Last April, I had the pleasure to attend EGX Rezzed at London’s Tobacco Dock, where showcased were some of the most exciting indie and mainstream gaming prospects being developed from both the UK and the rest of Europe. I had the privilege of trying out a plethora of these different titles, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was very impressed and inspired by the creativity and entertainment these games and developers had to offer; many of which have since been released, and have also found significant success within the industry. This article covers what games I got to try over the course of the three days, and my own personal opinions of which.
But first, I would like to apologize to my viewers, and to the organizers of the event for the delay in this article. This was the most extensive article I’ve written by far, even surpassing the scale of what I’ve analysed throughout each E3 event I’ve covered, but following this article, there will also be more content coming in the future, as my output as suffered far too mucho since I began writing this piece. However, without further ado, here is my pick of the most standout games at EGX Rezzed 2017.
Tetra: Elemental Awakening
Many games on display at EGX were only in the very early stages of development some of which even in pre-alpha. A case in point was Tetra: Elemental Awakening. A World Of Warcraft-style game developed by Ocean Spark Studios out of Huddersfield, Tetra is a third person RPG set to have emphasis on combat, exploration, quest completion and wave clearing similar to games like Left 4 Dead or Dead Nation. Following an unfortunately unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, the game is still in development and has also since made further appearances at trade shows throughout Europe.
When I played it, I didn’t get to experience much, as is it still was in a very early stage of development, but the game did have a potentially interesting mythology attached to it, and given the right amount of polish, which is something I believe the game desperately needed at that time, it could be a decent game if the wave clearing aspect of it is implemented properly, and if the develop also incorporate more uniqueness into it. Otherwise, it would have a particularly long road to go down in terms of competing with other games of the same ilk; especially World of Warcraft. Medieval fantasy is particularly difficult to make stand out in most forms of media, especially video games, so the developers need to make sure they are offering players something very different by proxy.
Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast
The next game I would like to talk about, however, will have no problems standing out from most other gaming experiences. Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast is a turn-based fighting game whereby the player chooses from a selection of characters that are parodies of famous movie characters, and the objective of which is to create the most elaborate and long-winded insults to throw at the opponent, thereby dealing as much damage as possible. The game is insanely unique, ridiculously humorous and tons of fun. It is a follow-on from an earlier game developed by the same company, Vile Monarch, entitled Oh… Sir! The Insult Simulator; a game with the exact same premise, but more incorporating parodies of Monty Python characters. Since the game’s release on steam as of May 31st, it has garnished critical acclaim from players for it’s improved graphics and perfected mechanics.
Out of every game I tried at EGX, this was unanimously the most unique experience at the trade show in my opinion. There were unfortunately only two characters made available to play as, but they both bring a great deal of depth to the game, which made me excited for how much the rest of the character roster adds to it as well.
A title on display at the show that I was particularly looking forward to trying out was Yooka-Laylee; a 3D platformer developed by many of the original team behind Banjo-Kazooie. Playing out extremely similarly to the Nintendo 64 classic, it requires players to travel across open 3D environments and collect items, with additional emphasis on combat and puzzle solving. The game received mixed to positive reviews upon release with critics and fans divided over opinion for it as to whether the Banjo-Kazooie influence made the game critically successful or simply unoriginal.
My first experience playing the game was fairly positive. In my opinion, there has been a shortage of 3D platformers over the last two gaming generations, and it is refreshing to see the genre making a resurgence within the indie gaming scene with games like this, as well as Contrast and Grow Home. In particular, it was exciting to me to hear that David Wise was involved in the game’s music composition, as I think he has created some of the best video game music of all time. In terms of conceptual design, Yooka-Laylee’s scenery is about as varied as I expected it would be, but looking at the design of the characters, I did get the impression that it may be lacking in that respect, but I am still looking forward to playing the final product at a later point.
