Part Four of our EGX Rezzed hands-on previews looks at E-Line Media’s The Endless Mission, Disco Elysium from ZA/UM and Shift Quantum from Fishing Cactus.
The Endless Mission
The Endless Mission sounds like a game only dreams are made of. From E-Line Media, the makers of the excellent Never Alone, and Endless OS, the game is described as “a creation sandbox game that takes players on a hero’s journey through a rich narrative world where they develop the power and opportunity to unlock Unity based tools to craft games and experiences of their own” which is the long way of saying “you get to play, build and remix game genres and assets to create your own games”. In the demo I played, there was a section of 3 genres available – an 3D platformer, a voxel art RTS and a sci-fi themed kart racer. I dropped into a whirlpool and landed in the 3D platformer world which challenged me to collect a few golden pineapples around a colourful but deadly island. This was an ample demonstration that The Endless Mission could pull off the genre with a pre-set theme, character and game type competently. Then things got interesting. I was then allowed to “remix” the game. I hit a random generator button which picked “Platformer” as my game type, the sci-fi kart as my playable character and the sci-fi race track as my world. I was then spawned on to the track but instead of participating in a race, I was on the hunt for golden pineapples again. You could see the race track still in all its glory, but hidden off the sides or high on the city scape around my kart were the collectables I was aiming for and to get them I had to ride lifts, jump across platforms or hit ramps at speed to collect them. Of course, a kart probably isn’t the most suitabld playable character to navigate platform game mechanics which was demonstrated when I tried to jump a gap and couldn’t quite make it – but this is when another excellent aspect of The Endless Mission was demonstrated to me. At any time, you can modify the abilities of your character from a menu using sliders. My kart didn’t have a jump height high enough to cross the gap but with a nudge on a slider, I could increase the power on the jump so I could make the leap with ease. There was no loading or buffering with the change either. It was instant.
When the game launches on Early Access this Summer, the 3D platformer, the RTS and the Kart Racer will be part of an ever growing collection of genres, characters and settings (all of which will be included in the original price for the game – “You buy the game, you get the game”, the developer told me) which can be mixed and moulded to create entirely new game experiences. The voxel art RTS character racing around the tropical Platformer island? An RTS match on the kart track? These are the possibilities with The Endless Mission which is aiming to entertain and teach people how to code at the same time. The mere idea of stumbling across a whole new type of gaming experience thanks to the melting pot of genres, settings and characters that are available at launch (22 variations in total) have piqued my interest and the thought of the near exponential growth of possibilities as new genres are added means that The Endless Mission could be something very special indeed. You can add it to your Steam wish list here.
I walked away from my time with Disco Elysium and said “That game has GOTY contender written all over it”. You might have heard of this isometric point-and-sleuth RPG before but under the guise of “No Truce With The Furies”, the previous name of Disco Elysium before it was changed a month ago, but no matter what it’s called, this game oozed charisma, style and originality. In it you play as a broken cop who wakes from a stupor not knowing who is, what he’s doing and, most importantly, what kind of person he is. There has been a murder and you discover it’s your job to figure out who did it but that’s one of the only restraints on this story which adapts to the way you play in astonishing ways. I watched someone play the opening dialogue exchanges before sitting down to play Disco Elysium myself and to my surprise, the conversations I had with the same characters were almost entirely different. Shaping your version of the main character through decisions and the way you play alters the way NPC’s respond to you. Act like an authoritative law man and some characters will react to your forcefulness by giving you more information while others clam up and keep things secret from you. Respect the feelings of others and work for their aims and while some characters will warm to you, it’s possible you could become blinded my your empathy. The games choices are underpinned by a mesh of characteristics and random dice rolls which make them easier or harder based on who you are as a player and what kind of decisions you’ve made in the past. Just from the first 15 minutes of the game, I got the feeling of this living, breathing, bizarro retro-futuristic world that has been bought about through some very smart writing. There was a moment when an NPC was being sarcastic with me – something that I often find games struggle to portray via text – and it was done in such a way that even without a vocal track, I felt berated by it.
Then there’s the art style. Oh boy, that art style. Disco Elysium looks like a moving water colour painting with hand crafted visuals in the world itself and as portraits that pop up alongside the dialogue. The art-fu of the artists at ZA/UM is on another level.
Disco Elysium launches this year and promises “a unique journey for each of its players” and I highly recommend you add it to your Steam wish list by clicking here.
At a cursory glance, it’s easy to pass off Shift Quantum as a game similar to something you’ve played before. The black and white aesthetic, the “change the screen colour to change the platforming” mechanic – as sole parts of a game, they’ve been done before, but let me assure you Shift Quantum is more than the sum of these parts and it’s unlike any puzzle platformer I’ve ever played before. The element that sets this game apart from its competitors is that with a button press, the colours switch and you’re transported through the floor onto the opposing plane i.e. Drop down into a deep ditch and with a press of a button, you’re now standing on a tall tower. The horizontal slice of Quantum Shift I played contained 6 ingenious puzzles that required forethought and logical thinking but were instantly accessible and intuitive. It’s a smart games that uses mechanics you’re probably used to in a way you’ve probably not – in one level, there’s a moveable block which can be used to block your own progress but when inverted, opens up your path forward.
Visually, the game looks excellent. Screenshots really don’t do this game justice and while you might have seen the black on white art style used before, it’s used is a really thoughtful way here. It’s quite amazing how much detail Fishing Cactus have managed to add to the game using nothing but 2 shades. There’s also a nice touch with the audio too – there’s 2 separate sound tracks that play depending on which plane you’re in and they complement the visual changes perfectly.
Shift Quantum was the biggest surprise of EGX Rezzed 2018. It blew my expectations out of the water by doing something new in a genre that’s already brimming with invention. I walked away from Shift Quantum pumped up with a big smile on my face and I’m very much looking forward to playing the game when it launches later this year on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC (add it to your wish list here).