GamesCom ’10 Report: Day 1

By Quintin Smith on August 18th, 2010 at 8:30 pm.

Hi, Jim here. I'm sorry, this is the best I could come up with. I really am kinda tired, sorry Quinns.
I woke today with a sense of purpose. Actually, I woke with a hangover, immediately threw aside the silk sheets of my luxurious accommodation and knocked over several half-empty champagne bottles on my way to the marbled bathroom. But it was there I found my sense of purpose!

GamesCom! Games! Shitloads of them! I’ll be posting full-bodied previews next week, but for now here’s my roundup of what I saw today.


Dragon Age 2
That noise you hear is me sucking air through my teeth. When I heard Dragon Age’s combat was becoming more action-oriented with the addition of a Mass Effect style third person camera and direct control (but retaining the option of ordering and equipping your party), I was all for it. I love Mass Effect’s combat, and figured that Bioware could do something amazing with Dragon Age’s gory, visceral fighting.

I was disappointed. Turns out it plays more like Fable, with that anime-style animation where your weapons is raised high above your shoulder in one frame, and then in the next it’s at the end of the blow, with a glowing light indicating where it passed through. More than that, 3rd person melee combat with no block or dodge button feels deeply wrong to me. As a warrior, you run up to enemies and hammer the attack button, popping off special abilities as and when they’re ready. I guess you could play an archer, or a mage. But still. Air through teeth.

Sword of the Stars 2: Lords of Winter
The subtitle refers to the yet-to-be-revealed new race, apparently. Changes from the original all seem highly positive. There’s a shift to more capital ship-focused combat, a more detailed simulation of the galaxy and an interesting-sounding option to divide up your empire of stars into provinces, providing a bonus to trade and moral but giving your enemy exciting targets in the form of provincial capitals. So, it sounds like a nerdy strategy game is getting even nerdier. Ace!


Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade
Paradox Interactive’s Total War-alike RTS is working the formula on a smaller scale. Your units can be equipped, level up, progress through skill trees, and you get to control heroes who carry around relics. You can also decide from several battle plans for each fight, and every so often scripted events force difficult decisions.

It makes me wonder if Total War’s problem is that it’s just… too big, too ‘total’. A Total War game on the same scale as the Braveheart game, that’s what I’d like to see. Mourning when a village burns.

Torchlight 2
Yes! Morechlight, more like. By which I mean it’s more of the same, thoroughly reshuffled. The three original classes are replaced by four new, more unorthodox ones (so far they’ve announced ‘Railman’ and ‘Wanderer’), all the areas are new, and the cat and the dog are probably gone, too.

I had an interview with a guy from Runic, but the convention’s rumbling bass rendered the recording incomprehensible. In summary, he said that he didn’t feel like they were competing with Diablo, that he didn’t resent Blizzard spending forty years on Diablo 3 when Runic turned out the original Torchlight in 11 months, he put forward a very convincing argument as to why Torchlight 2 was still called Torchlight despite half of it being set outdoors, and he admitted his own dungeoneering experience ended at finding an old WW2 coastal defence bunker but not going in.

Speaking of Torchlight-


Magicka
This was one of the surprises of today. I hadn’t heard of Magicka before, but it’s a Swedish-developed four player co-op game where you all go blasting your way through monsters in a top-down, Diablo style.

It looks just awesome. You all play tiny mages, but there’s no mana and no concrete spells. Instead you just charge up elements (of which there are eight) and let them loose, with different combinations causing different effects, and then choose whether to apply it to yourself, the area around you, your sword or as a projectile.

So, just earth might throw a boulder. Earth plus water would throw mud. Another player could then throw ice or electricity at your moistened enemies. Meanwhile, another player could combine arcane and healing to create a healing beam, except OH NO because that beam touches another player’s plain arcane damage-dealing beam, and since arcane and healing are opposed elements this causes a huge explosion that kills half the team. Cue hurried resurrections.

This game was made for RPS. I can’t wait.

Portal 2
I only saw the trailer that’s currently doing the rounds on the internet, but figured I’d stick my oar in. Doesn’t it look good? Isn’t it clever how they’re rejuvenating the portal puzzling by adding all these elements you learn to manipulate with portals, like the propulsion and repulsion gel? Ooh. Ooooh. Be gentle, Valve.

