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Monster Hunter Stories 2 – Preview

Monster Hunter Stories 2 – Preview

I’ve tried a couple of Monster Hunter titles, including the mega-hit World which opened the game to a whole new audience. However, I’ve never really clicked with the titles in the past, finding them lacking direction and boasting an overwhelming number of combat mechanics.

Now, having played the Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin trial on the Switch over the past few days, I’ve potentially found my style of Monster Hunter game.

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Dun, Dun, Duuuuuuuun

Dun, Dun, Duuuuuuuun

For a long time I’ve wanted a game based on War of The Worlds. Not the 2005 Hollywood blockbuster featuring Tom Cruise, but something that follows the original novel by HG Wells. I’ve wanted a game that allows me to first-hand experience the terror of alien cylinders crashing into the landscape and disgorging a terrifying force of gigantic unstoppable machines. It would be a game where you spent your time not battling an alien menace, but running for your life, desperately searching for food and shelter as you make your escape.

Believe it or not, someone appears to be making precisely that.

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Adventure in Aellion – An EGX Preview

Adventure in Aellion – An EGX Preview

As I look back through my drafts from last year during some time away from the day job, I realise that I haven’t written about Adventure in Aellion which I saw at EGX. As I catch myself up with the progress the devs have made in recent months, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they deep in planning for Early Access, and are also offering members of their Discord channel a chance to try out an even earlier version of the game.

But what is Adventure in Aellion? Coming from The Game Producion Company, comprising Luke O’Donoghue and Elliott Dodsworth, Aellion can best be described as a Zelda-like with drop-in drop-out multiplayer. After playing Aellion at EGX, I asked Luke about his inspiration for starting work on the game:

we were sat there thinking about why you can’t play Zelda multiplayer…we’re going for an older style Zelda mixed with Jak and Dax adventure. The main feature is the easy drop-in drop-out multiplayer, local and online.

I saw some of this drop-in and drop-out multiplayer action at EGX. I started the demo on my lonesome, quickly jumping on a horse and exploring the countryside…but in the opposite direction of the dungeon that was playable during the demo. After getting myself back on track, I was joined a companion as I neared the dungeon, from where we tried to work our way through the variety of puzzles on offer.

The puzzles were well crafted, offering a welcome mix of straightforward box manoeuvring to climb to different levels along with others which required more patience and logic to solve. Despite not communicating with my random partner, nothing was too difficult to prevent progress being made. Lone rangers should have no fears as the core experience will work for solo players as well, with Luke telling me:

the main story itself, which will cover 9 dungeons, will all be playable single player. We will have some special side-story quests and puzzles that will require multiplayer, but we wanted the story to be completed single player which was an important factor when we were designing the dungeons.

Luke revealed that the dungeon on show at EGX was taking players 30-60 minutes to work through based on their experience with similar games. Further dungeons are expected to take closer to an hour, even for experienced gamers, to complete. The final dungeon (complete with requisite boss) is expected to be a 90 minute encounter, although won’t necessarily be the most complex dungeon in the game.

You will be able to, in theory, head straight to the final dungeon from the very start of the game if you were feeling brave enough. By doing that though you will be missing out on the six distinct semi-open world areas. In the EGX demo I travelled through a handful of farms and small villages, testament to the idea that a large open world without stuff to do isn’t much fun. It means Luke and Elliott are focusing on developing a well populated world to explore and get stuck into, rather than a massive but sparsely populated lan.

Judging by the discussions in Discord, the team are making good progress already this year, with updates to their Discord community build expected to drop more regularly than before. Of course, if Discord isn’t your cup of tea, you can follow the game on Steam and wait for the Early Access release.

art of rally – a rally fans dream

art of rally – a rally fans dream

You might have figured out by now that I’m a huge rally fan. I’ve written about my journey to find a worthy rally game, I’ve been out in the forests of North Wales a couple of times to see the cars fly past, an experience which nearly undermined my initial enjoyment of GRID. It turned out that EGX this year came only a couple of weeks after the Welsh round of the World Rally Championship, and when I arrived at the ExCeL in London town, I was still in full rally fandom.

It all meant that while wandering the indie section, I was immediately seized by a need to check out art of rally. There was a lengthy queue at the stall, which I later found out from creator Dune Casu was likely thanks to his work on Absolute Drift which I remember hearing positive things about some time ago.

art of rally is described on the official site as a “stylized rally experience”, something which seemed quite apt once I got a chance between the crowds to play it. My first experience of this isometric racer was on a fast tarmac stage in Sardinia which ended up with my car against the trees more often than not. As Dune told me:

It’s not the easiest type of game, but for those who play racing and rally games they are pretty into it and seem to be getting along with it.

