The Games of Rezzed 2013

By Matt Bailey

Welcome to Rezzed

Welcome to Rezzed

Last year, my colleague, Richard Pilot, and myself headed down to Brighton for Rezzed, the PC and Indie Games Show from the teams at Eurogamer and RockPaperShotgun. The weather was cold and wet, but we didn't mind as we were inside checking out lots of interesting games. This year, the weather was nicer, but instead of being situated on the English south coast, the event moved up to the somewhat seaside-less Birmingham. But that's OK, because we were inside checking out lots of interesting games once more. Well, I say we, but Richard was at Rezzed for a different reason, which I'll explain in a later article, but let's take a look at some of the games I got to play on the show floor.

Luftrausers

Luftrausers

First, go and play Luftrauser. Now imagine that full screen with various planes, missions, and online leaderboards, and now you're thinking about Luftrausers, the follow up that developers Vlambeer have been working on for Windows, MacOS, Linux, PS3 and PS Vita. If you didn't play the linked game then you'll want to know that Luftrausers is a game about flying forwards and backwards across the screen, avoiding enemy fire, and taking them down with quick blasts of your weapon. It's fast and fun, and comes with a great soundtrack from Finnish musician KOZILEK. Those PlayStation versions comesas part of a deal with Sony, who themselves have been making a big push with indies, especially for the PS Vita, which is the platform for which I think the game will be best suited. While the Vita version wasn't on display at Rezzed, I did get to try it on the PC, and it certainly didn't disappoint. If Sony's recent print ad is correct, it's due on the Vita (and therefore PS3 too) next month, with the computer versions likely to follow suit shortly after.

Release Date: August (PS3/Vita), TBA (Win/Mac/Linux)

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Sir, You Are Being Hunted, or just Sir, is a game about killer robots hunting you down, which sounds like we've heard it before, but it really is something rather different. For a start it's incredibly British, and in particular rather tea-obsessed. The robots are dressed as Victorian gentlemen, complete with pipes, and they are trying to track you down and kill you whilst you're attempting to escape from a procedurally generated island. You'll likely die, but the world will take on an interesting new form each time, so you can search for new hiding places, or fight back with weapons and traps you might find while scavenging villages. Developer Big Robot ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and their popularity was demonstrated by the ever-present crowds around the game at Rezzed. That's also partly because it's such an interesting game to watch, as you see how people do their best to stay alive, and attempt daring/foolish feats. A beta is due out this summer, with the full game planned for the end of the year on Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Release Date: Late 2013 (paid-for beta access due in August).

Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid

Also having a shot at open world survival is The Indie Stone's Project Zomboid, which is already available as a paid-for alpha for Windows, MacOS and Linux (seems to be a running theme). Here you're in the quarantined Knox City and need to survive by finding food and shelter, and trying not to get killed by the large number of zombies you will likely encounter. At least, that's the theory. You'll probably end up dead before not too long, unless it's like our playthrough where most of the time was spent in an area of the woods with no zombies - or, importantly, supplies - in sight for quite some time, which got a bit boring, and then we ran away from lots of zombies before eventually dying. So the initial impression of the game wasn't great, but there are some interesting ideas here, particularly in the ability to craft items, and the need to worry about food - it's also still in alpha, so there's plenty of room for improvement.

Release Date: TBA (but paid-for alpha access available now).

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

While I was well aware of Luftrausers, Sir and Project Zomboid before the event, Ethan: Meteor Hunter took me pleasantly by surprise. It's a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer starring a mouse called Ethan, and it features the ability to freeze time and move objects, similar to excellent PSN game Funky Lab Rat. It turns out that Ethan developer Seaven Studio features some developers who worked on that game too, but while Funky Lab Rat was a puzzle-platformer that was made up of single-room levels, Ethan is a side-scrolling game with levels which are made up of a combination of puzzles and enemies, and interesting mechanics. It's also a leap ahead graphically, and the version on the show floor was looking very polished. This is good considering the game is due on Windows, MacOS, Linux and the PS3 (via PSN) in the not too distant future. And the best part of this game's showing at Rezzed was that it was the first game at the event my wife wanted to play too (she was a fan of Funky Lab Rat as well).

Release Date: Summer 2013.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Hotline Miami was certainly one of the more interesting games to come out of last year, arriving first on Windows, and then on MacOS, Linux, PS3 and PS Vita in the past few months. It has been very successful, and that's well deserved as it has a rather exciting mix of extreme violence, a 1980s visual style and soundtrack, and an odd storyline. Despite mechanically being an action game, the ease of death demands stealth in your approach, making it more like a top-down puzzler. Only with lots and lots of blood. Indie developer Dennaton Games was behind the original and brought the sequel to Rezzed to show off to the general public for the first time. It's set both before and after that first game, and my impression of the version on the show floor is that things haven't changed very much, but that's fine as it's still just as fun, violent, and requiring you to restart a lot (at least, I've always spent quite a while hitting R to restart...).

Release Date: TBA.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 - with the Occulus Rift

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is already out on Steam, and despite the name it's a fun take on life-saving operations. It's been a runaway indie hit, so no wonder they could afford to have quite a presence at Rezzed, but what drew in the crowds and myself in particular was the Occulus Rift support. Occulus Rift is a virtual reality headset, giving you a 3D view of the game with screens in front of each of your eyes. The Occulus Rift isn't widely available yet, although those who backed the project on Kickstarter have been receiving their developer kits so they can start to make games which support the exciting hardware. Developer Bossa Studios is one of them, and combined the Rift with some motion controllers for each hand to allow you to get a rather immersive surgery experience; you can look around inside the operating theatre, and use the extra depth abilities to help you be more accurate. Well, possibly - the motion controls were fun but didn't really help, although on the other hand the premise of the game is that you are a rather clumsy surgeon so it is meant to be difficult to actually control your arms. It was fun, and a quick demonstration of how indie developers are starting to take advantage of interesting ideas from other small companies.

