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Versus Evil at E3: A Dynamite Lineup

/ Jul 8th, 2015 No Comments

The Banner Saga 2

Indie games continue to rise in popularity and numbers. As the interest in indie gaming has risen, a few publishers have emerged to offer a catered indie experience to gamers. Outside of the obvious publishing juggernaut Devolver Digital, Versus Evil set itself up to be a good home for indie developers after releasing the well-received The Banner Saga last year.

After releasing the beautiful and compelling Toren a few months ago, 2015 is shaping up nicely for Versus Evil. At E3 2015, we went hands on with all of the publisher’s upcoming titles. While we already checked out Guild of Dungeoneering and Kyn prior to E3, we got some time with Armikrog, The Banner Saga 2, and Skyshine’s Bedlam.

The Importance of Clay

Armikrog is a labor of love from Pencil Test Studios, which is headed by Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield. The two gentlemen have video game credits longer than a meth addict’s rap sheet, but they are most known for EarthWorm Jim and The Neverhood. Armikrog acts as a spiritual successor to The Neverhood with stop motion animated visuals and point-and-click style.

In the game, Tommynaut and Beak-Beak embark on a mission to save their home planet. Sadly, they crash land on a hostile planet and end up trapped inside a fortress called Armikrog. In order to escape, the duo must rely on each other to solve the fortress’ mysteries and puzzles.
 

Armikrog

Armikrog is a piece of art.

The E3 demo gave us a taste of the game’s opening, where Tommynaut and Beak-Beak first end up on Armikrog. Since the game is still incomplete, there were a few place holder animatics and unfinished visuals, but the completed elements were jaw dropping. The stop motion look oozes personality and charm.

The game uses traditional aspects of the genre, like picking up items and figuring out how they further Tommynaut’s escape from the fortress. The coolest aspect was switching to Beak-Beak and using his special skills to solve puzzles. Being blind, Beak-Beak is able to see things not visible to Tommynaut. For instance, an image puzzle we played was only solvable by using Beak-Beak’s vision.

The Elder Gods Dull

The Banner Saga was one hell of a game. It ended on a huge cliff hanger, which made people wonder when the second game of the trilogy would be announced. Fans didn’t have to wonder long — Stoic announced The Banner Saga 2 during the 2014 Video Game Awards.

The E3 demo gave us a good snapshot of where The Banner Saga 2 is heading. It keeps all the elements that worked extremely well in the first game — deep strategy elements, hard moral choices and gorgeous visuals — and adds smart improvements to freshen up the experience.

In terms of narrative, the game can begin one of two ways depending on who you had shoot the arrow at the end of The Banner Saga. The Banner Saga 2 allows you to import your save from the first game to continue with the choices you made. Choosing one will give you an entirely unique story, but you can always choose to replay the game from another perspective.
 

The Banner Saga 2

There will be plenty new things to discover in The Banner Saga 2.

A huge aspect of the first game was managing your caravan and making difficult decisions. That returns in The Banner Saga 2 with more opportunities to decide the fate of your caravan. New to the game is conferring with advisors for strategies on what to do next. You can choose to take up their advice or ignore it. You can also ask for help in battle from your new allies, but you’ll lose some honor. This time you can choose to train part of your caravan to be warriors for extra strength, but at the cost of food. This means you’ll have to manage your resources closely if you want to ensure your caravan’s survival.

Gameplay is similar to the first game. There are new Dredge to fight, which creates deeper, more meaningful avenues for strategy. New units we saw included skittering bug-like creatures with low health that appeared in plentiful numbers. Coupled with returning units from the previous game, these enemies will demand a more tactful approach. It will be exciting to see how crazy battles get, and how much players will want to destroy their controllers or keyboards.

A Wasteland Odyssey

Skyshine’s Bedlam is a roguelike where players command a giant roving battle fortress in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Before beginning your journey into the sick, dusty wasteland, you select your mobile battle fortress from four different factions. Each faction has its own strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of faction, you can choose an attack team from five different classes, including shot gunner, dual pistol wielder and sniper.
 

Skyshine's Bedlam

Before battle, make sure to pick a suitable wrecking crew.

Once you’ve chosen your race and picked a suitable raiding team, you’re ready to explore the vast expanse of endless desolation. The goal in each run of Bedlam is to make it south. It sounds like an easy task, but you have limited resources that are used up with every move, and potential attacks by enemy factions can wipe out your entire team.

Combat draws inspiration from X-COM and Fire Emblem, with tactical options and movement playing major roles. Every specialized class has its own strengths and weaknesses, which other classes can exploit. For example a shot gunner can take out multiple enemies for heavy damage, but faster pistol wielding units can wipe them out quickly. Snipers obviously have good range and can do precision damage, but are fragile.
 

Skyshine's Bedlam

Battles in Skyshine’s Bedlam are intense and fast.

The combat is deep, fast-paced and has the potential to be every bit as frustrating as the best games in the strategy genre. Picking a raiding team with complementing classes is a must (just don’t pick four snipers because you’ll get wiped out quickly). Battles reward raiders with valuable resources, experience, and if they’re lucky, heroic units that can be recruited.

Skyshine’s Bedlam also features an immense resource management and travel system mixed with its tough, strategic combat, and its rougelike nature will keep players glued to the game. The comic book-style art by John Mueller will keep players fixated on the action.

2015 Til

Everything Versus Evil had on display at E3 2015 showed promise. The Banner Saga 2 retains all the elements that made the first one a fantastic strategy game. Armikrog is a gorgeous piece of video game art. Skyshine’s Bedlam has the potential to be one of the most addictive, satisfying games of the year.

It should be a good second half of 2015 for Versus Evil.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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