The Enemy Slime team has returned to PAX West for another session of games, gear and line-related angst. Here is what we saw:
Middle-earth: Shadow of War (PS4, Xbox, PC)
We started our day by sampling the new Shadows of War title at the Xbox booth. The demo is almost overwhelming with the how much it offers you to do right from the start, but we were guided through a few of the new mission types, including the impressive fortress siege, which has you storming enemy fortresses with your own war party of Uruk raiders. At its very core it feels quite similar to the original, with it’s simple button-press combos and reactive countering system, which for me is entirely welcome from a title that felt so good in its first iteration. There were some new gameplay features which we sampled, including new powers to dominate and control foes and riding dragons, all of which feels pretty tight. The demo we played dropped us in the middle of the game, with a bulk of experience and skills to use, which actually felt like it obscured the experience a bit. It’s hard to say from from the short time we played, but so far it feels like there’s going to be a lot of depth here. With a few months left to release, there may still be changes, but as it stands it feels like it has the potential to be an excellent follow up to the original.
Legrand Legacy (SEMISOFT, PC)
Billing it as a spiritual successor to the tradition of “golden age” JPRGs, Indonesian developer SEMISOFT is offering up Legrand Legacy, a title inspired by the Final Fantasies, Legend of Dragoon and Suikoden. We sat with one of the developers to discuss the game, which combines design aesthetics familiar to the PS2-era games it emulates, but also some incredible hand-drawn art to present a richly designed world. The demo we played focused mainly on the battle system, which is a familiar turn-based engine with some added twists, notably that every round plays out all at once, with all participants taking their actions at the same time. The dev mentioned that they wanted to add enough content to system to keep the game from devolving into the slogging nature which haunts some of the era’s titles, adding in timing-based attacks and skills that should allow players to punch above their level if they master the techniques.
While we only witnessed a little of the basic battle system, the developer also intends to include a tactics-based battle system, summoning comparisons of Suikoden. The devs at SEMISOFT, who seem to be one of the first indie game developers in Indonesia, also intend to include other elements to expand the experience. It sounds like an ambitious project for the small team, but the initial impression suggests that the studio has a good handle of their genre and I’ll be curious to see how the final product fulfills its goal of recreating the JRPGs it strives to recreate.
The King’s Bird (Serenity Forge, PC)
We happened across the The King’s Bird at PAX two seasons ago and it was something of a surprise charmer, so I’ve been wondering what had happened to the title. Thankfully, the studio now turned publisher Serenity Forge, reached out and offered us a invite to come see how the title has progressed. In a nutshell, the game is a platformer that has you jumping and sliding through tight corridors, using your ability to swoop and glide through the air to lithely cross pits and reach the level’s end.
Mechanically, the game feels like it has had an overhaul and in fact the dev has actually switched engines entirely. The dev mentioned that they found gliding in the original build to be too overpowered, allowing you to evade too much too easily, so they have rebalanced to emphasize more of the ground game. Personally, I felt like the loss of the flightly feel of the games twisty, turny aerial acrobatics takes away some of what made my original experience so exciting. However, the game still plays with the same breakneck speeds that make my first playthrough so intriguing. You’ll still glide, and now hop, slide and dive through treacherous, narrow tunnels, which when pulled off just right makes the game really enthralling.
The Swords of Ditto (Onebitbeyond, PS4, PC)
Sword of Ditto is a roguelike, procedurally-generated action RPG, and despite being all those things I did’t hate it. In fact, I thought it was actually a pretty solid package. Drawing inspiration from classic ARPG titles like Zelda, Onebitstudios has put together a colorful, charming game that has you, and potentially a second player, exploring dungeons, claiming treasure and solving puzzles. While I don’t know if there’s anything this genre can do to make me fall in love with it, this was actually a pretty good mesh of powering up, exploration and action.
At first glance, the game looks like your standard Zelda-like ARPG, but its charming design looks very nice (The dev told me they drew inspiration from sources like TV’s Adventure Time, where there are things that kids and adults can enjoy). The combat has simple mechanics, but gives you a variety of weapons and power ups to alter your abilities, keeping the gameplay straightfoward but with some palpable variety. For procedurally-generated worlds, the dungeons mesh together well and looked more thoughtfully designed that most entries can claim, feeling pretty deliberate in pacing and flow, even incorporating puzzle elements to break up the action. What’s also great is that it supports couch co-op, and a second play can pick up a controller and join you in your quest which gives you an added edge not only in battle, but also when navigating dungeons and collecting treasure.
Ape Out (Gabe Cuzzillo, PC)
I wrapped up the day with Ape Out, a fast-paced, top-down action game that puts you in the role of an ape who’s looking to escape captivity. To break free the ape must go against his armed captures, grabbing foes and throwing them into walls so violently that they break apart. The concept is a little inane, but was also a pretty good time as I dodged through tight corridors trying to evade enemies, but also pitching foes into one another, causing them to explode in fountains of blood and limbs. The game is structured around it’s jazz soundtrack, treating each level as a unique album track that reacts to the gameplay, with big improvised crash symbols punctuating the impact of foes as they explode in gore. The demo feels like it has some fine tuning to do, with some wide halls that feel just a little too open for the unarmed ape to cross under heavy gunfire, but it’s still a fun title with some cool visuals, very cool soundtrack, and amusing comical violence.