According to official numbers, 345,000 visitors from 97 countries visited gamescom this year in Cologne, Germany. Since adventure games play a very minor role in the crowded public area, I was mostly able to dodge the enormous mass of gamers, some of whom stood in line for hours to play demos of upcoming AAA titles. The business area was not only the place to go for those who like things (comparably) calm and manageable, it was also where you wanted to be to learn all about upcoming adventure games. Looking back on this year’s busy schedule, I encountered some very positive surprises, including a variety of different approaches to adventure gaming. As our multi-part gamescom coverage over the next few weeks will demonstrate, there is something on the horizon for every adventure gamer’s personal preferences.
My appointment for Pendulo Studios’ Yesterday Origins consisted of two different segments. First I joined a 10-minute presentation held by Microïds’ Cédrine Decoret, who talked about the overall concept of Origins. Secondly, I was given the chance to play a press demo entirely on my own. According to Cédrine, Yesterday Origins works as a sequel to 2012’s black-humored horror adventure Yesterday for approximately two-thirds of the game, and a prequel for the other one-third. He added that it’s not necessary to have played its predecessor as Origins imparts everything newcomers need to know about previous events. In case you’re still planning to play the original game, I suggest skipping the following paragraph as the plot premise of Yesterday Origins contains unavoidably massive spoilers of its forerunner.
SPOILER WARNING FOR YESTERDAY At first sight, antiquities shop owners John Yesterday and Pauline Petit seem like an ordinary couple, leading a normal life in Paris. Truth is, John and Pauline became immortal during an alchemistic ritual that took place more than 500 years ago during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Whenever one of them “dies”, they just return to life. Since John’s potion in the ritual was tainted, though, each time he rises from the dead he loses his memory. As the protagonists find out, an old coin could help John to repeat the ritual correctly so he would never have to lose his memory again. Unfortunately, it turns out that the heroes of Yesterday Origins aren’t the only ones searching for this powerful artifact. In trying to save John’s memories and prevent the forces of evil from obtaining the secret of immortality, a gruesome journey begins that takes Petit and Yesterday around the world and through different time periods. END OF SPOILERS
While Cédrine summarized the story of Origins, he showed several screenshots and short videos that conveyed the mature nature of the content. Since I knew the German publisher expects an 18 years + rating for the game, I asked about other markets. “I think it will also receive the strictest rating in each other country, even though the submission is not completed,” Decoret replied. “We’ll have a definite answer soon, but it is very likely as the game deals with themes like torture, suicide and occultism.”
The press demo involved John needing to escape his dungeon imprisonment with a carnivorous pig at the hands of the Inquisition. As this turned out to be the same as the one shown at E3, there isn’t much new to report about the gameplay, except that it can be played with a controller or the mouse. Yesterday Origins is being promoted as “the first 3D game ever by Pendulo”, which may concern some people who think they’re abandoning their more traditional approach, but I was impressed to see that the developers found a way of doing a 3D game that captures the distinctive look of previous efforts. And just as in the last game, animated comic sequences are used to unfold important parts of the story.
While the planned release date has been slightly postponed, Pendulo fans won’t have to wait for much longer. The game is now scheduled for release on the 13th of October on PS4, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac. Based on what I have seen, I predict that John Yesterday’s new adventure is not going to win any awards for its subtlety. Nevertheless, it looks to be an atmospheric horror adventure with some very clever gameplay ideas and strong visuals. If it can continue to match its impressive style with solid puzzles and a clever story, the future looks bright for Yesterday Origins.
The Inner World 2: The Last Windmonk
Just before gamescom, Studio Fizbin announced that they are currently working on a sequel to their charming debut adventure The Inner World. Needless to say, I was eager to meet game director Sebastian Mittag and Gregor Ebert, PR manager of German publisher HeadUp Games. Before we started talking about The Inner World 2, though, Gregor and Sebastian told me about its predecessor being scheduled for a PS4 and Xbox One release at the end of this year. Not wasting any time, a demo version was started and I was able to get a hands-on glimpse at the Xbox version of the original adventure.
Being only familiar with the PC version and its traditional point-and-click approach, it took me a few minutes to get used to directly controlling the character. However, quite quickly I found that the new controls suited the game well, and even felt more organic and intuitive to me than they did in the PC release. Asked if there are going to be any other differences in the upcoming ports, Sebastian and Gregor said they are otherwise identical before perfectly transitioning into The Inner World 2: The Last Windmonk: “It’s perfect training for us in terms of developing for consoles. Surely, the sequel is going to benefit from our experiences”.
Even though Gregor and Sebastian were not presenting a demo version, they showed me the announcement teaser of their newest adventure, and discussed The Last Windmonk for several minutes. According to them, the sequel is going to make perfect sense even for those who haven’t played the first game. Once again entirely hand-drawn, The Inner World 2 is going to send players back to the fantasy realm Asposia, giving us a chance to discover a variety of new locations. Taking place three years after the end of the first game, we find Asposia close to its demise. While the flute nose dynasty has been filling the “roly-poly world” with light and life for centuries, Emil, a ruthless trader of odds and ends, has convinced the Asposians that the family secretly conspires with the powers of evil. Now it’s up to the three reluctant heroes Robert, Laura, and Peck to stop Emil and his henchmen.
While Robert and Laura were already playable characters in the previous game, fan-favorite Peck – a flightless pigeon – now can be operated as well. There will be other differences too, as I was told that the upcoming title is going to contain shorter dialogues than the original game as well as more elaborate animations and “hours of brainteasing fun”. In case you don’t like the idea of direct control, the PC version is going to give you the type of point-and-click interface you already know so well. Apparently the game also contains some socio-critical elements, as Emil and his followers share obvious similarities with Hitler and the NSDAP.
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According to Gregor Ebert, The Inner World 2: The Last Windmonk is scheduled to be released for Windows, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One as well as Android and iOS platforms in the middle of 2017. Studio Fizbin has proven their qualities before, and even though I haven’t seen any of the sequel’s design in action, there are lots of reasons to look forward to the upcoming return (or first visit) to Asposia.