Gamescom 2017 round-up: Part 1

Gamescom 2017 round-up: Part 1
Gamescom 2017 round-up: Part 1

It’s hard to believe how time flies. When gamescom 2017 opened its gates on the 22nd of August, it felt slightly unreal how quickly a whole year had passed since 2016’s fair. Nevertheless, I was more than ready for the annual excitement. As always, I was glad to be mostly able to dodge the crowds of people in the public area where gaming fans of all ages tried to get a glimpse of upcoming AAA spectacles. Traditionally, the business area is the place to go if you want to find out about upcoming adventures and similar projects, and that was true again this year.

Since I was on my own in representing Adventure Gamers, I teamed up with our friends from the German website Adventure Corner to visit numerous appointments together and share the wealth… and the workload. As usual, days and nights were long, and we felt exhausted by the end of the week. However, Matthias Glanznig, Peter Färberböck and I certainly agree that the experience of seeing so many promising new games made up for all the tiredness and stress. We will continue to feature certain games in standalone articles (as we’ve done already with Black Mirror and Life Is Strange: Before the Storm), but it’s time now for our first (though not last!) round-up from gamescom 2017 to fill you in on the many adventures coming soon.

Tokyo Dark

by Matthias Glanznig

Back in 2015, Cherrymochi received funding through Kickstarter to develop Tokyo Dark, a point-and-click adventure game with visual novel elements. The small indie studio is based near Tokyo and was founded by Maho, who is from Japan, and her husband Jon Williams, who was born in England. This combination is strongly reflected in a game which deliberately mixes western and Asian elements. At gamescom, we played through the prologue.

We follow the path of Detective Ayami Itō, who is trying to find her missing partner. As the story unfolds, events become increasingly surreal. There's also a lot more to Itō than meets the eye at first. She has to confront her own past, which culminates in several dark and more or less weird horror scenarios.

The game presents itself as a side-scrolling adventure. In this respect it is comparable to games like The Cat Lady, but mouse control is possible and the game plays like you would expect from a point-and-click adventure. Even though the art style is reminiscent of various visual novels, the gameplay seems much closer to the familiar western approach and there appears to be a lot to explore and interact with. In fact, main inspirations like Heavy Rain, The Blackwell Legacy, and Shenmue were mentioned by the developers.

The first few puzzles rely heavily on conversations and exploration. To give an example, at the beginning you need to find the mobile phone of your partner and follow it to the last known destination. Of course, you have to ask around for clues. You also discover a closed exit and must watch for useful items or helpful people.

How complex these puzzles will later become is hard to predict, but the start of this adventure feels like an enjoyable investigation. Interestingly, we were told that some puzzles can be solved in more than one way. And depending on your actions, some NPCs might not cooperate at all, forcing you to try a different approach.

It is also noteworthy that for many actions you'll get attribute points (Sanity, Professionalism, Investigation, and Neurosis). Careful examination of your surroundings will earn you points for Investigation. Asking the same questions over and over again will buff your Neurosis level.

According to the developers, attributes can actually affect the direction of the story, so it is no big surprise that Tokyo Dark comes with multiple endings. In fact, Maho told us that after completing the game you will be able to experience a new game-plus mode with an additional ending. She hopes this will motivate players to replay the story. According to her, a complete playthrough might take at least six hours.

Overall, the prologue of Tokyo Dark made a very promising first impression. For those who like the distinctive anime art style and dark stories dealing with topics like insanity, it might be worth checking out this unusual title. It definitely left us curious for more and as of September 7th it is available on PC.


The Inner World: The Last Wind Monk

by Peter Färberböck

Studio Fizbin let us take a look at some scenes of The Inner World: The Last Wind Monk. Early on, we listened to a short narration concerning the previous game. Thus, it is not necessary to play its predecessor, though it might be helpful for better immersion. At the beginning of the sequel, we experienced a series first: the trusty pigeon Hack of the first game is fully controllable! He can interact with the world via pecking/hacking at things or taking items with his claws. We did not even have to exchange items between playable characters because the inventories are fully shared – as long as the characters are in the same area. Alongside the typical point-and-click controls, all established controllers should work with the PC version as well.

