by Joe Matar0
Sneaking into E3 2013
Joe Matar Lays Out the Skinny on Android at E3
Somehow or another, I snuck my way into the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year and got some PR-types to give me the rundown on a number of Android games we can be expecting very soon. Obviously, with an event as huge as E3, some games slipped past me and some of the games I was shown were just plain lame, but here are the titles that are the most worthwhile to look forward to.
Konami had a bunch of properties to show off at the show this year, but, sadly, only two of them will actually be available for Android. One is a really standard Texas hold ‘em game that is so uninteresting I refuse to even tell you the title of it. The other is Slot Revolution, an extremely funky RPG/slot machine hybrid.
The game has the basis of many a standard RPG, allowing you to create a character and choose their class—Warrior, Ranger, or Wizard. You then embark on what appears to be a rather substantially-sized quest through various dungeons, fighting monsters and pillaging loot. How you go about doing this is the unique part.
Traversing dungeons is done by playing the slots that take up the majority of the screen. Each time you hit the “spin” button, you take a step forward, but also have the chance of collecting items, treasure, or entering into a random enemy encounter. You are at the whim of the random slots, except for during battles and boss fights at the end of each dungeon. At these points it becomes a game of precise timing and reflexes as buttons pop up for you to stop each row of slots one by one. The outcome will determine whether you attack, defend, or take damage.
With the bulk of each level down to chance, much of Slot Revolution paints it as a casual game, but there was a surprising amount of depth with weapons and characters being able to level up and the ability to customize and change your party to suit the situation of each dungeon (you’re given briefings) before entering them. It also features asynchronous multiplayer wherein you can form your party out of people you meet online and then choose to keep them around or drop them based on whether they’re progressing to your liking.
Slot Revolution is a free to play title and there are definitely IAPs for buying keys which unlock treasures that help you get better items or gain levels more quickly. I must admit to being worried this is a game that will try to get money out of you through boredom (each dungeon can be played over infinitely), but it’s still a title worth mentioning if nothing else because it’s pretty weird. It will be out summer of this year, aka, really soon.
Fightback deserves some attention simply for being the first mobile game from Ninja Theory (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive). Bucking what I fear is the beginning of a trend that might get old fast, the title takes inspiration from ridiculous eighties’ action films, with an over-the-top protagonist that kicks and punches the crap out of everything and everyone. Specifically, he is fighting his way up various towers, floor by floor, in an effort to rescue his kidnapped sister. This is at least one of the more fun ridiculous action movie conceits and one that’s always lent itself well to gaming going back to Kung Fu on the NES.
Fightback sports some rather impressive 3D visuals and sound effects that make it feel like it wouldn’t be out of place on a console. Control is touch-screen designed, however, and is as simple as tapping to punch and swiping to kick. You don’t actually even move your character around the environment; you wait for enemies to come to you. The direction you swipe changes your attacks up. You can, for example, swipe down to duck, then swipe up again to uppercut. At that point, you can, I was told, juggle an enemy, but I didn’t manage to master that in the small amount of time I was able to play.
Looks cool. Don’t know how to do it but it looks cool.
Fightback’s control felt so simple that I wondered how well it would pan out as I found the nuances of different kinds of swiping and tapping to be difficult to understand and pull off. However, this is a game from a company that mostly puts out fighting games, so I’m going to assume these mechanics reveal themselves to be more intuitive once you play with them for a lengthier period.
The most worrying thing about Fightback is that it’s another free to play title and there’s a store you get to visit in-between levels that sells all manner of power-ups, weapons, and tattoos (the latter is a cool idea; the tattoos appear on your character but also provide boosts to your fighting). In the build I played, I had quite a badass gun and I was informed very bluntly that it would require a lot of playing (and replaying) to earn in-game, but that real money would, of course, speed things up exponentially. Fightback has fantastic production values and may prove to be a brilliant beat-em-up, but what I heard of its pay system definitely left me with some concerns. It will be out in the summer.
