EGX Rezzed 2019: The best games from this year's show
Team Eurogamer picks its highlights.
What another lovely EGX Rezzed that was! A packed schedule saw John Romero discuss his life in games, the teams behind Sea of Thieves, Guild Wars 2 and Dreams present their games on stage and Digital Foundry delve into a gaming world record.
Eurogamer also had sessions of its own - including how to get into games journalism (and the return of our summer internship), a live podcast on reviews and a 20th anniversary show.
There were also hundreds of games to play, including the freshly announced Borderlands Game of the Year edition and Cuphead on Switch, as well as projects from studios of all sizes in the Leftfield Collection, RPS area and more. Below is our selection of favourites.
As with previous years, this isn't a definitive list of the best games at Rezzed, but a personal selection from the team at Eurogamer as we explored the show floor, and will hopefully act as a useful list of games to keep tabs on in the near future.
Nanotale - Typing Chronicles
Nanotale is perhaps best quickly described as Magicka meets Typing of the Dead. Played with only a keyboard, you explore a top-down landscape using WASD controls, and cast spells by typing out words hovering on screen.
Running around blasting enemies by writing 'Highbrow' and 'Glycogen' is simple and satisfying enough, but things ramp up with the introduction of powerful modifiers before casting a spell, allowing them to grow in size, potency or element.
Doing so sucks away your mana, and since the way you replenish mana is by typing more words, encounters become a frantic balance of where to send your best spells and deciding which words are the fastest to type out, all while avoiding on-coming attacks.
It's a welcome change to play a dungeon crawler without clicking a mouse over and over - even if it means furiously tapping a keyboard instead.
It's Rocket League, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. The hovercraft / tank machines you control in Axiom Soccer, the new game from Dundee-based indie Earthbound Games, turn what at first glance looks like a Rocket League clone into a sort of third-person shooter. You're not smashing your vehicle into the football, as you do in Rocket League. You're shooting at it with a tank turret.
And it's harder than it looks. The Axiom Soccer tanks are slower than Rocket League's cars, so making your shots count on the fast moving football is key. Four different weapons, including a grenade launcher and a weapon that stops the ball dead, as if you're trapping it, add depth to proceedings. You control your goalkeeper by pointing at where you want it to move and clicking in the mouse wheel. And having to return to your goal to replenish your ammo, ensuring you can't keep up constant pressure indefinitely, is a smart design choice. There are actual tactics at play here (“I'll keep them occupied while you reload!), and I didn't even get the hang of moving my craft up into the air.
There's room for 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 matches, although I got the feeling 2v2 is the sweet spot where there's enough going on for it to be fun without mindless chaos. Matches only last a few minutes, too, meaning there's little time for lulls in play. In the half hour I had with Axiom Soccer I had a lot of fun. It will, of course, be compared to Rocket League and rightly so. But there's just enough that's different for it to stand out. Axiom Soccer launches on Steam as a free-to-download early access title on 11th April.
Imagine if Zelda: Wind Waker's sailing was an entire game? (Wait, what do you mean it was the entire game?) Sail Forth sees you steer a ship over beautiful procedurally-generated seas in search of treasure to loot and pirate ships to defeat.
Between decorating your ship (I opted for an avocado flag, like a true millennial) to the cute speech bubbles spilling out from defeated pirates as they sink into the ocean, it's easy to get fooled by Sail Forth's cheerful facade; this is demanding game, having you adjust the cut of your sails as the wind changes, all while avoiding fire from pirates circling around you.
The procedural element suggests the game's set of branching missions will play out differently each time, meaning capsizing in a storm might be more down to bad luck than bad judgement (at least, that's what I'll tell myself), and to top things off there's a photo mode, which could be the perfect way to take in your cel-shaded surroundings for when the waves aren't quite as rough. - Matthew R
Although it may look like Stardew Valley, the experience of playing Atomicrops can best be described as its complete opposite. Speed, silliness and general chaos define this game, and if you can't multitask you might as well hang up your pitchfork and go home.
Self-described as an “action roguelike farming simulator”, Atomicrops is set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, where you must grow weird mutant plants in order to survive. Unfortunately the blast didn't wipe out all the nasty insects of the world, and instead made them worse, so you'll have to defend your crops at night from marauding mobs.
The demo level of Atomicrops shown at Rezzed was pretty brutal, and it took me at least three deaths to get to grips with the mechanics (particularly the shooting). Nonetheless, the weird mix of tending to crops, dodging glowing balls and shooting enemies was incredibly moreish, and I really couldn't put down the controller. Until the person behind me started getting visibly impatient, that is.
I don't know if it's an actual trend or just a quirk of the show, but I kept finding games at Rezzed that wanted you to write things down on a notepad while you play.