Lunch
For lunch I had four grösfurters, a jar of pickled fleshy things that might have been vegetables at one stage of their troubled lives and three tankards of sweating pilsner. I like Germany.


Might & Magic: Heroes VI
No, it’s not Heroes of Might & Magic IV anymore, because Ubisoft consider Might & Magic a universe now. Will our lives ever be the same again? I don’t know. We must keep living our lives, that’s for certain. Minute by difficult minute.

The big development here is that the developers have played the King’s Bounty games and so are adding boss battles and dynamic fields of battle to the series. There’s also a new, more mature art style (thereby differentiating them from King’s Bounty) and clever rethinks to the strategic map including forts which prevent your enemies from holding things like mines in their area of influence. You can also now (brace yourself) change cities from whatever faction they belong to to your own, which takes gold and several turns. So, a Necromancer player who’s dominating will be able to create centres for undead recruitment all over the place.

End of Nations
They say it’s the first MMO RTS! Is it? Probably not. Michael Legg, President of Petroglyph also said during the presentation that the most players any RTS has ever supported in co-op battle against the AI is two, which is total untruth.

End of Nations does look interesting though. It was a ways in to the presentation that I figured out what Petroglyph and Trion are actually doing. Basically, it’s an MMO in that your army (your character) is constantly developing all the time. After ever battle you get scrap metal and machine parts, which can be used to make new vehicles or modify existing ones, or you can auction it off. There’s also stuff to do with picking a faction to fight for each season, and if your faction win (over the course of two weeks to two months, they say) then you get extra loot.

What keeps powerful vehicles from dominating new players is that each battle has a point limit. So, the most a high-level player can do is showing off by bringing in one 500 point tank instead of 20 smaller ones.

It also supports properly ludicrous battles, with tens of players on each side. And massive tanks! MASSIVE tanks.

Rift Planes of Telera
This looked like a very competent MMO.

Tera
This didn’t. There’s cheesecake art, and then there’s a piece of tiramisu with a similarly sized wedge of stilton on top. I stopped playing when I found out I could make a knight, fully clad in armour but with her bare ass poking out.

…now I’m writing it down, I realise that sounds amazing. I’ll go back tomorrow and play more.


From Dust
Another surprise! Ubisoft’s From Dust is a curious looking God game that’s all about sculpting terrain. It’s up to you to take care of a tribe of tiny people by picking up fat globs of the environment (water, sand, lava, fertile soil and so on) and plopping them down elsewhere. The demo we saw had a developer creating a safe path from one of the tribeswomen to run off and fondle a water stone, thereby allowing the village to keep a huge tsunami at bay.

It’ll be coming out on Steam at a cut price, so don’t expect some blockbuster AAA release. But it does look curious, and the developer let slip it’ll also feature animals. Animals!

Vainglory of Nations
Overwhelmingly in-depth colonial-era strategy, from Paradox. I’d write more but I blacked out when the developer showed me a 20mb Excel file with (no joke) 80,000 sets of stats for the various units and leaders in the game. I have no memory of anything else.

Lord of the Rings Online
I had an appointment to see what’s in store for LotRO, but I was late for my appointment and the nice German girls at reception didn’t know where the PR lady was :(

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67 Comments »

  1. Hunam says:

    Cat and dog are still in Torchlight 2, at least that’s what they said to PCGamer.

    • Moni says:

      You can see the cats and dogs in the trailer, there’s three of them.

      I’m quite glad about that, because I still chuckle every time I pick up too many items, and it sounds like my character is saying, “My cat is too full”.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Well then, potential exciting exclusive! The QA manager told me they still had no idea what pets would feature, and that if the cat and dog returned then they’d at the least be massively revamped.

  2. bleeters says:

    Not the most optimistic look at Dragon Age 2, then. How utterly disappointing.

    • Hunam says:

      Everything Bioware have said about the game is disappointing.

      Plus they’re back on their clueless marketing campagins again. I think they actually though the marketing for the first one was actually good rather than the fact everyone thought the game was going to fucking suck till Giantbomb started showing some gameplay. I think Ray said they pushed expectations with those Manson trailers and seems to think he was on the right track.

      Now it seems that the morons in charge of marketing the first game are now calling the shots on how the second is made.

