Rezzed 2012 Report: The Big Guns

rezzed

Hail dear IGM readers! I greet you as one freshly returned from the inaugural (and hopefully now anual) PC gaming expo: Rezzed. I kid you not, there were mountains upon mountains of Indie games dotted all around the show floor. Some were ones IGM have covered in the past, but there were others that took me completely by surprise! So, I felt it only fair that I share with you some of what I learnt on my travels here in the Rezzed 2012 report. Bare in mind I’ll mainly be talking about ‘Big Guns’ of Rezzed in this article, as we’ll have a separate one about the smaller games that made up the SEGA Leftfield collection at a later date. Plus, keep a lookout for a bunch of video interviews in the next day or so!

Here’s a handy little list of shortcuts if you’d rather check out a specific game than scroll through this behemoth:

Day Z
Krater
Prison Architect
Skulls of the Shogun
Xenonauts
Serious Sam 3 BFE: Jewel of the Nile
Strike Suit Zero
Tengami
Hotline Miami

**Please note that there were a few other Indie titles at the show such as Natural Selection 2 that I didn’t really get a good look at due to lack of time, sorry about that!** DayZ

Day Z

Funnily enough, I was unable to play any of DayZ at Rezzed for more or less the same reasons people who already own it can’t either. I.e. The current build was either so buggered-up that merely glancing in its general direction would trigger a crash OR when it was working, It’d be so jam-packed with other players that you’d have needed either celebrity status and/or a hefty application of a cattle prod to get even close to it. Sadly I had neither at my disposal that day, so I’ll just have to trust it’s still as amazing as the 400,000 strong player base insist it is!

I did however manage to cram into the equally popular DayZ keynote with Lead Developer (as far as I can tell, the ONLY developer) Dead “Rocket” Hall. Unfortunately it was mostly comprised of slightly boring waffle about the game’s history, but there were a few tidbits of interesting info about his plans for the game’s future:

  • Detailed stat tracking on the DayZ site.
  • Forums, clans and other such social networking fluff.
  • Pet dogs!
  • Player-built underground bases (?!?).
  • Sorely needed performance optimization.
  • Immersive chat functions to replace the recently removed ‘global chat’.
  • Finally launching the game as its own stand-alone title.

You can currently download the DayZ mod from the official site, although you will also need a copy of ARMA 2 (currently £14.99 on Steam) and a saintly amount of patience to actually play the damn thing.

Krater

This was definitely one of the weirder ones out of the “big” Indies Rezzed, so much so that I’m struggling for an easy way to sum it up. The best I can come up with is an Action-RPG that blends the loot hunting and mechanics of an MMO, the randomised dungeons of a Rougelike, the control scheme of an RTS and the fast paced ability management of a MOBA. I call it the ‘MM(A)RPG/TS-MOBA Like’. Also, it’s set in postapocalypitc Sweden. Yeah.

However for something so mechanically dense, it was surprisingly easy just to pick up and play. After spending only a minute or so reading tooltips, I was already blasting my way through swaths of indigenous wildlife, managing agro, healing up and lootin’ loot like a total boss. What’s more, I never felt like it was holding my hand or anything; it just seemed to be generally accessible while at the same time not being too simple. Mainstream devs should be taking notes!

I do hesitate in calling Krater “good” after only playing it for such a short time though. As with most RPGs, there’s just too many factors in play here that’re only going to become clear after many an afternoon has been invested first. But without a doubt the way it smoothly merged together so may discrete genres makes it intriguing and, dare I say it? ‘unique’ enough to recommend than any Indie fans out there check it out post-haste!

On a side note, I was very amused that the devs like to refer to it as a “Living Game” which to me sounds like a polite way of saying the retail build still contains an ton of bugs and missing features that they’ll probably get around to patching in at some point. Innovative new development method, or just clever way of selling a product that ain’t finished? Only time -and inevitable internet based whining- will tell.

If you want to delve into the dark caverns of Krater yourself, then you can pick up for £11.99 on Steam.

Prison Architect

Much like DayZ, getting within a stones throw of Introversion Software’s Prison Architect was an achievement unto itself, and I thus was unable to get my grubby hands on it. Although I did manage to attend the (also jam-packed) developer session, which not only provided the fascinating story of Prison Architect’s origins as a level editing tool for the now canceled Subversion, but also showed more than enough live gameplay to satisfy those of us destined to never reach the fabled keyboards of the Introversion booth.

From what I saw, the closest parallel that sprung to mind was the much underappreciated Evil Genius, which in turn was sorta like the Sims, only with each sim acting as peon highly valued employee that maintain your meticulously designed institution of interlocking systems and subsystems. Basically Dwarf Fortress but, you know, actually playable by human beings. Prison Architect’s twist? A bunch of those sims (the prisoners) really REALLY hate you, and want nothing more than to send your magnificent creation into complete disarray and hightail it outta there to freedom.

The creation tools seem fairly intuitive, relying a traditional click ‘n drag interface that’ll let you build key prison facilities such as cafeteria, showers, gyms and cell blocks in all but a couple of seconds. But with the promise of complex dynamic AI behavior, It seems to me like it’s going to be just as addictive watching the prisoners go about their daily lives as it is actually creating anything for them to do it in. Definitely one to keep an eye on!

