This year, while I was standing in the queue at Tobacco Dock, London, waiting patiently to get into Rezzed 2018, I took a moment to eavesdrop and carefully examine my fellow festival attendees.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of cosplayers in the mix. There was the odd Pikachu dotted here and there, and a few Guardians of the Galaxy, but they all looked a bit lonely compared to at other events. In fact, those in my queue had stuck firmly to the old classic T-shirt and jeans combo, preferring clothes that had a cool and witty tagline and oblique references to cult movies. When I listened to the conversations in the line, I overheard battle plans about what games were going to be visited first. I heard chats about games that I never knew existed. I heard talk of conferences, meeting game developers and asking them about framerate issues. These were serious people and their expectations of Rezzed, with its love of independent, cool, edgy games on show, was a damn serious affair.
But then the doors opened and someone at the front held an arm in the air and shouted “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND PEOPLE”. The crowd responded with a smile and a shout. This was going to be a lot of fun.
And then the serious business began. Over an incredible weekend at the brilliant gaming extravaganza that was EGX Rezzed, I was lucky enough to play enough games to make my brain melt and my eyes implode with excitement. So, what were my top five highlights? Well, I’ve tried to keep this list as Xbox centric as possible, but I’m going to be cheeky and include one final submission of a game that I really do hope is going to come to Xbox One soon, just because it looks utterly brilliant. I could have included loads more, but here we go….
I love a bit of co-op whilst playing with my online friends. It’s always a guaranteed recipe for a great night of fun and mayhem. But those true co-op titles are few and far between on Xbox One. Thankfully the Left for Dead style multiplayer entertainment factor is gaining more and more popularity as developers start working more with that genre. This is exactly where Earthfall comes in.
The plot involves an alien race who have invaded Earth. There is a planet-destroying event on the horizon, but the real interest is found with you and your buddies shooting, flaming and blowing up a whole horde of baddies from outer space. With the small time I had with it, I played with the AI counterparts – who were thankfully better than a lot of my friends will be – and had a blast.
It’s a game that is all about printing your own weapons, building defense barricades with a flick of a switch, and deploying turrets to help win the fight. It comes with a campaign that looks genuinely interesting and you can’t help but be interested in the Pacific Northwest visual tone.
This is one game that I can’t wait to play with a set of buddies alongside me – even if we are going to suck at it. At the end of the day, it’s about having a laugh, isn’t it? Well, Earthfall will definitely bring that.
There is more four-player action included in my next choice, and this time it comes from the makers of the highly entertaining Zombie Army Trilogy.
In Strange Brigade the tone of Rebellion’s plans have changed from the World War 2 setting to that of a 1930’s British rip-roaring third person adventure shooter. It still has that mad chaos found in ZAT, of hundreds of creatures pouring at you and your team, desperately trying hard to kill them all, but now we find lots of humour and tongue in cheek quips. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Giving you the option to choose from four different characters with all the action set in Egypt, Strange Brigade will ply you with a host of undead mummies, big bosses and witch-queens – all as they try to eliminate you. The game looks fantastic and its fast-paced madness is complemented by its attention to detail and great level design.
With a release coming soon, this is one game I cannot wait for.
I absolutely love the title of this game, as it evokes so many images in my head, and the fact that EGX Rezzed played host to a giant robot downstairs in the lobby, along with all the consoles running inside it, made me like it even more. It looked like it wanted to kill us all after the weekend.
Steel Rats itself is a stunning high concept 2.5D action arcade motorbike combat racer, that involves stunts, carnage and a beautiful backdrop of a Bladerunner type world. You speed along with one of four characters, taking the fight to battle bots and big bosses in a visually delightful world and high arcane atmosphere.
It has a great look, a wonderful soundtrack and when it releases in the summer, I will be the first in the queue. I have to apologise to the kind developer who took mercy on me for how bad I was at the game though. I’m willing to try and redeem myself at some point.
THE SPECTRUM RETREAT
Dan Smith, the developer and brainchild of The Spectrum Retreat, was only 18 when he won the BAFTA young game designers award of 2016. Of course, he was very much hands-on at Rezzed, standing proudly by his creation and overseeing the masses having a go at this original and unique first-person puzzler.
The Spectrum Retreat places you in a mysterious hotel called The Penrose, leaving you to solve puzzles and work out both the reason behind your stay, and your purpose there. It reminds me very much of Portal and The Turin Test and it would be great to see The Spectrum Retreat reach the heights those two made.
It’s a hard game to play surrounded by the hoopla of a games festival though, much more suited to being alone in your room with the headphones on, being totally sucked into this fascinating premise and world. And it should be this summer when you get the chance to do just that.
SHOPPE KEEP 2
If you haven’t played the original Shoppe Keep, then you should. I very much enjoyed my time with the engrossing shop sim experience, and I arrived at Rezzed more than happy to sit down with a bit more of the same. But how wrong was I – for this is an entirely new beast.
Shoppe Keep has had a complete graphical makeover with the second iteration ensuring that the whole world looks great; a delight for the eyes. You can now play with others online – up to 4 of you, in fact – in order to run your shop and become the best in the land. This will mean that whilst one of your retail team can stay in the stockroom and keep the supply of magical shoes updated, another can go out adventuring to add some coin to your budding commercial enterprise. It is this multiplayer aspect which should ensure Shoppe Keep 2 shines – if only on the basis that the two gamers playing it before me were having a row about how much profit they should put on bread. It’s going to a blast come 2019.
And now it’s time for that curveball I mentioned and top of the Rezzed list is Disco Elysium – one of the most interesting RPG detective stories that I have witnessed in my many years of gaming.
Coming complete with a beautifully original oil painting art style, this is a game that also has some of the most out there, interesting and funny writing I have ever seen in a game. The world is wonderful and the story looks utterly brilliant and I would beg, steal, and borrow the world for it to come to Xbox.
I would also like to mention State of Mind, an interesting third person adventure story that is set in Berlin in the year 2048. The switches in gameplay between a dystopian reality and a digital utopia are stunning, and its artwork and tone is both beautiful and intriguing. It doesn’t quite make it on to my list proper, but only because I really needed to spend more time with it. But still, it is something I will definitely be playing when it releases for real.
So, that’s it for EGX Rezzed 2018. There were a ton of games to play, a huge amount of excitement filling the show and it’s about now that I have to say a big thank you to all those who let me play their games.
The future is very bright indeed, but watch out for that killer robot.