Game Front’s Hidden Gems of E3 2012
E3 2012 might be known by some as the “Super Bowl of Gaming,” but it’s not just about the best-known and winningest teams on the field. E3 is actually brimming with games that you’ve probably never even heard of — and many that don’t get the kind of coverage the big boys bring in, and certainly not the coverage they deserve.
Luckily, as PC players, we get exposed to lots of games that aren’t bound to the traditional developer/publisher paradigm, and we spent a big part of our E3 checking out games off the beaten path. We’ve compiled a list from each of our E3 2012 ground team members of titles that should definitely be on your radar this year and into 2013.
Ben Richardson’s Pick
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan and a big adventure game fan, so I was already expecting to like The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. To my surprise, these expectations were exceed. Developed by European studio Frogwares, the game is a worthy addition to the Conan Doyle canon, combining excellent writing and voice acting with beautiful environments that capture Victorian living space in splendid Edwardian detail. Though the game depends on a variety of complicated investigation mechanics, solving crimes feels intellectual without being obtuse, and the demo gameplay included a number of clever puzzles.
Frogwares’ version of the World’s Greatest Detective is modeled on actor Jeremy Brett, who starred in a series of adaptations for British television in the 80′s and 90′s. Brett is by far my favorite onscreen Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. should stick to Iron Man), so I was thrilled to see his avatar in action. I look forward September, when the game will most definitely be afoot.
Ross Lincoln’s Pick
A Mother’s Inferno
My trip to Indiecade the second day of E3 led me to several hidden gems, but the best of the best was A Mother’s Inferno, an absolutely creepy first person game created in just under 2 months by students at the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment. Creepy, weird, trippy and made on a shoestring budget, it still managed to overcome its severe limitations and hint at a concept that could, if properly supported, turn into a truly original AAA game. It’s available for free download on Mac and PC, and you should rush to do so immediately. (You acan do so right here)
Phil Hornshaw’s Picks
Calling it now: Pid is this year’s LIMBO. Beautiful, unassuming side-scrolling adventure platformer with a great cartoonish look and a game mechanic that feels fresh. Pid has players throwing down gems that produce short-lived beams of light, and those beams push the main character through the air at various angles and over obstacles. It’s a lot like the similar beams in Portal 2, with more emphasis on their angles and directions, as well as the speed with which you activate them. I played the entire upcoming demo at E3, and the game definitely got tough in a hurry — but I was rewarded for having years of highly tuned platforming skills, and really getting used to handling the beams only took a little while.
It’s not so dark and brooding as LIMBO, nor quite so artsy, but what Pid has going for it are some tightly designed puzzles that are going to challenge players’ mental faculties as well as reflexes. The cost of failure is minimal, the frustration engendered nearly nonexistent, and the satisfaction for moving on and hitting the very frequent checkpoints palpable. Plus, there’s a cooperative mode that sounds a great deal like that of Portal 2, reimagined in a 2-D space. I didn’t get to try that, but from the sounds of things, you won’t be able to play it with a teammate who slacks.
The spiffy thing about Brick-Force is that it melds together two really popular things: Minecraft and shooting people. The result is a Minecraft-like first-person shooter with some extensive block-based level editing and a more than competent shooting game set over top of it. I’d previously checked out Brick-Force before but never had had a real chance to see it in action. At E3, I was introduced to the new layers that Brick-Force developers Infernum and EXE have planned for later this year — in a word, more ways to play their game. Particularly interesting was a mode in which the start of the game has each team separated and forced to build a base inside of three minutes. When they’re done, the barrier between the teams is dropped and it’s time to fight in their newly created strongholds. Very cool.
But in general I like the idea of user creativity that’s being brought into more and more games. In a world in which fewer titles get mod tools and with the rise of paid downloadable content, Brick-Force is a game that’s basically perpetually in beta, offering new things up and letting the community test them, but also fully reliant on the community’s creative influence to make the game fun. The run-off of Minecraft’s popularity could potentially be a continued rise in games that encourage players to sculpt their worlds, instead of just shuttling people into some virtual universe with which they have no influence. Plus, Brick-Force is free-to-play and fun, if you can get into its “open VIP beta.”
MMOs intrigue me but I tend to stick to only the big guns and only one at a time, but I have to say that Perfect World’s free-to-play Raiderz intrigues me. It’s an MMO with an aim toward big boss fights — basically, a sort of Monster Hunter game, as it was described to me. But Perfect World has an eye to make it feel different in as many ways as possible from other MMOs. For one, you’ll constantly be crafting new stuff, and your rewards for killing those huge monsters won’t be unique bits of loot, but unique crafting materials.
What’s more, the kind of combat you’ll be taking part in as you travel the world will constantly change, because you can pick stuff up off just about every monster you kill. Fighting skeleton archers? Grab one of their bows and become an archer yourself. Beating down zombies? Snag one of their skulls and use it as a grenade. The alternatives to gameplay are great; you even get to carry around two sets of weapons and spec toward differing combat roles based on your class. There seems to be a lot of innovation going on over at Perfect World in preparation for getting the game done later this year.