My E3: Sherlock Holmes, Castlevania, Witcher, Thief & More - shootist2600 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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My E3: Sherlock Holmes, Castlevania, Witcher, Thief & More

My second day at E3 was filled with appointments, though I at least made time to eat (an entire apple and granola bar, no less). I saw a nice variety of games and, as always, am encouraged by the creativity of developers in this medium.

Spider Studio's Bound by Flame is a story driven action RPG. The dark fantasy game begins with a character creation tool followed by a tutorial. One of the first things I noticed was the significant draw distance. You can freely roam this world, and each chapter is very different, encouraging exploration. Enemies, too, are linked to each environment.

Combat with enemies consists of landing blows, parrying and dodging. Fire magic can be used as well, and the ability to dual wield weapons is an option that, as can be expected, is faster but physically weaker than using one larger weapon. Besides regular foes, there are boss battles.

Most of the demo involved travel and combat. Animations are fluid, and attacks -- whether melee or fire -- appear effective and interchangeable. Particle effects are decent, and environments are well designed. (Regrettably, the sound was not working for our demo so can't be assessed.)

Dialog also is dynamic, with your choices leading to different sidequests or story paths, and potentially altering your reputation with factions.

You can recruit five companions such as a magician or archer. However, when you become host for a fire demon, some factions will refuse to ally with your demon personae; if you elect to not follow the demon path, you'll need more allies. Each path is an important side to the story.

The game has a crafting system for improving armor and/or weapons, and skill trees. Each skill tree has 12 skills, which can be improved three times each. 

The main quest is about 25 hours long, and sidequests will add to its duration. The game will release in early 2014, and is being developed on PC, PS3 and 360 at the same time.


Crimes and Punishments: Sherlock Holmes, the seventh game in Frogwares' series, is designed to be more challenging and sophisticated and features eight different cases such as murder, disappearance and theft. In a first for the series, the game uses Unreal Engine 3, allowing detailed, colorful environments that contribute to atmosphere and investigations.

The developer's goal was to put gamers in the shoes of the famous detective, who was renown for his skill with deduction and careful observation. To facilitate this, gameplay can switch between third and first person perspectives. The demo was actually based on a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

During investigations, gamers can examine crime scene details in an interactive environment. Weapons and clues can be picked up and viewed in 3D (think Uncharted or Elder Scrolls). Items such as notebooks or chests can be opened and their contents explored (unlocking chests can involve a puzzle). The extent of interactivity was impressive.

Holmes has special abilities. One is vision, which allows him to see things others don't, such as how a clean area on an otherwise dusty shelf likely held a box. The game also allows one to conduct autopsies and interrogate suspects.

A second ability in regard to the latter is careful observation of characters or suspects (which stops time). You can examine them for helpful details. Also, you can choose topics or clues to interrupt suspects with. Finally, a deduction board represents the completion of investigative work.

The level of detail achieved and interaction possible in both the crime scene and the interrogation was promising and should allow amateur sleuths a field day. Whether this allows for a more intuitive and ultimately satisfying process than, say, LA Noire's somewhat controversial approach (a concern raised by one attendee) remains to be seen. 

Indeed, gamers will have to interpret clues, which can lead to different possible deductions. In fact, each case has three to five possible conclusions. The case demoed had four, for instance. Investigations appear to represent the majority of gameplay; there will be no combat. Also, we were assured that Watson will appear.

The game is set to release for PC, PS3 and 360.


MercurySteam puts players in the role of Dracula in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (PC, PS3, 360). The 20-minute demo on display consists of the game's tutorial and as such provides a helpful overview of its gameplay. Most involves combat, though the demo also provides a good introduction to platforming.

In general, controls proved responsive, though for someone like me the various button uses and combos involved a learning curve. But the tutorial does a good job of acquainting gamers with the basic game mechanics (in this case for 360).

Specifically, you can use direct attack (X), area attack (Y), grip/interact (B), jump (A), chaos claws (RB to activate/deactivate) for breaking shields, void sword (LB) to consume life, block (LT), move (left thumb stick, +LT to dodge) and free camera (right thumb stick).


In practice, the controls work well enough, though platforming can seem overly precise when moving in different directions under attack. Also there are quick time events involved at least in feeding and leaping/grasping. Thankfully, checkpoints are reasonably spaced.

I used dodge a lot to avoid regular and shielded foes as well as boss type enemies. All had regular and special attacks that typically are telegraphed when charging. The variety and number could test one's mettle.

Finally, production values are excellent, whether particle effects, detailed textures, fluid animation or quality cinematics. The demo was solid, fun entertainment, though with the possible exception of chaos claws and void sword, it did not reveal much that was new compared with the game's predecessor (at least that I can recall), though you could do worse than compare with that entertaining title.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, Xbox One, PS4) demo was an exceptional display of CD Projekt RED's ability to produce high-quality games that are both epic and intimate at the same time. The 45 minute gameplay demo occurs around the middle of the game.

The Witcher stories are connected, but Wild Hunt is starting a new world, so a knowledge of the previous titles is not necessary. Gamers again play as Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster hunter. This time, instead of only the Empire of Nilfgaard to contend with, Wild Hunt spectral warriors are a problem.

In the demo, Geralt is on the trail of the Wild Hunt. It begins with a cinematic that, frankly, is among the best I've seen in terms of detail and animation, which helps convey the drama depicted. Highlights include horseback riding through the wilds, reminiscent of Red Dead Redemption; compelling personal interactions; and fluid combat with people and beasts large and small.


Storyline is the most important element for the developer, but the fully open world and presentation take a backseat to no one. The world is much larger than in The Witcher 2, is not interrupted by loading screens and includes living communities of NPCs with their own agendas and lives.

