Gamescom has been described as the event where Europe comes together to talk about games. Naturally, there's a lot of games on the show floor. I didn't get a chance to play everything, of course, but there was plenty that Australians won't have gotten a chance to get hands on with quite yet. So to save everyone time, here's a wrap-up of what I did get hands on with.
I only had the one day to traverse the many, many halls of Gamescom, which doesn't leave a lot of spare room for extra appointments or roaming the floors. So there are a few things off the bat that immediately had queues which, sadly, I never got to play. That includes Super Mario Odyssey, Ace Combat 7 in PSVR, Monster Hunter World and Moons of Madness. (I'm not that upset about missing the latter, but I did stupidly promise Cam and Tegan that I would play the horror game, and a promise I must uphold.)
However, I did get hands on with a bunch of other games.
Super Lucky's Tale
If Yooka-Laylee was your jam then the 2D sequel to the Oculus Rift launch title, Lucky's Tale, might be worth a look. Like Yooka, it's basically a coin collectathon where Lucky wags his cute fox tail, burrows around, jumps on a bunch of enemies, and calls it a day.
Super Lucky's Tale controls well enough and there's certainly plenty of charm. The only kicker that might crop up in longer playthroughs is the camera: it's locked to 45 degree rotations, at least in the opening area. That area does have access to an underground level where the camera adopts more of a sidescrolling perspective, so precisely how big a deal might depend on what perspective you're dealing with at the time.
Another note: the game was running off a developer version of the Xbox One X, which was nice to see in the flesh. There was the odd frame rate drop, but there's some time for optimisation between now and early November, so I wouldn't worry.
Age of Empires 1: Definitive Edition
High off the announcement of Age of Empires 4, I trotted off to Microsoft's booth to see whether anything would be playable. I didn't expect AOE4 to appear, of course, seeing as the teaser trailer didn't have a shred of gameplay. But the remastered version of Age of Empires 1 had a stand, and that was a good start.
Only the one single-player scenario was playable, a mission where the player has 1000 in-game years to take down a wonder (and a few AI opponents) on the opposite corner of the map. You're given a truckload of resources and buildings to pump out a never-ending stream of units, as well as an ally which just scratches their arse and does bugger all to help all game.
It's mostly an opportunity to see how AOE1 scales up to 1080p and what Forgotten Empires have done with the interface. It's easier on the eye than the HD remake of AOE2, although I can't speak for how it fares at, say, 4K or on an ultrawide screen monitor. Anyone concerned about the texture quality of the units following the initial reveal shouldn't worry either: they look just fine too.
AOE1 won't hit the market until October, which is a bit of a shame since the E3 reveal indicated it would be coming out around August. But hey, it's been 20 years since the first game came out. A couple of months extra won't hurt.
Kingdom Come Deliverance
My only experience of Kingdom Come Deliverance before was reading a couple of stories from Luke, who's been following the development of the game for a few years now. Put simply, it's an open-world medieval RPG with no magic or monsters.
Video. I've been following Kingdom Come. Deliverance's development from the very beginning, what with it promising to be a bunch of things I dig (open world, RPG, weird FPS melee and history) all in the one package.
The playable build at Gamescom let people start a new game and complete any quest of your choosing, until the nearby PR handlers kicked you off. That was refreshing: it's nice to just be able to play the build as you normally would at home, time restrictions aside.
But the simple takeaway is that it's basically Mount & Blade meets The Witcher, with a whole lot more jank and a punching system a little reminiscent of For Honor. Attacks bring up a small pointer on your enemy with five sets of arrows pointing outward, and moving the mouse cursor in any one of those directions dictates where your next attack will come from.
Much like Mount & Blade, there's going to be a segment of gamers that really get into Kingdom Come. There's plenty of history, stats, management and countryside to lose yourself in. But there's also plenty of potential dealbreakers for people. The build I played, for instance, still needed some optimisation, and the combat didn't feel entirely fluid. Animations looked pretty janky, too.
But as Luke pointed out in his story, it's great to run places without being accosted by some mutated rat or other fantastical beast. It'll be intriguing to see what modders can do with it when it comes out next year.
Dragon Ball Fighter Z
I can confidently say I will never be good enough at Dragon Ball Fighter Z to properly enjoy how bonkers it truly is.
That said, you can enjoy how bonkers it is just by watching.
This is going to be great. No idea how it'll shape up competitively, though.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
I got hands on with Shadow of War at NVIDIA's pre-Gamescom event. That meant I got the chance to see the game running at 4K, where it was also confirmed that Shadow of War would support SLI at launch (although precisely how well is another matter, as anyone who played The Division will remember).
It's been a few years since I played Shadow of Mordor, so it took me a little while to get up to speed. That's probably the kicker with jumping straight into Shadow of War, especially a siege battle such as the one above.
You don't get the prompts for techniques that are super handy, like ground executions and (more importantly) how to use elf-shot to quickly dominate one Caragor to the next.
But once that all comes together, Shadow of War becomes pretty satisfying. You can also see the skill tree and available options in the first few minutes of the video, if you're interested in different playstyles.
Imagine Rocket from Guardians from the Galaxy got a spin-off, third-person combat RPG. That's basically the gist of Biomutant, which stars an agile little raccoon with a sword that would make Final Fantasy's Cloud rather chuffed.
After the initial intro finishes, you go through a pretty robust character creation process - you can choose the texture of the fur, which is cool - and then get dropped into a basic, linear tutorial. From there, you're given the first set of dialogue choices that will have (supposedly) some kind of impact on the story through a karma metre.
There wasn't enough gameplay to see what kind of impact your decisions could have, but from conversations I heard around me it would affect your dialogue choices down the road.
The main kicker is the combat. There's a combo system for melee and ranged combat, with some fluid dodging for those who like rolling on the floor a lot. It's a fairly brisk, loose movement system, which I always enjoyed over the more methodical styles used in Dark Souls or The Witcher (pre-movement patch, that is). There's also mutations, which grants the player special abilities to cope with certain enemies.
Star Wars: Battlefront 2
Two modes were playable at Gamescom this year. The first was the same as what was revealed at E3, an assault on a place in Theed, while the second was the Starfighter Assault mode. I played a round of both, although the Starfighter Assault game wasn't with a completely full server.
There's not much to say at this point, because you need a certain amount of experience with new maps, classes and heroes before making a full judgement. Theed felt convoluted though, with masses of bodies running around pointlessly.
People seemed more active about the objectives in Starfighter Assault, but - probably by virtue of being in space - it was also a lot easier to keep track of your objectives.
The main takeaway for me is that Starfighter Assault was already leaps and bounds more fun than Fighter Squadron was. You certainly didn't see Slave One and the Millennium Falcon ramming their way through hordes of enemy fighters, a scourge I haven't forgotten from the early days of the Battlefront reboot.
The author travelled to Gamescom 2017 as a guest of NVIDIA.