From Thursday 22 to yesterday, Sunday 25 of September, EGX took place, once more at the Birmingham NEC (which I insist on wrongly calling “neck”). My original plan was to be there the weekend but in the end, I only made the trip on Saturday.
The main reason for this is that I was exhausted. When I arrived in London in the morning, hoping to take the tube from Tower Hill to Euston Square and then walk to Euston Station, I found that because of engineering works, there were no trains heading that way or anywhere east. Back on street-level I tried to find a bus but couldn’t, so my only choice was to walk 5 km to Euston. By the time I got on the train to Birmingham, I was already exhausted and my day was just starting.
Once at the NEC and after getting my little wristband, I stepped into the EGX halls and my first thought, and one that continued over the course of the day and which even some of the people I spoke to echoed, was, “it’s smaller than last year.”
It certainly felt that way. EGX 2015 was a grandiose thing, a spectacle of light and gaming where the best came to play, where the bigger developers splurged to show off their stuff. This year, there was no competition, no need for one-upmanship. Nintendo wasn’t around and Microsoft barely had a showing, just two games in the Over-18 section. Sony and Square Enix had most of the run of the place, with Sony going focusing on their VR and Square having their usual closed-off sections with long queues to go in.
There are upsides to this. E-Sports had a bigger presence, with Counterstrike and Overwatch competitions and even a Namco-sponsored Tekken tournament happening. Having said so, my desire to sit down in the middle of EGX to watch e-sports was nonexistent.
Food was better and more plentiful, with food carts in the middle of the event, with nice chairs parked and offering better meals than you can find in the overpriced NEC places. There was even a portable pub, but I refused from partaking. Something about drinking near where developers had their precious equipment just didn’t sit right with me.
The retro area made a return and though I promised I would try this area this year, the truth is that it was too full to play anything. Thankfully, I got a chance to play some Metroid on the NES for a bit, but then the biggest complaint from those in attendance showed its ugly head for me: the horrible stools, shoddy plastic seating that from what I hear, developers were replacing by the dozen, as they cracked very often. I even saw one of these discarded stools and realised they’re not even solid, just thin plastic shaped as a stool. Make the wrong move and it goes kaput. I’m a big guy, so the thing creaked within minutes of me sitting down.
Lastly, the Rezzed zone was bigger this year—or maybe just more spread out—and the first thing you saw when you came in. But the downside, for me, is that many of those attending the event had the same lineups from previous events.
Repetition seemed to be a common thread. Not only were some indie devs showing the same but so did Sony, with booths dedicated to already released games. This extended even to the cosplayers. I didn’t take many photos of cosplayers this year because for the most part, they were the usual suspects, and by that I mean those I’ve seen in both Rezzed and EGX at some point, with the same costumes even. This is not a complaint on them, their costumes are still as good as ever, particularly the Mortal Kombat crew, but I didn’t feel the need to photograph things I’ve already seen.
I played a ton of games and the ones I didn’t were those with hours-long queues, because I refused to do it. The time I would have spent queueing, I used to speak to developers, meet with old friends and enjoy some game-time and in general have a lot of fun.
Last year I spoke about the Best of EGX for me, and split it into two categories, the first being AAA and then it was on the indie front. But this year, I barely touched anything AAA as there were humongous queues between them and me. Besides, beyond Final Fantasy XV and Horizon Zero Dawn, two games of which we’ve seen countless hours of footage before, there really wasn’t much to see. But if someone deserves a prize it’s Sony, but not because of a game but for sheer silliness. Posters around the NEC stated that The Last Guardian was at the show, but in reality they only had a booth to take photos with the guardian and by that I don’t mean the snout but a giant chicken leg, presumably the creature’s. It was laugh-out-loud ludicrous and still, people queued up for it!
In the indie scene, the best of EGX goes to the NFTS Projects. These were the most ingenious and ambitious I saw during the entire event. They were all pre-alpha, the final projects of the latest class of students, but they had all such good ideas that I want to see these games released so I can see those visions realised.
Highlights for me were The Circle, a VR title dealing with conspiracies with a transgendered and wheelchair bound character, whose life and loved ones change depending on your every minuscule action, from cleaning your apartment to returning emails. Uncanny Valerie, a point & click adventure with a rotating 3D environment and an evolving storyline that depends on how your protagonist programs her house robot Valerie, which she has as a replacement for her ex-girlfriend, as she’s having trouble letting go and moving on. There’s Into the Black, a cel-shaded third person adventure with VR camera, where you control a Bear escaping a forest fire while looking for her missing cubs. It has a cool soundtrack, a narrator that makes it sound like a documentary and a lovely art style. And in a world with so many first-person VR games, it was refreshing to see a 3rd person one.
Lastly, there’s Night Bizarre, where you control a newbie fortune-teller at a Cambodian bazaar. It’s fun playing as a psychic and seeing the customers gawk at your powers of prediction and what the developer tells me is that some of the things you predict will happen, but it’ll never be clear if it’s just coincidence, your ability or simply how well you convinced the clients. She also had this amazing book with designs for all the tarot cards as well as writings on their meaning. It was incredibly well put together and I told her to make it available as a PDF, ‘cause I would want it!
So another EGX ends and I will soon have my plate full of upcoming games. I feel a bit disappointed since I expected some of the same spectacle I saw last year, but I had fun and there were some really nice things on show.
Now I can’t wait for next year’s Rezzed!
A word of advice, before I go, if you’re thinking of going to an event like this: don’t go alone. These are events best experienced with friends or loved ones. In case you’re wondering, I went alone.
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