This was my worst Rezzed so far, though I’ll admit that my swollen hurt leg is an important factor in that statement. I have a knack you see, a knack for injuring myself in the stupidest ways imaginable. I’ve twisted an ankle getting out of a house through a ground floor window and last week I tripped and fell extremely hard on my left knee and shin on the way to answering the intercom on my flat. Yeah, that’s the level of athleticism we’re working with here. So, of course, Rezzed was a painful affair and the reason I didn’t stay until closing time on Friday, left 3 hours into Saturday and didn’t even go on Sunday.
On the upside, I managed to play everything I wanted to play and managed to get thoroughly annoyed by the organisation of the event, so let me tell you this story! Let’s start with the annoyances!
Rezzed 2018 as with previous years, took place at the London Tobacco Dock over the course of three days, Friday to Sunday. I had my usual press pass and this year it came with a nice and shiny Press badge along with the plastic wristband. Normally, I would use my press status to book appointments with developers and publishers, but having done so in previous years and having had to run from one end of the venue to the other or getting lost trying to find a specific booth, even with the very handy app, I decided not to book anything this year and just improvise my conversations with everyone I met. I had the shiny and colourful press badge, so it’s not like it was going to be a surprise for any of them.
One thing that has bothered me over the years with Rezzed is how the layout of the event keeps changing for the worse. This year there were so many open large rooms either closed or wasted in large publishers with very few booths or games. Sony, Sega and Amazon of all companies had massive rooms for their minuscule requirements. This left many of the indies in tiny overcrowded spaces, which to me has always been a problem as this is supposed to be an indie-focused event.
Beyond the spacing, I thoroughly dislike the tiny plastic stools they give you to sit on when playing the games. They’re uncomfortable and if you’re playing some of the longer demos available, it can get painful. I lost all feeling–save for a dull ache–in my butt-cheeks too many times to count. There were a handful of booths with cushions and dear god I wish they were the norm, or at least chairs, something with a back that you can lean on and this is coming from a large guy who tends to make plastic chairs go wobbly under the strain (not as much as before, I’m losing lots of weight but still occasionally do).
Lastly, the food. In years past there were a bunch of different options available, from pies and burgers to some other more gourmet offerings, of which the guys selling fried bread halloumi were my favourites. They were also spread apart and could handle a couple of queues at the same time, which meant overcrowding of a single stall was largely avoided. This year there were 2 and a half booths, all selling the same food, which I didn’t really find appetising. Not only that but on Friday it was impossible for me to get any food until I got home at around 5 or 6 pm, as the queues were gigantic and because of the leg it was too painful to stand in the queues.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the gaming goodness. These are the games that most impressed me during this event and I’m only covering those I hadn’t seen before in person. There were way too many publishers and developers from previous Rezzed years in attendance, showing not only the same games but the exact same demos, with one of them mentioning to me the only difference between last year and 2018 being that they added the intro cutscene to the demo. There were also numerous booths dedicated to games that not only have been released already, but have been out for a while.
I am a massive Frogwares fan. I love their Sherlock Holmes games and have played them all. I’ve been waiting to see something concrete of The Sinking City, their Lovecraftian detective adventure for the longest time and it was one game I knew I couldn’t leave Rezzed without playing through the demo, and so it was the first thing I tackled.
The Sinking City’s demo has a phenomenal intro, with the character’s boat (the main mode of transportation between the many flooded streets of the city) attacked and broken by a series of tentacles. He drops into the water and something pulls him through a tunnel, its walls made of drowned carcasses, to an inverted door. As he reaches towards it, the perspective shifts and the water suddenly drains, leaving him standing in front of a normal door in the corridor of a hotel, with him and his surroundings completely dry. It’s beautiful in how surreal it is. It’s short, fast and effective in conveying the Lovecraftian madness we all expect to see in this title.
The demo features a single sidequest that highlights many of the games mechanics which are already familiar for those of us that have played the Sherlock Holmes games, from recreating crime scenes to doing research at libraries or using newspapers, to match ancient symbols and coats of arms. But what I liked the most about it is that the demo gives a you great glimpse into the society of the The Sinking City, where humans and certain creatures of Lovecraftian Mythos coexist. Not all of them, but an example are the fish people around, called Innsmouthers, with scaly skin and gills that worship Dagon.
The demo ended with me on a sacrificial altar and the developer on hand told me that since this was a sidequest it wouldn’t mean a game over, but the result of it, that altar bit, would have lasting consequences in the game. In general, he said, they are focusing on making sure that your choices have real consequences, whether it be immediate ones or unimportant until they are.
And I can dig that!
I like Dark Souls and other Souls-like games, and I did enjoy Furi last year, though I will admit I’m not a fan of boss-rush games, where the only thing you do is fight bosses, with no other gameplay in between. But that’s where Sinner falls into, a game where you fight against the physical manifestations of the main character’s seven deadly sins.
The look of the game is definitely reminiscent of Dark Souls, with subdued colours and a decayed and decadent world and the combat is very similar, with stamina and health items, secondary weapons and so on. I played and fought a maiden that conjured blades and then ripped her own head off to turn into another maiden that spewed lightning, each with their own health bar and of course both showing up at the same time when you damage one of them enough. It’s a hard as nails fight but with every attempt, I saw myself making progress, which is the Souls way of doing things and which shows the learning curve is not that steep.
