VG Tribune

EGX 2018 – Round-up Previews

October 31, 2018 / 1:00 PM

By: Matthew Gibson

EGX is one of the UK’s biggest gaming expos of the year, so I’m happy I was able to return to the event after not attending in 2017. That did mean a three-hour train ride from home to Birmingham both ways, but it was worth it at the end of the very busy day. Naturally, you had the big blockbusters that are soon to come out, such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (at the time of the event it was unreleased). There was also a megaton of indies, as well as a neat retro section. With other things like developer talks and cool merch (I managed to snag a sweet Persona 5 jacket from Insert Coin myself), EGX 2018 was fantastic.

However, it was a great shame that I was only able to get around to playing 10 games out of over 200 that was on offer. Despite going on Thursday, it was still flooded with fans, although I guess that was to be expected. Luckily, the games I did manage to play were smashing, to say the least. I have quite a bit to say, so make sure to relax and all that jazz. I’ll be starting with the games from the Rezzed zones (which was dedicated to a vast array of indie titles), and then going into the ‘bigger’ stuff. Now, let’s dive into those games, shall we?

Razed

 

Razed has set out to be a game dedicated to speed trials, so it’s all about getting to the goal as fast as possible. It is already out, so this preview is somewhat obsolete. Nevertheless, I felt that it would be good to try and write about it.

I played through the first world at the event, and whilst it was fun trying to get the top times, I came away feeling let down by it. What should have been a smooth experience was instead quite cumbersome, and at times quite annoying. Your character controls fine enough and has a decent amount of speed for a satisfying run. You also have to keep running if you want to stay alive, ensuring that you always have to be thinking fast.

My main issue, then, came from jumping: and almost essential tool in a game like this. Once you land from a leap, you can’t jump again for a brief moment. This may seem insignificant, but it was enough to disrupt my flow whilst playing. Speed running is all about finding the optimum path for your runs and using quick inputs to secure a fast time, but this drawback really limited that potential for me.
This was a quick playthrough, mind. Judging from the trailers, there seems like there is more to Razed, so I wouldn’t mind exploring it one day. But unfortunately, I came away somewhat disappointed from what I played at the event.

Bleed 2

 

Like the last game, Bleed 2 is already available, so again it may be a bit obsolete writing a ‘preview’ for this. It will be on the shorter side too, but damn was it fun to play.

The game plays as a side-scrolling shooter, so you’re quickly traversing the stage shooting down baddies as you progress. You’re also able to slow down time (given you have enough power for it) to try to be more accurate or evade tricky shots. In addition, you’re capable of reflecting enemy projectiles too with a flick of the shooter stick. These mechanics made for quite the exhilarating ride, concluding with an exciting boss fight to round off the level.

If given the opportunity I would love to go through Bleed 2 and review it in the future, even though I don’t really have much else to say about it right now.

Eastward

 

Whilst browsing the list of indie titles to check out prior to coming to EGX, Eastward stuck out to me quite a bit for its magnificent pixel aesthetic. There are a lot of indie games that utilise pixel art, but not many are this gorgeous! The music was also appropriately funky in the urban area of the demo build, so I’m already quite intrigued by how this game will look and sound once the full thing releases.

The main gameplay consists of controlling two characters, John and Sam, from a top-down perspective through a ‘world falling to ruin.’ You’re able to take control as either character, with John using a trusty frying pan (not as a drying pan, sadly) and Sam controlling some sort of psychic powers. They both have their own strengths or weaknesses, and so a puzzle dynamic can form whilst roaming the world, meaning you have to figure out who to use and where.

That’s the main gist of Eastward then, judging by this demo. I think the story could be one of the highlights, possibly bringing similar vibes to games such as Earthbound. It is still relatively early in development, but I’m ever so keen to see how it all pans out.

Soundfall

 

I do love a good rhythm game, and I’ve been craving one for a fair while now. Despite Soundfall not launching until around this time next year at the earliest, I was taken in from the moment I first heard about it. I’ve been enjoying Crypt of the Necrodancer since I got it earlier this year, and Soundfall does scratch a familiar itch.

You slash and dash (and also shoot) your way through a level whilst jamming to nice music throughout. Despite having free reign of your base movement (unlike the core mode in the aforementioned rhythm rogue-like), paying attention to the tune is still your key priority. Hitting a command emphasises its effect, making it stronger. For example, when you hit the shoot button on the beat, you will fire a more powerful attack, and likewise for your sword and dash. Sure, you can just go wild anytime you want, but if you want to finish the level before the song ends, then you must take advantage of this mechanic.

It felt nice to control throughout, although at times I felt that I was a bit out of sync. There would be times that I swear I do stuff right on time, and yet it didn’t register just right. As a result, it costed me from finishing some levels. That being said though, there’s a big chance the fault lies in me and just my lack of skill. It could get tough keeping up once there are more enemies to tackle, after all. Regardless of that, I still greatly enjoyed my time with Soundfall, and I’m pumped for its full release.

