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Vampyr Hands-Off Preview – The Point of No Return

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Vampyr

Yesterday we got our first look at Vampyr in-action and the game is looking impressive.

There’s obvious influences from both of DontNod’s previous games, Life is Strange and Remember Me. The game is highly focused on the aspect of choice and the impacts your choices make on the world of a 1918 recreation of London. Our demo began at the burial of someone that might have been related to the game’s main character, Jonathan Reid. Story details are light at the moment, but DontNod promises a deeply-immersive and engaging narrative in the final product.

Following the burial of a possible victim of Reid’s, the character engages in conversation with another NPC, which showed off the game’s dialogue system. Similar to that of Life is Strange, players can choose different dialogue options that will result in different reactions from the NPCs and cause different events to unfold in the story. Unlike Life is Strange, however, there is no ability in the game to rewind time and rethink the choices you’ve made. When you made a choice in Vampyr, that choice is final and can have dramatic effects on the world.

The world of Vampyr is a semi-open world with interconnected districts that have no load times in-between each area. Each district is different from the other and each has its own ecosystem. The game has many exterior and interior environments and while we didn’t get to see too much of the city, I can say that the game is looking quite good with its dark and moody atmosphere built on the Unreal Engine 4.

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Johnathan Reid is both a vampire and a doctor. As he looks for a cure for the disease he’s acquired, he’s driven to both save lives and take those that he needs to survive. There are combat sections in Vampyr as London has its own group of vampire hunters which are the only people aware of the existence of vampires. We didn’t see much in terms of combat, but Reid is quite agile and has an array of different skills to choose from.

These abilities will allow Reid to travel the environment stealthily if he chooses, or the player can use them to their advanatage in combat. One of the abilities shown off allowed Reid to teleport or from one location to the next without being seen, and the other was used in combat as Reid summoned a spike from the ground to impale his enemy.

In our presentation, Reid later meets a regular civilian on the street who has a sick child. Reid has the option to either take the man’s life, or go to the man’s home to either save or kill the child that’s sick. DontNod is sticking pretty close to common vampire lore, and that means more than just not being able to travel in daylight. For the player to have access to the child in the man’s home, he has to be invited in. In our demo, Reid is a bit too hasty with asking for permission to enter the man’s home to help the sick child, and so the man turns hostile. Reid doesn’t appreciate this in the demo and proceeds to end the man’s life.

During the man’s death, we hear his thoughts in how he was just doing the best he could to be a good father. The man’s child will now run away from home and leave the city, according to the developers, which is a prime example of the kind of consequences your actions can have in London. Since each person in Vampyr is unique and has their own story, talking to people around the city will frequently provide you with new quests to partake on and choices to make. None of the choices in the game are black or white, according to the developers. Every choice is morally ambiguous and, as I mentioned before, you have to live with the choices you make.  If you kill or don’t heal enough people in a district, this can upset the balance of the ecosystem, and the district will descend into chaos.

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Our demo ended with a glimpse of what a district looks after descending into chaos, and it’s a significant change and while we didn’t see any actual gameplay of when the city descends into chaos, we can probably assume things will be much more violent and more difficult for Reid to content with.

Having just finished Life is Strange, I’m eagerly anticipating DontNod’s next project. I haven’t seen enough of Vampyr yet to really have a good idea of how the full game will be, but if DontNod can successfully create an engaging narrative with choices that really matter then they’re on the right track here.

Vampyr is due out on the PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2017.

 

OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

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Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


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