      Well, it was good while it lasted eh? Mass Effect 2 was a disappointment and Dragon Age 2 seems to follow suit.

    • MrMud says:

      That sounds absolutely terrible for DA2 :(
      worst thing they could have done

    • Jockie says:

      I’m assuming Quinns was playing a console version of DA, because from what bioware have said so far the PC version will remain tactical/topdown

    • Deston says:

      Personally, I loved Mass Effect 2. I thought it was a good improvement on Mass Effect in a lot of areas… I can understand why some people didn’t like the direction they took it in though. Diff’rent strokes I suppose, Willis.

      However, I gotta say I’m with you after everything I’ve read about DA2 so far. I’m still clinging onto some tiny shred of dwindling hope that this is all just an extension of Bioware doing what they did with DA:O; tricking us all into thinking it’ll be a pile of congealed smelly wank before yelling “SURPRISE, IT’S ACTUALLY RATHER EXCELLENT!” at launch.

      Please Bioware, please….

    • Ian says:

      If not I hope they put “congealed smelly wank” on the box.

    • Skinlo says:

      I enjoyed Mass Effect 2, but DA2 doesn’t sound amazing. I blame EA of course!

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, I’m a bit baffled at what DA2 even is at this point. I’ve heard great stories about how amazing it looks and feels, and that tactical battles are pimptastic and whatnot. Then I hear about how it’s basically Fable 3 battles with button mashing… I am just so confused, I’ll have to hold out and wait until more information hits.

    • James G says:

      Hmm. Eagerly awaiting PC game-play trailers. If we end up with something like the JE combat system, then I’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m currently still assuming that the reports of the PC retaining the tactical party based combat are correct.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      It was the PC version I was playing (!).

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      And there was no option to play in the old zoomed out view? Sad face. They have six months to get it right. That’s doable, right?

    • bleeters says:

      Strangely, what’s currently bothering me about DA2 is something pretty silly and insignificant. The qunari now have horns. I mention this because, well. How long did they work on Origins, a decade or so? It’s my understanding they spent a considerable amount of time writing the backstory lore. And now qunari have horns. Why do qunari have horns?

      Like I said. Silly, and insignificant. But I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a bad omen.

    • Jeremy says:

      Hmm, the PC version? Now I’m entirely confused.. so you were unable to issue commands to your teammates? That would be a bummer for sure.

      Bleeters, I can understand how you would be skeptical, but here are a few things I’ve read about the races, and it may or may not allay your fears. Bioware stated that they are trying to create a more visual separation among the races, and in a sense are trying to distance themselves from the more common fantasy tropes. Apparently elves and dwarfs will also be getting some changes as well, but I’m not sure what they will be. One other thing, not ALL Qunari will have horns, some have them and others don’t. It seems kind of like a random change, but ultimately I think they’re trying to make them distinguishable as a race, rather than a separate ethnicity of the same race (ie, human).

    • TCM says:

      I’m going to call this as “Don’t rely on a single source”, since every other preview of the game I have seen — from this same event — talks about the tactical view, giving orders to party members, and revamped but still fully realized combat.

      Huh. Could you have been using the console version controls on the PC version, as an option, accidentally? Or something?

    • robrob says:

      They’re upgrading DA to 4th edition, where Qunari are tieflings and you can play as a dragon person! You heard it here first.

    • mihor_fego says:

      Why can’t everyone stick to the best modes for rpgs? First person or tactical top down are by far the most successful modes – leave crappy 3rd person views for action-rpgs and mmorpgs, where they are relevant. Except if they make Dragon Age the action rpg… which is a downer, especially after reminding us of Baldur’s Gate a few days back.

  3. mlaskus says:

    Magicka seems exciting, I hope you will write something more about it soon.
    I found a trailer, looks nice.

    • YogSo says:

      Magicka has already written about by John and Jim, and now Quinns, so next time it’s Alec’s or maybe Kieron’s turn.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Obviously the Burt Ward Hivemind Node isn’t syncing too well.

    • mlaskus says:

      Oh thanks, I must have overlooked those posts.

  4. Wolfox says:

    I’ve been following Magicka for a while – it looks like just my kind of game. I’m also extremely excited about Sword of the Stars 2 (and fans of the series already know what the “new” race is, too), as I’m a HUGE fan of the first one.

    Knowing myself, I’ll keep an eye on the rest too, but those would be my highlights.

