It’s always fun to play games being pushed out by big publishers like Bandai Namco at E3. Even if every game doesn’t sate the appetite of our audience, there’s a good chance the vast majority will be a hit. And since Bandai Namco is such a large company, they have the resources to present a wide range of genres. So at E3 2019, I tried my hand at 3 different titles that looked interesting and fun, one of which was covered last year, but which I hadn’t personally played. And I made sure to play the weird stuff that my colleague wasn’t interested in. So here they are in the order I demoed them.
As I said earlier, I hadn’t played Code Vein last year. And it’s probably for the best, since I don’t often play ARPGs or Souls inspired games. Code Vein seems to have elements of both, so you can bet I was in for a rough ride. I won’t spend a ton of time talking about the lore of the game, though you can find more of that here. Instead, I’ll give my impressions on how the game looked and played. From a visual standpoint, Code Vein is utterly gorgeous. Despite the setting, it’s full of color and detail. There’s a lot of lush reds, crisp blues and grungy metallic hues. The demo let me choose who I went into battle with, but given the sheer volume of systems I had to learn, I just stuck with my default partner. And though she did a respectable job of healing me and hurting my foes, the brunt of the combat seems to come between you and the monstrous creatures of the game.
This is very much a game that stresses the importance of patience first, followed by strategy and just a smidgen of prayer. I got the basic melee hacks and slashes down quickly, though the special attacks (which all featured a cooldown) took me a bit longer to figure out. What was even more challenging were the counter moves. You had to time those almost perfectly, and I failed plenty. But once I got the timing down, I learned how utterly satisfying those attacks could be. Essentially they reduced your damage to zero and retaliated with a fatal attack on foes, skewering them with your claws and draining the life out of them. It was equal parts gory and beautiful, and it definitely speaks to the benefits of mastering the game mechanics. Unfortunately, I am not an expert at this type of game, so I was only able to succeed in countering a handful of times in my 20 minutes or so with the game. What I was much better at was dying oh so many times. Usually due to my own incompetence, though once an enemy did rush into me and knock us both over a chasm to our deaths. It’s that sort of game.
I’d say that those used to hardcore ARPGs and Souls games will really love Code Vein, but it’s a hard recommendation for anybody else. If that sounds good to you, you’ll be happy to hear it’s coming to PC, PS4 and XBOX 1. Thankfully the next game I played at Bandai Namco was a bit less stressful.
I knew almost nothing about The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan before I agreed to demo it at the Bandai Namco booth. Though after a brief presentation, I was quite excited about playing it. The reason why is simple – I’m inexplicably drawn to horror games, despite being a huge wimp. But the lush visual presentation combined with choose your own adventure mechanics and gory consequences had me hooked quite quickly. In the demo itself, I was aboard a ship that had just been overtaken by pirates. I got to play a young man prone to sarcasm who had to decide whether or not to take the invasion seriously or laugh in the face of danger. Every time there’s an important decision to be made, you are given branching choices. By moving your character’s head in the direction of one, you’ll choose your fate. It’s very simple, but paired with the amazing visuals and sound effects, it makes for a heady blend.
One of the draws of Man of Medan, according to the trailer, is that it’s just the first in a horror anthology by Supermassive Games. I admit to not being familiar with their work, mostly because I haven’t had a Sony home console since the PS2, and almost all of their games have been on later Sony consoles. But after my brief demo with The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan, I can say I wish I had known about them sooner. Though the demo was relatively short, it was full of tension, drama and mystery. You quickly got the impression that your choices had weight, and the wrong ones could be deadly. As an example, I made the mistake of trying to be the hero and quickly was bound for my trouble. And also going by the trailer, there’s lots of dark, possibly supernatural horrors awaiting you in the final game.
I actually really enjoyed my demo with Man of Medan, and am glad to announce it’s coming to PC, PS4 and XBOX 1. While I personally would love a game like this on my Nintendo Switch, the graphics probably make that too difficult. But if you love horror and strong narratives, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out when it releases later this year.
The very last game I played at Bandai Namco was probably my favorite of the three. Which is funny, since it’s by a developer that I haven’t spent a lot of time with, Double Fine. I don’t have anything against them, but I just haven’t found the time to try out their stuff yet, other than a messy port of Costume Quest 2 on Wii U. But the game they had this year was none other than RAD, a post apocalyptic rogue game I knew I would love since I saw the trailer earlier this year. So perhaps this will be the title that opens the floodgates to me playing many more Double Fine games in the near future.
As for the demo itself, it starts you out picking your avatar of choice. There are minor differences between them, so I just went for the ones with the coolest hair (no joke). Either way, you’re armed with a baseball bat and sent through a portal into a randomly generated environment. You have melee attacks, a dodge roll and not much else at your disposal, at least at first. The fun comes into play when you gain mutations that really mix things up, such as spawning miniature horror versions of yourself or flinging your explosive head at things. I managed about 3 playthroughs in my time with RAD, and each time I was getting a bit better. Not so good I was able to beat any bosses, but enough so I came to appreciate the mechanics. Paired with the wonderful cartoony aesthetic and pumping tunes, this is a game I can already tell I’m going to love.
If you enjoy rogue games with humor and style, RAD should be on your wishlist. Best of all, it’s slated to release on Steam and Nintendo Switch this summer, providing hours upon hours of fun.
All in all I had a great time playing the games Bandai Namco had on offer at E3 2019. To see more of what oprainfall demoed, stay tuned for Part 2 with Quentin’s impressions.