Monday Musings 8/25/14: Looking Back at Gamescom 2014

Monday Musings 8/25/14: Looking Back at Gamescom 2014

Ben: Well, it's been quite the week! A busy work/life schedule has made it difficult to fire up the ol' gaming console(s) much recently, but this needs to be remedied quickly! Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is out on PS4 now, Metro Redux, launches this week, and the PSN PLAY titles from this year's admittedly phenomenal crop that I've yet to play are taunting me from inside of my PS4/Vita. Rogue Legacy, will you ever release your grasp on me?!

Then, of course, we had Sunday's DDoS attack on seemingly "The Internet" as a whole, with PSN being particularly affected. Thankfully, gaming services appeared to be fully restored late last night, and we can all get on with our lives. By the way, I really dislike hackers. I could hurl around some expletives here and spew venomous unspeakables about their lives, but I don't want to bring any more attention to them or add to the problem. I'll just say I hope these idiots get caught and/or their just due, and we as gamers see an ironic form of "Justice" that these self-righteous crusaders often sight as motivation.

But enough about that, we've got games to talk about and, more specifically, Gamescom. 2014's version is in the books! This year's show was the growing conference's biggest yet, as Microsoft and Sony both brought the heat. It was a fun show to watch, with a ton of fresh gaming announcements, which means we have much to discuss!

One more quick aside: I haven't written an edition of The Musings since Robin Williams' untimely passing, and I just wanted to join the legions of his fans he's touched over the years in mourning his loss. You will be missed, Mr. Williams. Carpe Diem!

Let's get into this week's Musings.

Wrapping Up The Show: 5 Things You May Not Have Paid As Much Attention To At Gamescom 2014

We know that Rise of the Tomb Raider is "exclusive to Xbox for Holiday 2015." Until Dawn has been retooled and re-introduced as a future PS4 title and it's shaping up nicely. We know Bioware's new IP they've been teasing is in fact, Shadow Realms, a 4v1 PC-only title with elements of Dungeons and DragonsP.T. went viral as the internet found out it was foreshadowing a new Silent Hills from the minds of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. We've all followed the big stories coming out of Europe's premier games conference, but there was a ton of under-the-radar stuff announced and shown at this year's Gamescom. Did you miss any of the more low key announcements and coverage? While everybody else was trying to figure out just how "exclusive" Rise of the Tomb Raider is, here's five things you may not have paid as much attention to from 2014's version of Gamescom:

1) The Tomorrow Children

Q-Games announces its brand new PlayStation 4 exclusive game; The Tomorrow Children.

The venerable Q-Games is breaking free of their 2D shackles and finally exploring the new 3D frontier! Purveyors of all things PixelJunk, Q-Games' new title, The Tomorrow Children, looks to completely flip their tried-and-true formula of addictive-2D-games-with-simple-mechanics on its colorful, minimalist head. The Tomorrow Children is a 3D, open-world sandbox game that Q-Games founder, Dylan Cuthbert, describes as "a surreal Marxism simulator." Curiosity piqued.

The phrases "open-world sandbox" and "surreal Marxism simulator" are probably not the first things that come to mind when viewing the Gamescom trailer. The cryptic teaser boldly declares, "In another future, human beings are trapped. The dreams of mankind reduced to nothingness," as a haunting Russian chant bellows in the background. The art style is immediately enchanting, channeling this sort of Cold-War-Soviet-era-meets-Pyschonauts vibe against a stark white backdrop reminiscent of modernist European design. Curiosity piqued again.

IGN got a closer look at the title during Gamescom and peeled back the Wizard's curtain ever-so-slightly. The Tomorrow Children follows an alternate future timeline after a failed Russian experiment in the 1960s goes horribly awry. In an attempt to combine all of human consciousness, Russian scientists mistakenly combine all of humanity physically as well, resulting in the coagulated mass of flesh and thought known as "The Void" (that's the stark white stuff that surrounds you in the game world). Curiosity on overload.

This game is quite the looker.

This game is quite the looker.

Set 100 years after the apocalyptic Russian event, players assume the role of a clone created by one of the remaining Soviet scientists. As a clone, you're tasked with recovering humans and rebuilding the world as we know it. Humans are represented in the game world as little Russian dolls that you locate throughout The Void. The world you rebuild is based upon Marxist philosophies established prior to this alternate timeline's divergent tangent, meaning there are some terribly interesting mechanics, gameplay ideas, and underlying psychological commentary running beneath the hood of this terrifically quirky title.

In the trailer we see a seemingly endless amount of world to explore. We see jetpacks and mining, and we watch as the clones unite in order to stop an invading monster; an invading monster catalyzed in the nightmares of the combined human consciousness. These monsters randomly emerge from The Void, providing players the opportunity to defend their in-the-process-of-being-newly-rebuilt humanity. Or not. And this brings up one of The Tomorrow Children's more interesting gameplay systems.

