A reader reports back from the recent PC Weekender event, with previews of Biomutant, Fade To Silence, and Vermintide II.
On the weekend of the 17th and 18th February I was able to attend the yearly PC Weekender, which was being held at the London Olympia. I had previously attended neither the exhibition or the venue before and was pleased to find it was easy to reach, with virtually no waiting to enter. In comparison to events such as EGX and MCM, which I attend yearly, the event was around one-quarter of the size, but this did not take away from the quality of the event at all. This was solely focused on games and the future of the PC gaming industry, so merchandise shops were at a bare minimum – leaving all the space in the venue to the developers and staged discussions.
As a console player my entire life, going to this event felt fresh and exciting; as there are so many games that just do not make it to my screens, so I knew I would have plenty of new titles ahead of me. Whilst I still remain a console player at heart, I have recently purchased a PC to capture a Twitch stream, so an avenue has opened to me. So it was great to get hands-on with some really fun titles and actually chat with their developers in attendance. Below are a select few of the titles played, and my thoughts.
This was actually the only title available on the day that I had previously heard of, having seen footage of it released at last year’s Gamescom. It is the first major release out of the recently formed Swedish development team Experiment 101. Studio head Stefan Ljungquist was on hand to talk me through the playable content, which was getting its first public play at PC Weekender. Players were able to start the game from the very beginning, unlike most games throwing you into the game a few ‘chapters’ in. This meant I was able to get very hands on with the customisation options open to the players for their avatar. There was so much choice available that could not only change the colour and hairstyle of your furry but the genetic DNA makeup, meaning you could create entirely different looking creatures from the character that appears on the box art.
Once I had created my furry friend I viewed the opening sequence of the game and was thrust straight into the action with the combat tutorial. Best described as ‘Kung Furry’, the combat was so intuitive and within minutes I was figuring out fun combinations to wreak havoc on my enemies. With a combination of gun-fu and classic melee attacks players could decide on the fly which option was best suited for your enemy. Players of the Batman: Arkham series will also feel at home with the dodge mechanics, which see you avoid incoming attacks and create openings for a swift counter.
The section of the game played, the tutorial stage if you will, was linear, but did end with the character viewing the open worl, à la Zelda: Ocarina Of Time’s Hyrule reveal and the world looked not only beautiful, but vast. Players were also able to get hands-on with the crafting system available in-game to upgrade your gear and weapons. I was able to pick up a tube of ‘frost element’ which I then crafted to a new sword found in the dungeon, which not only added ‘freeze effect’ but also changed the look of the weapon. Crafting will become a big part of the experience as certain enemy types will be hard to take down without various weapon types or elements, or perhaps you will relish the challenge.
With an expected release window of winter 2018 I cannot wait to play this title, and it will most definitely be a day one purchase.
Fade To Silence
This was a title I was unfamiliar with, but felt right at home playing. Having been a fan of the Endurance mode of Rise Of The Tomb Raider, the similarities between this and games like Don’t Starve were apparent, but this is not a bad thing. Survival games such as these take patience and an understanding of the environment you are trying to survive in, which in Fade To Silence is a post-apocalyptic frozen hellscape. The hands-on gameplay was set on easy mode, which allowed the player to ‘focus’ and see nearby animals to hunt, monsters to slay, materials to gather and spots to hide in.
The game is designed to not hold the player’s hand in this way, allowing for a more fear-based run. There are usual game mechanics for an environment survival title, with warmth and hunger being the main two categories a player must keep a check on. Both have easy displays confirming their current status, but let them get too low and the gameplay will start to become affected. Too hungry and your vision will become blurred, too cold and your stamina will start to drop. With camping areas few and far between, as the game is set over an 8km squared map, the risk of wandering too far from safety is great. You don’t want to get caught in a fight with a long trek back to safety, as death is waiting for you at every corner, whether from the enemy or environment.
Whilst surviving this game will not be an easy feat, the mechanics of the game are simple to pick up and feel very player friendly, even as a console player who was thrust upon a keyboard and mouse to game for the first time in 16 years.
Fade To Silence is currently available on Steam Early Access. Plans are to bring the game to consoles, but currently no release window has been confirmed.
The DRG Initiative
The DRG Initiative is the first game from newly formed UK developer Slingshot Carter, and has its eyes firmly set on the eSports market. Set in a future version of Earth, players are pitted against each other is a 3 vs. 3 fight to the death. Fans of the film Gamer, starring Gerard Butler, will see similarities as the point of the game is as much placed on the audience as it is the player. This is done by the developers’ relationship with the streaming platform Twitch.
For anyone who has watched any ESL, the game’s hosts will often have access to all in-game cameras and ways to manipulate the views to follow the gameplay. This is exactly what control is given here. Twitch have directly linked their stream systems into the game allowing for a ‘Games Master’ to host a battle and with his/her audience and control what is happening in game.
Players will be given access to diverse types of avatar to control, typically fitting into the light, medium, and heavy attackers. You select two, and these will be your two lives – once you have lost both characters you will no longer respawn. Because of this, games are fast and furious, with the average game lasting around 5 to 10 minutes. As the host, you are able to interact with the environment to help/hinder either team. If one team is down to 1 player vs. 3 and cornered by a locked door you could open it to allow escape, or even spawn a high-powered weapon next to them to even the odds.
You could even start a quick in-game poll to let your Twitch audience decide how to help or hinder. For example, set a 20-second timer to which team gets an ammo drop or health pack, let the audience vote and then spawn it accordingly. Audience participation makes this game unique and something that I feel other developers will follow suit on, especially with the popularity of eSports and the platform of Twitch.
DRG Initiative is available on Steam Early Access, with plans to bring the game to consoles in the future.
Warhammer: Vermintide II
Vermintide II finds its glory in chaos. It is a first person co-operative challenge. Players are in groups of four, with each avatar having their own unique weapons and abilities. On the day I controlled a beastly knight with a huge hammer for huge blunt damage, and a steampunk like heavy gun. There will always be four players, and the game is based on human co-op and matchmaking. But should you prefer to play alone or with only one to two friends, the computer will control the remaining members of the team, and the computer is remarkably helpful when it wants to be.
The on-day gameplay saw us working our way through a town area on the outside of a fortress, trying to find a way in. The game, whilst linear in nature, does at least offer you several branching paths in which to get from A to B, with various dangers faced along the way. Fans of the previous game will be aware that the game revels in the carnage caused by throwing hordes of enemies at a time your way. These are mainly the mutated rats of the world who have taken human form, the Skaven plague.
The game is at its best when you are facing seemingly overwhelming odds and almost force you into working together, because alone you are vulnerable, but together you are strong. Boss fights also are designed not as solo encounters, but as a team effort, with one player tanking the boss, and the rest divided between damage per second and managing the swarming enemies who join the fray.
Taking damage also feels brutal, with the camera dropping to the floor, so to speak, and vision becoming blurred and red with blood, so you really feel you have taken a hit and need to recover. Being teamed up on the day with three other players, there was definitely a feeling of comradery and bliss when we cleared the demo and its boss.
Vermintide II is currently in its beta stage, ahead of its 8th March release window on Steam. I have been given a beta Steam key, which is running until Monday 26th February and will be playing on Twitch if you would like to come and check out the chaos that ensues.
I would like to thank GameCentral for allowing me to attend the event on their behalf. As a console player it really did open my eyes to the games world that has been inaccessible to me. With many more games available on the day, this was just my highlights of the event. However, I do plan to run indie PC titles as part of my Twitch stream schedule to give a glimpse of what is on offer, and will run these streams on Mondays from 9pm.
By reader Wickenbreux (gamertag/PSN/Twitch)
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