As the hordes descended upon the Koelnmesse for the first public day of Gamescom 2012, we found ourselves scurrying about like berserk rabbits once more, flitting from publisher to publisher to cram in as many preview opportunities as possible. From chatting to Firaxis about XCOM: Enemy Unknown to spending a chunk of time delving deeper into the world of Dishonored, from discussing Wargaming's World of Tanks collectible card spin-off to learning more of cross-media titles like Defiance and Dust: 514, it was another day of rich and diverse gameplay experiences. Here are our highlights from day two.
As Jon and Carl will no doubt corroborate, we could not be more excited for Sim City, and today I finally managed to get hands-on with the game. Though featuring a comprehensive tutorial, the game could not be more intuitive if it tried. The Glassbox engine has been used to fantastic effect, with each of the buttons you'll use to create your civic masterpiece providing a new layer of information, instantly delivering valuable feedback on your expanding metropolis with a click. Laying the foundations for residential, commercial, and industrial zones is as easy as it looks. Drawing roads is simple, but deeply satisfying.
Through its engine, the game is always talking to you, instructing you, and making sure that you're never out of the loop. The added bonus of challenges, both from Maxis and your fellow mayors, will add another level to the game. The presence of Citylog – no prizes for guessing the inspiration behind that social feature – delivering gameplay goals and new opportunities. The prospect of co-opetition is truly mouth-watering indeed.
Elsewhere, it was new material that shone. Wargaming pulled up to Gamescom with a collectible card game based on their insanely popular World of Tanks series. If I was sceptical in the first five minutes – such games have never particularly been my cup of tea – I was utterly hooked by the end. Simple in form, set on a 5 x 3 grid, the game belied a tactical depth that I would not have predicted at first glance. Built in HTML5, and accessible from any browser, it will offer enormous cross-platform potential, and there's even a tabletop version on the way...which looked utterly glorious, I might add.
Until Dawn delivered an impressive showing too. Ostensibly a Move title that looks to pay homage to almost every teen horror movie you can think of, the moody music, classic cabin-in-the-woods setting, and clichéd characters provided an instant sense of genre and setting. The strings being pulled were obvious strings (very literally in a musical sense), but effective nonetheless. Unidentifiable animal noises, creepy violins as you drew near to mirrors or shower curtains, wholly inappropriate innuendos foreshadowing horrible things, Supermassive stated that they were unashamedly ticking every box in the book, and there were one or two moments that genuinely provoked a jump or two, with the first-person perspective proving incredibly immersive. But it was the revelation that your actions will determine each of the eight main characters' fates, that individual chapters can have multiple endings that feed into the rest of the games, which immediately set imaginations racing. We'll be keeping our eye on that one, and do check out the full preview once it goes live in a few days.
Dishonored might be spelt poorly but it’s looking to be carrying the smarts elsewhere. This first-person assassin title is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. Being able to replay a mission several times with different approaches displayed how much variety is on offer. Do I kill my target by running in all guns blazing, taking out anyone who gets in the way, or investigate the area looking for clues on how to get the job done with nobody else even knowing I was there? One thing’s for sure, Agent 47 has got a real fight on his hands for the most inventive assassin on shop shelves at Christmas. Magic abilities allow even further choice. Simple spells involve teleporting or psi-blasts, while the more complicated options involve possessing people/creatures or attacking with swarms of rats. Piano wire? Pffft.
Far Cry 3 was a double win for me today as I got to try out the multiplayer and the E3 single-player demo. Admittedly, everything was in German, so I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on half the time, except that Vaas sounds even more mental in German. Multiplayer was a team-based game where the objective seemed to be destroying enemy fuel supplies by kicking barrels over, stabbing a hole in them and then setting them on fire. Once it flames the blaze was permanent and it spread, changing the layout of the map as some routes became inaccessible. The shooting is deliciously meaty with the AK being a joy to fire for racking up multiple kills. Molotov cocktails and flamethrowers added to the aforementioned fire, turning the whole area into an inferno. By the end of the round with all teams’ barrels ablaze, it boiled down to holding territory to decide a winner. It was only a taste, but with changeable loadouts, perks and co-op modes the multiplayer side of the game is looking strong.
Dust 514 went from being another grey FPS, to something of interest once I found out it was going down the free-to-play option. Despite being on PS3, the game will link up with PC gamers playing EVE Online. PS3 grunts will be handling the action planet-side, while the PC community take care of the orbital battles above. Admittedly, interest in this would probably be lower if it wasn’t free, but the ongoing beta seems to be knocking the game into shape nicely. I was free to join the battle on the ground or grab a seat in an aircraft above the battlefield, always hoping for a gunner’s seat. I didn’t get to sit on my turret for long though as the ships armour is light and teammate pilots were constantly just diving out of the cockpit at will. On the ground there are plenty of loadouts to choose from and editing them will be a deep experience in the full game. Want a sniper that wears heavy armour for a change? Then go for it. Although you’ll want to upgrade soldier types quickly as they begin a bit weak. Especially the sniper whose aiming is very sensitive before you give him some upgrades. I’ll be getting a beta code for the game when I get back to the UK, so expect to hear more soon.