The seventh and final of our EGX Rezzed hands-on previews looks at State of Mind from Daedalic Entertainment, Insane Robots from Playniac and Immortal: Unchained from Toadman.
State of Mind
State of Mind is a game that’s not suited to show room floor demo’s. It’s a narrative based thriller that revolves around the disappearance of the wife and child of main protagonist Richard Nolan, set across a dystopian sci-fi setting and a utopian virtual reality. I’ve played small chunks of it at a few game shows over the past few years – some from the start, some from part way through the game – and it has always been obvious that it’s the kind of game you really need to sit with at home, curtains drawn, really studying what’s going on, not surrounded by hundreds of people at a game show. But at Rezzed, I managed to play the first 20 minutes of the game and it all finally clicked for me.
This game has one of the most well designed and intelligently implemented beginnings I’ve ever experienced. The game begins with chaos. There’s explosions. Flash backs of people and places. People screaming. Something bad has happened, that much is obvious. You black out. When you awake, you meet a doctor and discover the main character has amnesia. The way this section is designed allows you to slip into the shoes of the main character Richard Nolan incredibly easily. The doctor asks you questions and the only information that you, the player, have to work with is what was in the aforementioned flash backs which is exactly the same as the character Nolan. Both player and character share the following confusion. It’s rare that a game I’ve played has enabled such a synergy with a character so early on by giving both the player and the character the same knowledge to work with. It’s such a refreshing start that messes with tired old tropes and got me immediately invested. I won’t spoil any more but the game continues in this vein for at least another 10 minutes and I’m hoping it’s present for the rest of the game.
Low poly art work is very “in” right now and State of Mind features some of the best I’ve ever seen. We’re not talking Virginia low-poly here, it’s much more detailed, but there’s still this air of artistic choice to the character design which complements the detailed, high poly environments. There’s some lovely little touches too – lights reflect off the iris of the characters eyes but not the whites, for example.
State of Mind has an interesting premise, a gorgeous art style and a very engaging start. While it’s certainly not one of those games you can get a good feel for with a show floor demo, judged on the basis of the first 20 minutes, this game could be a dark horse for 2018 and has the potential to surprise a lot of people when it launches in August on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch. Pre-orders are available now.
The ID@Xbox room at EGX Rezzed was one of the most ‘happening’ places in the venue (do kids still say ‘happening’?). A mix of big names and hidden gems, the room was packed with quality but one particular game stood out because it was unlike anything else at Rezzed. That game was Insane Robots.
Self-described as “card battling… HACKED”, Insane Robots carries this bold, colourful, cartoon like art style which hides a wealth of game play depth beneath it. The game is part Magic: The Gathering, part Pokemon TCG (the card play rather than the card collecting) and part Robot Wars but with a sprinkling of originality. The main aim of the game is to take down the robot you’re facing off against and to do so, you have to use the cards you’re dealt to fill defensive and attack slots. Once you’ve filled both defence or attack slots for your character, you can activate them and perform actions (all of which are controlled by an energy bar). The game seems to be set up so that first 2 turns of each match give you a chance to survey your cards and build a strategy. This is the calm before the storm because once you or your opponent activates their attack or defence, everything gets pretty tense. The unique aspect of Insane Robots is the ability to hack or glitch your own or you opponents cards. If you’ve got your defensive cards on place, but they’re weak numbers and you’re attacker has a decent number built up that’ll take them out, you can use these hack or glitch cards to alter them to reduce their number. This means that a match can turn on a dime, from a winning position into a precarious one, in just a single play. There’s this lovely ebb and flow to the matches too, first to the race to get your cards set up and then the back and forth as you mess with each other.
I managed to get a quick play through of the initial campaign missions at Rezzed which is played across a Hex grid and adds even more complexity. You move around and face off against other robots when you stand adjacent to them. Stand on certain blocks (like on a section with an image of a mountain on it) and you’ll get benefits from it during a fight – Cue the “It’s over Anakin. I have the higher ground” memes. There’s a story to the campaign mode too about a robot that’s being forced to compete in a kind of Robot Wars styled tournament. I didn’t get very far in but this seemed like a pretty neat window dressing to the card battling itself.
There’s a cheeky personality to Insane Robots too which follows the art style. One of the robots I fought as is inspired by West World. When one bot attacked me it said “I’m going to hit you in the space junk”. I’m ashamed to say I giggled. This is something I want to see a lot more of when the game launches this year on PS4, Xbox One and PC because the mechanics and visuals are already very appealing. If you’re a fan of card gaming, Insane Robots is one to keep an eye on.
When Immortal: Unchained was announced, it came with the tagline “a souls-like Shooter”. The souls-like genre is really starting to come into its own these days, innovating rather than simply trying to replicate the tenets of From Software’s series, but as far as I’m aware Immortal: Unchained is the first to really lean into third-person shooting as a pillar of the experience. And there’s probably a reason for that…
Remember the first time you played Bloodborne or Dark Souls and you stepped around a corner and got sucker punched from the side by a waiting enemy? It sucked the first time but then you learn and adapt to it with each new try. Now imagine that feeling but the enemy was 30 ft away and the enemy attacks you out of nowhere with a beastly gun. There’s no dodge roll to avoid a volley of fire from an enemy high above you on a ledge. The only tactic is to get behind some cover (there’s no cover button, you just have to walk backwards to put some environment between you and them) or soak up the bullets. Then, you’re dead. It took me 6 attempts to clear one particular section, when you get caught in a cross fire with a melee enemy closing in on you on the ground. Immortal: Unchained is tough for sure, much like any souls-like, but the jury is still out on whether the Souls game play blends with ranged combat effectively. At first glance, it didn’t. Everything felt reactionary, having you back off from an attack you couldn’t possibly see coming, and stacked against you in a deeply unfair way because the only way to retaliate was with a gun and that’s such a simple and shallow dimension for combat.
I was also unable to experience whether Immortal: Unchained actually understands the game play cycle of the Souls games either because accessing a Monolith (big black stones which allow you to upgrade your character) crashed the demo. Maybe, in the full release, this will prove to be the difference with upgrades available to make the shooting mechanics mesh well with the ultra-difficult nature of the game.
The visuals and atmosphere are one thing that Immortal: Unchained did get right. The demo was set on an inhospitable snow kissed mountain with sci-fi trappings here and there. There’s this desolate, isolating feeling to the environment which works well with the type of game it is. The character design is also pretty decent too. The villains look menacing and the hero character has enough about them to stand out.
Immortal: Unchained is an interesting experiment in the souls-like genre. It’s doing something no one else is doing – for better and for worse – making it a real curio. It’ll be interesting to see how it shapes up at release because as a demonstration of what the game can do, the Rezzed demo was a poor one. Still, there’s time for Toadman Interactive and Sold Out to rectify this before the game releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One this year.