Capcom recently surprised us with the reveal of Dragon's Dogma: an open-world fantasy action RPG from the team behind Devil May Cry IV. Hideaki Itsuno and Hiroyuki Kobayashi pledge to merge the typically beardy fantasy world of dragons and dungeons with technical, stylised combat... and even though it's still early days for the fledgling franchise, Dragon's Dogma is already an absolute blast at this early stage. In addition to the Gryphon's Flight boss fight already demoed at their Captivate event, Capcom brought along a brand new level to show off the squad interaction and close quarters fighting in action.
Let's start with a brief recap in case you're unfamiliar with the premise. Dragon's Dogma allows players to choose from a selection of character classes and descend into a sprawling open world in pursuit of massive monsters, nuanced combat and high adventure. An armoured warrior, knife-wielding 'Strider' and a spellcaster provide markedly different fighting styles and opportunities, and the new E3 demo casts players as a durable fighter leading a team of AI 'Pawns' through a tight dungeon (typical of countless interior environments scattered throughout the game world). These followers can be freely recruited from the randomly-generated NPCs milling around the enormous game world, and level up along with you whilst augmenting your own abilities. They can also provide serious backup in battle... but more on that later.
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And now for something completely different. Regular followers of my weekly XBLIG roundups will be aware that I'm a militant promoter of Indie Games, and this hasn't changed just because I happen to be surrounded with flashy booths and titanic publishers here at Gamescom. The Indie scene is one of the last true bastions of creativity left in the gaming industry after years of reprocessed sequels- and it doesn't get any more independent than Gotland University. It's a Swedish game design school that holds an annual student competition, and as such, they're free to explore new concepts and art styles without constraints from publishers and the sequel culture. The competition winners have the opportunity to show off their wares at Gamescom as well as various cash prizes... and frankly, they've crafted some immensely promising experiences. Pay close attention, because these three unsung games are quite unlike anything else you'll see in the show.
Developer: Northern Gate
The Indie scene isn't short of a few hand drawn sidescrollers, but Pawns is a thing of genuine beauty. The art style and meticulously crafted graphics are both colourful and incredibly detailed- and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it gives Braid a run for it's money. A huge amount of blood, sweat and tears has clearly gone into Pawns' presentation... and every drop of it is clearly visible.
Gameplay-wise, you control one of two champions sent out by mother nature to punish mankind for their destruction of the planet. Each of the characters can draw on two of the four seasons; with the Stone guardian capable of summoning wintery blasts and life-restoring trees whilst his companion wields raging sunbeams and autumn wind. The brawling action is fast and furious, requiring fast fingers and two-player cooperation to succeed.