The Eurogamer Expo is the largest game convention in the UK and now in its fifth year is still growing stronger. On Friday I travelled up to London to experience my first ever Eurogamer Expo and to be honest my first convention.
After traversing the ever enjoyable underground system I arrived at the back-end of Earl’s Court to find some impressive sized queues already, but due to some excellent organisation by the staff entry was quick and simple and on time. They even gave away freebies for all us early entry and press members.
Once in the it was quite impressive to begin with on how much had been packed into the building. It took me a good few hours to get my head round the set-up of the place but as I was on a mission to play certain games they were my first call.
First on my list was the new Tomb Raider game so off I went to find the game and see whether Lara Croft had been done justice. The demo itself was a pre-beta version of an early part of the game. Thankfully it was not the demo shown off so many times in E3 and other conventions already of Lara escaping from being captured but showed off some of the meat put on the game by its new open world setting.
The first thing to note is that the game looks amazing, especially considering this was pre-beta gameplay. Lara looks like someone who is afraid and injured and reacts accordingly, and the in-game cut scenes added to atmosphere and really drew you in. Crystal Dynamics have done a fantastic job of making Lara feel realistic with little touches like her shivering when cold, which though a small detail just draws you into her world more.
The demo consisted of Lara trying to find shelter from an upcoming storm after escaping from the area seen in previous demos. There was a small amount of climbing and walking across narrow tree logs to be accomplished but it felt like Tomb Raider instantly. Although a few extra moves have been thrown in, like a scrabbling move to help get those extra few feet when climbing, everything felt right to the older TR games.
Once Lara had discovered a suitable shelter her next task was to find food which meant she needed to find a weapon. It’s here that the game also surprised me in the fact that there was more than one way to approach the gaining of a weapon. The weapon in question was caught up in a tree and while I went one way to get to the tree, later on I observed a colleague getting up the tree via a different route. While again this is not something new in gaming, it is certainly something new to the Tomb Raider franchise as before there was one route and one route only to get somewhere. If this is maintained throughout the game this could bring the game much-needed replayability.
Once the bow was obtained it was time to get some dinner, which meant hunting some deer. There were also rabbits I spotted on my colleagues playthrough but I’m unsure whether they were viable food sources too. Hunting the deer was not a simple task either, if you moved too quickly they would run away and you would have to wait till they had stopped again which meant walking around to find them again. One you’d found the deer it was also noticeable that where you hit the deer decided on how many shots it would take, a head shot would knock it down instantly while a body shot would take a couple of shots to take it down.
While hunting I also decided to shoot a totem hanging in the air which gave me the chance to complete a challenge for extra XP if I managed to destroy 10 of these. This hints that there will be plenty of stuff to keep you occupied apart from the main story line and will encourage full exploration of the entire island. The XP itself will allow Lara to unlock extra skills, some of which were shown off when she returned to her makeshift camp to cook her meat.
Here you could upgrade Lara’s skillset with various different skills, many of which were locked out in the demo and the only one available to buy was the ability to pick up used arrows from corpses. However it seems from the information about the game that these skills will be essential to progress through the game as this new Tomb Raider game is going to use a Metroidvania approach and allow you access to new areas once you’ve acquired certain skills slowly unlocking the entire island to you piece by piece, probably in a fashion similar to the recent Batman series.
After that the demo was finished but I walked away very impressed. It seems although they’ve gone for a new approach to the general gameplay they have kept the feel of Tomb Raider intact and will hopefully bring some new and fresh ideas to the old template. When this arrives in 2013 I will be eagerly anticipating its arrival.
Well with Tomb Raider done, it was time to move onto my other main game of the show – The Cave. For those who have not heard of this its the first game I believe which has combined the talents of Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert since Ron joined Double Fine. If you didn’t already know these guys are some of the main creative forces behind the legendary Monkey Island series and while the upcoming Double Fine Adventure will show their true return to the adventure game genre, The Cave suggests ways in which this might work.
As ever with these guys the plot if bizarre, you are charged with exploring a cave by the cave itself!! Yep the narrator of the game is a talking Cave, or at least it seems that way from the demo. You have a choice of six different characters to play as of which you need to choose three at the beginning which you will use throughout the entire game. As far as I could tell the only differences are cosmetic in the characters as they all played similarly. The characters on offer included a Hillbilly, a futuristic woman with hover boots, a knight, two creepy kids with glowing eyes who never let go of each others hands and a monk. All equally bizarre and strange.
The gameplay itself will instantly become recognisable to fans of Monkey Island as it is a case of finding objects and using them in the right place. The innovative approach to the game is that fact that you control all three characters at the same time switching between them with the d-pad. I was also informed the game would support local co-op so you can play with friends to solve puzzles. Each character can carry an object and use these to traverse any obstacles.
In the demo I was tasked to obtain three trinkets for The Cave Gift Shop to sell to my three characters so we could enter The Cave Tour. So off I went on a typically bizarre quest. My first problem came in the form of a giant dragon type beast that I needed to bypass to continue. This required me to perform a variety of tasks to complete from preventing water hitting a fuse, which I needed to power the vending machines (one hotdog, one New Grog machine – always good to see some references in games) which gave me the bait I needed to lure the beast to a spot where I could pick it up with a crane.
