Last month I was lucky enough to attend London’s WASD gaming event with fellow Thumb Culture writer Si at Tobacco Dock, where a whole host of indie devs, and a few larger houses, put their games on display to the public.
I do love visiting this venue and have fond memories of when it hosted a bustling but since defunct annual EGX Rezzed. Although I went on a Friday it was certainly a lot quieter than previous times however this could be down to it being a school term as well as some people not wanting to understandably be in places where there can be large crowds. There is certainly something here for everybody, from playable computer games and demos to a whole room dedicated to tabletop puzzles and board games. It certainly made for a good day out!
Myself and Si managed to get around quite a few of the games in the time that we had and have both reported back here at TC Central with the ones that stood out for us. Make sure you check out Si’s article to see which games he had the pleasure of playing!
The Forgotten City
Developed by Modern Storyteller and out now, The Forgotten City was a game that really caught my eye. Based on a mod of the same name for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim it is a mysterious first-person adventure set in an underground-based roman age city.
Having traveled by a strange portal to this era you quickly realise that you are there to solve a series of strange murders. Like most mystery who-dun-it stories there is a twist and this is that the city is under a magical spell known as “The Golden Rule.” If one person commits a crime then everybody will be turned into gold. How can the murders still be happening?
With golden statues reminding you wherever you look, as well as the fear in the inhabitants that you talk to, the narrative runs deep. I enjoyed the amazing graphics of The Forgotten City and had great fun questioning all of the folk in an attempt to get answers. I spent a long time simply staring at the views as they glisten in the god rays of the sun that shine through a hole in the rocky mountain.
With people being poisoned and events unfolding, it is down to you to do all that you can to remedy the issues. If you do wrong however, the golden statues come to life and you must run as fast as you can back to the portal in order to reset the time to when you first arrived, affecting outcomes along the way.
The Forgotten City is very much like a beautiful Groundhog day with uplifting classical music on par with a movie score and a fully voiced, and at times humorous, cast to inspire your sleuthing skills. It is definitely a game I would like to explore some more!
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos
Another game that is also out now is The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk by dev’s Artefact Studios. With its very own spin on the D&D genre, this dungeon crawler is funny, whacky, and incredibly enjoyable to play.
Featuring a squad of heroes, you must navigate your way through the dungeon, destroying all those that lie before you while listening to the hilarious banter between the characters throughout your journey.
Some of the characters seemed strangely familiar with an ogre resembling Shrek, a wizardess akin to Tiny Tina, an elf similar to Tinker Bell, and a thief with the mannerisms of C3P0.
I felt a few elements of other games oozing out through the game mechanics. It is a tactical game when in combat situations taking on a bit of a Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden and XCOM at times.
With the emphasis on picking up items, leveling up abilities, and using the various character’s unique skills when in combat, I found myself deeply enthralled in all the action.
When it comes to graphics it is highly polished and the fully voiced characters are brilliant as is the crudeness of the narrator, which sounds like the dev talking through the game. Needless to say, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk will have you in stitches the whole way through.
Two Point Campus
Sorry, I had to play this. Having worked at a university for 9 years and with my love of
Theme Hospital Two Point Hospital I couldn’t pass up the chance to have a preview.
Developed by Two Point Studios, if you love Two Point Hospital then this is its educational sister. In Two Point Campus, you get to build your own college/university very much in the same way as you did in the previous hospital-based game. You construct rooms such as lecture theatres, practical areas, dorms, toilets, etc, and then hire the correct staff to run them. Students must have all of their needs met such as thirst, comfort, and of course bathrooms! In return, you have happy students who then produce more XP and better ratings for your campus when it comes to assessments.
Where before the timeline was in days and weeks, you now have months and terms to deal with. Equally requests come in from students who want more help with an assignment, prompting you to construct new rooms in order to assist. They can be quite needy at times however your performance is judged by theirs so it is in your best interest to do everything in your power to keep them happy!
