EB Expo ’13 offered a look at a wide array of exciting new titles. Join Alex Mann as he learns humility for the umpteenth time at the hands of Dark Souls II, breaks some skulls with a bud in Ryse: Son of Rome, button bashes BECAUSE OF REASONS in Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW and catches a rare glimpse of the long awaiting South Park: Stick of Truth.
Dark Souls II
The Dark Souls II booth was surprisingly quiet. Gamers circled like carrion crows, eager to steal a look without committing themselves fully to such dangerous territory. Yet we must not mock these cowards! The original Dark Souls broke so many cocksure warriors upon its gruelling Taurus Boss, creating a learning curve so steep that one almost needed suction cups to climb. In many ways, you’d almost be a fool not to be afraid. So with that in mind – some may say courageously, others may say foolishly – I stepped up to the booth and prepared for the worst…
Out of the stock characters available I chose to play it safe with the warrior build, who came equipped with the standard sword and shield combination. The demo then began with a descent into a dank sewer and, as the light slowly faded and I encountered my first opponents, a few changes made themselves abundantly clear. The first was that the animation has been completely redone as character movement looks far more realistic with no sign of its predecessor’s stilted actions. Slashing now feels organic, with a slower swing adding a sense of weight and deliberation to each slice, while parrying and backstabbing are triggered more fluidly. When triggering the latter, for example, instead of automatically realigning your character to the back of an enemy,characters now align themselves more naturally by mercilessly hacking into an enemy’s back before delivering the final blow.
Torches have been added to Dark Souls’ already large inventory and can be lit from braziers. The upside of this is that you can now light up dark areas with ease, the downside comes heavily however as they require one hand to carry. The result is an “Aragorn v Ringwraith” style of battle, where players are forced to press the attack rather than hide behind their shields. Another noticeable difference is that enemies now have a chance of dropping health – sweet, sweet health in the form of “Life Gems” which, upon use, restore life over a short period of time.
I was doing rather well, taking baddies on one at a time, dodging and luring where necessary – hell, I even beat down a couple of hulking, mace wielding monstrosities. But that’s how they get you, those cold-hearted Gods behind FromSoftware lure you in, tell you you’re beautiful and then, when you least expect it, beat you senseless. I went down that path when I entered a seemingly empty room, cautious as ever (but secretly feeling pretty damn good about myself), when suddenly three Red Phantoms spawned, attacking from all sides and destroying any self confidence I may have possessed. All I could do was stand and watch helplessly as the “game over” screen slowly came into view. Dark Souls II, you gorramn devil, I look forward to our next encounter…
Ryse: Son of Rome
Despite the initial Ryse: Son of Rome trailer looking like a festival of quick time events, the game itself is shaping up to be something very different. The gameplay footage below, shown at Microsoft’s EB EXPO presentation, is taken straight from the single player campaign. It follows a Roman Centurion separated from his legion, fighting his way through barbarian territory. Check it out if you so desire, but what really interested me was the multiplayer component that I was able to get my hands on.
Ryse’s multiplayer comes in the form of a wave-based gladiator challenge set in the heart of the Colosseum. Players fight alongside fellow gladiators, as waves and waves of different enemies are thrown their way. I was put in the boots of a fierce looking fighter clad in only the most basic of Gladiator gear. I presume as players progress upgrades and player customisation will become available but for now I would work with what I had. My partner and I faced a series of different challenges, ranging from protecting a certain area to defeating a number of various enemies. This is all standard, but actually getting behind the combat was a real treat. In essence, it begins as a mix between button bashing and chaining together various combos all aimed to open up your enemies defence, but it felt far more hearty than the airy combat of Dynasty Warrior-esque games. When you swing, you feel the weight, when your sword comes in contact with an enemy, you feel the resistance. Similar to the way Gears of War‘s meaty melee strikes feel.