Release Date: Out Now.

Ether One

Ether One - with the Occulus Rift

Bossa Studios were just one of many indie developers who brought along their own Rift to Rezzed, and White Paper Games were another with their intriguing first-person adventure game Ether One, which sat in Rezzed's indies-amongst-indies Leftfield Collection (these developers were invited to the show by the organisers after pitching their games). In Ether One you play as a Restorer, someone who is sent into the minds of the mentally ill to restore their memories, and the game focuses on your exploration of one particular person called Jean. It's a visual mix of sci-fi and the English coastline that encourages you to explore and gives you puzzles to solve too. The Rift makes it more compelling, with the ability to move your head to look around the world fitting perfectly with the game's focus on exploration. An early moment, as you enter a machine to be transferred into Jean's mind, feels like you are Jodie Foster in the space travel parts of the film "Contact", as a sphere is built around around you, and you find yourself feeling quite enclosed thanks to the sense of depth you get by playing the game in immersive 3D. You find yourself looking at your feet as you go down stairs as if you are about to fall over, although this can lead to a feeling of motion sickness when you stop playing; it'll be interesting to see how players feel after completing the whole adventure with the Rift. With or without the Rift, Ether One is certainly a game to keep an eye on.

Release Date: Late 2013.

Gone Home

Gone Home

Another game that caught my attention in the Leftfield Collection is Gone Home, a first-person adventure game that features a young student returning home from a year abroad to find their family missing. It's a non-combat game with a very heavy focus on exploration, and your reward is a game that is very heavy on detail. Items everywhere can be picked up and investigated; postcards contain the communications between you and your family, your mother's work reports are full of details about colleagues, and there are bits and pieces in drawers and cupboards as you would expect in real life. The ability to not only open doors but close them behind you, and the general isolation you experience (at least in the section I got to play at Rezzed) seems to generate a sense of wanting to tidy up after yourself. While in something like Skyrim you might pick things up and chuck them about if you don't care about them, in Gone Home you can put things back in the right place, and turns lights off when you leave the room. You don't have to do this, and while you do need to explore and read in order to navigate the rooms and make progress, you don't have to read all the intricate details either. It's there to provide as little and as much storyline as you want, in a game whose environment is incredibly believable, and I'm very much looking forward to returning to its 1995 setting when it arrives later this year.

Release Date: Late 2013.

Journal

Journal

The indie game scene at the moment is currently alive with interesting new gameplay mechanics (especially those which don't involve combat) and intriguing visual styles. Well, Journal has both. It has the look of a hand-drawn journal, one in which a girl's thoughts and memories have been sketched onto the pages using coloured pens. The reason it looks like that is that it is actually about a troubled young girl and the choices she makes as she is growing up. It's about her childhood, but you're in charge of the decisions through the conversations you have with those around you, and those choices have consequences for the story. It looks and sounds lovely, and its pacing let's you slip into your memories of childhood as you try to imagine how you looked at the world back then. The three-person team behind the game at Locked Door Puzzle hope to have it available on Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS and Android by the end of the year.

Release Date: Late 2013.

Total War: Rome II

In amongst all the indie titles at Rezzed there were a few bigger name PC games, including Creative Assembly's Total War: Rome II. It's the follow up to the much-loved 2004 strategy game Rome: Total War (they since moved the series title to the front), a game that blended the regimented armies and political plotting with the series' long-standing dedication to massive battlefronts. 2013 technology has allowed those battles to get even bigger and more detailed, and the sheer scale is something which astounded me at Rezzed. Skirmishes you see in the distance are something you can go over to and interact with, although it's also the smaller details which impressed, the animation of the soldiers and offensive animals in particular. Yes, there are elephants here which you can use to trample through enemy forces, and having some of these to hand (as well as boatfuls of reinforcements) which helped me battle through to victory despite my terrible strategic planning. It has been a while since I last played a Total War game, so I can't make comparisons to something like the previous game, Total War: Shogun II, but my impression from a single battle suggests PC strategy fans should make sure not to miss Rome II when it arrives amongst a crowd of games this September.

Release Date: 3rd September 2013

Special Mentions

Lastly, it's worth giving special mentions to a couple of games at Rezzed's 2013 edition. Long-running British indie Introversion were at the event again, as they were last year, to show off Prison Architect and how much progress has been made. It's currently available in a paid-alpha version for everyone to try it out as the the game progresses, and we're not covering it here as we'll actually have a full preview on the site soon. The other game deserving a mention that was on the show floor was FuturLab's PS Vita space-based vertical shoot-'em-up Velocity Ultra. It's a fantastic game, but it's already out and I actually completed it on the way to Birmingham, so rather than covering it here, we'll have something else on the game on the site in the near future. However, you should probably just go and buy it now.

Conclusion

The Rezzed team managed to put on another fantastic showing of PC and indie games this year, again with a vibe quite different from other gaming events. Less crowded, and thus calmer, but also a bit more friendly; it's easy to just start chatting to people about the games you are watching together, and there's certainly no pushing and shoving as you wait to play. Hopefully Rezzed will be back for another run next summer.

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