Wargroove

 

It’s been a long time coming, but Wargroove may finally be worth the wait. First revealed over a year and a half ago, this strategy indie title seemed to revive the tactical gameplay of Advance Wars, a long-dormant Nintendo franchise from the people behind the Fire Emblem series. After playing it at EGX, I can say it is sure to delight fans of the genre next year. It’s bloody great, basically.

I played through the first level, which saw me transporting villagers out of danger and into safety. That also meant defending the lands from the enemy, before retreating myself. The game ensured that you learnt key moves at the right time, like how to use carriages to move a unit across the map much faster. After an initial short tutorial, you are pretty much left to your own wits to succeed.

There are many different types of units to deploy, each with their own benefits. Cavalry members are able to get critical hits after moving from a far distance, but I found them to be weaker afterwards. They do cost money (gained from taking out foes) and you can only get one new unit once every turn, yet I loved experimenting with what kinds of plays I could pull off. The commanders are also able to take to the battlefield (something that was not possible in Advance Wars) and take advantage of special moves to turn the tides. For Mercia (who I took control of in this demo), it was a healing effect to her and allies in range, so it could really be a lifesaver in many scenarios.

On my first try, I ended up losing pretty harshly. Once I got a better grip on how everything plays out, however, I was able to succeed finally. In spite of being a demo, it was surprising to see how much it kept me on my toes, especially since I often had to reconsider plans of action. Wargroove is also promising to be filled to the brim with content too. Each of the twelve playable commanders have their own campaign, you can create and share your own maps, PvP possibilities, and loads more. If you have any interest in any strategy game, you have to keep an eye on Wargroove.

Team Sonic Racing

 

Despite the tragedy of Sonic Forces from last year, Sonic Mania ensured that the speedy hedgehog was back on track in terms of quality titles. It may not be a ‘proper’ instalment, but Team Sonic Racing may be able to hold fans for a little while until the next big thing.

I only got in one race during my day, and it wasn’t half bad. As the name may imply, the focus is working in teams in this racer. Once you form a group of three Sonic heroes (pun intended), you take to the tracks to race it out against other teams. Whilst it may sound a bit lame, I found some of the ideas to be quite well executed in displaying teamwork.

One action you can perform is item sharing. You’re able to share any items you snag with your teammates, and you’re also allowed to receive them too. I think there is certainly a learning curve to using this effectively, or even remembering you can do it at all. But in a team of human players this may become a powerful tactic. Another was a ‘slingshot’ mechanic, which I was quite fond of. If you follow the tracks left behind by your teammates, you’ll be able to gain a speed boost. It really encourages sticking together, albeit slightly annoying if you’d prefer to explore a different path.

For better or for worse, it seems like the developers have done a fine job of incorporating unique mechanics to warrant team-based gameplay. Sumo Digital, the studio behind the Sega All-Stars Racing games, are behind this title, so this could end up being a well-polished experience. It was recently announced that this racer will be delayed out of this year and pushed towards May 2019, so I hope this extra time will help polish the game nicely.

Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight

 

Persona 5 has a banging soundtrack, so it’s no surprise I’m excited for Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight. This rhythm game features the cast of the JRPG jamming out to tunes from their game. It has been out in Japan for a fair while now, so if you are curious you can view what songs are on offer before its release over here in the West. The playlist consists of original tracks, as well as some new remixed material. If you’re a fan of Persona 5’s OST like I am, this will be a treat.

The core gameplay is slightly basic, but it feels satisfying hitting the beats on time to the music nonetheless. Most beats are hit by the face buttons (the shapes and the D-pad) as they approach the edge of the screen from the centre. The ‘scratch’ command is satisfied by flicking the right stick, or by swiping the touchpad (which arguably feels more natural). However, not only is this action less easy to spot, but it could be harder to pull off when dealing with a lot on screen, given how far out of place it feels for this input compared to the others. There is a support option that’ll enable all scratch commands to be done automatically, but I’d prefer to just change the input to the triggers instead.

Even with this gripe, I still found my time very enjoyable. I did return to it the most during EGX (the lack of long queues was a big help in that). In spite of having more things to keep an eye on with higher difficulties, I still had a blast playing to the music. This spinoff seems to live up to the style of the original Persona 5, and I can’t wait for it.

Baba Is You

 

Nintendo dedicated a fair chunk of their stall to ‘Nindies’, highlighting a select range of indie titles like Untitled Goose Game and The Gardens Between. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on with many, but I’m glad that I did with Baba Is You.

This is a delightful puzzle game with its core mechanic being the ability to push word tiles to change properties of objects on the screen. A flag would often be the win condition, as in touching it will complete the level. But what if a wall is in the way? In this case, it may be possible to make touching the wall the win condition instead, by pushing the ‘win’ tile away from the flag and towards the wall. There are other good examples, such as changing what you control, in addition to what can and can’t kill you.

