Gamescom, the largest video game trade fair worldwide, is a sight to behold. Here you’ve got huge, flashy, and loud publisher booths that probably cost a little fortune and attract the masses. There you have the lone developers, scouring the business area with their laptops in search of coverage or a publishing deal. And then there are all possible shades inbetween. In short: for a couple of days, Cologne is just swarming with games vying for your attention, and this can be quite overwhelming. We spent three sleepless days and nights at Gamescom, and here are some upcoming releases which we believe should be on your radar.
Kingdom takes a simple premise and wraps it up in enormously pretty pixel graphics. As the ruler of a budding realm, your task is to move about your lands and delegating tasks by spending coins. Train your citizens to become skilled hunters or farmers, secure the defenses of your ever-growing city, and upgrade your own stronghold from a mere shack into a castle fit for the likes of you. However, at night a bunch of monster will come out of the woods, intent on stealing your riches and bringing the kingdom down. You cannot directly take part in the nightly fights, but the defenses you had built during the day will hopefully keep the invaders at bay. Despite or because of the simple gameplay, the game managed to draw in the crowds and take home the coveted “Best of Indie Arena” award. I’ll be eagerly awaiting its release later this year.
The first game to adopt the Banner Saga engine, Skyshines Bedlam promises post-apocalyptic roguelike pleasure similar to FTL. On your way to the fabled Aztec CIty, you’ll take on random encounters, mutants, and other assorted dangers of the wastelands while managing your convoy. The turn-based battles take place in isometric areas and seem to be a lot faster-paced than the slow-moving brawls of the Banner Saga. The game just became available for pre-order, with a planned release sometime in Fall.
Adventure game developer and publisher Daedalic takes to the skies with Aer, an open-world game about the joys of flying. Playing as Auk, an aspiring air priestess, you learn how to tranform into a bird and traverse the various floating islands on your pilgrimage. First and foremost, the non-violent gameplay is all about the fun of moving unhindered through open space, and judging from a very short hands-on it is indeed a joy to fly around and explore. Stylistically, Aer looks almost like a low-poly game, and the upbeat soundtrack and sheer prettiness of the game make me very much look forward to its release sometime in 2016.
Videogames have a hard time tackling difficult subjects. A game about your impending death by lung cancer and your reaction to that diagnosis, i.e. living through the five stages of grief, is pretty daring in that regard and doesn’t really promise a fun experience overall. The jury is still out on whether developer Gentlymad will manage to build a game worthy of its heavy themes, but from a gameplay point of view, this story-driven puzzle platformer looks more than promising. Its central mechanics revolve around manipulating each level’s gravity, similar to Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. In Between actually goes one step further and lets you flip in four directions, not just two. This makes for some pretty compelling puzzles, and new horrid death traps are constantly introduced, the further you progress. The spiky, trap-filled mazes our protagonist finds himself in probably reflect his state of mind, and the presentation overall is pretty atmospheric. If you can stomach to face the ending, which probably doesn’t need a spoiler warning, you should keep your eyes on In Between, which will launch at the end of the month.