The release date for Prison Architect is still TBA 2012, so keep track over on the official site.

Skulls of the Shogun

Wow. This turn-based strategy game has come a LONG way since we first saw it way back in 2010. Starting off life as relatively obscure little gem, Skulls is now blessed (or cursed, depending on your disposition) with a juicy publishing deal from Microsoft that sees it slated to appear not only on XBLA, but is also acting as a gaming frontman for Windows phone and the supposed ‘iPad Killer’ MS Surface.

I managed to play a far bit of both the single and multiplayer modes during my stay at Rezzed, and I came away fairly impressed but also a little concerned about its future. True to their word, the developers at 17-BIT have made something that’s both a love letter to the genre, yet also provides a smooth experience that isn’t bogged down by the usual sea of menus and mechanics. Turns went by in a flash, strategies were formed, battles were fought and honorable victories where had; all with nothing but a few seconds worth of explanation from the helpful booth staff. Great! So, everything’s hunky dory right?

Well, what worries me is that they’ve maybe gone a little bit *too* far with their streamlining of the genre. In short bursts Skulls of the Shogun was definitely entertaining, but the rather limited number of unit types and overall simplicity makes me think there isn’t enough there for strategy fans to sink their teeth into in the long term. That said, It’s not really something I can say for sure until I’ve spent more time with it, so keep an eye out for IGM’s review when it eventually hits the market later this year.

As a side note, I’d like to say that my hat really goes off to whoever wrote the dialogue in the single player campaign. It was straightforward and simple, yet surprisingly hilarious. I’m not sure it’ll add much in the way of long term value, but it certainly makes the overall package fairly enticing!

Skulls of the Shogun is currently TBA 2012. Check out the Official Site for more info.

Xenonauts

Still fresh from a fairly spectacular Kickstarter ($154,000 total raised) this faithful remake of hardcore turn-based classic X-Com: UFO Defence seems to be coming along rather swimmingly so far. As well as keeping much of the depth (and soul-crushing difficulty level) that made the original so engaging, there’s also been a fair number of significant improvements on the old formula. In particular, I can now happily report that figuring out the battle UI is no longer akin to translating 8-bit hieroglyphics. Oh, you think i’m joking? You know nothing young one.

On top of that there’s also a significantly deeper aerial combat system and a host of new weapon types not found in the original (e.g. sniper rifle, flamethrower) set to add even more layers of juicy micromanagement to an already dense title. Lead developer Chris England also mentioned he’d made a bunch of more long term balance tweaks as well, such as implementing a more ‘’realistic’ technology research tree that makes exotic alien weaponry far harder to acquire than before. Whether these changes will have a positive long-term impact is yet to be seen, but I can safely say that I’m already looking forward too missing a couple of writing deadlines in order to find out.

If you want to hear more about what makes Xenonauts tick, then stay tuned over the next few days for my interview with Chris England himself. We discuss his goals for the project, the ‘official’ X-Com remake by Civilisation devs Firaxis, the rise of alpha-funding AND get progressively more and more annoyed at random people walking in front of the camera!

You can currently help alpha-fund the development of Xenonauts over on the official site, granting you access to the current alpha build as well as a free copy of the final game when it’s finally ‘done’ (TBA).

Serious Sam 3 BFE: Jewel of the Nile

Eh, I’ll be honest here, I’ve never really been much of a Serious Sam guy. For those who don’t know, the basic gist is that it’s fast paced old school style FPS (on the same lines as Painkiller) but with the difficulty cranked up to 11. As in: Is there an enemy within spitting distance? Boom! You’re dead. This new DLC pack for BFE seems to be no different; even a small contingent of troops managed to render all the health and armor packs I’d just spend the last few minutes scavenging completely moot point. So yeah; if Serious Sam was already your joint, then I guess this thing is just more of what you’re after.

The jewel of the Nile DLC pack goes live in October 2012, price TBA.

Strike Suit Zero

Oooooooh boy. No joke, getting to finally see this game in action was one of the reasons I went all the way to Rezzed in the first place! I mean come on guys; you control a transforming giant robot/fighter craft hybrid IN SPACE. What’s not not love? Well, It sounded cool on paper anyway. The development team has been real hush-hush on details since the game got announced back in August 2011, which had me more than a little bit apprehensive about what the game was actually like outside of my wild fantasies.

Thankfully for my sanity, it turned out to be more than capable of living up to its gradnous concept. Despite still being a few months away from completion, every second of Strike Suit was an absolute visual treat. The screen was constantly filled with either ludicrous amounts of futuristic projectiles, the boundless reaches of a glowing planet Earth, swarms of awesome spaceships or various delightful combinations thereof. Together, these elements created an atmosphere that should be intimately familiar with fans of space combat stalwarts like Freespace and Homeworld; that this is a *real* war you’re in bro, one that’s far larger than just you and your sweet ride. Whether you fight or not, thousands will die and the fate of millions more hangs in the balance. Plus it’ll all look really frickin’ cool.

