Sometimes, fate can be a cruel mistress. For us in the business of writing about games—or playing games and then writing about them—that was the case very recently, when two major events fell on dates that would result in them unfolding back-to-back. Typically, we get a bit of a break between Boston’s fan event known as PAX East, and the developer-focused GDC up in San Francisco. This year, it was one long, ten-day block of previews, interviews, panels, and hands-on sessions with a long list of gaming’s upcoming offerings.
So, now that we’re back and at least partially rested, EGM editors Ray Carsillo and Eric L. Patterson give their thoughts on ten of the games they saw (and/or played) during those 240 hours of non-stop event-attending.
Developer: Compulsion Games
Publisher: Compulsion Games
Release: TBD 2013
Contrast follows a pair of young ladies, Dawn and Didi. Dawn, the player character, can move through light and shadow at will, stealing the spotlight one second and disappearing into the crowd the next. Didi is a lovable little girl who tries to put her best face on in a world that she doesn’t quite understand, especially as her family has been torn asunder. It is up to Dawn to use her unique abilities to help take Didi’s mind off the real world and remind her that, as bleak as things may seem, there can always be a little magic around every corner.
Easily one of the most pleasant surprises we saw on the road, Contrast works with the idea of playing with light and shadow in order to traverse through a world better than any game I’ve ever seen. Dawn literally bounces in and out of 2D and 3D worlds at a moment’s notice and this opens up the door for so many different possibilities for interesting platforming puzzles. What we saw was still early in the game, but this is surely one indie title that deserves to have a light shone on it. —Ray Carsillo
Platform: PS3, PS4
Release: TBA 2013
Ah, Diablo III—what a divisive game you’ve been! Some vocal members of the PC crowd have accused Blizzard of “dumbing down” the long-awaited follow-up to Diablo II in order to make moving the game to consoles at a later date an easier task.
The truth is, I’ve no idea what Blizzard may or may not have done to their original plans for Diablo III in order to craft the game in a way that it could exist as a PlayStation 3 release. What I do know is this: this is where I want to play the game, and after getting a quick chance to play it at PAX East, I’m now even more excited to give the game another shot on my living room TV. I was never big on the whole auction house thing, so I won’t miss it being gone; what I am excited for is picking my character and then playing through the adventure via a controller and direct control over that character.
Though my time with Diablo III on the PS3 was short, I got the feeling that consoles are where the game was always meant to call home. I know the PC crowd won’t like hearing that, and I’m not sure I can fully blame them for that. At the same time, for those of us who do most of our gaming on systems sitting next to our HDTVs, we’re going to be in for a treat. —Eric L. Patterson
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
I still remember the long and arduous struggle I went through in World of Warcraft to get my first mount. When I finally reached that day–and had enough gold to purchase my new animal friend—it was one of the most amazing moments of pride and perseverance I’d had in the game.
Dragon’s Prophet takes a different approach: mounts for everyone, as far as the eye can see! In the world of Auratia, the elder dragons cross-bred with animals—exact details of that event was not something the developer was willing to go deeper into—and the result is a land filled with strange animal-dragon hybrids that can be trained as both mounts and partners in battle.
These days, MMORPGs really need something to make them stand out from the crowd, and this element of Dragon’s Prophet certainly does that. The whole idea is really cool, especially given that your character will gain stat benefits and/or new abilities depending on which dragons you’ve partnered up with. If the game stays fun over the long-term remains to be seen, but as a premise and a quick hands-on experience, Dragon’s Prophet definitely felt unique and interesting. —Eric L. Patterson
The Elder Scrolls Online
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios
When you play two hours of a game and feel like you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing, that’s when you know you’re playing an MMORPG! When I first walked into my appointment to play The Elder Scrolls Online, I felt like the 2-hour time block we were allotted would be far too much. And then, the next thing I knew, those two hours were up.
I walked away feeling that my experience was both positive and negative. I initially envisioned a game like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim—just filled with real people running around—but instead I found an MMORPG that feels like…well, an MMORPG. Being fair, I did only played for two hours, but at times I struggled to see where new ground was being broken beyond the glut of other fantasy MMORPGs that exist out there.
And yet, there’s no denying that—when taken as a standard MMORPG—I was having more fun than I expected that I would. The world design for the initial area we were let loose in was interesting, and I felt like the game was doing a great job of always making sure I was moved into doing something different before I got too bored with the previous task.
I’m a bit worried that the game will be more Elder Scrolls in name than in nature, but I’m also keenly aware that I’ll need to play much more of it before I can come to any real conclusions. If nothing else, I know that I enjoyed enough of what I played to now want to give it that chance to try to win me over. —Eric L. Patterson
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Release: May 28, 2013
It’s not every day that you get to sit down with someone like Ted Price to play video games, but that’s just what happened when we went to see FUSE. As he tooking us through the game’s second mission, Ted and I started off by breaking out of a prison inside a secret compound as we investigated how some unsavory characters got their hands on a lot of Fuse, the unstable compound that powers the unique weapons carried by our four protagonists.
I admit, there was nothing really revolutionary about FUSE, at least from what I played, but everything it did, it did well. The controls were tight, the shooting mechanics were everything you’d expect and more from an Insomniac game. The Leap feature, which lets you swap between characters on the fly, took some getting used to but worked wekk once I did, and the arcade-y points system, which rewards you for combining weapons, forced me to constantly re-think combat. Even the sci-fi story made me want to keep going, just to see what would happen next. There might still be a couple balancing issues here or there, but aside from that, I can’t wait to get a squad of guys together and put the rest of FUSE through its paces. —Ray Carsillo
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Release: April 16, 2013
Capitalizing on both the re-launched DC Universe and their success from 2011’s Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios brings us a re-imagined fighting game featuring some of comics’ most iconic characters. We were able to go hands-on with the story mode for the first time, finally getting a chance to see just what has brought these two-dozen DC heroes and villains together in the arena.