  5. SuperNashwan says:

    I look forward to more news of Lunch from Day 2.

  6. jimmymcfraggetMr Chug says:

    I thought I read somewhere that DA 2′s action combat stuff was mostly for the console lot, and the strategic combat will still be in the pc version? Shame about the old path-of-light stuff anyway, an action combat system with dragon age level polish would be ridiculously enjoyable.

    • Mr Chug says:

      Gah, bloody phone randomly copying my email on my user name again. Wouldn’t mind it deleted if one of the hive mind is watching. Then I’ll go sign up for the forum so it doesn’t do it again.

    • Freud says:

      As long as I get blue dialog options for saying nice things and red ones for being mean I am happy. I get so confused otherwise.

  7. stahlwerk says:

    So, roughly 85% is “medieval”-fantasy related. Welp, guess we had to go somewhere after WW2 and Brown Place, NG.

    • stahlwerk says:

      yeah yeah, hyperbole. Sorry for that, I merely skimmed the screenshots and the titles (swords of the stars 2: lords of winter… c’mooon!). But still, there’s a trend to be noticed here, say it ain’t so! Is it because all those 80s D&D kids are now in lead-design or even middle/upper-management positions?

    • Sobric says:

      Sword of the Stars is set in Space.

    • stahlwerk says:

      yes, I noticed this only after I wrote my highly scientific percentage figure. I was trying to hint at my misunderstanding of this in my self-reply.

    • Sobric says:

      Ahhh fair enough, I thought the reply was ironic eye-rolling at a seemingly medieval-fantasy name (which, at first glance, Sword of the Stars totally could be).

  8. wtf tai srsly says:

    “grösfurters”.
    You actually invented something that even google can’t say anything about. I tried.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Appearently Quinns is in some kind of weird alterna-Cologne, where beer is consumed in the Pilsner variety (instead of the local Kölsch) and sold in quantities larger than 0.2 litres.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I think that alternate universe is “enormous convention”.

    • stahlwerk says:

      It might be. I hope he returns unscathed, without needing to resort to HD brand cigarettes.

    • Schmitzkater says:

      I am German (granted, I live on the opposite side from Cologne, but still) and even I have NO clue what Quintin ate.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I’m taking a stab at disgusting sausages. Grös = Grose?

    • Sarlix says:

      @SanguineAngel Hey, that’s what I was going to say!

      Doing a google search for grösfurters just brings me back to this page. Apparently the name only exists within the realm of RPS.

      Seems like my guess is already taken, I will go with the next logical choice. grösfurters actually means “Large Sausage Of Dubious Origin”

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Great minds think alike, Sarlix!

  9. Freud says:

    Nice report, Q.

  10. suibhne says:

    Isn’t From Dust that new project by Eric Chahi, or Another World fame? Looks rather compelling to me.

  11. M says:

    Keep us posted RE: efficacy of the reception staff. Got my eye on those two.

  12. Gritz says:

    Any word about Crusader Kings II? Paradox strongly hinted that they’d announce it and an expansion for EU3 or Rome this week.

  13. DuckSauce says:

    The way magicka is described like that, it sounds like a similar concept as Doodle God, but with actual action :D

  14. Hobbes says:

    Seconded. Loved your Azeroth Is Burning piece without ever having played WoW.

    aaaaand… /Quinns fanboyism

  15. DrGonzo says:

    Aw.. Tera although bland, looked quite fun. Well, in that it has ‘proper’ fighting in it.

  16. Sobric says:

    I’m fairly sure Magicka has been reported on RPS before, but not 100% sure of that. Regardless, it looks ace for co-op!

    Do you know when the big Guild Wars 2 stuff is happening Quinns? If you could sit down and have a play (which I think they are planning on offering), I’d love to hear some juicy GW 2, hands-on info.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I’ll be talking Guild Wars 2 on Friday, by the looks of it.

    • Sobric says:

      woo hoo! Thanks Quinns

    • Crescend says:

      The demo has been available from day one I believe, youtube is already starting to flood with cam-record videos of it. I must say it did look gorgeous, but I am not completely happy with some of the changes which make it feel more WoW-like, ie. high-level characters had massive health / energy bars, energy potions, hundreds of points in generous attributes… The combat used to be more challenging, the videos made it look like random skill-bashing could win any fight. I am going to have to play the game myself to make sure about this though.. Maybe it was just designed so for the purposes of the demo.. I certainly hope so, I loved the previous games and I’ve been looking forward to this ever since this was announced.