I’ll let you watch for yourselves this gameplay presentation from back at Gamescom, but I urge you to not get too deep, as you could spoil yourself for solutions for some stages.

 

You truly do have to play it for yourself to see the unique genius that has been created from Baba Is You. There’s definitely potential for some alternate solutions too, hopefully leading to interesting conversations between players. I’m excited to see the variety of ways you’ll be able to manipulate the field, and this is sure to be another great brain-teaser for the Switch’s eShop.

Kingdom Hearts III

 

Yes, cue the ‘it’s been 3000 years’ memes: Kingdom Heart III is finally coming out at the end of January 2019. I’ve recently been playing through the 1.5+2.5 Remix collection, and I’ve fallen in love with the Kingdom Hearts II. If this game is able to go beyond KH II, it may end up as one of my favourite titles of all time.

On top of looking absolutely bloody gorgeous, the game controlled well from the little I played. There’s a certain fluidity to battles, and although it can be seen as ‘button’ mashing on the surface, it still felt fun just bashing up Heartless. I decided to try out the Toy Box, the world inspired by the beloved Toy Story. Granted, the demo was running on a PS4 Pro, but I’m sure it will still look jaw-dropping on a normal model. Thankfully the music was wonderful too. The instrumental version of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ that plays in the overworld was such a nostalgic delight.

I do wish they allowed more time to get familiar with some commands before properly diving in, as before I could try most of what was on offer I had to stop. I had access to some insane abilities, like summoning various rides seemingly taken from Disneyland theme parks or controlling a powerful mech in the toy store part. I was admittedly quite disappointed by how short my playtime was; however, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t craving more.

Here’s hoping Kingdom Hearts III will be a tremendous conclusion for long-time fans of this superbly strange series.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

 

Time for the big one. Super Smash Bros. is a series that generates hype just by its name alone, and Ultimate is set to be the definitive title in what is set to be the most ambitious crossover event in history. There’s a lot to be pumped up about; from heavily requested characters like Ridley joining the fray to over 100 playable stages (but we all know the 28+ hour OST is the best thing about the game). But how does it play?

Well, actually more different than you may initially think. Of course, if you’re as eager as I am about the game, you’ve already heard/seen many hands-on impressions about it, but you really do have to play to see how differently it plays. It’s not going to be Melee HD, but it doesn’t feel too similar to the Wii U and 3DS versions either. The first character I played as was Marth, whose weeb status has been tarnished now that he speaks in English. Jokes aside, whilst the hero king plays the same in a fundamental sense, playing a veteran allowed me to get a good sense of Ultimate’s mechanics. The one that stuck out to me the most was the new air dodge, which now allows a slight air-dash not unlike how it worked in Melee. It’ll definitely require some getting used to, as with the other new features like faster knockback, but I’m excited to see how this will impact higher levels of competitive play.

I also got a go with Inkling, one of my most requested newcomers before the first trailer all the way back in March. Splatoon is one of my favourite Nintendo franchises, so it’s great to see how their debut game has been incorporated into their moveset, from the weapons used to their personality as a whole. The core feature of the squid kid’s kit is the ability to ink other fighters, resulting in them taking more damage from whoever doused them in the ink. It makes them stand out more and shows how much care Masahiro Sakurai puts into making the characters faithful to their original universes.

The Switch instalment also looks very nice, with improved visuals and flair sprucing up pretty much everything. The smoke clouds that you leave after you get launched should prevent you from getting disorientated too much, although it can look a bit jarring at first. The soundtrack also seems to be Ultimate. I did mention this in the first paragraph, but waking up every Wednesday morning to a new remixed tune has played quite a big part in the hype for me. Tomoya Ohtani, the composer for Sonic Unleashed and Colours, arranged a bombing remix of ‘Bomb Rush Blush’ from the first Splatoon, and ACE’s rendition of the classic ‘Gang-Plank Galleon’ is a straight up banger.

It’s weird to think how close the latest Smash is now. There are just about 5 weeks left, and it’s been a long wait since its debut trailer earlier in the year. The final Smash-centric Direct before the game’s launch is airing tomorrow, pushing hype levels through the roof. All we need now is Professor Layton be a playable character and I’m pretty sure Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be the greatest piece of art to ever exist.

 

That about wraps it up for what I played at this year’s EGX. Naturally, I would have loved to have gone another day. Nevertheless, it was still such a good time. Even with the busy nature of university studies (hence the delay of this article), as well as the lack of much money, I don’t think I’ve ever loved video games more compared to only a couple of years ago.

About the author /


Like many other game writers, Matthew was brought into the gaming world from a young age. He aspires to be a games journalist in the future. Oh, and he's from the UK, so there's that. He also does Nintendo Podcast System, just in case there isn't enough Nintendo on this site.

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