Use of DirectX 11 allows a visually stunning world. In fact, production values showcase impressive detail, realistic lighting and great draw distance. Art design is well conceived, with structures displaying Celtic influences as well as taking inspiration from medieval Amsterdam.

The in-game economy is region specific, with cheap fish on the coast and more expensive fish inland, for example. Gamers can take advantage of that to make more money. New transport include horses and sailboats, while climbing and swimming are options on foot. Like Skyrim, you can travel to every place you can see. Fast travel also is available.

Sidequests add to the journey; ruins often have items, dungeons and new adventures; and a crafting system exists. In terms of combat, the game is designed to combine classical RPG action with the speed and precision of tactical action games. Besides superior sword fighting, simple spells, called "signs," can be used, and potions can be consumed.

Compared with its predecessor, Wild Hunt's camera is more intimate, animations have changed and combat controls differently. Combat involves attack, dodge and parry moves, and encourages gamers to pay more attention to enemies.

Combat showcased in the demo appeared streamlined at least compared with the game's predecessor. Moves were quick, attacks interchangeable between melee and fire, and animations were smooth. No clumsy menus that I endured previously, though perhaps they were less necessary later in that game.

This sequel features more than 100 hours of playtime (about 50 hours of core missions and 50 involving sidequests). A dynamic day/night cycle and weather system vary the landscape and action, for instance, as enemies like werewolves are more powerful at night (your journal even includes a bestiary with helpful details about beasts).


Behaviour Interactive showcased a playable demo of Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff. Based on the children's animated TV series, this platformer allows for playing as the title characters inside their ATT (All Terrain Transformatron vehicle) or as Perry the platypus/Agent P.

Inside the ATT, Phineas controls a drill for breaking blocks and Ferb pinchers for scaling walls. Both also can be used for attacking foes. Agent P is superathletic and uses platforms or his agility to leap, and his martial arts training for a kick attack.

Phineas and Ferb explore four worlds for a variety of treasure -- an ancient temple, outer space, deep sea Atlantis and a backyard -- while Agent P navigates Dr. Doofenschmirtz's labs in an effort to stop his nefarious plans. Besides treasure, silver sprockets can upgrade the ATT's drills (for different blocks) or colors.

During my gameplay I explored the temple and labs. In both cases, platforming, tool use and combat (spinning drill, pincher whirl and Agent P's kick) are all fluid thanks to familiar, intuitive controls. In fact, it played much like other platformers.

In truth, what will set this apart is its source material. Besides playable characters, you can interact with others in the backyard. The game is also colorful, with sharp graphics. It is set for release on August 13 for Nintendo platforms as well as the 360.


Developer and hands-on demos of Thief (PC, Xbox One, PS4) were available from Eidos Montreal. The game is considered a reinvention, not a reboot, and through master thief Garrett it explores the essence of being a thief. The demo takes place hours into the game and involves infiltrating a manor for a rare treasure.

The game is designed so any level can be approached multiple ways, though at its core it's still a stealth title. Reinforcing this are visual effects around the screen and a light/shadow sphere on the HUD that darkens the more you are hidden. It also helps to be aware of the different sounds that various surfaces make.

Assisting would-be thieves is a focus ability, or raised intuition, that helps detect objects of interest, loot and even traps (this feature can be turned off for hard-core enthusiasts). It does drain, but pickups can restore it. A pickpocket ability can likewise line one's own pockets.

The demos reinforce how exploration is encouraged. A variety of items can be found throughout each area, and interactive objects present their own opportunities for expanding one's search. For instance, turning off a fountain might reveal a previously hidden area.


Various gameplay options help ensure one's success, whether a swoop ability that allows thieves to quickly move between shadows, a rope arrow to reach higher areas, fire arrows that can ignite pools of oil as a distraction or weapon, or water arrows that can extinguish torches, to name only a few.

When exploring a cellar area, the developer used focus and swoop a lot. I was less deft at this application, failing to realize I needed to be moving to use it (one can swoop forward or backward). Thankfully I was able to hold my own during melee combat when detected, but took a beating. Health, like focus, does require pickups to restore.

Thief is enhanced with a quality production that includes detailed textures and quality lighting, features integral to a successful stealth game. It looks set to continue the success of titles like Thief: Deadly Shadows, which in my experience does share several traits.

In between appointments I checked out the cinemizer OLED multimedia glasses by Carl Zeiss. It reminded me of virtual reality headgear I tried out outside an arcade in the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel 15 years ago. In practice, however, the glasses upended my expectations.

First off, their compact size left me skeptical of use with eyeglasses; however, the focus of each eyepiece could be adjusted much as one might fine-tune binoculars. I was impressed how each could be focused independently to allow a clear image sans eyeglasses.

I used them to play a console version of the video game Avatar and was pleased with the quality of the 3D presentation. The depth of field is quickly discernable and does help immerse one in the game as advertised. That said, my expectation of a virtual reality experience perhaps was misplaced.

I anticipated 360-degree screen movement in tandem with head turns but, despite being equipped with a headtracker accessory, screen movement not only lagged but was minimal. To be fair, I believe the accessory was made as an alternative for mouse movement in computer games, plus the cinemizer OLED is meant to improve immersion but not necessarily provide a virtual reality experience.

In fact, the impact with the headtracker was disorienting. However, for a static entertainment option, in particular with the eye shield accessory equipped, it might succeed at increasing immersion whether in 2D or 3D. The presentation otherwise was crisp, clear and colorful with laudable depth perception.

DayZ creator Dean Hall demos his game for the press. I also saw Dominique Moynihan but he eluded my lens!

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