Written By: Steve Vegvari
There were quite a few games on the show floor during the Toronto Fan Expo 2017. I had the chance to get my hands on a few of the demos this year and try them out before their upcoming release. A few standouts this year were Detroit: Become Human and Mario Odyssey. Both games exceeded my expectations in drastically different ways. Detroit as a pulse racing story and Mario with fun and joy that could put other 3D Mario games to shame.
Here is a short list of game demos that really stuck out to me during Toronto Fan Expo 2017.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Ubisoft is back with their iconic franchise. This time around it was clear they have been listening to the reception of prior games and have retooled some of the structure. The protagonist Bayek now has a branching skill tree with three main veins. This marks the first time Assassin’s Creed has gone down the path of a light RPG. As you level up you will be able to take on harder enemies with a much broader skill set.
Origins introduces a similar tactile combat system, similar to games like The Witcher and Dark Souls. The game focuses on mixing ranged, light and heavy attacks with blocking incoming attacks with your shield. Each swing of your sword feels like it has consequence. I often found myself overwhelmed after breaking stealth. Having to multitask against three or four enemies in this game brought a new challenge to the franchise.
All across the Egyptian map are rare weapons and armor that players can hunt for. These weapons will have their own stats and unique abilities. One in particular is a bow that will always shoot a flaming arrow. In this case, this bow can be used to create distractions for enemies, or obviously make short work out of an enemy.
Graphically, the game was a stunning set piece for the power of the Xbox One X. While running the real 4K fidelity, each rising air bubble while swimming, or blade of grass rustling while running was almost a distraction for how good the landscapes look being enhanced for the upcoming console.
Detroit: Become Human – Quantic Dream’s anticipated thrilling action-adventure game brought the same demo as revealed during Sony’s E3 conference in 2016. Getting my hands on the demo helped better understand the fundamentals of how choices or better yet, lack of, would impact the story and characters.
Conner, an android modeled for police and investigative use is brought to the scene of a murder/ hostage situation. Here you must put together the events that transpired prior in order to have a better chance of reaching a conclusion with no additional casualties.
As you enter the penthouse condo you will raise and lower your percentage of a successful outcome by searching the unit for clues. Items such as a tablet with contextual information will increase it, while progressing too far without fully understanding what the culprit’s motives are will put you at a disadvantage.
As the demo comes to a head, you are on a rooftop talking the emotional android fugitive off the edge of a building with child in his grasp. Dialogue choices will further push the sense of consequences and impact you have. As I spoke to the Sony rep afterwards, it seems that no player has reached an ending where all three characters walk away unscathed. In my playthrough it came down to me sacrificing myself and saving the child, taking down the opposing android to defuse the situation.
What makes Detroit: Become Human something to watch for is the incredible cinematics the game are infused into the gameplay. The game is played out like a heart racing thriller film. Incredible score adds a level of tension that will surely build sweat in heated situations. The voice acting and motion capture from the actors add a level of immersion that made me often forget I was controlling the scenes myself.
Call of Duty: WWII – After three years of the franchise built around a ultra futuristic setting, Sledgehammer Games has pulled the reigns back to develop a game that brought Call of Duty back to its roots. This time around, the multiplayer will feature five divisions each with their own unique role within multiplayer.
These classes have full customization, with weapon options, equipment and training. Training has essentially taken the place of perks and will offer similar buffs that the franchise has seen in the past. The demo was a very small vertical slice of the final build so I was not given a chance to toy around with my class systems.
During the demo, two teams were placed in a match of Domination. I tried my hand at a few classes; Infantry, Armoured, and Expeditionary. Each class felt great and it goes without saying that Call of Duty’s shooting mechanics continue to be the pillar that FPS games should aim for. It did take a minute or two to re-accustom myself to the boots on the ground playstyle that we have not seen since 2013’s Ghosts.
It is very clear this Call of Duty will veer more towards the multiplayer style seen in last year’s Battlefield One. Sledgehammer has taken some liberties to move away from where the franchise was going and reel it in to deliver a more tight-knit multiplayer experience.
Super Lucky’s Tale – Playful Corp. may just be sitting on one of the sleeper hits this fall. Don’t be fooled by the rich colorful level design or cute characters. Super Lucky’s Tale has a breadth of mechanics and puzzles that will surely satisfy any fan of the platforming genre. In the short time I played, I was thrown into an open world filled with collectables and small puzzles. A few had even left me stumped, while others could be easily solved using Lucky’s burrowing mechanic to go underground and come up inside a steel cage with some loot.
