That's another EGX Rezzed in the bag, then. The 2018 edition of London's biggest and delightly indie-friendly gaming show had quite a few excellent games on offer - so here's some of our favourites.
There were honestly a great many games on show at EGX, and not even all of them were playable. Alex got to satisfy his curiosity around Theme Hospital spiritual successor Two Point Hospital through a chat with the developers and a look at some footage, while James got to grill legendary Japanese designer and all-around cool dude Suda51 about his latest Nintendo Switch project - a game he hinted about to us over a year ago. That's just for starters, too.
Aside from all this there was a lot to play at the show, too. From some of the delightfully inventive ideas on display as part of the Leftfield Collection, through to some of the offerings on the indie-focused stands of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. There's way too much to mention even though you'll see more from us on some individual games over the coming weeks, but in the meantime here are five of the things that left the largest impression on us at the show...
Even the elevator pitch for Phoenix Point will be enough to sell many: a game in the vein of XCOM from legendary game designer Julian Gollop, original creator of that series. Gollop's 90s version of XCOM was a much more brutal, unforgiving and esoteric game than the later reboot we got from Firaxis Games - but both are valid and excellent executions on the same core idea, a desperate scramble to project earth from a rapidly encroaching alien menace.
Phoenix Point has been around for a while after a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, but as it presses closer to its release later this year it's finally in a more finished state, and that was on offer to play at Rezzed. It's already looking like quite a polished product that at first glance seems surprisingly similar to the rebooted XCOM - but it's not quite that simple.
What's immediately clear is how deftly the game tries to straddle the two strands of XCOM - Gollop's original vision and the streamlined, even console-friendly Firaxis version. The UI looks much the same as the rebooted series, for instance, but once you begin to scratch beyond that approachable and familiar veneer it becomes clear that a far more complex and customizable experience hides beneath. The final thing can't come soon enough.
The Sinking City
The Sinking City seems to represent a real evolution for Frogwares, who up to now have been best known for the Sherlock Holmes series of adventure games. By incorporating an open-world and even survival-horror-esque over the shoulder shooting, The Sinking City adds a new level of interactivity to the player deduction led investigations that Frogwares have tried to perfect over the years.
The delightfully squelchy and barnicled Lovecraftian aesthetic of the world and trippy visual effects as things get hectic make this game one to watch. Although what might be most exciting is the potential for this to turn into a near who’s who of the Necronomicon. With such a rich bestiary and cast of contemptible characters to draw from, there could be some truly memorable encounters in the drowned streets of The Sinking City.
Although a crowded show floor isn’t exactly the best place to get to grips with a slow-paced rogue-lite action adventure, Below stood out over the weekend. The Microsoft exclusive from Canadian indie team Capybara Games has been bubbling under for what seems like forever since it was first announced at E3 in 2013. It's been quite a long game since it received a vague delay out of Summer 2016, but the wait looks like it may have been worth it.
The gameplay demo at EGX Rezzed showed a little of what we can expect from the game’s explorative atmosphere and deliberate combat. And while it may look simple, Below manages to balance its unforgiving difficulty by packing a satisfying level of complexity into its mechanics. There’s an inventory of items to find and manage, as well as melee and ranged weapons to master.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
More of the same from madcap game director Suda51. Travis Strikes Again isn’t a full numbered sequel to the cult No More Heroes series, but it still oozes the same punk rock charm and trademark silly humour.
This spin-off sees Travis Touchdown sucked into the mysterious Death Drive games console - which should be familiar to fans of Suda’s recent free-to-play hack-and-slash, Let it Die - as he battles through mini games in seven different genres. These include racing and puzzle sections, as well as others, but on show at EGX was a small portion of the game’s top-down action level.
The simple, arcadey gameplay is fun enough, with decent variety in the combat and combos and well integrated co-op. But you sense that there’s still much more to come from this Nintendo Switch exclusive.
West of Loathing
This is a bit of a cheat, one supposes, since West of Loathing has been out on PC since the back-end of last year - but it was on show at Rezzed 2018 in its upcoming Nintendo Switch incarnation, and Switch seems like it might be the perfect place to experience this slightly mad adventure RPG with a wild west theme and a particularly stand-out monochrome stick man art style. It could easily make our best Switch games list once it launches, even.
The art sets the tone and the game fully runs with it, embracing silliness and goofiness happily. Hidden behind that there's also some decent turn-based battle action, a unique little world to explore and some really great RPG writing, however. It's so rare that games are properly, laugh-out-loud funny, but West of Loathing is one such game - it's brilliantly written. Having come from a popular browser game lineage, it has a stop-start friendly design that feels practically born for the Switch, too.