Despite disruption on the District Line I managed to navigate the sprawling metropolis of London to make it to the Tobacco Dock for this year’s EGX Rezzed. Ok, so I really just dropped that “District line” in there to make it sound like I know how London works where the truth is that I was pretty lucky not to end up on the confusing “Overground” (that seemed to be mostly underground) in the wrong direction. In my summation of the last EGX I mentioned how I’m not great at expos and I once again failed to take any meaningful pictures, but I did play a few more games this time so maybe I’m improving.
One thing I did improve on was my level of human interaction by managing to finally meet up with the fabulous Later Levels team. Kim, Pete, and Ben made for some excellent company whilst queuing for a developer session and even managed to hide any sense of alarm they may have felt when a slightly caffeine fuelled me bounced on over waving. I stuck around with them for the mid-day break before heading back off in to the labyrinthine Tobacco Dock in an effort to ensure that I didn’t outstay my welcome or get found out for having an erratic and inefficient expo style. I also spotted some familiar faces over at the Special Effect booth from volunteering at Insomnia two weeks earlier which was a pleasant bonus.
The big high point of the day was seeing the Tim Schafer developer session (thanks again to Kim for persuading me to join the queue) which took a captivated audience on a whistle-stop tour through his career. The Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts veteran of the industry was every bit as charismatic, funny, and charming as those familiar with the games he’s worked on would expect. From hanging out on the Lucasfilm ranch to his thoughts on tank controls it was an hour that flew by all too quickly.
The show floor carried a huge variety of titles all being enthusiastically shown off by their developers. One of the best aspects of Rezzed is that the people who made the games are right there and eager to talk and engage with the players in a way that’s difficult to find in the larger shows. Despite the variety, there weren’t the number of instantly memorable games that there have been in previous years although there were still a few highlight titles that caught my attention.
The first game I sat down to play, and my overall show favourite, was “The Sinking City” by Frogwares games. Frogwares are responsible for the Sherlock Holmes games of which I thoroughly enjoyed “Crimes and Punishments” (although was less impressed with “The Devil’s Daughter”). They captured the time period and Holmes in an authentic way that, as a fan of the original Conan Doyle works, I found to be captivating. “The Sinking City” takes that ability to craft a world and attention to detail and expands upon it; compared to the Holmes titles this was much more open world and the short section I played saw the player needing to make their own logical leaps rather than the relatively guided nature of their previous works. It is a 1920’s detective story with a dash of Film Noir set in a partially flooded city with Lovecraftian undertones… which is a pretty ambitious combination, but seemed to work and I look forward to getting my hands on it later this year.
Next on my list of recommendations, assuming that you have the hardware, is “Augmented Empire” from Coatsink. It’s a turn based strategy game set in an art-deco futuristic city with dystopian undertones designed for the entry level VR stylings of the Samsung Gear VR. As with “The sinking City”, the setting immediately caught my attention being a sucker for most things with an art-deco slant, but also for the use of the VR environment. I’d yet to play a VR title that wasn’t presented in the first person, but here the ability to look down at the scene imparted the sense of playing a tabletop miniatures game and I’m well known to wallow in anything which has the scent of a diorama about it. Sadly I don’t have a gear VR, although the experience once again set me off on a train of thought about the possibility of jumping aboard the VR bandwagon.
Up in the “Unreal” zone was “Lost Ember” which dropped the player into the paws of a wolf making their way through a mystical landscape guided by the spirit of a warrior able to inhabit the bodies of other woodland creatures… and epitomises what seemed to be a running theme through this Rezzed of players taking control of woodland creatures in an exploration adventure; there were at least nominally similar games involving a fox and a cat. “Lost Ember” deserves a special mention for the moment you’re zapped across into a wombat, that most underused of videogame animals, to worble around and squeeze through small gaps in a delightfully charming way. In truth I didn’t really play enough to get a real grip on how much I liked the game, although it is nicely presented and hopefully the designers will use that animal possession ability to good effect.
… and on the subject of controlling an animal I have mention “The Hatching“; an outrageous top-down romp where the player takes control of a rampaging alligator tearing through the citizens of a presumably nice neighbourhood. Despite being pretty terrible at playing this on the show floor, the spectacle of an alligator chowing down on a villager, or stealthily slithering through a bayou up to some unsuspecting… and doomed… towns-person made this a thoroughly memorable experience. I will be looking out for this in the future… you know for those evenings when I wand a morbidly funny and grizzly chance to be a viscous reptile.
“Disco Elysium” (Formerly “No Truce With the Furies”) seemed to gather a healthy serving of well justified praise. A heavily dialogue driven point-n-click game, the player recovers consciousness as a seemingly “troubled” detective in some rundown city. From here the various internal voices of our protagonist all chip in to form some darkly funny writing with some extensive voice acting rarely seen in an indie title. Whilst I enjoyed the concept, I’m not fully convinced that I’ll be able to settle in to the particular setting and aesthetic, however it is a game to look out for regardless and promises to be a unique narrative driven title.
My final nod at Rezzed goes to “Sunless Skies” of Failbetter Games. Veteran readers will know that I was pleasantly surprised by “Sunless Sea”; that nautical exploration with it’s colourful stories, captivating lore, and sense of intrepid exploration all wrapped up in the Fallen London universe. “Sunless Skies” promises to explore the vertical in that perpetually dark dark world and follows the same format as its predecessor with gradual exploration, survival elements, but mostly carefully written stories to explore. The player takes the helm of a steam powered flying machine to navigate the subterranean airspace which hisses and puffs between the various enigmatic outposts. I was very happy to see Failbetter make the expo as I know they had had a disappointing year financially with the new title failing to perform as well as anticipated in early-access; I can’t say that I’m really helping them along in this respect. One thing I learnt from the first outing was that I would have preferred to play the complete final version rather than be drip-fed locations throughout the early access cycle and maybe other players felt the same as I know that there is a sizeable following for the series. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to play when they release later this year.
… and that’s it for Rezzed this year! Were you there? Did i miss a classic?