Another unique-looking game among many that was showcased at EGX was an isometric cel-shaded beat ‘em up call Deadbeat Heroes. Developed by two former Lionhead studios staff, Adam Landridge and Imkan Hayati, I would best be able to describe it as Baldur’s Gate meets Streets of Rage, where the objective is to defeat hordes of enemies, and occasional bosses and sub-bosses, in order to move to each section within each stage. There is a degree of strategy involved with players having to implement different attack in order to take out better equipped enemies, but it’s easy to start simply button-mashing, which can lead to repeated deaths. Overall, I found Deadbeat Heroes to be addictive, yet deceptively demanding of players; but thankfully, not to the point of it being inaccessible. It is particularly interesting to see two veteran developers create something the likes of which they’ve never tried before, but it does seem to work very well.
EGX was populated not only by first-time indie developers, but also veteran ones too. A more experienced indie outfit present at the show were Swedish developers Zoink Games; developers behind Stick it To the Man and Zombie Vikings. At the Nintendo Switch booths, the company’s PR & marketing manager and designer at Elden Pixels Mikael Forslind was there showcasing their latest game Flipping Death. Sporting the same general conceptual design as both Stick it To the Man and Zombie Vikings , Flipping Death is a 2D side scroller in which players must flip between the underworld and the physical world to solve various and insanely unique puzzles to progress; similar to how the two Soul Reaver games work.
My first impressions of the game are that it looks like a better gameplay concept that Stick it To the Man, but most likely not as good as Zombie Vikings, as I found the former to be extremely addictive with it’s greater emphasis on combat. Regardless, Flipping Death retains much of the same offbeat and quirky sense of humour that the other two games have, and a great level of creativity seems to be implemented within it; just like the other two games. I found myself perplexed by the puzzle in the demo, yet laughing the whole time at how funny it is. It made very excited about what other puzzles like will be featured in the final game.
In my opinion, the best game on display at EGX in terms of both gameplay and addiction was a PC title recently released on console called Victor Vran. One of the many isometric games on display at the show, and developed by the creator of the Tropico series Haemimont Games, it can be best described as Baldur’s Gate meets Brutal Legend, with a massive emphasis on real-time combat, and magic-based attacks dealt with through musical instruments, such as guitars.
Paying homage to classic fantasy settings, as well as heavy metal music, with a DLC packaged paying tribute to the band Motorhead in particular, this game seemed to be right up my ally. I had a great of fun playing this title, and I can’t wait to pick up a copy on the PlayStation 4 and dive into it. Combat is extremely tense as well as addictive, as it can be very easy for players to have themselves surrounded by a multitude of enemies in seconds. It’s also exciting to see the improved graphical quality of isometric games in particular, since the distance put between the gameplay and camera angles make the game appear much more detailed; and this was not the only game at EGX to give this impression. But in addition, the conceptual design is also something to behold. I’m a big fan of both the games this title seemed to have been influenced by, and after playing Victor Vran all the way through I would be surprised to find myself being a huge fan of this one too.
As well as traditional gaming, VR gaming also maintained a strong presence at EGX Rezzed this year, with the rise of the popularity of VR, as well as it’s continued development of the concept in general. One such VR game showcased at the event was a game called Nerve; a rhythm game similar to Entwined whereby the objective is to last for as long as possible and to travel as far as possible whilst all the time being able to adjust the speed of the game in accordance with how many of how few obstacles there may be in the player’s way. The game is currently in development for PlayStation 4, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
Since VR gaming started to make a resurgence following the beginning of the eighth generation, I have maintained a certain level of scepticism as to how successful the concept can be following the monumental commercial failure of the Nintendo Virtual Boy in particular. But after having experienced VR at many of these different gaming expos, I have begun to warm up to the concept, seeing the many different ways it can be properly implemented, and EGX Rezzed was another major step towards quashing my prior scepticisms.
Nerve was a fun and addictive game that takes advantage of VR in a simply, yet effective way; the method in which VR should be taken advantage of. It creates a heightened atmosphere and adds to the tension of the task at hand, in turn, heightening the game’s level of challenge.