But what really caught my attention to this game is its central Redemtion mechanic, where the character begins the adventure at his best, his strongest but to summon each boss he must level down, sacrifice a portion of his health and stamina to extract and fight another of his sins. It adds a significant level of challenge and strategy, don’t you think?
If there’s something I haven’t seen much over the years, it’s games based on Indian myth and legends. I’m sure there are a few out there but they’re in the minority if we compare them to games about Norse, Greek or Egyptian myth. So this story inspired by Indian legends, a journey of learning and growth about a girl chosen by the gods for some purpose or another, played as a combat RPG with brutal difficulty and requiring precise timing and dodging captured my attention immediately.
The protagonist wields a magical spear she uses to fight demons and orc-like monsters that can beat the living hell out of her. The demo I played gave you a massive health bar, the thing reading to the other end of the screen, and yet that wasn’t enough to let me survive. I’m not sure if the demo was set at the beginning or near the end of the full game, but damn this was difficult. Yet even though it was hard, I had a blast, and as I unlocked new skills for the spear, which I could do by collecting certain upgrade orbs, I could see how these powers could change the way you fought and give you one hell of a boost. For example, the power I picked up, by complete accident as there weren’t many tooltips, gave my strikes not only an electric property but also something a chain lightning ability, where each of my strikes electrocuted the enemy and made the electricity jump to close enemies.
The developers are still looking for publishers and I hope they get them, because this was one hell of a game.
A tactical game by the creator of the original X-COM? Yes please! I backed this project on Indiegogo as soon as I saw it on the platform and thanks to the level of my backing, I’ll be getting a backer only demo later this month, an expanded version of what I saw at Rezzed, which was already damn impressive.
If you’ve played any of the Firaxis XCOM games, you’ll be instantly familiar with the control style but Phoenix Point adds so much to the formula. With a greater degree of mobility and offering a pool of action points for each soldier which allows them to shoot and run or viceverse, instead of the “fire and end your turn” of other games in the genre, the ability to aim your shots in first person and the fact that comrades return fire when attacked, I think Phoenix Point I think will blow people’s minds.
I had the pleasure of fighting one of the game’s bosses in this demo, a toned-down version of course, much less aggressive and intelligent than it should be, and I had never seen a unit that big or with that much health in a tactical video game. It was amazing to use my squad’s abilities in tandem to not only kill the creature, but to aim and hit specific body parts to disable it. The creature is so powerful it tramples everything underfoot and destroys buildings, so I took out its legs and stopped it in its tracks, which made the rest of the fight much easier.
Give me adventures, give me puzzles! Lake Ridden is a wonderful piece of adventure gaming goodness. A first person title where you solve devious puzzles with clever clues that require plenty of environmental exploration and observation. Its developers claim to have Myst as one of their inspirations, and for some reason that made me think of the game as Lake Riven, which is something Myst fans will get.
The demo I played dropped me in an attic, quite appropriate for me when you think about it, and my task was to open a couple of doors. The first one included getting the key from a lock-box with not a numeric combination but one made of a panel of about 36 buttons where you must press the correct 4. The clues come from chess slides you must look at through a projector. The problem is, you can only press four buttons but there are almost 9 clues, meaning I had to take a closer look at the box and its surroundings and an even closer look at the slides to get the real clues from the many red herrings.
It’s clever stuff and I hope to see much more of it soon!
This was another of the games I sat down to play the very moment I arrived at Rezzed. Set in Victorian England, you play as Katherine aka Kit, a girl blinded at the beginning of the game and left stranded in the London Underground and Sewer system. She can’t see anything but she can sense sounds and smells in ways that fill the screen with colours, a more artistic representation of echo location and one I appreciate, as it gives the title a unique identity. Along with Kit is her Cat, a lovely feline with whom you can switch for different play styles. Kit can only walk and occasionally run and jump and her gameplay is much more puzzle-focused, while the cat plays closer to a puzzle platformer.
The characters must work together to find their way home, which involves not a trip to the surface as Kit would want but a journey deeper into the heart of the underground, which is a world of its own (as expected for a game inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere), where they’ll find towns and famous historical figures, including the painter Monet, whose art inspired many the game’s visual direction.
I had a lot of fun with this one and it’s one of the puzzle titles where a demo not only showcases its best but also leaves you wanting so much more. And this was also one of the longest and most polished demos at this Rezzed.
This little gem was in the Leftfield Collection, where the weird and experimental stuff goes. It’s by some former NFTS Games students, whose games I’ve covered many times in the past. UMWELT is an exploration game where the puzzles and challenges are based on perception, as UMWELT is the term for our perception of reality and our environment. But what these creative weirdos have done is to shift the perception of the main character by giving you the ability to wire up their brain, each cable and node altering the perception in definite ways that sometimes lets you see things that weren’t there before or limiting your perception much more than you expected.
For example, if you plug in a certain cable, your character will only see the colour red, which will make the environment something completely different to how it was when you could witness the full colour spectrum.
The game is not even at an alpha stage, it’s purely conceptual, which is often a common state for Leftfield Collection titles, but it’s one that I hope to see more of in the future, especially because as the developer admitted, creating puzzles for this game that feel natural to the concept and experience, is going to be very challenging. And I want to see if they can pull it off!
That’s it for my Rezzed experience, hopefully I won’t stupidly injure myself before the next event I go to. If you were at Rezzed, tell me about it, what did you like? If you didn’t go, but have tried any of these games at some other point, tell me about your experience!