But Strike Suit wasn’t just a pretty face. The controls seemed fairly tight and -even with the limitations of the demo- combat proved both satisfying as well as challenging. Perhaps a little bit TOO challenging in fact, as the spaceship escort mission (cue painful Sol: Exodus flashback) they were demoing seemed to prove nearly impossible for both attendees and the PR crew alike…..

There’s no way of knowing if that was just a bit of an oversight on their part, or if it’s indicative of the difficulty in the final product. However there’s one thing I do know for certain: transforming your ship into a giant death robot and then unleashing hella’ crazy amounts of ordnance on the nearest capital ship felt rather badass, and I’d very much like to do it again sometime.

If that last sentence didn’t already sell you on Strike Suit Zero (?!?!?) then keep an eye on IGM in the coming days! We should have a pair of cool video interviews featuring both the Community Manager and Lead Developer of up soon, accompanied by some epic gameplay footage that’ll hopefully have you wanting to to get behind your own Strike Suit ASAP.

Strike Suit Zero has a tentative release date of Autumn 2012 for PC and early 2013 for consoles. Hopefully they’ll update the teaser site before then.

Tengami

Undeservedly tucked away in a dark corner of the show floor was the iPad based Tengami by ex-Rare developers NyanYam games. Out of all the titles I saw at Rezzed it was probably the one that felt the least ‘finished’, with many core gameplay elements and overall structure still a little on the shaky side. But to its credit, it was also by far the most visually striking thing I’ve seen on any platform in a good while.

The entire world of Tengami (including the player character) takes the form of a pop-up book made of crisp Japanese washi paper, which creates some beautiful real-time set pieces that I quite honestly can’t do justice to with words alone. It isn’t just a visual aesthetic though; almost all player interaction comes from unfolding pages or pulling tabs to reveal hidden objects or even entirely new locations explore. If I had to categorize it (which I do, it’s a game journalism law or something) I’d say it most resembles a point ‘n click adventure, albeit it one with uncharacteristically straightforward puzzles. In fact, the devs were quite keen to point out the puzzles were never meant to provide much of a challenge anyway, as the game is more about exploring the themes of life, dreams, loss and renewal. Deep bro.

If you want to see Tengami in action and hear it described by someone far more eloquent than I, then stick around for our Interview with developer Phill Tossel coming soon!

NyamYam estimate they’ll have Tengami out between January and April 2012. Check out the official site for more.

Hotline Miami

And so we finish up our little journey through the weird and wonderful of Rezzed 2012 with a high note: Hotline Miami. Man oh man, without a moment’s hesitation I’d name this my ’game of show’. Was it the prettiest game there? No. Was it the smartest game there? No. Was it the most original, did it have best music or most moving storyline? No on all accounts. Yet despite that, I had to physically tear myself away from it in order not to miss a bunch of interview appointments.

Even once my work commitments were done and dusted, the only thing that prevented me from getting right back in the hotseat was the now constant crowd of punters lining up for a turn. I should add this crowd often consisted of at least a couple Eurogamer and Rock Paper Shotgun staffers. You know, the guys actually running goddamn Rezzed in the first place! (It would seem they shared my enthusiasm).

So then, what is it? Madness. Just complete and utter madness. In particular, the sort of madness we see hollywood all the time. You know the scene: the practically unarmed hero bursts into a den of kitted-out goons and then, through a complex array of tightly choreographed gunplay and pseudo-martial arts, all them fools be taking dirt naps and our hero is none the worse for ware. Hotline Miami is that one scene turned into a game, and then encased in a psychedelic 80’s excess themed wrapper.

Your task is deceptively simple: don an animal themed mask, enter a building and then kill every heavily armed dude you find. In any other game It’d be a cinch, but in Hotline Miami there’s two rather big problems, 1) They’re all a billion times faster than you, and 2) One hit from anything they’ve got will turn out into a bloody pulp. You get one chance at clearing a room, muck it up and it’s back to the last checkpoint for Mr MacVerydead.

I still remember exactly what the guy sitting next to me said after my first couple of instantaneous deaths in a row: “Yeah, this game makes Super Meat Boy look like…..” He never finished his sentence. He didn’t really need to, I’d already begun to realise what kind of rabbit hole I’d unknowingly leaped into, and I knew it was one with no end. Also, he was playing Hotline goddamn Miami! He’d probably died half a dozen times in the brief moment he was talking to me!

It might sound like hell, but I promise you that the euphoria of successfully clearing out a floor of goons is anything but. It’s all about planning that perfect combo, and following it up with the perfect execution: knock that guy out, steal his gun, shoot those two other guys, toss the empty gun at the patrolling guard, steal his knife, etc. When it all comes together, It feels like a near perfect fusion between tactical thinking and twitch gamer skills. And when it doesn’t? Well, I guess you better respawn and try again.

I’m not sure if my feeble mind could withstand a whole game of that intensity, but man do I want to find out…..

Hotline Miami is slated for Autumn 2012, but I -along with many others- would very much like it right now. Bloody mental official site is found here.




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