SteamWorld Dig 2
Another long-standing indie company present at the show were Image & Form games; the Swedish outfit responsible for the games in the SteamWorld universe, including SteamWorld Tower Defence, SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist. SteamWorld Dig 2, having been only recently announced prior to EGX Rezzed, was on display at the Nintendo Switch booths alongside Flipping Death, incorporating many of the same elements as the first SteamWorld Dig game, but sporting a new player character and improved level of detail in the game’s visuals.
Julius Guldbog, Image and Form’s community manager, was there to talk players through the new experience, promising that SteamWorld Dig 2 would offer a much larger experience than the first game, which to me, is exactly what the first game needed. The original SteamWorld Dig was addictive, creative and impressive in terms of conceptual design; but the problem with it was it lasted nowhere near as long as it ought to have done. Given more to do, the possibilities in terms of lifespan could be very exciting, and I am hoping that Image and Form do follow up on their promises of a longer lifespan, as if they do, the sequel would be in my opinion more than worthy.
The next game I tried was one that I’d previewed prior to the start of the show, and was very much looking forward to sampling. Little Nightmares is a twisted-looking survival horror puzzle game developed by Tarsier Studios; the team behind Little Big Planet and Tearaway, and Published by Namco Bandai. It follows the story of a small girl named Six, who is attempting to escape a strange facility known as the Maw. The game features somewhat similar controls as Little Big Planet, but also incorporates a much darker and grittier atmosphere than the former. It also does extremely well to create tension in it’s gameplay sequences; something used only in the most top-notch of horror films and horror poetry.
Since the game’s release, it has garnished positive reviews, but it has not been without it’s criticism either. However, I felt that it seemed to have a very even blend of both gameplay and horror; something that every survival horror game needs to have, but that I feel not every major horror game franchise does. It seems to have more depth in gameplay than Outlast, for example, and despite the lack of dialogue, or perhaps because of it, I was able to take it much more seriously than the original Resident Evil game.
Another highly anticipated game that made an appearance at EGX alongside Yooka-Laylee was RiME. Developed by Tequila Works, RiME is an open-world puzzle game, whereby the objective of the player character is to solve the mystery of how he came to be at the vast island by uncovering his memories and the many secrets the island houses. Though the game’s conceptual design looks particularly impressive, with the developer drawing inspiration from several different sources including past games, films and traditional artists such as Salvador Dali, the gameplay for me was particularly wanting; especially for the size and scale of the world that it is set in.
I first saw a trailer for the game whilst covering E3, and it made me particularly excited for what the game potentially could have been given the right amount of depth in gameplay. But after playing it for half an hour at EGX Rezzed, I was unfortunately disappointed in this respect. The game has received positive feedback from players and critics, so there are other gamers able to appreciate for them me, but for the most part, it’s appeal mostly lay in the design of the stunning world that its set in.
Call the Blacksmith
Though console gaming maintained a strong presence at EGX Rezzed, PC games seemed to take precedent overall. Once such indie PC game was Call the Blacksmith; a simulator game whereby players must manage and expand a blacksmith business in medieval England. To do this, players must manage supplies, craft weapons and tools and employ apprentices, expanding the business as much as possible and in turn heightening in-game reputation. Personally, I had a lot of fun with this game, despite it being in the early stages of development. It’s a very interesting concept, which even has a small storyline attached to it, which for a simulator game is relatively rare. The conceptual design also reminded me somewhat of Rogue Legacy, incorporating an 8-bit art style, which I think would be interesting to see the developers expand upon.
Speaking of conceptual design, perhaps the most interesting looking game of any other at the proceedings in London was an isometric 2D adventure game called figment. Developed by Bedtime Digital, and featuring scenery and graphics very reminiscent of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the game has an emphasis on combat and exploration as well as puzzle solving; but it also features some of the most outlandish world and character designs that I’ve ever seen from an indie game.