That’s very much true as my next attempt was on a lovely gravel stage in Finland, and with a car not quite over lethal as the Group B Audi Quattro alike that I drove on Sardinia. A more sedate 60s styled Lancia was my choice, and it proved to be much more welcoming. I still dumped the car off the track a couple of times, but was able to get around in one piece.

Dune explained that while career mode covers the “classical age of rally, so 60s through to 90s…the goal isn’t to win everything but to go through tracks and enjoy them.” I’m so happy to see indies getting into the rallying scene, and the concept of enjoying the action rather than feeling you have to win is music to my ears.

Those who are more competitive will be pleased to know that there will be daily and weekly challenges, compete with online leaderboards, but I’m going to be more than content to tootle casually around the various locales and soak up the atmosphere.

You can find out more on art of rally on the official site or follow Dune on Twitter. Did I mention that music is fantastic? No, well it is. art of rally will be out next year and can’t come soon enough.

CyberPunk 2077 – EGX Preview

CyberPunk 2077 – EGX Preview

Six months out from the planned release, and CD Projekt Red are being careful with CyberPunk 2077, showing off plenty in a 45-minute cinematic demo, but by keeping it out of the hands of the general public at EGX, ensuring people only see exactly what they want you to see. With some developers, you might start to have concerns that the ground-breaking new features they have spent months hyping will all fall apart when people get hands on. With CDPR though, they have The Witcher 3 in their history, a grand open-world RPG that stands out as a highlight of this generation, and you start to wonder whether CyberPunk 2077 might top Geralt’s adventure.

The demo that we were shown started with the team from CDPR showing off the character customisation options. While they only gave us a light touch run through, I got the impression you can go into quite some depth when making your version V. We were also given a glimpse of the life path that you choose for V, a overarching archetype that you will be able to tweak and change as you work through the game. These are the areas that I love to dive into in RPGs, and this demo sure as hell left me wanting to see more.

Once a male, hacking focused version of V had been created, Keanu Reeves’ character of Johnny Silverhand provides some augmented reality direction: find Placide from the Voodoo Boy gang and find a way to make contact with a legendary figure of the NetRunner community. As V explores his surroundings, making his way to a church to meet one of Placide’s handlers I was gazing at the world of Night City that CDPR have created. I’ve largely avoided bingeing on pre-release trailers and previews for CyberPunk, and so my first real glimpse of V’s hometown was quite something.

NPCs are everwhere, think Novigrad in The Witcher 3, but with an even greater cast of people milling about. The effort that has gone into making Night City must have been immense, and part of me wonders whether CDPR might look to push the release date back further to ensure all the various game systems are working in sync, and to potentially make this a cross-gen release. I can only imagine how beneficial the extra power of the new consoles will be to help immerse you in Night City’s life.

After being taken to meet Placide, the range of conversation options was shown off. Along with the expected class and skill specific conversation threads you can pull at, we were also shown action taking place in the background to the conversation which led to new contextual conversation options. It was impressive in the moment, but as it took place in a scripted and controlled setting in Placide’s office, it raised a question in my mind of how much you might see that take place out in the city itself. The rest of V’s dealings with Placide were focused on the biohacking elements at the heart of the game.

Jacking into Placide’s network leaves you vulnerable to his spying but will prove useful as you complete a job for him. The sequence around the biohacking and body-mods felt very Deus Ex, which is no bad thing, but left me wondering whether some of the messages and themes that CDPR will be trying to explore through CyberPunk won’t be as new and “hot take” as some might expect.

When it came time to infiltrate the base of the rival gang, we were shown two opposite approaches to handling the situation. A stealth focused method with a healthy dose of hacking, or a gun heavy onslaught augmented with strength perks opening different options. Personally, I found the stealthy approach much more interesting. Hacking cameras and silently taking down opponents is one thing, but being able to hack their own body mods adds to the fun and games that you would expect to take part in. The action focused offering had a more traditional shooter feel with a lesser focus on the hacking abilities and more on the bludgeoning your way through any spot of trouble.

Without going hands-on, it’s hard to say how the all guns blazing approach would feel. The Witcher 3 proved to offer brilliant, yet easy combat with the third-person perspective and mix of signs and swords. I’m just not sure that CyberPunk will best suit that style of gameplay, especially when the subtler approaches look set to be much more entertaining judging from the action shown at EGX.