Honestly, I don't love the idea of voluntarily signing myself up to do a load of writing-things-down, but Wardialler convinced me rather easily because it made it that fun, sort of aspirationally aesthetic type of writing things down. A dark room and a dark computer screen, just a dim green hue between you and your notepad, which is doing that satisfying sort of creak that fresh notepads do when you're trying really hard to write things down in a very aspirational, aesthetic kind of way.
Anyway, Wardialler itself is actually great. A kind of retro-sleuthing hacker game (add this to the promising Off Grid and I have a thing for hacker games at EGX events, apparently), it leans heavily on 1983's War Games - what hacking game couldn't? - and is actually the first solo project of indie studio Mode 7's Paul Kilduff-Taylor. All blinking green cursors and seemingly bottomless tangents jutting off from your investigation into your dad's shady comany, it had me hooked, jotting a few notes after five minutes and scribbling them here there and everywhere after ten.
Play it with a mechanical keyboard for that authentic hacker's click-clack-clack, and play it late at night, with a nice new, very aesthetic notepad, when you're feeling too curious to sleep.
Pokey Dokey Paradise
One of my very favourite things about indie games, and by extension Rezzed, is that if you pay close attention, you'll often get the chance to see a developer's work evolve in real time.
One of the finest examples I've caught of that this year at Rezzed is when I stumbled accross Pokey Dokey Paradise in the Leftfield room.
A game for up to 9 players, Pokey Dokey Paradise utilises the top line of the keyboard - one number key per person - for its control scheme. Pressing a numbered key will thrust each player's corresponding appendage (be it a cat's paw, a really long dog or a bear with an umbrella) into the air. Using this simple mechanic, players are offered 11 different games, ranging from trying to bat a ball of yarn into a hanging basket, to a rudimentary game of volleyball where the players have to keep the ball out of their area for as long as possible.
With the full complement of nine players, it's hilarious, manic fun - completely representative of the kind of off-the-wall madness that the Leftfield Collection fosters.
But my favourite thing about Pokey Dokey Paradise by far is that its roots are firmly planted in EGX. Seeing the game in the Leftfield room, I recognised it immediately as Fingerolympics, the winning game from the EGX 2018 game jam last year.
The developer Ludipe has teamed up with artist Karen Teixeira to polish up the game in order to give it a proper release. It's a beautiful thing to see a game born out of a game jam for the show to then go on to be chosen for something as prestigious as the Leftfield Collection, and that is what makes a yearly celebration of indie gaming like Rezzed so special.
Chaosbane is Warhammer: Diablo, and while that makes it sound creatively bankrupt, I'm pretty happy the game exists. I get the impression the developers at Eko Software are letting the Warhammer licence do a lot of the work here, using established action role-playing mechanics and archetypes to dictate the gameplay design.
Still, there are a few eye-catching flourishes. The High Elf can cast a spell that creates a big ball of whirling damage that can be moved about the battlefield. And the sheer number of enemies who can end up on screen at one time is pretty impressive. During my co-op session, my High Elf partner moved about the dungeon, attracting the attention of loads of trash mobs he then brought back for my Captain of the Empire to tank. Lovely stuff.
For me, Chaosbane is a Warhammer fan-service game and that's cool, but it lacks some of the punch of Blizzard's Diablo. Chaosbane's heroes don't feel as grounded as Diablo's, nor do they carry as much weight as they move about dungeons. And their abilities don't pop, as the wonderful abilities in Diablo do. The only special move I can remember my Captain doing was a shield bash, but that's hardly new to the genre.
Still, Chaosbane is slick, the co-op looks like a blast and Warhammer fans will find a lot to love with the setting and the lore. It comes out 4th June.
Perhaps I'm still clinging to my irresponsible student habits, but something about Afterparty really appeals to me. There's booze, swearing and sass - all in the confines of a neon-drenched hellscape. Yep, sounds like uni.
Made by the developers of Oxenfree, Afterparty is an adventure game following the story of Lola and Milo: two best buddies who have somehow ended up in hell. In order to find their way out and discover why they're down there, the pair must engage in a drinking competition with satan himself. Alongside engaging in fun activities such as demonic beer pong, you can temporarily unlock additional dialogue options by consuming different varieties of alcohol. As Lola observes, you can't kill your liver when you're already dead, so experiment away.
It's rare to see a game with such an unapologetically dark sense of humour and deliciously snarky dialogue. Look beyond the main characters and you'll also spot some great environmental storytelling in the background, such as demons roasting human skulls over a campfire like marshmallows. Add in the moody but modern art style, and you've got yourself a winner.
Maybe I'll play a real life drinking game along with this one - just to get into the spirit of things.
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