It's been just over a week since Eurogamer Expo 2011, where countless upcoming and released games were demonstrated to attendees and made playable on the show floor. While some of them neatly fell into singleplayer or MMO categories, action adventure Dark Souls and the beautifully zen Journey sought to blur the line between those categories more than any game I've seen to date. Both are singleplayer games in which other players can seamlessly enter your world during play, a fascinating concept that I'm now dying to dig into.
Red 5 resolved its dispute with Webzen this week, allowing Firefall to continue development unhindered by legal drama. Brawl Busters enters a new phase of closed beta, and we have a dump truck full of beta keys to give away. League of Legends reveals details of upcoming champions Xerath and The Nine Tail Fox, in addition to a new livestreaming site designed to collect money for gaming charity Child's Play. Rise of Immortals launched on Steam this week and released its first post-launch Immortal Trovoc, the Last Dragon. Finally, hints at a console version for Diablo III or console controls for the PC version have surfaced this week due to some cryptic forum responses by Blizzard staff.
In this week's Not So Massively, I give some first impressions of Dark Souls and Journey from Eurogamer Expo 2011 and delve into all the latest news from games that aren't quite MMOs.
Demon's Souls, you're in for a massive treat. The game's spiritual successor, Dark Souls, releases tomorrow in North America on both PlayStation 3 and XBox 360, and it looks like it will be as involving and unforgiving as its predecessor. Dark Souls blends typical dungeon-crawling hack-and-slash adventure with a gritty world intent on killing you in horrible ways. The game was playable on the floor at Eurogamer Expo, and I got some hands-on time with it. What initially jumped out at me was that the graphics were surprisingly good, with great use of depth-of-field blur to hide far-off level-of-detail artifacts.
The gameplay was challenging and completely unforgiving; players can expect to die repeatedly as a matter of course, and NPCs don't suddenly reset and forget about you when you perish. At one point I accidentally (read: intentionally) attacked a tough neutral NPC near a spawn point, and I was killed over and over again until I figured out a strategy for getting away from him. It's unusual to call a game malevolent, but I can find no other way to describe Dark Souls. The artists, programmers and game designers at From Software are clearly a cover-story for the reality that this game was forged in hell with a hammer made from the skulls of babies. I love it.
Like its predecessor, Dark Souls integrates an innovative multiplayer aspect directly into its singleplayer game. Players online and near your location will be visible as ghosts in your game, visitors from a parallel world. You'll be able to attack other players, help them, cast spells on them, and even leave messages for them. The game's spawn points are bonfires around which other players become more visible. Seeing other players gathered around the same bonfire as you means they're probably playing in the same area as you and might be able to help you out. The multiplayer aspects of Dark Souls blur the line between singleplayer games and MMOs more than I thought possible.
Journey is the latest in a series of ground-breaking, simply incredible games by PS3 developer ThatGameCompany. Like Flower (in which you literally play as the concept of wind), Journey has a very minimalist and zen feel about it. It's hard to get a sense of what Journey feels like from videos, but thankfully the game was playable on the floor at Eurogamer Expo last week.
I got some hands-on time with this gorgeous game and had to be literally pulled away from it by friends. Journey takes the exploration factor that some of us come to love in MMOs and strips away everything else until that's all that's left. If you're an explorer, you'll get absolutely lost in the beautiful landscapes and quiet serenity of Journey, and I guarantee you'll love every minute of it.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Journey, and the reason it's in this week's Not So Massively column, is its innovative multiplayer aspects. The game will connect to the web over the PlayStation Network and actually merge your adventure with other players on the same journey. When you approach the location of another PSN player, he will suddenly appear in your game and you in his. The solitary and quiet exploration gameplay briefly comes alive as you show another silent explorer tricks, lead him to interesting locations, and attempt to communicate through a medium devoid of communication. Players will even require a companion in order to solve some of the game's optional puzzles or reach certain areas.
Firefall has been stuck in the middle of a legal dispute between developer Red 5 Studios and publisher Webzen for the past several months. Red 5 contends that Webzen has failed to market the upcoming title and that the studio has had to organise its own PR and advertising. Webzen retaliated with comments that it had given Red 5 millions of dollars and the game was still not complete.
The dispute that has raged on for the past few months finally came to a conclusion this week when Red 5 and Webzen came to an arrangement that both parties are happy with. Some of Webzen's money has be en returned, and the company will still receive a portion of the game's income. With all the business nastiness behind it, Firefall approaches completion with nothing standing in its way.
Brawl Busters officially entered beta some time ago, bringing Team Fortress 2-style graphics and gameplay with an interesting array of characters. This week, Brawl Busters has entered a new beta stage, and we've got more beta keys to give away than we know what to do with. Head over to our Brawl Busters beta key page to grab yourself a code and sign up at the official website.
Riot Games releases a sneak-peek of an upcoming League of Legends character that players are sure to find appealing, and this week we saw an absolute deluge of such teasers. Riot released art, lore and mechanics previews of Xerath, the Magus Ascendant, and an early look at in-development champion The Nine Tails Fox. Both Xerath and The Nine Tails Fox will be ranged casters, with Xerath focusing on dealing massive damage and Fox specialising in mobility and agility.
Continuing the weekly series of articles on the making of League of Legends: Dominion, Riot this week released an in-depth look at combat mechanics and how the game mode was balanced. This week's Summoner Showcase features the inspired website 10 Win Streak aimed at raising money for charity. Players stream their games of LoL to the website and compete to get a 10 win streak, while players watching donate money to gaming charity Child's Play.
Rise of Immortals officially released on Steam this week, with bonus unlocks for Steam purchasers. The big news for current fans of the title is that the first post-launch Immortal has been released. Trovoc the Last Dragon is an interesting new character whose abilities don't use mana. Each of his abilities instead has a long cooldown, allowing for some impressive burst damage but poor sustainability. Items that reduce cooldowns work particularly well on Trovoc, letting him scale up to late game.
Trovoc has two area-effect breath weapons, one that pushes enemies forward and another that deals fire damage over time and reduces enemy armour. This makes him incredibly good for farming creeps and pushing lanes. Combined with his area-effect disable and targeted silence, these can be devastating against enemy heroes. Perhaps most important is that Trovoc has a not-so-serious alternate skin based on a certain purple and green dinosaur; that alone has me sold. Check out the Immortal spotlight video below for more information on Trovoc and to see him in combat.
Blizzard may be tinkering with a console version of upcoming action adventure Diablo III. Though Diablo II was a clear PC gaming success, Diablo-inspired dungeon crawler Torchlight proved that this style of game suits consoles incredibly well. Blizzard staff posted on the forum this week about successful early experiments in integrating console controls into the game. To demonstrate how control of the game would work with a console controller rather than a mouse and keyboard, SC2Mapster's malu05 has compiled a mock video of such a control scheme in action.
One analogue stick could be used for facing and the other for movement. The left and right triggers could easily replace the left and mouse button of aimed attacks, and there are enough buttons on a controller to perform all of the abilities available through the standard UI. Even if Diablo III doesn't eventually release on consoles, heavy console players will undoubtedly be interested in using a controller on the PC version of the game. Check out malu05's video below for a demonstration of what controller-based movement might look like.
Join us every Monday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.