The story follows friends Dusty and Piper as they embark on a quest throughout the many sides of the human mind, ridding it of nightmares and fear, restoring it to it’s former courage. As well as the game’s visuals being particularly unique, its basic premise is also unlike most things ever seen in games, being comparable only to games like Psychonauts and Stick it To the Man.
Aside from beat ‘em up games like Deadbeat Heroes, there was also a strong presence of fighting games at EGX this year, one such title being Pocket Rumble; an 8 bit 2D fighting game designed by Chuckle Fish games. The developers boasted a fighting game experiences that takes the genre back to it’s routes, but also simplifies it, as a way of introducing new players to the concept, whilst also minimizing the need to revise button combos for specific attacks.
When it comes to myself and fighting games, I take the same attitude towards it as what many other gamers do, and tend to button-mash, unlike veteran players who are able to do it professionally. Needless to say, this game suited me down to the ground in terms of fighting mechanics; especially on Nintendo Switch. And although it’s quite a finite observation, I noticed one of the character’s names was Tenchi, which is incidentally my own nickname.
Another fighting game on display at the Nintendo Switch booths, though with a little more uniqueness to it, was De Mambo. Paying out similarly to Super Smash Bros, De Mambo is, however, a very different game to the former, as the objective is to eliminate players whilst also inadvertently destroying the stage that the players must stay on. The player who survives without losing all their lives first is the winner. The game’s conceptual design is even more outlandish than Pocket Rumble, featuring some of the strangest characters I’ve ever seen. It actually reminded me of another indie game I saw at Play Manchester back in 2015 called Pan Dimensional Conga Combat.
At first, I was a little unsettled watching others play the game, as it looked fairly difficulty; possibly to the point of it being accessible. But playing it, I was surprisingly better at it than I thought. It was a really interesting game, and I had a great deal of fun playing it. It made me even more optimistic for the future of the Nintendo Switch, especially ahead of E3.
Another 2D side scroller on display at the show was Planet Alpha; an adventure game developed by Danish programmer Adrian Lazar, which relies on players to manipulate the time of day in order to solve puzzles. As far as game mechanics go, it seemed like a pretty unique experience. My biggest hope is that it has the kind of lifespan to make it last as long as most standard 2D platformers, since apart from the puzzle-solving element, it doesn’t seem to have much else going for it in terms of gameplay; the only other appeal seemingly being the game’s conceptual design and overall relaxing ambience, as it is advertised as.
The game’s visual design is quite appealing, but the developers need to keep in mind that gameplay is the most important aspect of any game. Given more to do, and with a little more emphasis on exploration than what seemed to be implied in the demo, it would have the potential to be a better game than it seemed at first glance.
Definitely the best VR experience at the show in my opinion was Augmented Empire. Developed by Coatsink Software, it’s a top-down turn-based RPG, in which players must take advantage of their surroundings within each stage to defeat each enemy in their way. This was the most interesting game of it’s kind to me because it implements a genre of which I personally couldn’t have imagined would be able to work with a VR headset.
I would best Augmented Empire as VR meets Ghost in the Shell in terms of conceptual design, but in terms of gameplay, it seems better than a lot of other games of it’s kind like Wasteland 2 or Skulls of the Shogun. I’ve never been a fan of mixing turn-based combat with real-time combat, as I’ve frustrated with the likes of Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Age; Origins, but if implemented correctly, they can make for fairly decent games; SteamWorld Heist being a prime example, and most likely Augmented Empire too.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Speaking of turn-based video games, another title known as Battle Chasers was on display; a turn-based RPG reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but with conceptual design reminiscent of Warcraft and Darksiders developed by Airship Syndicate from Austin, Texas. Aside from the typical medieval fantasy setting associated with such games, it also has elements of steampunk technology in it similar to Skyrim, featuring autonomous machines; one of which is a playable character, and many others being enemies within the game.
Over the last four years, turn-based RPGs have been making a resurgence, seemingly starting with South Park: The Stick of Truth, and continuing with the likes of Child of Light and Earthlock: Festival of Magic. Seeing this game on display made me excited for the future of the genre; especially ahead of the release of South Park: The Fractured But Whole.
