Gamescom 2017 REVIEW

Gamescom 2017

Six-and-a-half years ago I underwent four days of internal radiotherapy. I’m being totally honest when I say I was less daunted by that than I was prior to gamescom. Anyone I know will attest to just how petrified I was before I left the [relative] safety of my flat in Luton for Cologne. I flew out the Sunday before, which gave me a full day to fret as I sat in my Airbnb, much as I had prior to EGX Rezzed in March.

To say that gamescom is a little bigger than Rezzed is akin to saying an ostrich is a little bigger than a hummingbird. It’s colossal, with approximately 25 times the number of attendees as Rezzed spread across the 280 square metre exhibition centre. Nothing could prepare me for the sheer scale of it though, as I approached it from the U-Bahn station on Tuesday morning. It struck me that perhaps those who had advised me to leave twenty to thirty minutes to get around the centre hadn’t been exaggerating at all.

After having stretched myself incredibly thin at Rezzed, and knowing I had a far more exhausting week ahead of me, I had deliberately scheduled far fewer appointments. I didn’t want to pitch myself too far into the deep end, but also wanted to avoid confining myself to press appointments. I spent much of the first hours wandering around the various halls but it took until Thursday before I had any reasonable bearings.

The most important game at the show, obviously.

All of my appointments took place in the business area – halls 1-4 – and is also where I spent much of my free time once gamescom was open to the public. Being open only to the press/media, trade visitors and exhibitors Tuesday-Thursday, it was far quieter than the rest of the show and therefore a more conducive workplace. Plus there were armchairs and sofas, because the willpower of the weary journalist must be tested.

Much like Rezzed, I met some amazing and passionate indie developers here, and played some true gems. While I didn’t play a single bad game, some truly stuck in my mind, such as Deep Rock Galactic, a fast-paced 4-player co-op shooter by Ghost Ship Games. Playing as a dwarf forced to mine precious materials for evil corporate overlords, you and your team must traverse the procedurally generated environments and mine materials while also defending each other from various threats, and get back to the extraction point before the time runs out (in my play session I was the only one to make it out alive because it was every dwarf for himself, sorry guys!).

A panorama of the incredibly detailed Assassin’s Creed costume display.

Another highlight was JCB: Pioneer Mars, an open-world ‘hardcore survival’ game by Atomicon, a game for which I was super hyped because a) space, and b) space. With the help of an actual astrophysicist from the European Space Agency, Atomicon have created an accurate depiction of the Red Planet, albeit with some tidbits exaggerated. As both a science nerd and a lover of sandbox games, it proved to be immense fun for me to drive around and explore the surface of Mars, scavenging equipment and supplies to repair and upgrade my little habitation module and prepare of the human colonisation of the planet.

Predictably, the one game I was desperate to get my hands on was Assassin’s Creed Origins. I wasn’t able to snag an appointment with Ubisoft so I had to settle for the demo instead, for which I got in line the moment I was done with appointments for the day on Tuesday. I’ll gush more about it in another post but suffice it to say my hype-levels have increased tenfold. The extra time spent in development really shows and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the full game.

The Lego replica of the Dom/Cathedral next to Lego Worlds.
The Lego replica of the Dom/Cathedral next to Lego Worlds.

Wednesday brought a major hiccup; standing in the queue for Lego Marvel Superheroes 2, I looked down to reply to a text only to discover the ID wallet hanging from my lanyard was empty. Apparently, somewhere between my entering hall 6, having a wander and then making my way to hall 9, my press ticket had fallen out (I wish I knew how!). Fortunately the staff at both the information and press accreditation desks were super helpful in explaining what I needed to do, and reissued my ticket so I could make my next appointment, for the aforementioned abandonment of my fellow dwarf miners.

It was a pity that had happened, because I feel sure I would’ve enjoyed Lego Marvel 2 much more if I hadn’t been preoccupied that at any moment someone would spot my lack of an ID and I would be arrested for trespass. If you’ve played one Lego game then you really have played them all but there’s something just so entertaining about Traveller’s Tales’ franchise that keeps me coming back for more. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the gameplay that’s the draw, as I found myself equally absorbed by Lego Worlds the following day.

I began my Thursday standing in a queue, like any other visitor. This time it was for the demo of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. If I was to single out any moment that truly disappointed me, and there are very few to choose from, it would be the moment I took my place at the monitor and started this demo. Don’t get me wrong, I love Life is Strange and think Before the Storm will be just as excellent, but games that are completely story-based just don’t translate well to a fifteen minute demo, most of which is cutscenes and dialogue. To make matters worse, two people jumped the queue, which in Britain is basically a felony.

The drone that monitored the queue within the Detroit: Become Human booth.

I’d already decided to avoid the Saturday so designated Friday as my ‘hardcore queuing’ day, where I vowed to try and play as many games as I could fit in; for this reason I arrived an hour earlier than the show was due to start to secure an early place in my first queue. Top of my list was Super Mario Odyssey, which already had two hour long waits on the Tuesday. With so many others thinking along the same lines as I, my tactic wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped and I ended up waiting just over two hours to play Odyssey. By the time I got to Detroit: Become Human, that particular queue had grown so much that there was a pre-queue I had to join first, which was the start of a three-and-half hour wait in an area of the Koelnmesse with very poor mobile data reception and no wifi coverage. Boredom ensued.

Being that the show is so massive, I only made it into hall 8 on Friday afternoon. Hall 8 contained Forza Motorsport 7, a game I avoided partly because the queue was long, but mostly because I suck at driving games even though I love them. I did, however, try my hand at the brutally difficult platformer Cuphead, where I was absolutely flattened; my co-op partner had a somewhat better time of it than I but we never succeeded in beating any of the levels we tried. To be fair to us, neither did anyone else I saw while waiting, bar maybe one pair.

I have to admit that when I arrived at Düsseldorf airport on the Sunday I was already counting down the days until I could leave, but come Friday evening as I went to catch the U-Bahn home I felt a pang of sadness. I felt a strange mix of emotions, although to begin with I settled on feeling glad I could put my aching feet up. Maybe it’s just down to the sheer size of it but I’ve never been to a convention that has the energy that gamescom has. Definitely, I’m feeling the post-con blues as I type this, sat at my desk in my (relatively) safe flat in Luton. With some German beers in my fridge and my press ID hanging from my bookshelf, I’m now already counting down the days until I can return next year.

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