Most think that, much like movies, when you want to see what is happening in the world of video games, you look to the USA. Not this weekend. Currently all eyes are turned towards Cologne, Germany for GamesCom 2017, a 4-day expo that happens each year after the early summer crash of game block busters, expos, and announcements. GamesCom, if you’re unaware, draws enormous crowds every year, this one being no exception. Quite a few publishers wait out the more publicized expo of E3 to drop their announcements during time. This year we have seen announcements by Blizzard, Nintendo, Mircosoft and many others.
First off, let’s talk Blizzard. Most notable are the two excellent animated shorts they released. It’s well known that Blizzard’s animation department easily rivals Pixar when it comes to quality of animated cinematics. They can be insanely full of detail (see any StarCraft cinematic) or highly stylized with a cartoon flair. These animations, “Rise and Shine” and “Hearth and Home”, are for their respective IPs: Overwatch and Hearthstone.
Both are worth seeing. “Rise and Shine” continues the theme of giving each hero their own cinematic, showing their backstory and connection to the world. This short focuses on our favorite cryogenically frozen scientist, Mei. “Hearth and Home” is a fun song and dance number that conveys the soul of Hearthstone: Have fun! Don’t Sweat it! It carries a tune that will stay with you till the end of the day. As for games, Blizzard announced a new map for Overwatch and has a playable version to show off. Heroes of the Storm lets attendees take Kel’Thuzad, a major character from World of Warcraft, for a spin as the newest hero. Heroes of the Storm also shows off a swatch of changes coming to several mainstay characters. Changes that should shake up the current meta for the better.
E3 2017 revealed Microsoft’s Project Scorpio console. Now known as the Xbox One X, it was not announced when it would release. During Microsoft’s presentation, they announced and officially opened pre-orders for the console. Along with the base console, they announced the Project Scorpio edition. It harkens back to the original Xbox design, but other than that, its differences are purely cosmetic.
Nintendo has a strong showing of their upcoming lineup as well as additions coming to several games. Splatoon 2, probably the Switch’s most popular game, is getting a new weapon and map. Next, a new challenger approaches in ARMS. Making her way to the ring is Lola Pop, a candy covered, Twizzler armed clown with the best MC Hammer Pants we’ve seen in a long time. The item garnering the most attention seems to be the newly announced 3DS XL SNES edition. The handheld is themed after the Japanese Super Famicom and look beautiful. Nintendo continues to taunt the world with showing off the SNES Mini and seems to overlook the fact that, much like the NES Mini, demand out weighs supply to a startling degree.
For new IP, everyone has been rushing to THQ Nordic’s booth to check out Biomutant. It’s still a very early build and it’s not terribly far along, but the idea is captivating enough to elevate it to star status. The premise of Biomutant is open world gameplay based around your gun-toting, samurai sword wielding super raccoon with his robotic grasshopper pal. The released cinematic teases us with possibilities of adventure in a lush forest environment and looks to be a fresh of breath air in the current themes of games. Keep a close eye on this game’s development. In a time of just adding an increasing number on the end of a game, new IP is a rare thing.
Last but not least is the “Space Opera Thats Too Big for Its Own Britches”, Star Citizen. A game that is beginning to feel like an eternity in the making since its original Kickstarter in 2012, it has been the love and bane of many. Not only did their stream start an hour late, but several wrong trailers played for ships being announced. Once all the technical bugs were routed and squashed, Chris Roberts talked about Star Citizen 3.0, the next module to the game that has been released in bits and pieces for the past 3 years. With 3.0, Citizens will have moons to fly around and land on as well as more Mobiglass features. The Mobiglass is the game’s journal, inventory, and stats menus. Also demoed was “Face Over IP” which allows facial tracking via a webcam and software to let your avatar in the game mimic your facial expressions. Let the hilarious facial glitches ensue.
In all, GamesCom is more than just an expo of upcoming games. Tournaments for a slew of titles take place over the weekend as well. The Player Unknowns’s Battle Grounds tournament is in full swing and should be a compelling watch. Check out GamesCom’s site for up to date information and announcements. In the mean while, I will be jealous my European vacation didn’t involve playing a bunch of brand new video games.