World to the West
Developed by Rain Games, the makes of the critically acclaimed indie title Teslagrad, World to the West was one of many games showcased by indie publishers Soedesco Entertainment at EGX Rezzed; and in my opinion, it was the best game they had on display at the show. Very different to Teslagrad but incorporating the same overall conceptual design, at least in terms of character design, it deviates away from the 2D Metroidvania style of play found in the former, and offers players an isometric top-down 3D adventure experience, reminiscent of the transition from 2D to 3D gaming in the late 90s.
The way I see it, World to the West has the potential to be an even better game than Teslagrad given a decent-sized in game world and the substance in gameplay to match. The combat system was extremely enjoyable to engage in, and there seemed to be a great deal to discover within the world the game is set in. So with the right amount of quests, it could be a particularly enjoyable title.
Another extremely unique indie game in display was Serial Cleaner. Developed by iFun4All and published by renowned indie game publishers Curve Digital, It’s a game set in the 70s whereby the player character must sweep through crime scenes undiscovered, and cleanse them of blood marks and incriminating evidence such as weapons, and then dispose of any bodies that may be lying around. Incorporating a strong stealth aspect, the player must be careful not to be caught by patrolling policemen, otherwise it’s game over.
I enjoyed the game’s catchy soundtrack, as well as its challenging gameplay and pretty unique conceptual design. In terms of all of these aspects, this is one of the most standout games Curve Digital have ever published in my opinion, since many games published by them have been quite reminiscent of 80s classic retro games like Smash TV and Space Invaders. But this game did not fail to impress me in terms of originality.
Black: The Fall
Another interesting 2D side scrolling puzzle game on display at the show besides the like of The Mimic and planet Alpha was Black: the Fall. Developed by Sand Sailor Studios, and to be published by Square Enix, it’s a puzzle side scroller set in a dystopian society, and taking conceptual inspiration from George Orwell’s 1984 as well as being quite reminiscent of Dylan Cuthbert’s The Tomorrow Children.
Above all, I enjoyed the game’s foreboding atmosphere and dark imagery. The puzzles are also quite elaborately designed, requiring a great deal of lateral thinking to solve. My hope is very much the same as what I hope for Planet Alpha; that it’s not too story-driven to warrant it lasting no more than a few hours, and that overall, gameplay takes precedent. But judging by what I’d played of it so far, it would seem that there is a decent balance between those two aspects.
Redeemer: Vigilante Awakening
When talking about Victor Vran, I mentioned that games always look much better on a graphical level than what they would look like up-close, as what many isometric top-down games have demonstrated in the past, like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath. The isometric game at EGX Rezzed that caught my eye, and made this point better than any other I’ve ever played was Redeemer: Vigilante’s Awakening. Developed by Sobaka Studios, and described as Diablo meets Mortal Kombat, it is an isometric top-down beat ’em up that follows the story of a monk named Vasily, who must fend of the arms industry that he formerly worked for, which has found it’s way to his tribe and his killing off his fellow monks in order to find him, thereby achieving his own redemption.
The graphics look stunning from up-close anyway, but with the implementation of an isometric view, it looks better than most games I’ve ever played. But aside from that, what I did play of it was extremely addictive, much like Victor Vran. My biggest concern is that it seems much more linear than the former, with there being a set path to have to follow, and little encouragement of exploration, but regardless, I had a lot of fun playing what I did of this game, and I cannot wait for it’s release.
A new kind of game has been taking precedent over the last few years, that admittedly I don’t feel as if I’ve not indulged in enough; interactive card games. With the rise in popularity of games like Hearthstone, and later Gwent, card games have now begun to find their way into the indie development scene and are being continuously worked on case in point, Insane Robots. Developed by Playniac Games based in Nottingham, and critically acclaimed since being showcasing across various trade shows, it combines card-based combat with semi open-world exploration, incorporating an elaborate combat system, which requires players to strategize accordingly.
