Double E3 Preview: Deadfall Adventures, The Raven
It’s easy to get lost amidst the chaos and noise of the main halls of E3. For those that have appointments, though, there’s a smaller area, situated right in the middle of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Concourse, a section between the huge South and West halls, is where business gets done; publishers and developers show off their games to journalists that come knocking or have appointments, with little to no fanfare. It was in this environment that I sat down with a representative from Nordic Games — formerly Dreamcatcher – and looked at the company’s upcoming offerings.
In a way, the Concourse was a perfect metaphor for the games I was shown. Deadfall Adventures and The Raven were both very low-key games aimed at a niche audience, and that’s fine; that’s what Nordic wants. They are content to quietly put out game after game in the shadows of AAA titles, satiating their dedicated fans with various adventures.
The first game on display was Deadfall Adventures, an FPS homage to the famous “Allan Quartermain” novels that inspired the Indiana Jones films. Much like many pulp adventures after Indiana Jones, it stars a rugged male adventurer — in this case, the grandson of Allan Quartermain — and his also-rugged-but-quite-lovely female companion. Nordic didn’t show many details of the story, other than a few quips from the main character, some German soldiers, and a supernatural boss.
The best way to describe Deadfall seems to be “unassuming.” It doesn’t take any real risks, and in the process ended up looking like a fairly standard shooter. The presenter went from location to location, shooting enemies in the face and solving the occasional puzzle. It’s very pretty — the environments were easily the highlight of the presentation — but Deadfall’s mechanics looked like yet another shooter. A game where you shot dudes, move forward, and shoot more dudes. If you can stomach that sort of thing, though, it’s worth a look.
The emphasis of Deadfall was action, and there was a lot of it in the demo. The player grabs guns, shoots bad guys, and solves all sorts of puzzles and traps. It is in no way revolutionary; this is a shooting game about putting bullets into the faces of bad guys. Where Deadfall diverges a little is in how players interact with their environment. Specifically, how they interact with traps and puzzles.
Traps are much like in other games: hit the trigger, something bad happens. The way Deadfall changes things is by making traps an integral part of gameplay. In particular, the demo showed off mummies that absorb a ridiculous amount of punishment before dropping. However, it also showed that various traps — from jars full of flesh-eating beetles to skulls that shoot flaming arrows — allow the player to kill mummies efficiently. It’s not a new mechanic, by any means, but it’s nice to see developers putting more emphasis on exploiting the environment instead of leaning on headshots.
Much like the best FPS games of yore, Deadfall also has its share of puzzles. The demo showed one or two blocking the main path, but more importantly, every “treasure,” the currency for upgrading your character, has an associated puzzle — and these treasures appear to be everywhere. Each major area shown in the demo had two or three puzzles to solve, giving exploration-focused players a chance to strike out on their own. The demo’s puzzles were fairly simplistic, but much like the traps system, it’s not something you see too often in shooters these days. It’s a throwback to an older time, and I had a distinct feeling of nostalgia as I watched the presenter solve a few.
Like every FPS these days, Deadfall is coming with competitive multiplayer and a single-player wave survival (aka Horde) mode. Competitive multiplayer will be standard shooting, right down to receiving killstreaks (in this case, boons from the gods) to decimate your enemies. The survival mode was pitched exactly as-is: a mode where you kill a bunch of enemies. They weren’t shown in the demo at all, only mentioned, so there’s no way to tell how unique or interesting they might be.
Overall, Deadfall’s demo was a nice, relaxing-looking shooter after a few days of non-stop noise and grandeur. While it will undoubtedly not be as well-received, unique, or popular as its big-budget counterparts, there’s a respectability in a company sticking to what it likes making. Deadfall won’t be a Game of the Year contender, but it might be worth picking up to cool off from the excitement of games like Titanfall or Destiny.
Deadfall Adventures comes to PC and Xbox 360 in September.