While the graphics have the same comical style as Two Point Hospital I was very pleased that the receptionist is the same female-voiced lady as before. The random tannoy announcements have always been funny and Two Point Campus is no different. Cries of “Your food is cold because the oven was off”, “No, your chicken should not be pink” and “Doctor, please return to the hospital” were laugh-out-loud moments for me. I seriously can’t wait to play this one properly on August 9th!
Shadows of Doubt
Next on my list is Shadows of Doubt by ColePowered Games Ltd. Built by a team of 4, this is a voxel graphics-based detective stealth game. Set in a randomly generated city you play as a detective trying to locate a serial killer that is on the loose.
From my time playing the preview version of Shadows of Doubt alongside the very proud dev Cole Jeffries, I was shown exactly how open-world freedom should be. With a bustling city full of A.I. characters each going about their day-to-day lives, you can chat and get to know each one of them to your heart’s desire. Where some games have been a little railroaded when it comes to what an NPC does, here even Cole himself does not know what the game will come up with next.
Developed over the last 5 1/2 years and beginning life as a management game, it wasn’t until Cole dropped a 3D camera into the world that the game evolved into what it is now. You do not have to follow the main storyline at all. Around you are side missions to test your sleuthing skills. The city is fully interactive with detail all the way down to fire alarm call points in the blocks of flats that can be activated, as well as other devices such as light switches, telephones, etc. It is clear to see that there has certainly been a lot of time spent designing.
The neon lighting and weather effects add to the immersion leading to the feeling of you playing Minecraft soon vanishing as you start to piece together your hunches and evade the police who are all too willing to give you a hiding if they catch you committing any crimes such as breaking and entering.
I must say I was very impressed with how much there was to see and do in Shadows of Doubt. With 10+ hours of gameplay in each randomly seeded city, it has taken open-world stealth to a new voxel style level. One to watch later on in the year when it launches.
Ever since the Wired showcase, I have had my eye on Tin Hearts. Something about it really appealed to me. Was it the old-fashioned tin soldiers and toys that reminded me of those classic warming Christmas cards? I really couldn’t put my fingers on it.
Developed by Rogue Sun, Tin Hearts has been patiently waiting in the wings for its time to shine. Here at WASD, I was finally able to play a preview of it.
The first thing that struck me with Tin Hearts was that it was a Lemmings-style game, albeit set to a beautiful family-based storyline. The main objective is simple. Get your tin soldiers from one part of the room to the exit elsewhere. To begin with, you have a series of triangular puzzle blocks that you must pick up, rotate and place in the right areas in order to deflect your constantly walking soldiers into the direction you want them to go.
You play Tin Hearts in a first-person view with just your hands visible. It is quite obvious from the start that the slight finickiness (I may have just made up a word) of the controls is down to the fact that this is a port from VR. At times the controls and camera were a little too quick and fluid, something that I was assured by the Wired Community Manager Gary Marshall that it was going to be addressed. For now, I was just really happy that I finally got to play the game!
As the levels progress, so does the complexity of the puzzles. Sending soldiers to a magical box, for example, activates a new ability such as gaining a further reach in order to collect hard-to-get puzzle blocks on far away shelves or the ability to skate across the room in order to activate a part of the puzzle elsewhere.
In between some of the levels you have ghostly memories of fond family moments that further aid to connect you to the game emotionally. It left me wanting to play more in order to see where the story goes! Hopefully, Tin Hearts will make an appearance this year!
Tiny Troopers: Global Ops
Out later this year and by dev’s Epiphany Games, Tiny Troopers: Global Ops is a Canon Fodder-style game that plays out as a fast-paced twin-stick shooter. Aimed at a younger audience, the game features 4 player couch and online co-op play where you can drop in and drop out as much as you like. There are 4 specialists to choose from, each with their own abilities and also loosely based on the 80s and 90s action movies.