Being in my opinion another of the more unique gaming experiences present at EGX Rezzed, I had a lot of fun getting to grips with the combat system, and discovering what strategies were best to use given a wide range of different combat situations. The conceptual design was also quite exceptional in comparison to many other card-based strategy games, which seem to be based on medieval fantasy settings, such as Warcraft and The Witcher.
Full Metal Furies
I was particularly excited when I first discovered the next game I played at the show among the Xbox booths. Full Metal Furies, made by Rogue Legacy developers Cellar Door Games, is a 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up similar to Streets of Rage, but with a far greater emphasis on exploration, with players having to navigate through a vast city, and being able to uncover secrets within the game as they go, on perhaps the same scale as Rogue Legacy; if not, greater so.
I also feature a fairly similar graphical design to the former, featuring 8-BIT stylised visuals, but it also features much more varied conceptual design, mixing elements of medieval fantasy with elements of the modern world thrown in for good measure. As a fan of Rogue Legacy, I was expecting challenging gameplay, but not up to the point where it became inaccessible; and with Full Metal Furies, I was not disappointed. The game is exhilarating, and I barely held on by the skin of my teeth after fighting the boss I came into contention with. I can tell this game is going to be something particularly special within the indie gaming circle, and I cannot wait to play the final result.
Paladins: Champions of the Realm
Though I’ve never been a massive fan of online multiplayer first person shooters, with for me only a few standing out to a great extent, one MMOFPS that did very well to stand out was Paladins: Champions of the Realm. I could best describe it as Halo meets Warcraft, incorporating all the basic elements of an MMOFPS, but making use of a medieval fantasy setting, and incorporating characters and abilities not typically found in a game of this kind, with players being able to use magic as well as guns.
I normally play FPS games if either they have a decent story and lengthy campaign like the original Halo, or if they’re open world like Fallout 4 or Borderlands. But I have to concede that I was pleasantly surprised with this title, being much more accessible than other MMOFPS games. A problem that I’ve found playing games online is that most other players have played the game before me, and I end up getting beat a great deal of the time, rendering games like that to lose their appeal after a while. But whist that may be my fault to a certain extent, this game seemed to demonstrate that if FPS teams work together properly, like what mine did whilst playing this game, they can make for a decent amount of fun; and this game was a case in point.
Before leaving, the last game I tried out was Bombslinger; a Roguelike Bomberman-type game that takes advantage of the use of 8-BIT graphics, and set in the old American west. What sets it apart from other games made in the same style is that there is slightly more emphasis on exploration, with players not being constantly confined to one stage, and having to navigate across multiple separate stages to uncover secrets and to eventually progress to boss fights at the end.
What I also liked about this game in comparison to the likes of Bomberman and Bombing Bastards was that it was a lot more accessible than the two latter games. I’ve always found these kinds of games to be way too hard for their own good, but this game is an ideal introduction for anyone who may be looking to play games within this genre, and at the same time, it also goes leaps and bounds ahead of Bomberman in my opinion. There’s much to play for, and definitely more fun to be had.
Overall, EGX was without a doubt the best and most extensive trade show I’ve attended so far in my career. It was packed with a plethora of fun games to play, conferences held with developers past and present, and made me feel particularly optimistic about the future of gaming, as what all expos I’ve attended so far have made me feel. Though the industry is constantly continuing to expand onto new platforms, it’s not doing so to the point where games were made for the sake of them being made, and simply rushed out to retail, as what happened during the video game crash of 1983, and true thought is being put into them, making for a market that is mostly made up of great experiences over disinteresting ones.
I would like to both thank the organisers for affording me the opportunity to travel to London and experience all this innovation first-hand, and to also again apologise for the delay in this article. I had a lot to write about, and wanted to get in as much detail as I possibly could about each experience that captivated me the most at the event, and that I hope that organisers, gamers, developers and player alike enjoy reading this article as much as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. There will be a great deal more content coming up in the coming weeks with the E3 conference happening at the moment, so readers will have a lot more to look forward to.
Scouse Gamer 88