Platforming and movement felt fluid and intuitive. At no point did I feel lost, the game’s progression felt natural and never bogged me down by telling me where I needed to go next.
In a similar vein of Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro, or even Yooka-Laylee, exploration can be surface level, but there are secrets galore to those that want to explore and solve the puzzles the map offers. Sometimes it feels good to let go of the need to play those tense, action packed games and let a game encompass you with nostalgia and a more simple world.
Mario Odyssey – The ten minute demo offered players the chance to choose between two worlds to explore, the first being New Donk City. As expected, there was a bit of a culture shock seeing Mario interacting with normal suit-wearing humans. Running next to a New York taxi cab felt off, but once you get Mario jumping and platforming it all felt right.
The Sand Kingdom level was more accurate to Mario games. It was easier to get accustomed to the environment. Dia De Los Muertos characters littered the map to provide some context as to why this desert map has frozen over.
Mario Odyssey focuses a similar mindset from Zelda: Breath of The Wild; where if you can see it, you can climb it. Utilizing Mario’s new hat often meant traversing the world via electrical wiring or flinging your way across gaps otherwise inaccessible. It was a playable demo of imagination. Seeing a patio umbrella, I immediately wanted to see if I could bounce off of it. Sure enough it was a tool to get onto a balcony to progress towards more Purple Coins.
Each map is jam-packed with secrets, coins, and especially Moon Shards. Each map has a set of Moon Shards to collect and in the open world environments I couldn’t help but be nostalgic about Super Mario 64 and their Gold Stars. Add into the equation that Mario’s health will replenish over time meant I could take liberties in jumping off buildings and go seek out hidden characters or Warp Pipes.
Moss – The mixture of side scrolling, top down, puzzle platformer game from Polyarc Games is a story book brought to life in PlayStation VR. The foundation of the game is built around controlling our mouse protagonist; Quill through various puzzles and environments. In the case of the demo, one puzzle tasks you to manipulate a small tower of doors in order to progress to the next area. This involved a lot of multitasking. Controlling the world’s environment, and Quill took a little getting used to. The combat against opposing critters was intuitive.
There is just a sense of wonder no matter what Quill and you are doing in this world. Beyond the areas where Quill was exploring, you could look around around to expose the extreme level of detail the developers have put into the level design. However, the game’s controls could use some recalibration as there were often times that I had to extend my arms beyond a comfortable span just to maneuver Moss’ spirit orb guardian.
Bravo Team – SuperMassive Games has developed another game for PlayStation VR. Bravo Team is a co-op FPS that utilizes a cover based mechanic. Because of the emphasis on the cover system, players should not get the feeling of locomotion that a lot of VR will induce while freeroaming. Bravo Team uses a teleport mechanic similar to Superhot VR where you can chose the next area to advance to. The game’s of the Move Gun peripheral to add that second layer of immersion. The gripe with the demo was that there was no indication that your gun was out of ammo. Oftentimes I found myself in a situation where my gun stopped shooting bullets and finding a ammo crate was out of reach due to surrounding enemies. I would have prefered a way to monitor my ammo and be able to strategize accordingly.
Forza Motorsport 7 – In another showcase of the power of Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One X, Forza Motorsport 7 has the same fundamentals of the Motorsport games, but cranked up to 11. Turn 10 Studios has implemented a dynamic weather system that will add a rain or sand storm to the tracks. Not only does it evolve the way the player races, but it adds a sheer level of immersion. I was taken back at how well the lighting effects worked with the rain. It is exactly what players can expect from a Forza game, with the added dimension of it being one of the best looking games to come out this year.
Far Cry 5 – Three years since we have seen a Far Cry game set in modern times, Far Cry 5 delivered that same shoot’em up fun that I expected. Deviating from the far corners of the world, the demo put emphasis and this game taking place in your backyard. Tropical landscapes have been replaced with pine trees and open farming lands. Makeshift vehicles are replaced with semi-trucks.
A sprawling open world was teased and as I worked towards completing a mission to destroy a set of silo via a plane’s machine gun, I could tell that the game’s corners were vastly out of reach. The addition of the canine companion meant the action never stopped as it would tag enemies for me automatically. I often wondered how this game would vair after taking such a sharp corner and having the game set in the U.S. Instead of tribal natives interacting with me, I was speaking to a bartender with a southern twang in her voice. Nonetheless, at it’s core Far Cry 5 is set to deliver more of the same, which at the end of the day is never a bad thing.
I’m looking forward to Fan Expo 2018 and the next crop of new games!