As soon as the characters started to interact, the enhanced animations caught our eye. They are more complex than before and the characters even seem to have some spatial depth this time despite the traditional 2D graphics. The Inner World 2 is definitely a game for classic adventure buffs, focusing on humour and vintage puzzles. Since Hack is able to fly, he can reach things that returning protagonist Robert cannot. For that reason, the puzzles might be a bit more difficult because we always have to keep Hack’s abilities in mind.

Concerning the story, the protagonists have to find a kind of "Harmony" to stop the cult worshipping Conroy. That cult is not coincidentally very akin to the Nazi party and adds fictionalized versionss of newer elements like the "alt-right", "Hope not Hate" and the German "PEGIDA" movement. Still, The Last Wind Monk positions itself very knowingly as a family game. If children play, it will be totally up to the parents whether they want to explain the political backdrop. Thanks to the publisher Headup Games, there will be elaborate English and German voice-overs which accentuate the game’s lengthy dialogues. The demo hinted that they might even be too long for some adults, let alone children.

The original release date was not met due to new financial possibilities, which allowed the adventure to grow accordingly with some additional languages made possible. However, final launch is close now, as The Inner World 2 will be released soon on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in multiple languages, though no firm date has yet been decided. Later on, it will also be available for mobile devices. The release date may vary for some consoles because of different approval mechanisms and release days set by the console manufacturers.


Unforeseen Incidents

by Peter Färberböck

Since January 2016, Backwoods Entertainment has been working on their first adventure game Unforeseen Incidents. Thanks to their publisher Heidelberg Application Systems, the title has grown quite significantly in that time, and thus some delays were to be expected. But now, finally, the promising project is closing in on a release around October/November. In meeting with Backwoods’ artist/animator Matthias Nikutta and musician /sound designer Tristan Berger at gamescom, they assured us that this goal is quite realistic because it is already possible to complete the game.

The final spurt may not be completely smooth, however, because the English voice-overs might be delayed briefly. Despite Backwoods being a German studio, the dialogues are written in English first, and then Alasdair Beckett-King (Nelly Cootalot) adapts and hones them afterwards. Hence, they want to ensure that the dialogues feel right. Apart from that, only a few minor things are missing, such as some graphics and final sound mixing. 

The developers are aiming for 8-16 hours of game time, with a more specific range to be determined as soon as the testing phase is finished. However, the four chapters in the game will each take two hours at least. Unforeseen Incidents is set in a huge world, and the team has already skimmed the game for time-sinks such as useless long-distance walking. Thus, they have implemented a quick travel feature to avoid pointless travel times.

The game always had a very distinct art style which could easily have originated from a graphic novel. Since we last saw it at AdventureX, though, many things have changed and the characters appear to be vivid and three-dimensional despite this being a 2D adventure game. The backgrounds were already rather rich in detail and looked great from the beginning, but now every chapter has a unique setting. The first is set in a national park, while in the second part we explore a rather big city, and after that we’ll visit a vast snowscape and a ghost town. Furthermore, two chapters will take place in twilight, whereas one chapter will be set in the morning. The fourth chapter will be a surprise and should not be spoiled unnecessarily.

The game is focused on researching the virus which ravages the world. The protagonist Harper Pendrell will do some investigating to obtain information on the virus and new locations. After that, he will visit those new locations and the story unfolds. Players have to help him find evidence and deduce what is behind the virus. Unforeseen Incidents is going to be a rather classical adventure game with many puzzles. However, these will not get too weird but rather stay logical and fitting. A good example is Harper's multitool. As an electronics buff and handyman, he capably repairs various things with this gadget, which consists of seven different tools. Aside from these logical and realistic puzzles, dialogues will be another source of further evidence.

The skilled adventure gamer may be taken aback by the mention of one-click controls, but this does not mean that it is a simple game. The aim is for a moderate difficulty, with veteran genre fans representing the target audience. To avoid frustration, the developers have created a rather subtle help system. Just talk to different characters and most of the time they will have a useful comment for the current puzzle.

As the game is nearly finished, there is one question left: What is next for Backwoods Entertainment? Well, they still do not know. They have many intriguing ideas but have not decided yet. Fortunately, they want to stick to their principles and will most likely do another adventure game.

Continued on the next page...

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