The puzzles although not immediately obvious left you with a feeling of lets pick up and try everything like the old Monkey Island games and with fewer items available to pick up they’ve streamlined a process which could sometimes be frustrating in older point ‘n’ clicks. The solutions also required you to switch between the characters to solve them which although it took me awhile to remember which character was which direction on the d-Pad was a good touch. All together I was really impressed by the demo and can’t wait for this to be released next year. Oh and I got a free figure for playing the demo, double bonus!
With my two main games I was free to just relax now and enjoy a few other games while exploring the place. My next choice of game was Dishonoured which I will be purchasing on release and so I thought let’s see how good this is going to be. The demo on offer has been the ones doing the rounds recently so I had a fair idea of what I could and couldn’t do within the demo.
On first loading the game was a little daunting as you were given a lot of powers and items to play with, but after a quick playaround I got the hang of it and off I went. Of course one of the main things I’d heard about the game was the possession of small creatures and so the first rat I saw I jumped straight into it and off I went. This is a great little mechanic in the game one with a great deal of benefits as it allows you to get into places you wouldn’t be able to access normally.
After then possessing a fish to gain entrance to where I needed to go I decided to go for a sneaky approach to the mission, which failed miserably as I could not figure out how to get past a barrier and died! So the next attempt I went for a more sneaky-stabby approach and decided to assassinate my enemies. Here I learnt a lesson that if you’re not fully aware of your surroundings and kill someone while they’re looking at you, the alarm gets raised. And so a frantic rush of combat began. It’s here some intelligent controls came into play as the button to attack is the same to parry so a well-timed parry can be quickly followed by a brutal attack. It’s also here the push and slow time skills came in handy which meant I was able to dispatch my opponents with ease until I got swamped and realised that a previous player had racked up the sensitivity of the controls and I was spinning like a mad man.
So after another death and a quick jump into the options to adjust the settings and I went for my third attempt, here I managed to take out a couple of guards without being seen and then kicked some serious butt in the combat. It’s also here I noticed the chance to pick pocket guards to obtain items, but unfortunately I’d already pressed the attack button as I spotted this option so I’m not sure how that plays out. With the combat system and stealth system worked out, I managed to finish the demo with relative ease and was definitely impressed.
The graphic style is similar to Bioshock Infinite’s with its cartoony realism in the characters but with so much depth and variety in approaches to the actual gameplay the comparisons, which the game initially drew, stop there. If anything the game owes much more to its developers history of Thief, although without a shadow element added to the gameplay. Overall though it was an impressive play and little touches like peeking through the keyholes of rooms to scout them out and the deep variety of methods of reaching your objectives is making this game look to be a sleeper hit in the upcoming weeks.
Next up in line from Dishonoured was Doom 3 BFG Edition. With this being a glossed up version of Doom 3 from a few years back I was initially not too fussed about giving this a shot until I noticed a sign saying playing too long in 3D will give you motion sickness. 3D!! This was my chance to finally see what 3D gaming was going to be like and so I plonked myself down, struggled to find a way to wear 3D glasses on top of my own glasses and put headphones and off I went.
Wow! This is how all FPS games should be played and especially Doom 3. The claustrophobic dark corridors of the game were perfect for 3D gameplay and although the addition of flashlights being available with your guns takes away some of the atmosphere it does make the gameplay easier. It is still a frantic game with enemies coming at you from absolutely anywhere and I’ll be honest when I got a fireball thrown at me by an imp, I physically dodged out the way! It was a fantastic experience though and I recommend everyone tries it even if they don’t necessarily plan on buying a 3D TV as it’s just awesome.
And after that I was pretty much done for gaming. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around chatting to people and chilling out. I did try out the re-release of Carmageddon on iOS and found after all these years I still couldn’t control the car well. I also had a relapse in my gaming years and spent a few minutes in the retro section going back through my gaming life by playing Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins on a Commodore (I think), Cannon Fodder on the Megadrive and Wipeout on the PS1.
The final highlight of my day was giving in and trying out the Assassin’s Creed 3 demo. There were two demos running the ship demo and a more traditional gameplay demo and unfortunately I ended up with the ship demo. Now I’m not saying the demo was bad it’s just its the extra bit in the new game, much like the tower defense in Revelations, its interesting but not a major part of the game. However it did play well and it was pretty fun sailing around lining up shots across a ships broadside or firing chain shots to take out masts. Overall it was good fun and well constructed though I hope not a large part of the game.
And that was my day really. I was kinda disappointed Microsoft didn’t have a bigger presence there as although Sony and Nintendo had some big presences as I’m unlikely to buy any of their consoles (due to money more than anything) it seemed pointless to play any of their titles. Also with both the Fable The Journey Demos and Resident Evil 6 demos already available via the dashboard there seemed little point playing them. I also think the severe lack of RPG’s at the Expo was disappointing to me as I do love a good RPG. Overall though the Expo was amazing, and I had a great time there. I’m glad I only went for the one day as not being a modern shooter, racing or dancing fan the selection of games was limited but I think next year I’ll expand my range of games and try a lot more out.