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I will be the first to admit that I am not the typical person you would see playing Life is Strange. I had originally went into my Gamescom press briefing knowing that I wanted to write a review about Before the Storm, but didn’t have a deep personal interest to request a key and play it. My mind quickly changed when during the game-play presentation when I found myself wanting to ask non-editorial questions, laughing with the game dialogue, and wanting to explore beyond the purpose I was there for. The presenter made the point upfront and several times that their goal was to make the game about having meaningful relationships between the characters and not wash it out with non-contributing features. It quickly showed off just how in-depth some of these relationships were and how the numerous choices a player could make would contribute to different experiences. It was also pointed out that unlike the last game, there is now no rewind power. This means that the player is presented with choices that have a lasting and permanent effects on the character. For instance, if a player choose to get into some shady dealings, they may come back to haunt you later on. Personally, I enjoyed every minute of the game and will be playing the entire Life is Strange series after the next two chapters come out. I recommend to check this one out if you are even remotely interested in it!
It has now been over a full week since Gamescom 2017 has ended but the dust isn’t settling yet with PAX West (formerly PAX Prime) just ending and preparations for Twitch’s third TwitchCon underway. During this year’s Gamescom I saw a lot of what happened last year; packed convention halls, big new AAA title booths, and 350,000 gaming fans overrunning Cologne. Likely due to safety and capacity restrictions, the overall number of public visitors remained exactly the same as last year at 350,000. Although there were dozens of extra companies represented this year, and despite Electronic Arts (EA) renting out all of hall one, all of these additions only resulted in an increased presence in the trade and business areas which are off-limits to the public visitors. As expected, EA did it big this year by bringing back Battlefield 1’s booth with its new In the Name of the Tsar DLC, winning the best add-on award. The addition of a hall-spanning overhead ramp with a 2018 BMW M5 hanging off it must have really impressed judges as they also won the best booth award too. If Gamescom had a longest line award, EA would have also would have certainly won this award also. Star Wars Battlefront II had a queue that extended past the three-hour mark, prompting many to stare helplessly at the massive X-Wing suspended above the booth before pressing on towards less-crowded areas. We also experienced just how crazy it got when their stage area became burst into action, being illuminated by hundreds of lights and amplified by over 135 speakers, turning their already packed stage area into an impromptu concert hall. I also need to throw in a big thank you to the whole EA and DICE staff for allowing me to not only run around unhindered but also be invited on stage to stream some Battlefield! Ubisoft was also well-represented in the same action-packed hall as EA with a massive Assassins Creed Origins booth. Unfortunately, I was not able to get into any of their private press briefings and only one of their public presentations due to the overwhelming excitement for their upcoming titles. I was also unable to easily access the Farcry 5 booth beyond a few quick video tours of over-the-shoulder gameplay. One of the notable highlights for me personally was the Ubisoft announcing Anno 1800, the 7th game in Anno series, for release in late 2018. With Overwatch being their hit title last year and no new groundbreaking announcements this year, the Blizzard area was mostly unchanged, but it was still a very impressive setup as always. One thing to note was I was very envious of the Diablo III players enjoying comfy sofas while onlookers were wearied from the typically long wait times with other Blizzard booths. Destiny 2 made a big splash this year by being represented at three different booths across the venue; one for each console and my favorite, the PC booth. I was able to over-the-shoulder watch the very smooth gameplay on PC and was very excited that Bungie did not leave the PC crowd with a sub-par experience. Many people who experienced the open PC beta were posting glowing social media comments about how well the game was functioning on PC. I have yet to personally pick up Destiny myself, however, my co-workers all seem to all share the same opinion that the PC version stood benefit the Destiny franchise the most. Square Enix also made a few waves this year with their presentations on Life is Strange: Before the Storm, right before its release mere days after the convention ended. Without any spoilers or previous knowledge of the game, I feel that they really did really well meeting their goal; make a game based around meaningful relationships and not any fancy mechanics or abilities. Their Final Fantasy franchise took up a large amount of their remaining show-floor space but I did not note any major announcements. Twitch itself also had a very similar presence to last year with some notable exceptions. One of the most immediate and funny things to note was the new Twitch Prime and H1Z1 booths and the overall consolidation of the Amazon-owned floorspace. Another funny thing I noted was that the H1Z1 booth was blatantly placed mere feet apart from the Player Unknown’s Battleground booth. Both of these were sharing a common pathway and open space with the ESL booth, but I do wonder how Daybreak and Bluehole feel about having their nearly identical titles so uncomfortable close. The most unexpected but gracious addition was the new Twitch merchandise booth, something that was amazing considering the typical multi-hour lines for the same items at TwitchCon every year. Finally, at the end of nearly every day I enjoyed meeting the lovely Discord staff many of whom were attending Gamescom for the first time.
As one of the world’s largest gaming conventions, Gamecom draws hundreds of thousands of eager gamers to Cologne, Germany every year. Last year it boasted over 350,000 visitors from 38 counties over the course of the 5-day event. This year’s convention is shaping up to being even bigger with the Koelnmesse, the owner of the 3,000,000+ square-foot venue, recently releasing that over 70% of the planned space has already been booked. In addition, 89,000 square feet of new exhibition space has been booked exclusively by Electronic Arts (EA), freeing up a large amount of space for even more exhibitors this year. Some of the confirmed attendees include big names like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Square Enix, and Ubisoft. Some smaller outfits like CCP Games, famous for their space combat MMO Eve Online, have also signed their name into this year’s exhibitor list. New and upcoming games are not the only things Gamescom represents; major hardware manufacturers like Micro Star International (MSI) and Corsair have in the past have major presences. Their typical show floor hardware showcases are common, but last year MSI showed it cared about its case modding community by carving out a wealth of space to host a live case modding competition and display amazing computer case artwork. Retailers were also well represented last year by having their own dedicated event hall for nothing but gaming merchandise sales. Electronic Arts is likely to bring a big act this year with Star Wars Battlefront II on the verge of release and their young Battlefield 1 game due to receive follow-on excitement for upcoming content. Microsoft is widely expected to also have a big presence this year with its Destiny franchise ready to spawn a second game, Destiny 2 which will finally be released on PC in addition to the Xbox One and PS4. Ubisoft will also stand to have a good presence with an upcoming addition to their Assassin’s Creed series after having taken the year off from releases in 2016. The new title, Assassins Creed: Origins is set in Ancient Egypt and will likely continue to showcase some of the new and existing features that keep the Assassin’s Creed series running. Learning from last year, I will be focusing more on scheduling coverage with particular developers. So far I have planned meetups with the Crowfall team of Actcraft and Travian Games, Frontier Developments, and Square Enix Europe. I am still awaiting back an answer from Electronic Arts and Ubisoft which I am eagerly awaiting a response on. Overall I am expecting another packed year as tickets for the weekend portion have already sold out. Just like last year, I will be avoiding the typical very long lines for gameplay testing lines and instead attempting to cover as much as possible over the four days of the public event. Obligatory frequent visits of the Twitch.tv booth are also planned. Finally, thanks to a new EU cell phone law, I will have a 100GB of contracted cell data to mobile stream with during the event, so be sure to check back here closer to the end of August to receive updates!