Our journey through a wealth of Gamescom previews and features continues today with another roundup of games. Today’s the last of these roundups, so be sure to check those out that have been posted over the last couple of weeks, but it’s not the end of our coverage to come out of Gamescom.
AER: Memories of Old
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Gamescom, rushing from one appointment to the next, AER was a serene pool of tranquility. It’s a calming game on so many levels, from its minimalist visual aesthetic, to its relaxed puzzling and the way that you simply soar through the sky.
However, the demo started in a rather different fashion, as I explored a cave on a pilgrimage to pray to a statue of a god. Mystically, Auk is greeted by a vision and the Karah’s light shines from her statue’s lantern. It’s the first time this has happened in many years, marking Auk as the only one who can save a world that has been shattered into many islands floating in the sky.
It’s as I emerged that I was suddenly and gloriously allowed to transform into a bird and fly. Flying is delightful and freeing, getting faster and faster, and swooping through clouds. The game sees you venture to the corners of this world to visit three temples, drawing you to environmental puzzles with distant pillars of light, and then leaving you to figure them out in your own time.
AER: Memories of Old is shaping up to be something really quite lovely and special, and a good thing too, as it’s been in development for around four years! It will be released on 25th October for PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac and Linux
I Hate Running Backwards
Top down shooters are so 1985, but how about one where you run backwards as enemies chase you? That’s what you get when the Serious Sam universe takes on the classic top-down shooter genre and it’s a novelty for sure.
I’ve never been a big fan of voxels as an art style and this game didn’t really convince me any further of their appeal, aside from them being a quick and easy way to render customised assets for very small teams, but I can see some of the charm on offer here, and the aesthetic is somewhat randomised as you progress, meaning you may not see the same scenery after you’ve defeated one of the bosses.
I Hate Running Backwards also takes more old school style choices, such as having arcade-like perma-death to end a run, though it’s softened in co-op, as the playing in co-op allows for players to rejoin after 100m of running. Given there are obstacles that can instantly kill you, this is a godsend.
Being Serious Sam related, the weapons are ridiculous in terms of their power, and there’s even a melee weapon swing that eliminates anything around you, including the scenery. You also have vehicles to leap into which, when playing co-op, allow one person to drive while the other aims and fire their turret/gun. Despite absolutely sucking during my first couple of runs, I eventually got the hang of the flow and was largely able to keep up with the developer.
I guess the appeal of this game boils down to, “Do you like games trying something different with an established genre?” If the answer is yes, then perhaps I Hate Running Backwards will surprise you when it launches sometime next year.
Think back to the glory days of the Sega Saturn and arcade cabinets, and you’ll find the key inspirations for Racing Apex, most specifically in the classic Virtua Racer. The graphics are chunky and polygonal with bright colours that are quite delightfully retro as you race down wide open tracks, drifting through long corners and weaving past your competitors in no time.
There’s eight characters to choose from, each of which is a pastiche of various stereotyped nationalities. The Roger Moore-like Aston is the stereotypical posh Brit, Maximilian a hulking Russian, Alexa the sporty American, and they each have four vehicles covering the game’s four speed classes, all of which are low poly versions of classic cars. You’ll be in an Aston Martin Le Mans Prototype, a classic Ford GT, and so on. Each character has different weight ratings, which ties into the Mario Kart-esque Battle Mode where you’ll be able to pick up and fling items at each other.
While Lucky Mountain Games could easily have gone whole hog with their homage to classic arcade racers and the feel of the vehicles by hard coding the handling, they’ve instead gone and wrapped the game around a full physics engine simulating these cars. The team is made up from developers from the UK’s once wide and varied community of racing studios, and it’s telling in how unexpectedly ambitious some parts of the game are. Each vehicle has an interior for cockpit view, for example, while the game’s 16 tracks are actually different layouts that wind through the fully realised locations – a design philosophy that was at the heart of the Burnout series.
There’s plenty more to do to refine the currently rather raw and finicky handling, and this was just a brief glimpse of what the game will offer, but there’s a distinct appeal to Racing Apex. The game is heading to PC and consoles in 2018.
The Second World War meets the indie hit FTL: Faster Than Light in Bomber Crew, and that simple description should be enough to draw plenty of people in. The title gives it away really, as you take charge of a British bomber during WWII, and have to recruit a crew that can fly the plane, man the guns, operate the radar and apply spot fixes where necessary, so that you can pull off daring missions in enemy territory.
Each prospective recruit has a rating of armour, speed, thermal resistance and ability work without oxygen, which can easily mean the difference between life and death when the plane has taken a lot of damage. However, you can equip them with gear to help boost these stats and perhaps make them better at their jobs. Fingerless gloves make manning the radar that little bit easier, for example.
Trooping into the Lancaster Bomber, there’s a fair amount of micromanaging the crew as you fly your mission. You’ll have to manually raise and lower the landing gear, swivel the camera to look around the plane in 3D to spot and tag waypoints that your navigator provides, as well as keep an eye out for enemy fighters to tag, so your gunner can start trying to gun them down.
When it all kicks off and the flak cannons start firing, the fighters close in and even combat aces like Merrik Jager start coming after you, you’ll have your hands full ordering people around, sending someone to repair the electrics so that you can use the radar, manually open the bomb doors, and so on. The plane visually gets more and more beat up, with each bullet and spot of shrapnel knocking holes in it, to the point it will start to look like it really shouldn’t fly. Of course, you simply need to glide home to succeed, but if you’re downed, you can send a homing pigeon back home to try and get rescued.
Fans of FTL should keep an eye out for Bomber Crew on 19th October, when it will release on Steam, with Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch versions also planned.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet
Fans of Sword Art Online will be confused to hear that Fatal Bullet is not part of the same world as the others – kind of. Much like the real world, there are multiple MMOs out there, so while the main series takes place in a fantasy game within the game, this one takes place in a game within the game called “Gun Gale Online” with a futuristic setting and lots of guns.
It was billed as an RPG when Bandai Namco teased us, but it’s more like a Borderlands style action RPG shooter, albeit in of game but in third-person and AI controlled companions. I could freely move around, snipe enemies or slice them depending on the style of character. In the demo, there were two presets, though in the final game you’ll be able to create your own character.
This one sadly needed some more time in the oven and Bandai Namco probably showed the game off way too early to the press. It looks incredibly dated, stuttered badly, and had enemy AI so mindless that they either ran up to you as soon as you shot them or took way too long to fire a shot. Over the coming months, there will probably be more information on Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet’s mechanics beyond fighting and loot gathering, so maybe it could still be alright?
That’s all for our roundups from Gamescom, but we’ve still got a fair few games to talk about, both big and small. Keep an eye out over the next week or so, where we’ll dive into Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Sonic Forces and plenty more besides.