The culprit, as it turns out, is the Joker. Looking to play the ultimate prank, the Clown Prince of Crime pilots a nuclear submarine into Metropolis harbor. Batman and Superman look to stop him, but the Joker tricks Superman into killing his beloved Lois Lane and succeeds in setting off the nukes—wiping out everything that made ol’ Supes human in the process. This then causes an instant rift in the superhero community, as Superman establishes a new world order ruled by his iron fist and Batman leads a small band of resistance fighters to re-establish the freedom they all know and love.
Quite simply, this is shaping up to be one of the best fighting games I’ve played in a long while. The controls are crisp, the story is original while still touching upon some classic DC tales, and the depth provided by the new S.T.A.R. Labs mode (similar to the MK challenge tower) could make this a must have for most gamers. —Ray Carsillo
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, 3DS, DS, Vita, Wii U
Release: Fall 2013
If you’re like me, then the LEGO games are one of your guilty gaming pleasures. They especially pique my interest, though, when they cross over into some of my favorite franchises. So, when I finally got my chance to see LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, I jumped higher than Toad after being scorched by Cyclops’ optic blast.
We weren’t shown much of the game, but what we did see featured a fully realized LEGO Grand Central Station under attack from (previously unseen) villains Abomination and Sandman. By teaming up with Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man, we saw how the heroes used classic LEGO gameplay and humor—along with special combinations of their powers—to overcome these would-be evildoers.
We also learned a bit more of the story, as the villains were after Cosmic Bricks—a LEGO take on Cosmic Cubes—which greatly enhance the powers of whoever holds them. This led to a monumental clash between our heroes and Sandman on the roof of Grand Central Station and basically sealed the deal that this is yet another LEGO game I need to add to my collection. —Ray Carsillo
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Namco Bandai/Paramount Pictures
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release: April 23, 2013
Video games. The final entertainment frontier. Star Trek as a franchise has long dominated on the small and silver screens, but it’s had an up-and-down history in the world of video games. Hoping to rectify this longstanding injustice, Namco Bandai’s new Star Trek title taps into the J.J. Abrams movie universe and serves as a connection between his first Star Trek movie and this summer’s Into Darkness.
We were able to briefly go hands-on with Star Trek, and although the story seems to be another brilliant piece of game writing from God of War trilogy scribe Marianne Krawczyk, some concerns cropped up during my time with the title. Although I was assured this was an earlier build than what we’d see on store shelves in a couple weeks, the controls felt shockingly clunky and stiff, especially for a game that’s been in development for as long as this one. And the animation was hit or miss in many instances, including some of the Gorn looking every bit as cheesy as they did when William Shatner first went mano-a-mano with them decades ago.
The shooting mechanics were solid, though, and my hope is that the assurances of what we played being an older build hold true. Otherwise, this could easily be another example of a mediocre movie tie-in. —Ray Carsillo
Platform: iOS (PC + Mac later)
Release: Summer 2013
It’s easy to sometimes become jaded about the world of iOS gaming. When you’ve got a market flooded with games based around half-baked concepts, the push for in-app purchases, and terrible touch interfaces, you can forget that what Apple’s devices and platforms also offer is a chance for the smaller developers of the world to put together projects that might not be possible otherwise.
My faith in gaming on touchscreen-only hardware was renewed at PAX East thanks to Nyamyam’s Tengami. Set in an ancient world of dark Japanese folklore, the game tasked me with guiding my character through a world crafted to look—and feel—as if it were a real papercraft diorama that physically existed somewhere. The landscape folded and expanded as I traveled from one place to another, and secrets were uncovered by flipping flaps open or pulling tabs to expose new elements.
The idea really worked because—at least, in what I played—the focus was on exploration and atmosphere instead of action. Tengami encouraged me to take my time, pay attention to the world that existed on the screen, and poke around to find the next surprise waiting to be uncovered. My one hesitation? The touch-only controls aren’t yet where they need to be. One of the devs from Nyamyam told me that they’re looking into ways to make the game control better, but I can’t help thinking that Tengami might be at its best once you’ve got the option for mouse controls. —Eric L. Patterson
Developer: Carbine Studios
Yes, it’s true—another MMORPG that I played during these events! There are a lot of these games out there, and at some point, they really need to distinguish themselves from one another or risk being tossed into the “me too” bin.
From the small amount of time I got to spent with Wildstar, I can say that it does enough to—at least initially—stand out from the crowd. The style that the folks at Carbine Studios have come up with here is pretty appealing, coming off almost like a Hollywood CG movie in both looks and attitude. That second part, attitude, was definitely something I noted—everything we were shown was done in a lighthearted and whimsical way that you couldn’t help but smile at.
Two other elements that stood out to me were combat and housing. Going the more action-oriented route isn’t anything new in MMORPGs at this point, but Wildstar employs a “telegraph system” where positioning and direction are very important for both player and enemy attacks. Player housing, meanwhile, showed a large amount of customization options, where both the inside of your home—and the plot it directly sits on—can be personalized in a wide variety of ways.
Is Wildstar going to be fun? That’s a question I can’t begin to answer yet. For now, at least, it looks to be an offering of enough quality that it’ll be worth giving a shot. —Eric L. Patterson