Rising Star: Shadow Realms
BioWare had teased an announcement for weeks before Gamescom, with haunting videos hinting at a modern fantasy IP. That game turned out to be Shadow Realms, an episodically-delivered RPG where the core experience revolves around four heroes fighting against a player controlled Shadowlord. We managed to go hands-on, with that early taste of action-style combat leaving us hungry for more. Even so, the Austin-based studio still has much to prove, such as the lore-laden wrapper that promises to keep us hooked, and the myriad abilities and combat styles that are said to encourage replayability. At this early stage though, consider us deeply intrigued.
Best Hybrid MMO: Destiny
Gamescom 2014 was all about The Moon for Destiny. Only available for a few short hours originally, press were treated to the chance to give it a go for themselves. Not only that but we were also treated to an impromptu guide and discussion on the mobile app which is, for perhaps the first time in gaming history actually useful! It has everything from armory like tools to customize characters in real time to community tools to aid in making Destiny real life compatible. From the exciting, action packed gameplay and the passionate developers, to the amazing tools the companion app provides Destiny was one of the highlights of Gamescom. We’re still holding out hope that Bungie will release it on PC but we aren’t holding our breath.
Most Anticipated: Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade
We’ve been closely watching the Twitch streams every week and seen the excitement for Warhammer 40,000 Eternal Crusade grow. Though they weren’t quite ready to unleash the press on the game we did get some intimate time with Miguel Caron, the man in charge of Behaviour Interactive. His excitement was infectious, his knowledge of the Warhammer 40,000 universe vast, and throughout it all his dedication to authenticity shined. We got a crash course in the dark and miserable world that is 40k, we learned a little bit more about their plans for voices and technology integration, but perhaps more importantly than anything else we found ourselves wanting more.
Most Innovative: Oculus Rift
This probably sounds unusual, but hear us out: while there were many online games doing new and interesting things, none of them really stood out as innovative, offering completely new concepts that we’d never seen before. The closest to it, such as the interesting EVE: Valkyrie and unusual World of Diving all had one thing in common: the Oculus Rift. This singular piece of new hardware now looks set to kickstart more fresh online experiences than any other development of recent years, if early adopter feedback is to be believed. That said, with a rumoured street date of mid-2015, it’s likely to be some time before the final consumer version ends up in our eager hands.
Best RPG: The Witcher III
(CD Projekt Red)
Throughout 2014, two heavyweight RPGs have jostling for dominance of both our attention and our wallets. On the one hand is Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third installenemt in BioWare’s high-fantasy saga. For us though, The Witcher III nudged ahead, beginning with the breathtaking and expansive open world rendered in REDengine 3. Combat also felt more natural, with far fewer pauses and interruptions, and much more destruction and dismemberment. And then there’s the story, with our small glimpses of Polish dark fantasy stacking up well against the apocalyptica from Edmonton. It remains to be seen which title will eventually win out but, for now, we have a firm favourite in Geralt of Rivia.
Best Indie RPG: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III
At first glance, this upcoming action RPG shares much with others in the hack-and-slash genre. It only takes a few moments, however, to see how Budapest-based Neocore has improved upon the standard mold, such as possibly the most useful companion ever seen in the form of Lady Katerina. While it might not be up there in terms of Diablo-esque detail, Van Helsing III is certainly a surprising achievement for an independent studio. Look out for it when it hits Steam later this year.
Best Indie RPG #2: Mordheim: City of the Damned
(Rogue Factor/Focus Interactive)
Independent RPGs are still cropping up a lot lately, and there was more than one great looking game at this year's Gamescom. Right alongside VHIII, we found Mordheim: City of the Damned, a turn-based XCOM-style strategy RPG. That sounds like a bit of a mouthful but it’s surprisingly straightforward, with Games Workshop providing both the chaotic fantasy setting and the combat rules set. It’s the longer term ramifications of battling across a procedurally generated city that have us intrigued – squad characters can pick up injuries and end up permanently out of action if you’re unlucky or careless, which makes tactics much more meaningful. We’ll be watching for this to creep into a community-dominated beta later this year.
Best in Show: World of Warcraft
In the press areas all are created equal, there isn’t really one game that stands out above the others except by the value of the game they have on display. But out in the public area it’s another story entirely. There was only one king demanding the attentions of the crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. That king was the king of MMOs, World of Warcraft. Of course with the recent unveiling of Warlords of Draenor that was all anyone was there to see and Blizzard knew it. With plenty of play stations for fans and the trailer on loop on a massive screen above everyone’s heads it was impossible not to notice. The sound system vibrated your chest, the statues were amazingly well done, and even if you didn’t get in line to play you still found yourself returning to the WoW booth over and over again. It was beautiful, it was exciting, and it was everything that Gamescom should be.