Starting at your base of operations you undertake bitesize 10-minute or so missions over 6 different locations and environments. The premise is simple, run and gun, throw grenades, blow things up, get to the extraction before the timer runs out. Needless to say, both myself and Gary from Wired didn’t pass the first mission. I blame the fact that we were talking a lot rather than our bad aiming and decisions to get caught in self-afflicted explosions.
For each mission, you complete you are awarded stars that earn you upgrades on weapons as well as buffs. Having a decent primary and support is key! As is customising your character with silly heads and bodies.
If you are looking for a fun, tongue-in-cheek shooter that you can play with your friends and family then make sure to put Tiny Troopers: Global Ops on your wishlists.
Imagine a fast, very fast in fact, shoot-em-up featuring a ship that is skimming along the top of the water. Add in obstacles, enemies that shoot you, and others that just want to run you down. Now take away all of your weapons. Welcome to Swordship by devs Digital Kingdom.
Set in the future where global warming has wreaked havoc and caused mass flooding in cities. You are in effect Robin Hood on a speed boat, carrying supplies to those that need them.
Swordship is a real standout indie game for me. With no offensive capabilities, you are left to pure skill and a whole load of luck in order to survive for as long as you can. The gameplay is super slick as this roguelike vertical scroller wastes no time in initiating you into probably one of the most fun and frustrating games you will ever play.
The controls are simple to learn but in the heat of all the action, easy to mess up. You have no lives. One hit and you are done. Power-ups can be used or banked for later, it is very much a one-go risk-reward factor.
Dodging the lasers and bullets is tricky however the slow-mo moments where the camera shows you how close you were to being shot or the excitement that you made an enemy shoot the other one spurs you on. Can you achieve the highest score and do better than Si?. I’ll let you into a secret. He got completely whooped by a little girl who was playing beside him! ;D Swordship is out in September of this year!
Bonus video below of Si not realising that leaving his ship in a red circle is bad! Thanks to Tyrone from Thunderful Games for taking time out to talk about Swordship.
Developed by Clockstone, LEGO Bricktales is a refreshing addition to the LEGO franchise of games. Playing as a lego character your goal is to navigate through each of the different biomes, solving LEGO-based physics puzzles as you go along. The story behind the game is that you are helping people in need in order to restore your grandfather’s amusement park to its former glory.
Now back in the day, the nearest LEGO game to this one has been LEGO Worlds. I enjoyed it to a degree although I did reach that point where I really didn’t know what to do anymore. LEGO Bricktales isn’t as open-world thankfully and instead relies on you to walk around a small isometric landscape, talking to other characters to progress the story and gain knowledge of how you can help them. The humour is still just as good!
When you are asked to solve a puzzle your world is replaced by a sandbox-style grid. On the floor will be the available bricks you can use as well as a prompt with what you need to construct. In the preview I played I had to construct a staircase out of the available planks.
The placing of the bricks isn’t as tricky as it was in LEGO Worlds. They seem to snap a bit better although you still need to be mindful of camera location to ensure that you are not placing bricks miles away from where you think you are. Once you have created a solution to the puzzle you get to run the physics of it. For me, a robot started navigating the stairs to see if they would collapse. It did. I was back to the drawing board. I actually got very hung up on the puzzle for a long time much to my annoyance. I blame it on being near the end of the day! Jack from Coatsink was on hand in the room to give me some grief, as well as Si.
Once you have successfully completed your puzzle you then see it appear back in the isometric world and you can use it to get to the next place that you need to go to.
Coming to PC and console later this year, LEGO Bricktales is a must for LEGO enthusiasts.
WASD is the new EGX Rezzed for sure. It is fantastic seeing the indie developers finally showing off what they have been working on for a very long time. Taking time to chat with as many as possible as you explore their game is a great way to help understand exactly how they came to create what you are playing. I was certainly impressed by this year’s offerings and wish everybody there the very best with their forthcoming launches.