Bit-tech at Eurogamer Expo 2013
Away from the sprawling booths of the big publishers, where the familiar conveyor belt of football and guns and cars was being rolled out for another year, a sizeable chunk of the show floor had been granted to the indie sector, and here there was plenty of novel and weird stuff going on. One of the more technically impressive indie titles we saw was Eden Star, a sci-fi game with a procedurally destructible world that involves mining minerals and building structures. A sort of Mine/craft game, if you will.
Facetiousness aside, Eden Star has a couple of interesting tricks up its sleeve. Rather than being constructed out of blocks, Eden Star's world can be smashed up into little pieces using lasers and a gravity glove that can throw stuff around with considerable force. Furthermore, it has a central base used for converting raw materials into useful resources, but this base attracts enemies and must be defended by constructing walls and so forth using those resources. Ultimately, the developers intend for the game to be co-operative between four players, and while in its current state the controls were extremely unwieldy, Eden Star has potential to be enormous fun.
Speaking of cooperative games, another fascinating-looking indie title is Tomb of Rooms, a two-player exploration game set in a randomly generated dungeon. Ascending the floors of the tomb successfully requires co-operation. Both players can only hold one item at once, so if there is a book and a torch, one player must hold the light while the other reads the book. This also goes for dealing with the INCREDIBLY CREEPY monsters that prowl through the higher floors of the tomb. One player must shine light on the monster while the other shoots it. It's a smart idea, and creates a fun mixture of genuine tension and slapstick humour as the torch bearer is chased around the room by some skeletal horror while the other player tries to get a clear shot. Having said that, the tombs are currently far too sparse and boxy, and the player character animations need a lot of work.
Our favourite indie game on show, however, was Mode7's Frozen Endzone, the spiritual sequel to Frozen Synapse. Endzone places you in control of a team of robotic sports players in a rugby-esque game, with the task of getting the ball to the Endzone, by running, passing, and blocking the opposing team. Like in Synapse, you input all your commands to your cyberjocks simultaneously before executing a few second's worth of play-time, meaning you must try to predict how the opposing team will react. With lovely visuals, excellent player animations, refined command controls and a more interesting setting for its game, Endzone is looking very special.
While the indie sector is never short of inspiration, there were a smattering of curiosities from the mainstream too. One of the biggest surprises for us was Dying Light. Now, it's worth mentioning that this is another zombie game, and it's being developed by Techland - the creators of the profoundly mediocre Dead Island series. But don't run away screaming just yet! Dying Light combines open-world zombie bashing with Mirror's Edge style free-running, and the two are potentially a match made in undead heaven.
The six-minute demo involved making your way through an infested shanty town, dashing through crowds of zombies, scrambling up walls and leaping over rooftops to access an elevated highway that towered over the corrugated cityscape. In such a short time it was difficult to establish exactly how the wider game is going to work, but both the movement through the environment and fighting of zombies felt excellent, so we're looking forward to seeing more of this one.
The Wolfenstein stand was packed, despite us being less than impressed.
Lastly, there were a couple of games that raised our eyebrows for the wrong reasons. The first of these is Bethesda's Wolfenstein reboot, subtitled The New Order. It plays reasonably well. The game is running in id Tech 5 and hence is as slick and punchy as any game running in an id engine. Also like Rage, though, there was nothing that stood out about it whatsoever. It was just a very grey FPS with Nazis in. Also rather perplexing was Battlefield 4, as it's rather difficult to discern precisely what is different about it from Battlefield 3. When we asked one of the attendees of the stand, we were told that it's different because there are some new maps, and some really big buildings that players can blow up, which is cool and all, but we're not sure if that justifies an entirely new game.
A taster of what's on offer at the Eurogamer Expo.
And that's it from Eurogamer for another year. Oh, except for our Game of The Show, which we'll be writing a full, separate preview of in a couple of days' time. Stay tuned!