  17. Jimbo says:

    So you’re the other guy that bought Braveheart?? I waited so long for that game – I seem to remember they kept delaying the release a few weeks at a time for about a year. Then I got it… and it wasn’t as good as Lords of the Realm :(

    I agree that Total War style games probably benefit from a smaller scope. I picked up the Peninsular Campaign DLC for Empire on a whim over the weekend and really enjoyed it. I felt like I could stop and enjoy the battles, and that the campaign would end before the steamroll stage kicked in. Lionheart sounds a bit like Kingdom Under Fire – I’m interested in this one.

    Dragon Age 2 is giving me a serious case of the teeth suck also. I hear they have now ditched the overhead view from the PC version. It’s also on a worryingly short 16 month turnaround from Dragon Age 1. Worrying.

    Tera and From Dust also have my attention for now.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Where did you hear they’d ditched the overhead view? Everything I’d read said the PC was keeping the strategic combat, so will be disappointed if something’s changed. Really hoping Quinns was playing a console version.

    • Jimbo says:

    • TCM says:

      “On the PC, however, we are
      still working with the camera to keep the key elements of the tactical
      experience there. I was actually playtesting some new camera code when
      Victor found me, in fact, so I can give you the latest news on that
      front.

      While we likely won’t pull as far up as we did in DA:O, I
      have always felt that the key to tactical play was actually freeing
      your camera from the character you’re controlling to issue precise
      orders, which is what we’re tuning now. So, this means you can still
      maneuver the camera around the battlefield and issue orders from a
      remote location, just as you could in Origins.”

      I, uh, think this is the more pertinant information there.

      Let me be honest and say I never used the overhead view, even when paused and queuing orders — it was too far removed from the characters, and made the animations look worse than watching them from a tight angle.

    • Jimbo says:

      It’s pertinent in the sense that it corroborates what I said.

      If you didn’t use overhead view anyway, that’s cool for you, but I’m sure plenty of others did.

  18. vader says:

    I played Lunch today (I’m in the beta) and frankly it’s wasn’t that good. Though I never saw any pilsner. Is that a DLC?

  19. Web Cole says:

    I hope we shall be receiving some Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition news?

  20. DunDunDun says:

    that end of nations guy is dumb http://www.companyofheroes.com/

    thats an mmo rts in short(in beta) and there was 4 player co op vs the AI on the original as well as this

    i think someone did a story on it a while back on RPS thats how i found out about it

  21. Choca says:

    I don’t know if you guys have seen the Guild Wars 2 presentation in the business center (hall 5.2 IIRC) but you NEED to see it. It’s INCREDIBLE.

    When Eric Flannum asked us if we had any question at the end, we were all too busy picking up our jaws from the floor to think up of anything.

    Seriously, this game looks simply amazing. And there’s no subscription. They weren’t kidding when they said that they wanted to make the best MMO ever made.

  22. Shockedder says:

    If that beer wasn’t Reissdorf Kolsh Quintin, you’ll be thoroughly disowned :P
    On topic : No Witcher 2 news ? Sigh. :(

  23. Droniac says:

    Trion and Petroglyph really need to stop introducing End of Nations as the first ever MMORTS. It makes them look ignorant, because the genre is well over a decade old!

    I think Mankind (1998) is probably the first ever MMORTS. It’s still being played today and actually saw a DirectX 9 patch last year. The basic premise is that of a 4X space RTS with thousands of players, planets that can be colonized by multiple players with full base-building and management and a largely player-driven economy. It’s also entirely PvP-driven and features ridiculous-size battles in 3D, much like any good 4X strategy game.

    There have been countless MMORTS games since then like Shattered Galaxy, Times of Defiance, Ballerium, SAGA, etc.

  24. Javier-de-Ass says:

    you must really have blacked out during the vainglory of nations action, isn’t the game called pride of nations now? I think ageod also announced another russian civil war game called revolution under siege. and paradox did a bunch of other things you guys need to check in on; paradox connect, dreamlords resurrection, crusader kings 2, cities in motion, supreme ruler cold war