A snapshot of EGX 2019

A quick look at a few of the things I saw at the UK’s largest gaming show

A snapshot of EGX 2019

Returning to London after its move to Birmingham in 2014, EGX is the UK’s largest gaming convention. Bringing some of the biggest names in the industry, along with plenty of indie developers, it’s one of the best places to see some of the latest, greatest, and upcoming games available. They also have a great array of panels, talks, and workshops, and a bustling career section for those looking to make the leap into the sector. 

The biggest convention also means some of the biggest queues, so I was limited on what I did manage to see, and rather than do individual write-ups for everything I saw, I thought I would pick out five things that really impressed me during my time at EGX. 

Boundary

Created by the small Chinese indie developers Surgical Scalpels, Boundary is a multiplayer FPS set in space. The five-v-five team setup will see you battle for superiority in a number of different game modes, including Free For All and Team Deathmatch. There will be a number of maps available at launch, but the one I played on appeared to be a destroyed satellite. 

There are different weapon and character classes, and the weapons I used all felt satisfying to fire. The fight I participated in was conducted in zero-gravity, so navigation and manoeuvring was done with a jetpack, which is known as an EVA Pack. It took a while to get used to the physics, as inertia is an important consideration when trying to move around.

Boundary is coming to the PC, and a PS4 console exclusive. It will launch in early 2020.

Shadowplay: Metropolis Foe

Developer Crossingstar Studio have created a card game with a difference. This cyberpunk styled game mixes your traditional deck building and card combat with a compelling narrative, gorgeous graphics and a city filled with secrets for you to uncover.  

Card games aren’t really my area of interest, but I have to admit I found the gameplay to be intuitive, and the different card classes engaging. You will also pick up different characters along the way, each who bring their own skills and cards to the mix. You pick and choose who you bring along on missions, which allows you to customise your deck, and find unique ways to play through the seedy underworld of Starcity.

This is possibly the first card game that has really captured my attention, and it will be available on Steam for PC next year. I actually think it’s one that would work well on a tablet, so  here’s hoping they eventually plan to port it…

Closed Hands

Dan Hett, with his indie studio Passenger Games, have created an incredibly emotive text-based game that examines radicalisation and extremism. Dan Hatt has previously written a blog about the game, and has talked about the death of his brother in the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attacks. In my brief playthrough of it I could tell that this was going to be something special, making me question what I thought were sensible, ethically correct, decisions. 

You follow the narrative threads of seven different characters, getting their perspective and exploring their persona devices to get a really intimate understanding of their personalities, motives, and how they play into the plot. 

This is genuinely one of the most interesting, and emotionally captivating games I saw at EGX, and I cannot wait for it to come out at some point in 2020. 

Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay

I’ve flicked between sheer excitement and total indifference to this game. Having (to my shame) never played The Witcher, my love for developer CD PROJEKT RED comes from their seemingly pro-gamer business choices, predominantly in the rejection of micro transactions and loot boxes. Yet, at the same time, the ambition and scale of the game they are trying to sell had me dubious just because of how studios have previously promised the Earth only to under-deliver. 

The 45 minutes of gameplay has somewhat won me back around. With more than a smattering of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, and a demonstration of how your character stats will dramatically impact your style of gameplay, I felt that perhaps this would be an old-school RPG. We saw a small slither of the world they had built, and it certainly looked bustling and felt genuinely alive.

My one concern is over the gunplay. They have promised that you can complete the whole game without killing a single person, but should you feel the need to pick up a gun, shooting looked slightly clunky, and not as smooth as your traditional looter shooters. However, Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t out until April, so there is plenty of time to polish. 

Cyberpunk 2077 is due to be released on XBOX One, PS4, PC and Google Stadia on 16 April. 

Platontonic Games talk about Yooka-Laylee: The Impossible Lair

Digital Foundry’s John Linneman interviewed some of the crew of Playtonic Games about their sequel to the Kickstarter darling, Yooka-Laylee. Titled Yooke-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Playtonic removed a dimension to transition from 3D to 2D, while retaining the characters and the feeling of nostalgia. Another difference between the two is that The Impossible Lair wasn’t crowd founded. The original game raised over £2m on Kickstarter, but for the sequel the team elected to just keep their head down and focus on building the game. Grateful though they were for its success, running a campaign was time-consuming and a distraction. 

Talking about the development process, the team said that they chose Unity to build the first game because it was free, and stuck with it because it’s a great engine for iterating on quickly and they’re familiar with it. That familiarity of the engine made testing and QA quicker and easier. The removal of a user-controlled camera made further improved things, because in a 3D platformer you don’t know where the camera could be facing at any given time. That said, the physics bugs were the most annoying to fix, purely as a result of how inconsistently they arose. Now the game is in the hands of players, the speed-running community have started finding new bugs and glitches to help speed up their run, but Playtonic don’t want to patch them out as it all adds to the charm of the game. 

The team made a lot of quality of life improvements to the game. They made the technical decision to have a long loading time at the start of the game, so the player doesn’t see loading screens when jumping between worlds. However, once that loading is done, you can jump into a game faster as they didn’t load the start with dialogue and logos, and you don’t even have to select a save slot if this is your first time playing the game. 

Despite comparison being made to Diddy Kong Country (Playtonic was started by ex-Rare employees, after all) the team are keen to move away from the idea of a ‘spiritual successor’. While Yooka-Laylee was marketed as the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, Playtonic want this The Impossible Lair to stand on its own two feet, and inject their own personalities into it. 

Header Image Credit: Tom Inniss

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Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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