A reader reports back from his trip to this years EGX show, after having gone hands-on with Kingdom Hearts III and Assassins Creed Odyssey.
Each and every year the first event to go on my calendar is EGX. For those of you who may be unaware, this is the UKs biggest gaming event. A chance to get your hands on some hotly anticipated titles weeks, or in some cases months, before they are released. As well as this there is a growing eSports presence, panels from all sizes of developers, and even community/social areas for like-minded people to relax away from the main event.
The first thing I did notice this year, unlike most, was the smaller number of blockbuster games still to be released having playable demos. Now dont get me wrong, with titles such as Kingdom Hearts III, The Division 2, Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4, Assassins Creed Odyssey, and Pokémon: Lets Go Pikachu!/Eevee! there were certainly a lot of high quality of games on offer.
However, having attended for the previous six years I felt slightly underwhelmed by the amount of playable titles already available in store that had such a big presence. Games such as Fortnite, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Dragon Quest IX, Spider-Man, and Destiny 2: Forsaken. My only issue here is why other games, where we have seen hands-on demos available at other events, were not present. Games such as Resident Evil 2, Red Dead Redemption II, Just Cause 4, or Battlefield V. Maybe this is just because I wanted to play those titles, but from the few people who I met/spoke to at the event, mine was not a unique opinion. [Red Dead Redemption II and Just Cause 4 have not been playable at any previous games events – GC]
A big positive, however, was the lessons learnt in queue-handling, queue times, and security/ID checking which is usually an issue. Rarely did I see a queue that extended longer than the line allows. From the amount of people attending the event I would not say it was any quieter than usual, but I think demo times, number of systems available, and managing ID checks at the beginning of the queue made for a much smoother experience than in previous years. I will never forget seeing a 4 hour queue from here sign on The Division several years ago. I hear some people are still waiting in that line.
As with every year I will offer my view on a select few games, and a few of the side attractions. And for me, there was only going to be one game that I raced to play first…
Kingdom Hearts III
It is finally here, the chance to play a game which has been years in the making. I could not wait to finally see what this new generation of Keyblade swings would feel like, and it did not disappoint. Now remember, other than the HD remasters of the previous games, there has not been a numbered entry to the series since the PlayStation 2 era, so the jump in capabilities was enormous. On offer were two demos to choose from. The first, was an epic boss battle against Lythos, the rock titan from the Hercules Disney film.
This fight was amazing fun for two reasons. First, you were able to utilise the wall-running mechanic, avoiding large boulders as you raced to the top and instantly are able to start swinging at the boss. Secondly was my first chance at using the Disney Ride summon, which is a train ride, almost ripped straight out of the theme park, which has firework cannons to aim at enemies for damage. It was a lot of fun to play for sure.
The second demo was the Toy Box which is essentially Andys Room from the Toy Story universe, as Sora meets new allies and tries to help get rid of the new Heartless threat. The look of Sora and the gang as toys was fantastic, as was the opening cut scene involving all our favourite Toy Story big hitters Woody, Buzz, Rex, and Hamm. I wont spoil it for you, but you really forget you are watching a game cinematic and not just the opening of a new Toy Story film. The voices, including some original voice actors, is spot on, as is the tone and art style of the characters. I cannot wait to play more with these characters when Kingdom Hearts III releases (hopefully) at the end of January 2019.
Assassins Creed Odyssey
A popular series for many, not often truly re-invented, and perhaps a few too many titles in the series due to a usual yearly release. That being said, it is a safe bet that if you like one game, you will like the rest, so there is value to be found in a tried and tested formula. Having played every title in the series thus far, I would have to say this is the first time I have gotten one of these hand-on previews and genuinely felt a change. And change is good.
The first major change, which has been a long time coming, is the ability to choose who you play as, for the entire game. Both choices lead down a very similar path, though interactions throughout the game will be different depending if you play as the male character Alexious or the female Kassandra. And speaking of interactions, there will be many dialogue choices, and these will have significant impacts on how the game plays out. You can even start romances, if you make the right choices. Though with Ubisofts tendency to kill off the Assassins love interest, this may not be a good thing.
The combat, whilst not totally overhauled, feels more invested, with a more action role-playing game style ability wheel to utilise in-game. The demo allowed for either exploration in a Spartan camp and its outskirts, where a few side quests could be undertaken, or the main quest line which had you lead a Spartan army into a beachfront battle against the forces of Athens. And this was no small battle either, 150 soldiers on each side in this new Conquest battle. As a leader of your army it is up to you to turn the tide of battle in your favour. There will be several captains, and the leader of the opposing army, who will be crushing your soldiers, and these are your targets; defeat them before you are overwhelmed and victory shall be yours.
The biggest change, however, and totally out of the norm for an Assassins Creed main series title, is the complete lack of any Assassins or even a mention of the Order of Assassins. In fact, the only link I have seen is the players Spear of Leonidas is a piece of Eden. And I think this could be the most refreshing part of the game. This change is largely due to the fact that last years game, Origins, was literally about the birthing of the Assassins, and was set between 49 BCE and 44 BCE. Now for those of you who know their history, you will know the Peloponnesian War, which lasted almost three decades, was between 431 BCE to 404 BCE, hundreds of yours before Origins is set.