Once an enemy is open a little skull appears over their head for a short period of time, during which you are able to activate a quick-time kill or simply hack them to death. Choosing the former initiates a 300-esque slow motion sequence, in which your opponent shifts through a series of colours. Hitting the corresponding buttons in time will result in a brutal attack which usually spans two or three slow-mo events, but a failure to do so results in a mediocre kill. The aim of the game, however, is to curry the crowds favour – which means the more brutal the better. As I was getting used to the controls, the crowd was less than impressed with my pitiful strikes. But thanks to the taunt button that didn’t mean it was over me, being able to showboat myself back into the good books of that bloodthirsty mob. For extra favour, players can even perform co-op kills – working together in unison to rip their enemies apart. The gladiator mode turned out to be pretty intense, and a pleasant surprise at that, as the fighting style feels uniquely Roman with a strong focus on shield combat. I’m not sure how it happened, but it seems Ryse: Son of Rome has made it into my launch day books.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW
My time with Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW was brief and largely uneventful. I took control of Finn the Human, but was offered a wide array of characters to choose from including Susan Strong, Cinnamon Bun, Marceline (The Vampire Queen) and, of course, Jake. The game supports four players at once with each character having their own special ability, but as there was only one controller I was forced to go it alone. I descended into Princess Bubblegum’s ONE HUNDRED LEVEL ROYAL DUNGEON for no particular reason and proceeded to button bash the hell out of some seriously bad dudes. There was a tentacle, a venus flytrap and even a PILE OF BONES (ooh spooky). The more baddies I killed the more experience I got, traditionally collecting tokens and what-not in order to upgrade my little guy.
The art style is nostalgically retro and the character movement has that signature Adventure Time playfulness to it but, to be perfectly honest, it was a bit dull playing this on my own. I can imagine with four players it would be a blitz of hacking and slashing and a bunch more fun, but even then grinding through 100 levels of dungeon seems like a repetitive task. Before you cry yourself to sleep though keep in mind the demo gave me only a very brief look at the game, and if some variety works its way into the gameplay, whether it be via the upgrade system or the enemy design – it could still be a treat.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
And finally we get to the elusive beast that is South Park: The Stick of Truth. Having dodged numerous release dates, this game has left me bursting with anticipation. While I didn’t get a hands on with the title myself, I was ushered into a dark room where someone played through and explained a section of the game. The section began with Cartman on his feigned deathbed (similar to that of Randy in Make Love, not Warcraft) in which he sprays his mouth with tomato ketchup before delivering his dying wish. That wish sends you (the new kid in town) and Paladin Butters on a quest to save Princess Kenny from the tyranical High Jew Elf. You must do this because you are the Dragon Born, master of the Dragon shout… or, in more literal terms, fart magic.
Thus begins an epic adventure through South Park Elementary, a small section of a whole town caught in a role playing frenzy. As you make your way through the school, you need to navigate an array of blockades and puzzles set by fellow fourth-graders dressed as elves. You do this by utilising your various fart abilities, as well as objects you’ve collected along the way, such as, say, a teleporting anal probe. Once through, players can choose to either fight or avoid enemies, doing the latter through a series of knockout fart tricks after which the standard RPG looting commences. If players choose to engage, a turn-based battle activates in which you can equip a number of memorable weapons (a certain ninja star grabbed my eye) or make use of a character’s unique abilities.
The demo ended with a choice between siding with Kyle, the High Elf Jew, or helping Cartman, the High Wizard – and as Cartman is lousy at the best of times, the choice went in Kyle’s favour. Cartman wasn’t so happy about this however, so he whipped out his lighter and farted like he’s never farted before, leading to a Dragon Ball Z Kamehameha inspired energy battle between your fart magic and his. While incredibly crude, South Park: The Stick of Truth masterfully handles the humour as only South Park could, balancing the childish fart jokes with witty game references and engaging gameplay. From what I saw, the game looks and plays exactly like the show, but instead of ripping on movies, actors and current events – Matt Stone and Trey Parker have set their sites on all things gaming, which means long time gamers will be in for a real treat. Comedy games are so few and far between for a good reason, but after getting a small taste of what South Park: The Stick of Truth might become, I could not be more excited for this title.