We had a bit of an adventure while attending Rezzed 2018, managing to spend way too much on tube fares and jumping on a train seemingly at random before eventually following Outside Xtra’s Luke Westaway (or a close approximation of him) to Tobacco Dock.* We saw some amazing games this year, but these were mine and Jimmy’s favourites.
Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death – WB Mason
I knew nothing of Dance of Death before I got to the booth at Rezzed. I had an amazing chat with Creative Director Jessica Saunders who discussed her enthusiasm about the Jack the Ripper case and how it influenced Dance of Death. Initially appearing on Kickstarter, it found private backing so that the game could be developed. The game has a blend of fantasy elements blended with the real life Jack the Ripper case, which Saunders discussed her fascination with, especially the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly.
I played a short demo of the game, in which I played as Du Lac & Fey investigating murders that are seemingly committed by a monster not of this world. The character models are wonderfully designed and look amazing, which combined with beautifully realised 2D backgrounds work together to create a vivid, gorgeous looking game. It’s a point and click adventure and players have the ability to swap between the two main heroes: Du Lac can talk to people whereas Fey, a dog, is able to speak to other animals and is able to sniff out clues.
The demo ends with a fight against the aforementioned beast and the beginning of our quest to head to Victorian London. I was really taken with this charming adventure and its depth and I’m already looking forward to playing the full game toward the end of 2018.
Disco Elysium – Jimmy Donnellan
The wild piece of art formerly known as No Truce With The Furies, Disco Elysium is making a big effort to become your new favourite RPG. Billed as an RPG melded with a cop show, it’s a game that I’ve been keeping an eye on since last year’s EGX. It’s good to see that the mad and wonderful minds at ZA/UM have been proactively improving and building upon what I think is, by far, the most interesting take on the genre in quite some time.
The first thing that strikes you about Disco Elysium, much like how the hangover strikes its protagonist, is just how captivating its aesthetic is while somehow being almost totally muted in its palette. Taking place in Elysium, you must unravel a mystery as a washed-up cop with short-term insomnia. Or don’t do that. You don’t have to do anything in Disco Elysium, such is the choice afforded to the player.
I had the chance to talk to its developer, Robert Kurvitz, who is beyond passionate about his craft. He explained to me about the game’s failure states, which are being approached in very interesting ways. The protagonist is a complete trainwreck, so you can embrace that and be a dick to everyone with long-term repercussions to consider. The protagonist’s mental health can also drastically decline depending on the player’s decisions, resulting in the rather cheery ending of our hero overdosing. With the writing being inspired by BioWare in their prime, Alan Moore’s From Hell and a nice dash of Lynch, expect Disco Elysium to do big things when it launches later this year.
Train Sim World: Founders Edition – WB Mason
Now I firstly have to say that I am not a ‘fan’ of trains as such, but I do understand the love of the genre. I do not know anything about trains, but I’ve always loved the idea of a model rail set, which is a way I view games like TSW. For those who don’t know, Train Sim World is made by Dovetail Games, who also made Train Simulator. But whereas Train Simulator was just that, a game to simulate driving trains, Dovetail used the Unreal Engine for Train Sim World, meaning they are able to do a lot more with the concept.
Train Sim World seems made purely for train enthusiasts, accurately recreating real life trains of various types and the differing methods of driving them, rail routes are fairly accurate, but are scaled down to keep the game interesting. The gameplay lies in the depths of driving the trains, I can easily see how those who are interested in how this fantastically big machine operates.
What is more interesting is the fact that more and more casual fans who have taken up the challenge of driving these machines. This is reflected with the port to the Xbox One. While this game does seem to be setup for a keyboard, it does a surprisingly good job of replicating the experience on a Xbox controller. Train Sim World: Founders Edition is available on Xbox One now.
Above – Jimmy Donnellan
Nestled deep within The Leftfield Collection at Rezzed, Above charmed the aviator scarf off of me, and this is coming from someone who has played hundreds of hours of Battlefield and never grasped how to fly the plane. It’s a small game that is so big on ambition and innovation that I am almost anxious to see how they pull it off.
The version of Above I played at Rezzed was somewhat limited in scope; more of a proof of concept than what the end result will be. Still, I grasped the aerial movement almost immediately, which is not exactly my brightest spot as a gamer. It’s intuitive and rewarding while also not being as arcade-y as something like GTA. Above also looks bloody lovely — flying above the skies and close to the water was serene.
The finished game will boast far more features than what I played, including monsters, dogfighting, and a story that’s certainly ambitious. A young girl is trying to find her brother while also trying to find herself. The twist on the parable of womanhood being that she also has to contest with creatures of mysterious. Can’t wait to see how this one pans out, especially as its developer, Ole Toubro, seems to live and breathe the game, as well a
Steel Rats – WB Mason
The thing I love most about indie games is the experimental nature of them. To not have publisher restraints really allows game makers to express themselves in anyway they feel. However there does really seem to be a gulf between indie games that have new, interesting and experimental ideas and those that are designed for a more commercial audience. I was so happy to play Steel Rats, a totally unique game with huge potential to be a great success.
Steel Rats feels very much like someone took Streets of Rage and Trials and threw them into a blender and then baked the mixture lovingly. Steels Rats sees you take to the post apocalyptic streets as one of four characters, your job is to make it to the end of each level. Simple? Maybe not so much. Levels are filled with enemies, obstacles and puzzle elements, making navigating them a little difficult.
The left and right triggers operate break and accelerate respectively. The A button allows you to spin your wheel, which allows you to attack enemies and climb pipes. Pushing the analogue stick up and down moves you in and out of the road, in and out of the screen as it were, which allows you to avoid obstacles.
I was immensely glad to play such a daring and unique game from this Polish developer, and was easily the most innovative game I played at Rezzed. I look forward to seeing the finished product.
Stay – Jimmy Donnellan
Stay was probably my surprise hit of EGX Rezzed 2018, especially as it is being published by PQube: the guys mainly known for publishing, erm, “different” Japanese games for the West. It was lucky that I took a gamble, as Stay was a game that stayed with me long after I played it.
The main hook of Stay is that you play as a messaging partner to Quinn: a man who’s trapped in a room with only a computer to help him. You can either help, hinder, or avoid Quinn entirely. If you do nothing whatsoever, you can leave Quinn to his fate as everything plays out in real-time. If you leave your PC (in the real world) alone for a little while, Quinn will do his own thing.
As well as that, Stay also features an interesting empathy mechanic that will allow you to build a bond with Quinn over time, which will eventually lead to him opening up and discussing his life. By all accounts, Stay is an unassuming game that many not appeal to the largest demographic. With a couple of innovative ideas up its sleeve, however, Stay will hopefully find an audience.
*To clarify, any travel issues we encountered were entirely Will’s fault as he has the geographical acumen of a small mammal in a flood. I mean, he just got on the first train he saw. No hesitation. Just got on it. – Jimmy