CyberPunk 2077 look fantastic, and has a world that I have no doubt people will fall in love with. I have confidence in CDPR, but the sooner they get this into the hands of fans at events like EGX, the better.

Dry Drowning – Hands On

Dry Drowning – Hands On

The phrase “visual novel” is one that can spark hysterical reactions across the web from those who will argue that they aren’t proper video games. While Dry Drowning is being described on its Steam page as such a thing, after getting some hands on time through the first chapter, I’d argue there are enough “gamey” elements to put any fears to bed.

Dry Drowning, coming this August, puts you in the role of Mordred Foley, a disgraced private detective trying to make ends meet in the futuristic city of Nova Polemos.

Living Nightmare mode. Got to play your cards right!

This is a city built on some pretty nasty politics, with all kinds of elitist ideologies come to light as Mordred works to solve a murder, with a high profile politician the number one suspect.

Investigations are driven through conversations with your assistant-cum-partner Hera, various suspects or witnesses along with careful investigation of the crime scene. Clicking around where your cursor changes will reveal any necessary clues, and shouldn’t be too difficult to find, but it is how you interpret them that is crucial.

As events evolve, Mordred’ special skills become clear. He has a helpful trick of sensing when someone is lying to him, represented by a mask covering their face. With the evidence you have gathered you can reveal the truth, but interpret the evidence wrong and ask the wrong questions three times within a chapter will lead to a failure in the case, and the end of your journey.

It seems set to add some level of tension to your journey through this dystopian, cyber-noir world. Backgrounds to different locations are wonderfully drawn, which combined with the oppressive atmosphere of Nova Polemos and what seems to be, so far at least, some strong character work makes for a world rich in stories to unearth.

Lots of lovely text to read and find clues in.

The stories that you can unearth are multitudinous. Italian developers Studio V promise 150 story branches leading to three completely different endings. This will be possible thanks to a number of crucial moral decisions that you have to make through the game.

From the first chapter, they vary from how involved you allow Hera to become in your investigations, to deciding whether to prove the innocence of a key suspect, or to send them to prison in the hope that it will lead to a better world.

Whether the writing lives up to the high standards of the first chapter remains to be seen. I’ve come across a trans character, and one has to hope that the developers do her story justice. So too, with some of the political messaging going on, there will rightly be some worries that the tone can take a bad turn.

With only a few weeks until release, it won’t be long until I get my teeth truly stuck into Dry Drowning and deliver my Verdict.

Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

Satisfactory – Early Access Preview

A couple of weeks after the Early Access launch of Satisfactory I was browsing my suggested video list clicking on some random gaming videos as we all do from time to time. I hate to say it but sometimes I’m a sucker for beatiful scenery regardless of the context of the game. The video I came across was one exploring some of the biomes of Satisfactory.

I was immidiately interested in the stark differences in the biomes and all the vivid colours. I’m not usually one for factory games but after some more investigation it was clear this seemed like much more than just a standard entry into the genre.

My original factory idea was far too small scale in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward forty odd hours and I’ve really had a lot of fun with Satisfactory. Not only are the intracacies of factory efficiency an enjoyable addiction, but there is also an interesting and beautiful world to explore, strange aliens to fight, rare resources to hunt for and things to build that you never thought a factory game would need.

A good example of the fun I had would be once I unlocked the jump pads. I found myself working out the exact distance the pad would fire me so that I could chain them together and fire myself all over and around my factory. It’s testament to the game that players have the freedom to these kinds of things. I always viewed this genre as one that was quite rigid, this could be my inexperience talking however and Satisfactory is certainly doing it’s part to bring me around to factory games.

An early prototype of my preferred mode of transport (the jump pad).

In it’s current Early Access state, not all content is yet available for Satisfactory. The developers have decided on a monthly update schedule that adds new features and makes quality of play improvements, meaning there are almost always new things to tinker with and factory processes to update. There’s a handy roadmap over on the Satisfactory website that lays things out a little more.

I’m excited for the future developments of Satisfactory, not only for the crazy (and completely unnecessary) factory ideas I’ll come up with but also the world building, combat and exploration side of things. Satisfactory also has the potential to be regularly updated after release, either minecraft style by the developers or by modders, who I’m sure would have no problems creating some wacky idea for the game.

I’ve had fun with Satisfactory so far, who knew a factory game could be so much fun!