EGX isn’t quite back to full strength yet (pic: Twitter)
A reader shares their experience of the EGX 2022 games expo in London, including hands-on time with Sonic Frontiers and Planet Of Lana.
EGX arrived at ExCeL for its annual celebration of gaming culture this weekend, showcasing a variety of new and upcoming games in addition to panels, streaming events, and an enjoyable, free-to-play arcade collection of titles. It was a broad church, appealing to both those who enjoy the opportunity to experience new titles, such as the upcoming Sonic Frontiers or Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, before launch and a broader strata of the gaming community that just enjoy the ambiance of being in a safe and welcoming environment.
It was a smaller experience than in previous years, with no real visible presence from Sony or Microsoft on this particular occasion, but still enough to enjoy over the space of a day. Though it may have lost a degree of its size and grandeur, there was a clear vision to highlight streaming and cloud-based gaming in particular.
Being fortunate to visit on a weekday away from the weekend crowds, it was both a more relaxed and more focused experience, those in attendance eager to experience the newer releases and arriving as early as possible to get inside as soon as the doors opened. Queues formed quickly at the more popular games, though that left some space in the retro and independent gaming sections to try a few games before the general entry gates opened.
The usual staples of the gaming convention were on show, from cosplay entries to streaming platforms, and a wealth of merchandise to spend money on. It’s always interesting to take a step back to observe what different people take from an experience like this, the rush to try every new game, the extrovert showcasing a particular costume, or someone just finding a little happiness surrounded by like-minded individuals. It brings out the more positive qualities of the gaming community.
EGX has a different sort of energy to the general Comic-Con conventions, notably a prevalence of streamers and influencers engaging in live content as they walk around the exhibition halls being filmed by others. It’s a little unsettling, watching them playing a particular title in a persona of sorts, almost a charade. It’s not something I find personally appealing but objectively an event of this nature affords an opportunity to build an audience so to each their own.
The early queues at the premier titles and the desire to be ‘the first’ allowed a freedom to explore a few of the smaller independent studios and titles on show, away from these early entrants. I was drawn to The Last Starship, as it had the feel of FTL in it presentation and style. Also, Planet Of Lana, which had a more relaxed animated style on show. And a pretty intriguing robot in the centre of its display.
The Last Starship (Introversion Software)
A really bright and engaging display caught the eye, drawing comparisons to FTL with its top-down style and design of the ship, although this is certainly more complex in its ambition and implementation. It was interesting to try the different mechanics, such as power flow and design, navigation and flight controls. It seemed to take elements from space trading games such as Elite in the mission selection and trading but in its own, simplified way.
There were systems suggestive of combat and diplomacy but it was still in an early play test state of development. On Steam it’s currently in closed testing and there’s some way to go before it is stable enough to release to a wider audience. It was enjoyable to play, and with a little gentle coaching from the team on hand, you were soon confident in keeping your ship powered up while exploring the unknown.
Door Kickers 2 (KillHouse Games)
This had the suggestion and style of the early Tom Clancy games in its planning and implementation, though entirely different in its execution. A sequel to the 2014 Door Kickers game, which involved a fictional SWAT team, this new release pivots onto the military and the special forces as they move through buildings and locations taking down bad guys and saving hostages. It’s a little graphic but not excessively so, with a deeper selection of tactics and weapons when you spend time scratching beneath the surface.
This feels more like the tactical planning and execution games of old, where you have a set plan and then have to adapt to the situation. The potential to modify and share maps and scenarios is also an enjoyable prospect.
Planet Of Lana (Wishfully Studios)
Revealed at The Game Awards last year, this puzzle game had a more relaxed and sedately tone, in contrast to its presentation. Talking to a couple of the team on the floor, before taking a seat to try it out, it was interesting to observe and discuss the game being played. There was no real instruction or indication of what to do but each player reacted to the environmental puzzles in their own way, based perhaps on experiences with similar games and dynamics.
Whether there is a right way to play or approach the game is uncertain, but it was an enjoyable experience and brought to mind other environmental puzzle games of a similar style, such as Journey and Old Man’s Journey, but with a slight foreboding menace in the background. Also, credit for the giant robot statue on show. There’s always room for giant robots.
Sonic Frontiers (Sega)
One of the busier and more popular games on show, this certainly has a more open world feel that works effectively with the dynamics of the character. It’s already well known how much inspiration it draws from Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and you do feel that influence in the opening moments of the game. It’s somewhat forlorn in tone and spirit, a world away from the rest of the series.
Reference was made to a couple of the supporting characters, and there was a few minutes of exposition, but for the most part the demo was just an opportunity to get comfortable with this new direction for the series. It did feel enjoyable to play, kust very different from the traditional Sonic experience.
This was my second EGX and it was a notably different experience to how it was before the global pandemic, and perhaps reflective of how studios have embraced a more closed-off approach and attitude to showcasing their games, with now no real unified event for previews.
It was interesting to note Nintendo were the only console manufacturer to have a presence, with both a showcase of Splatoon 3 and a Switch free play area. There were some Xbox and PlayStation exclusives on show but official presence from either Microsoft and Sony, which going into the holiday season with a more challenging market and reduced income, seemed an odd decision.
Away from the game demos there was a large area devoted to educational courses around gaming and digital design, and an area showcasing the fantastic work of charities such as Special Effect who work to provide custom designed controllers and inputs to gaming for those with disabilities. And, of course, there was a modest space reserved for gaming merchandise – though the prevalence of foam swords grew tiresome as you had to move swiftly to avoid being struck accidentally by enthused children.
Did EGX suffer from the absence of larger companies? Perhaps, but at least it was enjoyable to just explore and experience the broader gaming community in all its wonderful ways.
By reader comfortablyadv (Twitch/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter)
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