So, this year has kind of flown by huh? An absolutely hectic summer put a stop to not only me writing but also my Sonic playthrough. I did manage to play through a few other games though and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things with an old standard subject of my Tech Site blogging days – game shows. In particular, the big one: EGX!
As we’ve done every year for the last 6 or so years, Dave and I tend to attend a show or two each year. Typically this is one or two of the Play Expo events and in recent years EGX, with this year’s show taking place this weekend just gone. In some ways it felt a little strange to be back at the NEC, as it had become something of a home away from home due to having worked several Insomnia shows there after the event moved from the Ricoh arena before I left CCL, an event that I’ve been meaning to return to as a punter but haven’t yet had a chance to.
But, this weekend wasn’t about the past – it was all about the future! EGX is probably my favourite of the various shows we attend, simply because it’s a showcase of (mostly) upcoming games and a chance to play new titles before they’re released.
Probably the game I was most excited to try out was Soulcalibur VI. While I’d played the series since the beginning, waaay back to Soul Blade, it was the release of Soulcalibur II during my university years and it becoming a massive part of our gaming rotation that really hooked me on the series. The release schedule has slowed massively over the years to the point that it’s now been over 6 years since the last main entry in the series, so I’ve been very much looking forward to playing it since it was announced. And thankfully, it didn’t disappoint! We played a few matches, and very quickly it felt like 2002 all over again. While the demo version didn’t feature the full character roster it did include most of the series mainstays, and I played rounds as Mitsurugi, Sophitia and Nightmare who all played a lot like my memories of the older games. Great gameplay coupled with the gorgeous graphics make this high on my list to buy on release.
Next on my list was, of course, Sonic Team Racing. As anyone who reads this or knows me will likely be aware, if a new Sonic game comes out then I’m going to pick it up (and by now I pretty much have to for the playthrough!) and if it’s going to be something that I actually enjoy then even better! The version on demo didn’t feel like it was final code and perhaps had some kinks to be worked out, and I don’t know if it has different performance based on the choice of speed/difficulty like a Mario Kart would, so something didn’t quite feel right about it. There’s still time before release though, and developer Sumo Digital were responsible for the two previous Sonic All-Star Racing titles that I enjoyed greatly, so I’m hopefully it will end up coming together.
Another title I was quite interested in seeing was Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas, not least of all for the Nintendo guest character.. Seemingly Ubisoft’s attempt to get into the now dwindling toys-to-games market (RIP Disney Infinity and LEGO Dimensions) kind of feels like it’s coming a little late but was something I had to check out anyway. The gimmick is that you select a pilot, ship and weapons and these all join together onto an adapter on your pad and are represented in-game. Gameplay wise it was pretty cool and all controlled pretty well. I tried out the Nintendo Switch version which, while lacking a little in the visual quality department, more than made up for it by having an exclusive Arwing ship and Fox McCloud pilot, though he wasn’t available to try.
The ship models were very nice, chunky things that feel like they’re going to cost a fair bit (though I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen any price tags) especially if you’re wanting to get everything. It all worked really well though, and the various parts all locked together in a satisfyingly solid way, and I liked how you could change the ship’s weapon attachments on the fly depending on what you were fighting. It’s definitely something I definitely feel I could sink a bunch of hours (and money) into.. except for the fact that it’s only releasing on the Xbox One and Switch, and I don’t own either yet. Finances bullet dodged, I guess?
There was one last game on my list that I absolutely HAD to try, and that was Ace Combat 7. I really enjoyed the divisive Ace Combat: Assault Horizon when I played it last year, so I’ve been quite looking forward to seeing how the latest entry turned out.
The demo had a choice of a couple of fighters so I went with the good old classic F-14 and proceeded to spend the 10 minutes or so of the demo blowing up everything in sight with a gorgeous looking plane. Can’t wait!
Over at the Square Enix part of the floor, a lot of effort was being put into promoting Kingdom Hearts 3. I’ve not played any of the previous games, so it’s not something I was particularly interested in giving a try, but I know Dave is looking forward to it.
As usual for me, I tended to steer clear of queueing for games that are already out, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and there were quite a few featured this year. Mostly these games haven’t been out too long so I understand the point of advertising them but for me the show is all about games that aren’t out yet.
Nintendo had the majority of the Switch catalogue available to play, including a huge section for the Labo cardboard toys, and we had a game of Mario Tennis Aces which I was absolutely abysmal at. I did really want to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but the queue for it was huge every time I walked past so I gave it a miss. Might it finally be the game that makes me pick up a Switch though?
Over in the indie games section there were a number of upcoming titles that caught my eye, as well as a bunch of games that I’d seen and played before such as Mega Drive platformer Tanglewood (which I should probably get around to picking up at some point) but there were two in particular that I wanted to talk about.
The first was mid-90s Lucasarts style point and click adventure 3 Minutes to Midnight. The section of the game available in the demo didn’t really give any indication of the actual plot, which is fine, but it did give a good idea of how the game will play and look and it’s very much in the style of Monkey Island or Broken Sword. Which is great, I love those games! It’s got some decent dialogue and voice acting, nice looking artwork and based on the trailer at least it’s going to be pretty bonkers. Definitely one that I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Speaking of bonkers, the other game I was particularly taken with was the absolutely crazy What the Golf?. At first glance it looks like just another golf game, until you take a shot and you start putting the golfer, or the hole, or a house.. The demo went through perhaps 20 different scenarios with all kinds of different things going on, Portal and Superhot inspired levels and general madness. I’m sure the full game is going to be a lot of fun when it releases next year.
Games weren’t the only things to be found on the show floor however. This year there was a significantly increased presence of PC hardware vendors and system integrators, the kind of exhibitors I was much more used to seeing at the Insomnia events. Most of the bigger retailers were present as well as big players in the PC business such as Corsair, MSI, Cooler Master and Asus.
While I’m not as heavily into the hardware side of things as I was when I used to work at CCL so didn’t get as much out of displays of new kit as I once would have, it was good to see a number of people I know from working the Insomnia events working the stands. Working these shows is probably the thing I miss most from my CCL days, as most of the people I’ve gotten on pretty well with most of the people I’ve met working them.
Cooler Master and MSI did both have some pretty cool looking systems on display though, with some chassis designs that don’t adhere to typical standards. MSI have a small form factor gaming PC that can take a full size graphics card mounted on a PCI-Express riser in a way that results in the card being visible through the right hand panel of the case. Cooler Master meanwhile were showing off a few PCs in a glass sided case (which I didn’t catch the name of) that allows the builder to mount the motherboard so that all of the I/O ports are at the top of the case, concealed by the removable top panel of the case. The cables could then be routed to the bottom of the case, almost completely hiding any cables from sight.
Finally, there was the usual assortment of merch and retro games that tend to appear at most events. I managed to hold off spending much and we didn’t really spend much time in that part of the event.
All in all, EGX 2018 was another good year for the show and has given me many games to look forward to. Roll on next year!