puzzle game which involved interacting with a sundial looking object to make segments of a large stone light up. Once the sundial was in the correct position a symbol appeared on the large stone, letting you know the puzzle was solved. There were four to solve, and the first two were simple as I could see the stone to know when I had solved the puzzle. However the final puzzles were trickier. I could no longer see the stone and there were no audio clues to let the player know when the puzzle had been solved. I solved the puzzles but only because I would travel back and forth between the sundial and the large stone moving the dial bit by bit until it was solved.
This was something I expressed to a member of the development team, and something she said would be taken on board. Lake Ridden did have some nice features to it. Firstly it looked amazing. The atmosphere suited the story (you play as a girl who loses her sister in a spooky wood). Secondly the game used torches to allow the player to mark where they had been, so they wouldn’t repeat on themselves endlessly. While by no means ground-breaking, it is a nice feature. As I said the game is early development, but is one to keep on your radar.
The Escapists 2
I was a big fan of The Escapists. I loved the art style but most of all I loved planning and executing an escape. Scoping the prison and deciding if I wanted to tunnel out or use the air vents, I loved it. There was only one issue I had with the game. The learning curve was very steep. The game needed lots of hours put into it to successfully do anything in the game. Luckily this is something that The Escapists 2 solves. The game is much more friendly towards new players and guides them through what to do. Well at least the tutorial level does. The game still leaves all the planning to the player, but presents everything in a much more user friendly way. If you tried to play The Escapists but just couldn’t get on with the game, this sequel is for you. Other than that there is very much a “If it isn’t broke it doesn’t need fixing” mentality in The Escapists 2, and the game delivers more of what everyone loved about the first instalment.
Raiders of the Broken Planet
This game was a lot of fun. There were several characters to choose from, but I picked the stealthy guy; because stealth. He had the ability to transport into walls and snipe enemies from there which was very fun. Enemies have these very handy markers above their head to tell you when they are unaware you are there, when they are searching for you and when they know where you are. It’s a typical 3rd person cover shooter, but interestingly it gives the player the choice to play as the bad guy instead. While this is by no means new (Dying Light did a similar thing) it is something rarely done and is always a nice little addition. The only thing holding this game back is the system in place regarding payment for the game.
The game is free to play; to a certain point. The prologue of the game is free to play, but that is where it stops. After the prologue those who wish to continue playing the game pay to do so. You can buy individual campaigns for £10 (currently just the Alien Myths campaign), or buy all the campaigns and three extra characters (there are four in total including the Alien Myths campaign) which are £40. The most frustrating thing is that the game is available on Steam now and when you read the negative reviews everyone is saying how the paygate makes them not want to play or recommend the game. You can’t help but feel that a one-off fee would make this game much more highly attractive to gamers.
Can I recommend this game to you? Honestly no. The game is fun, but the payment model Mercury Steam has gone for is not a good one. £40 for a Founders Pack is a fair bit in my personal opinion, and to only get four campaigns from that is just disgusting. I played the last campaign at EGX, and that took me 20-25 minutes to complete. Even if all four campaigns are 25 minutes each, that’s £40 for just over an hour and a half of gameplay and 3 extra characters. Now if the Founder’s Pack grants you access to future content, that’s great but also dependant on how much of the future content you will receive (if any). At this moment in time I suggest just keeping one eye on this game until we see how much content gamers are getting for their money. If it’s just the four campaigns, I suggest giving this one a miss.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise I haven’t played since the second game. I lost interest in the series because everything became same-y and stale. However I was hopeful that the year break would result in something different and refreshing. I was pleasantly surprised with what I got to play. The game handles well even in the Alpha build that I played. I didn’t play the main mission, instead I rode off completing a side mission that involved discovering who was responsible for burning a farming town down. As I approach the destination the game prompted me to stop and switch to the eagle my character has.
As the eagle you scout the area and marking things of interest and soldiers in the area. The rest of the game hasn’t changed all that much. Hold the run button and run towards walls to climb them. You still press one button to assassinate targets. The only small complaint I had regarding the assassinations was that when jumping from above to land on someone I could see the target stop and stand still mid-walk as I hit the Y button so that I landed on them. It’s a small thing and something that hopefully won’t be in the final build of the game.
The horse riding is a nice addition, but you can hold the A button to simply follow the road if that is what you desire. When you wish to veer off, simply move the stick and autopilot turns off.
The major overhaul is the combat system. Now the player can choose between a light or heavy attack. As with most light and heavy attack combat systems it is combo-able, but most importantly it feels fluid. Well for the most part. Parts of it did feel clumsy, but this is an alpha build so it will most likely smooth over time.
Is this game going to convert non-AC fans into fans of the franchise? It’s honestly too early to tell. I did enjoy the 20 minutes I had with the game. I was interested in the story of the small farm, and can potentially see myself grabbing the game when it releases. Non AC-fans I suggest looking into the game and getting a hands-on if you can. It’s certainly worth checking out. AC fans; it’s more of the same. If you like the same you’ll like Origins.