As a person who genuinely loathes sports and sports games of all kinds, I’m surprised to say I found the mobile version of FIFA 14 to be rather enjoyable. The cool part about it is that the EA Sports team made it their goal to design this iteration of FIFA around touch screen controls, rather than going the lazy route with a controller overlay that just attempts to ape the console experience.
It seems to have paid off as they’ve got a really great looking game with no buttons cluttering up the screen. You simply tap a player to pass and swipe toward the goal to shoot. You can also drag from players to dictate paths for them to follow. With the ability to tap any player at any time, control of the entire team is literally at your fingertips. Being able to access and control all the different players so quickly and easily is, amazingly enough, a feature the Android and iOS versions of the game will have over that of the console releases.
Being pretend-good at sports is at your fingertips!
The game will also have various language packs for the commentators. So far, there are plans for English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian, though more could be added later depending on the response to the initial release. Evidently (using a system I didn’t understand), all of these languages will be readily available to players without the game taking up a ridiculous amount of space on their devices. One quite unfortunate thing is that the iOS version will have multiplayer while the Android version, er, won’t.
Again, I’m not a big sports guy, but I was impressed by how fluid and natural the game’s controls seemed to be as I managed to score a goal even with my rudimentary understanding of the mechanics, not to mention soccer itself. FIFA 14 will be released around the same time as the console version, around September. As of yet, EA Sports has not made a final decision on how they will be asking players to pay for the game.
Terraria is that indie darling that plays like a combination of an action-platformer spliced with Minecraft. Knowing that this game already has its following, developer Codeglue set out to make a port that would adapt the game for mobile play while not cheesing off the people who already love it. As such, Terraria is largely the same experience of killing things, mining, chopping down trees, and building in glorious, pixelated 2D.
Same old Terraria.
An overlay d-pad has been added—generally my least favorite of control schemes on mobile, but it did seem to work pretty well all the same. The developers have also included an autojump for smaller gaps and hills to simplify movement across the game’s world. The only other major change is that, recognizing that mobile gameplay lends itself to smaller playing sessions, the various actions you can perform now take up a fraction of the time they originally did. In other words, you can fell a tree in a few seconds, rather than sitting there with your finger held down, watching your dude endlessly swing his axe.
Something I was very pleased to hear is that Terraria is a straight-up premium title. There will be one cost to purchase it and it won’t ask for your money beyond that. It was nice to find a developer actually committing to this. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet totally committed to the Android version. The iOS edition of Terraria should be out in about two months with the Android’s, in theory, coming shortly after. The contracts had not yet been finalized, but the developers seemed confident they would be.
Deus Ex: The Fall
With mobile still kind of getting the short end of the stick at E3, Deus Ex: The Fall is the most striking upcoming mobile release pretty much by default. Square Enix’s spinoff of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is being treated not like some throwaway distraction with a big license attached to it, but, instead, as the actual, proper next game in the Deus Ex series.
The game’s events run parallel to those in Human Revolution and the shiny, futuristic setting has impressively made its way over to portable devices. In terms of production values, The Fall is shaping up to be a real console-quality effort. It feels like a full-fledged title with all the features you’d expect from the series included, like augmentation, hacking, and helpings of both action and stealth gameplay.
Some changes have been designed to adapt the gameplay to phones and tablets, such as jumping being replaced with vaulting and taking cover being rendered as simple as tapping the wall you want to press up against. There are also, welcomingly, some customization options available so you can set the controls to your liking.
Interestingly, Deus Ex: The Fall will be episodic with each chapter lasting roughly five hours each. The first chapter will be released on iOS during the third quarter of the year. Being the bastard child of the mobile industry that it is, the Android doesn’t get as clear a target release date. But a version for Android is, indeed, also in the works and hopefully won’t come too long after iOS gets it. Deus Ex: The Fall is only going to be a couple of bucks, but, of course, that means there will be optional in-game microtransactions as well. Sigh…