It’s a great time to be an adventure gamer, and from what E3 was showing this year, that doesn’t look to change in the foreseeable future – at least if you're willing to venture beyond traditional point-and-click, and particularly for those who can handle a little action with their story-driven puzzles. Over the course of several days I scoured the City of Angels, from high rooftops to personal meeting rooms off the E3 show floor to get the latest info on games both newly-released and still upcoming in the next few months and beyond. The games themselves will take us even further, from a dystopian future Berlin all the way back to 14th century France, allowing us to experience stories that take place on distant planets or on the fire escape right outside the window. Promising a little something for everyone, enjoy this look back at the adventures of E3 2018.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
If you played and enjoyed DONTNOD Entertainment’s Life Is Strange, well then you probably don’t need me to sell you on The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit; the game will be free to download as of June 26, 2018, so go ahead and play it already!
Not that this is another installment in the lives of Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, however, nor is it set in Arcadia Bay. Instead, this two-hour episode serves as a sort of “playable demo” (DONTNOD’s words) for the upcoming Life Is Strange 2. The connections aren’t fully clear yet, but the developers do promise that Captain Spirit features a character that will also make an appearance in the next series, and that there will be several easter eggs within the game that connect them all to the same shared universe.
The decision to make the game free of charge is twofold: 1) It can be considered a thank you to the franchise’s fans, and 2) the developers hope to stir up some additional interest in Life Is Strange 2 before it has even officially been unveiled.
On the surface, Captain Spirit plays identically to the French studio’s previous efforts: explore the environment, press buttons indicated on-screen to interact or examine objects all around you, then sit back and watch the slow-burn narrative unfold. This time around, players will take on the role of Chris, a nine-year-old boy with a very active imagination. Players will help Chris create a superhero persona to deal with a recent traumatic event in his life. Of course, a superhero needs a nemesis to fight and a day to save, and so Chris creates a to-do list of his heroic objectives for the day.
When Chris dons the identity of Captain Spirit, the world around him changes. A garage becomes a fantastical evil villain’s lair, a snowman a nefarious rival with the power to freeze his opponents. Even some normal objects in and around Chris’s home (where the game takes place) have secondary interactions when activated with Captain Spirit’s “superhero interactions.” For example, Chris is afraid of going into the dark garage, but once he dons Captain Spirit’s costume, being afraid of the dark is no longer a problem.
Charming little touches like these permeate the game, and fans of character building can look forward to plenty of little touches that truly make you begin to care about this world and the people in it. The developers have even hinted that some of the choices made in Captain Spirit may carry over into Life Is Strange 2.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a free download for Windows PC on Steam, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One starting June 26, 2018.
Call of Cthulhu
When private investigator Edward Pierce is called to Darkwater Island to investigate the mysterious death of Sarah Hawkins, he has no idea exactly what he’s about to get caught up in, for Cthulhu stirs and a secret cult in 1920s Boston is setting the scene for his arrival. Cyanide Studios’ atmospheric first-person RPG detective game is steeped in Lovecraftian lore and challenges players to retain at least a shred of their sanity as they investigate the visions of madness that haunt the island.
In a darkened showroom off the bustling E3 floor, I was invited to watch a gameplay demonstration. In our demo, Edward, along with a member of the local constabulary, was conducting a nighttime investigation of Hawkins manor, in particular to find out why a suspicious fire had recently erupted there.
As Edward investigates, a white border appears around the edge of the screen to let you know you can enter detective mode. This taps into Edward’s considerable deductive powers, slowly piecing together what happened at a crime scene, using whatever clues you can find. While attempting to pin down the cause of the fire, a question mark icon alerted us that there were still undiscovered objects or clues nearby.
Call of Cthulhu incorporates quite a lot of player choice into its gameplay systems. You create a character by assigning points to certain skills at the start of the game, which Edward can then raise throughout by finding related books. Talents like psychology, forensics, lockpicking, and occultism can help you interpret clues, enter locations, and deal with suspects you encounter. The development team has made sure that every hurdle can be overcome in a number of ways. For example, late in the demo, Edward encounters a bookcase hiding a secret door that can be opened by solving a nearby globe puzzle. If, however, you aren’t able to solve the puzzle but have the prerequisite skill and item, you can simply use a crowbar to force the mechanism, opening the door.
The demo took us through several of the mansion’s rooms, revealing more and more about the Hawkins family through Edward’s detective vision. Of special concern are the frequent images of the young Hawkins boy, clearly terrified of something sinister. It seems the oil paintings throughout the manor are related to a ritual carried out by a dangerous cult that has some sort of connection to the Hawkins family. Suddenly, a noise lures Edward to the end of the hall. Slowly entering the darkened room, he finds – prominently displayed as if waiting for him – a previously undiscovered painting, this one depicting in clarity his own haunted face. Before Edward can so much as register the frightening implications of this, a robed figure bursts out of the shadows in the back of the room, and rushes right at him.
We weren’t quite at the end of the demo, but this example perfectly encapsulates what the game has to offer: a dark, foreboding case to solve, filled with plenty of Lovecraftian imagery and atmosphere, and all of it open to player choice to proceed in any number of ways. As Edward draws ever closer to the mythos of Cthulhu, his sanity will become increasingly jeopardized, though the developers stated that this is something that will affect the story only, rather than make gameplay more challenging. There will be some light combat against Edward’s human opponents, but when facing otherworldly Lovecraftian antagonists, fruitless fighting instead makes way for naked survival.
There is still some time to go before we can join Edward in taking on the Great Old Ones, but the game is on schedule to release sometime this year. Call of Cthulhu will be playable on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.Continued on the next page...