However, could Ubisoft actually be throwing us a curve ball here, and showing us the birth of The Order who would later go on to be known as The Templars? I guess we will find out when Assassins Creed Odyssey releases next week.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4
I must admit, it was good to be back in a game of COD. Many a night were spent in my younger days grinding away on Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, even the original Black Ops was great fun. But as the game kept advancing, so did the mechanics, and once the double jump and wall-running had firmly taken place the series lost me. But now they are gone, and what is left is a brilliant first person shooter.
The movement, whilst many would call it slower I find more realistic to the speed a normal soldier could move at, and yet the aim speed is still ferociously accurate. The game mode offered on the day was a new one for the standard multiplayer, or so I was told (sadly the new Blackout Battle Royale mode was not present) which is similar to the Hardpoint mode found in the series since 2012.
In this mode you have two hard points on the map to take control of, and subsequently hold, as the attacking team, for longer than 60 seconds, without the defending team taking at least one back and resetting the counter. At the end of the round you switch between attacking and defending the hardpoint, and the mode was a best of three, though kindly staff allowed the playing of all three games, with each game generally lasting around five minutes, though with a 10 minute counter.
Based on the feel of how the game played in this mode, it makes me even more excited for the new Blackout mode, with Battle Royale being the trend right now. And from my understanding, the recent beta that was available showed that the COD series is coming in swinging hard to that format.
The Division 2
For me, I felt the biggest surprise, at least in terms of enjoyment, was The Division 2. I would go as far as saying this was my game of the show. It has taken the previous title and really built on its foundations. A highly enjoyable multiplayer experience. Granted, I do not know how much enjoyment I will find this playing on my own, but sat with my unit of four, we stormed the demo area and proved that communication and teamwork make for a fantastic experience. With four predetermined units to choose from on the day, I was the team sniper.
Other units included the grenadier, crossbow, and assault rifle options. One of them, the crossbow I believe, also allowed for control of a droid unit which you could fly around to gain sight over the battlefield and cause a distraction to the enemy.
The demo was split into three sections as we moved across the area of Washington DC in the summer, which was a welcome change from the wintery scenes of New York from the first game, which this is set seven months after. Our task was to clear a control point which was being held by a local gang. En route to this point we discover a group of armed thugs executing innocent civilians inside a large plaza. The ideal way to move forward here was to climb into the building, all take good vantage points and fire in unison, thus ending the drama in one fell swoop.
However, one of my team mates felt the run and gun approach, in through the front door, would work better, until they were swiftly cut down. This did give us a chance to see how smart the artificial intelligence can be. This included one new type of enemy who will literally spray you with a type of fast holding goo, which cements your limbs in place, making movement almost impossible the more they get you with it. Enemies will move and flank with clear direction, so good teamwork and call outs are a good idea. Live together or die alone seems to be the motto.
Next, we made our way to the crash site of Air Force One, with the capitals building looming in the background. Once we arrived we battled the onsite enemies, including a classic bullet sponge boss, who did take an inhuman amount of bullets to drop, but felt very satisfying when he did. This was one of the main criticisms of the first game, that enemies took far too long to realistically kill. But good to say that I only found this with the boss, and to be fair he was huge and kitted head to toe with, what I assume to be, Kevlar or stronger armour.
One new unique point, which we actually did not notice we could do, but was pointed out after, is the ability to call in local factions to held with the raid on this site. These AI units will fight alongside you, meaning you dont always have the full heat on your team.
After we secured the site the third phase began, which switches the role from attack to defend as enemy waves start flooding in to retake the area. Because the fight is in quite a wide open space, and the enemies literally come from all directions, being flanked is a high possibility, so once again teamwork is key.
It is very clear to see this game has not been made with the solo player in mind, which I myself see as more of a plus than a negative. I just hope that gamers can indeed unite when the game releases mid-March 2019. Though I am sure we all know better right, there will always be at least one Leeeeeeeroooooy Jeeeenkins in every team.
Whilst I would love to talk more about all of the games I played at the event, I dont think the GameCentral servers could handle much more of a word count, and I thank you for making it this far. I will say I also had a great time playing Diablo III and the new Smash Bros. on the Switch.
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition was also miles better than I thought it would be. And for me I think could even be more enjoyable than the original game itself, with better pacing and an awesome art style. Life Is Strange 2 is one that I am personally looking forward to, after completing the first game recently on Steam, despite it being a game type I rarely play.
Finally, how could I finish without discussing the behemoth that is Fortnite. Love it or hate it, it has taken over the world, and was featured very prominently by Sony, who had at least 30 consoles set up for players to take on either Solo, Duo or Squad games on the live servers.
Fellow GC reader Thomas Eyetunes Pozzetti was my partner for Duos, who had never played a game of Fortnite previously. Lucky for him I have some experience in getting those glorious Victory Royales with extra Cheese. We landed at Motel, looted up, moved to Lazy Links, where I put down one team, then as we moved towards Dusty Divot I hit a beautiful 165m snipe on a lone player, before we took the staggered mountain at Salty Springs, where we stayed for the remaining circle, eliminating the final team at the end for the win. Eyetunes now retires with a 100% game to win ratio on Fortnite, with zero kills and zero deaths. He did make for a great distraction though.
EGX is always an amazing experience to not only get hands on with the games, but also talk with the developers and meet other gamers. If you have never been I highly suggest looking into it next year, and I hope to see you there.
All of the games I have spoken about I will be looking forward to play on stream and will also welcome anyone who wants to come hang out and chat about their experience at the event, questions about EGX or even games they are looking forward to. You guys know where to find me.
By reader Wickenbreux (gamertag/PSN ID/Twitch/Instagram)
The readers feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.