This guy looks like bad news.

This guy looks like bad news.

As Cuthbert describes to IGN, "At the base level, I suppose it’s what you want in a game. It’s a sandbox. You can be all gung-ho, so you can be fighting all the time in the game if you want to. Or you can be quietly adventuring into the islands, finding treasure and exploring and digging out tunnels, helping other players. It really is up to you what you make of it.” Essentially, you can do whatever you want in The Tomorrow Children. Interested in earning a living as a hard-working, pickaxe-wielding miner? Work your tail off daily and collect your wages from the Ministry of Labor. In the mood to play hero? Defend the recovered human collective from invading aliens and monsters. Irritated with the hive mind mentality thrust upon you by your creators and those around you? Head off on your own and chart your own course of adventure exploring the islands abroad. The possibilities are vast and ripe with choice, and it's really exciting to think about playing a game with this level of freedom as a player.

Also of note is the added strategic element the recovered humans provide during the game. Humans are a needy and finicky lot, and therefore require a deft and caring hand to watch over them. Humans require food, water, and shelter, and it's up to you to assume the role of provider and caretaker as you bring humans back from The Void. The more humans you recover, the more difficult your job as tending savior becomes.

Let's be honest; this game sounds all kinds of awesome. It's so unusual and unique, and the premise is so riveting, that I can't wait to learn more in the lead-up to the game's eventual 2015 release. It's a good thing it's coming out in 2015, too, as it's not like we have anything to play next year (/sarcasm). This is the latest example of a PlayStation game reaching far outside of the established box. Keep an eye on this one, folks!

Oh, and Pixeljunk fans? Q-Games hasn't forgotten about you! In collaboration with their development pals at Double Eleven, they're bringing the alien soup factory sim, Nom Nom Galaxy, to the PS4 and Vita in the not too distant future! Viva la PixelJunk!

2) PS4 Firmware 2.00

PS4 Firmware v2.00 is set to arrive on PlayStation 4s around the world this fall, and there are some awesome features tagging along for this huge update! YouTube support, in the form of both a dashboard app and the ability to directly upload videos to the service via the share button, is finally heading to Sony's newest home console, much to the jubilation of demanding fans the world over. The "What's New" area of the PS4 dashboard is also receiving some friend-focused updates, allowing you to stay connected to your pals in more ways than ever before. We also know Share Play — the biggest feature of Firmware v2.00 — is inbound as promised during the February 2013 unveiling of the PS4, allowing gamers to share gaming experiences with their friends, regardless of if their buds own the game or not!

With Share Play, gamers can invite their friends to join them for competitive or cooperative multiplayer sessions in unlimited one hour intervals. It also allows you to "pass the controller" digitally to a friend in order to get you through a particularly tough spot. Sony like's to think of Share Play as a "digital couch."

Share Play is coming!

Share Play is coming!

What you may not have have realized is that this "digital couch" really acts like a normal couch, allowing you to play local co-op games with your friends via Share Play! All those lonely Towerfall Ascension and Sportsfriends sessions will finally be a thing of the past. No more of this rearranging your life for a weekend so you can try and assemble four of your friends in the same place, at the same time, for a gaming night. Invite your friends for some local co-op goodness and talk cooperative smack from different zip codes! 

Also of note: game files will only save on the "host" player's system, as Share Play is essentially allowing a friend access to a host system's PS4 games. It's unclear right now if there is a limit to how many invitations you can send out to your friends, or if this will be handled on a per game basis, and I assume this is limited to one person accessing your system at a time. This means those four-player Sportsfriends sessions will still require at least of few your mates to inhabit the same physical couch as you. 

Whatever limitations are eventually unveiled for Share Play, there's no denying this is an incredibly exciting feature, and it's one of those things that is really going to distance the PS4 even further from its competition. I can play games with my friend, without going over to his house or owning a copy of the game myself? Where do I sign up?!

Is it the fall yet?

3) Xbox Indies

Long live the sizzle reel!

In between the bombast of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare explosions, Sunset Overdrive, and Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity gasps, Microsoft showed this awfully promising little sizzle reel just above. It's full of games arriving on Xbox One in the near future as part of the ID@Xbox program Chris Charla is running over in the "House that Windows Built." While all of them, honestly, look like they're going to be a ton of fun, I'll just briefly touch upon a couple of them that really stood out in my eyes:

  • No Time to Explain: I love the art style in this game. It definitely has that "The Behemoth" (creators of Castle Crashers, Alien Hominid, and Battleblock Theatre) feel to it. This is a crazy side-scroller that has something to do with you meeting your future self and the chaos that ensues afterwards. This one looks like a blast!
  • Blues and Bullets: The noir, graphic novel style of this game immediately grabbed me. It appears to be some kind of hard-boiled episodic adventure, and I'm itching to learn more.
  • Funk of the Titans: This reminds me of Afro Samurai, and that's all that really matters.
  • Cuphead: Could this thing possibly look any better?! The correct answer is no! This thing looks like a long-lost Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1950s and I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on this thing. Let's hope the gameplay holds up its end of the bargain because this game is seriously gorgeous!
  • Goat Simulator: Because you can blow up gas stations with a nihilistic goat. #ThisIsWhyWeGame
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: Here's the description of this game from "The game is a frantic co-op platformer-inside-a-shooter, in which players work together piloting a neon-drenched battleship to save space animals, explore the galaxy, and fight evil robots. Deep space is a dangerous place, but at least you don't have to face it alone!" Yep, I'll be playing this one.
  • SUPERHOT: The game and the development studio have the same name. Oh, and the time-based, first-person shooter gameplay looks pretty rad.

Obviously, we know the big hitters like Capy Games' Below and Playdead's Inside are shaping up to be awesome titles, but it's terrific to see the Xbox One finally starting to foster a nice indie presence in its games lineup. While many of these titles have been released on the PC previously, I'm excited to see so many of these fantastic looking indies making their way to console gamers. All of the games featured in Microsoft's Gamescom indie sizzle reel are making their console debut on the Xbox One, which is a nice get for Phil Spencer and the XB1 team. It also means that if these titles haven't already shown up on PC, most, if not all, of these games will more than likely find a home on PS4 and Steam at some point.

In the meantime, XB1 gamers have a ton of great looking independent games on the horizon! Which ones are you looking forward to most?

4) Geometry Wars 3

Speaking of Xbox indies, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions was announced! Although, ironically enough, it's no longer an Xbox indie! You'd be forgiven if you missed this reveal (which also included confirmation that classic franchise, King's Quest, was being resurrected alongside it), as it was sort of stealth announced by Activision outside of Microsoft and Sony's main press conferences. The latest iteration of one of the founding fathers of XBLA, Geometry Wars 3 is actually the first title under Activision's newly resurrected Sierra imprint, and it's a multi-generational, multi-platform title currently scheduled to launch on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and PC. No longer an Xbox only franchise, PlayStation gamers will finally have a chance to experience all of the shape-murdering-mayhem that is the Geometry Wars franchise! The first two titles have been addicting twin-stick masterpieces, so I can only hope the fine folks at upstart developer Lucid — which is comprised of people who've worked on previous series entries — can carry on the tradition of excellence established in the first two games. 

Geometry Wars 3  looks to add some elements of  Resogun  and  Super Stardust HD  to its twin-stick formula

Geometry Wars 3 looks to add some elements of Resogun and Super Stardust HD to its twin-stick formula

3D spherical planes, a 50-level campaign, and cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes await anxious gamers when Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions hits all of those aforementioned platforms later this year.

Resogun, Dead Nation, and Geometry Wars 3 are all going to be on the same system (PS4) at some point later this year? #TwinStickHeaven

5) Tearaway Unfolded

We know Tearaway — the critical darling unleashed on Vitas the world over at the tail end of 2013 — is coming to the PS4 in the form of Tearaway Unfolded, a sort-of "Remaster" of the original handheld title tailor-made for Sony's newest home console. What you may not have realized, is that upwards of 50% of the game is new content!

Rex Crowle, the creative lead at Media Molecule overseeing the Tearaway franchise, describes Tearaway Unfolded as a "Remix." This game is not a simple Vita-to-PS4 port; just as the original Tearaway was created specifically for the Vita and all of its wonderful inputs, Tearaway Unfolded is being recreated from the ground-up with the PS4's powerful new hardware and DualShock 4 in mind. While the story and the worlds you explore remain largely the same, everything has an extra layer of scale added to it. While the Vita version was intended to be an intimate experience between the player and game, Tearaway Unfolded promises a title that is much more grand in its scope. The PS4 hardware is far more powerful than what Media Molecule was working with on the Vita — the game is targeting 1080p and 60fps if you're wondering — and with that new hardware comes an increased focus on the epic journey that your in-game Messenger is on. As IGN describes it, "It’s as if the edges of the world have been pulled back a little, and instead of revealing blank white space, they're stuff with intriguing side notes – new characters and side-challenges to play around with."

Brand new, DualShock 4 based controls, expanded worlds, new levels and quests, new characters and more await PS4 gamers when the expanded Tearaway Unfolded eventually launches sometime in the not-too-distant future (another 2015 title perhaps?). Oh, and lest we forget, you can fly around the newly enormous game world in a paper airplane! The superbness of this speaks for itself. Personally, I've never played Tearaway. The game is extremely well-regarded, and it's long been calling to me from afar. It's loaded on my Vita, and it's a game that I've always wanted to fire up, but I just haven't had the chance, yet. When Tearaway Unfolded hits, I'm looking forward to remedying this egregious and irresponsible gaming sin.

Atoi has a message for me, and gosh darn it, I need to read it!

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