From Moonbreaker to Aliens: Dark Descent: PETER HOSKIN reveals his highlights from Gamescom 2022

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Cologne – a city with one of the most vast, awe-inspiring cathedrals in all Christendom. And, as it happens, one of the most vast, awe-inspiring gatherings in all gaming.

It’s called Gamescom and it brings together thousands of developers, fans and scurrying journalists for a few days of, well… games.

Previews. Parties. Play. That sort of thing. This year’s, the first to take place in actual real life since the pandemic took hold, came to a close last weekend.

The whole thing becomes a bit of a blur, but I think I spent time with about three to four dozen upcoming releases, of varying degrees of completeness. 

Sure, a snatched half-hour with an unfinished game isn’t quite scientific conditions, but it’s enough to form first impressions — good and bad.

Cologne - a city with one of the most vast, awe-inspiring cathedrals in all Christendom. And, as it happens, one of the most vast, awe-inspiring gatherings in all gaming. It's called Gamescom and it brings together thousands of developers, fans and scurrying journalists for a few days of, well… games

Cologne – a city with one of the most vast, awe-inspiring cathedrals in all Christendom. And, as it happens, one of the most vast, awe-inspiring gatherings in all gaming. It’s called Gamescom and it brings together thousands of developers, fans and scurrying journalists for a few days of, well… games

Gamescom 2022 

More than 250,000 visitors from all over the world marveled at the highlights of around 1,100 exhibitors from 53 different countries.

By Saturday evening alone, over 130,000,000 views across the entire gamescom show program. 

12,000,000 views at the Opening Night Live and more than 100,000 people at the gamescom City festival in Cologne. 

Let’s stick with the good. Really, all I needed to be told about Moonbreaker is that it’s by the people who made the underwater survival game Subnautica, yet there was more. 

It’s set in a new sci-fi universe, dreamt up by one of the great stars of genre writing, Brandon Sanderson.

It involves moving your band of space rogues around as though they were pieces on a tabletop, to the extent that they actually look like pieces on a tabletop. 

You can even ‘paint’ them within the game, if you so choose. And, crucially, it’s fun; with plenty more fun to come. 

Moonbreaker’s driving force, Charlie Cleveland, tells me: ‘We want to make this game for decades, ideally.’ 

In any case, year zero starts soon, with the game set to enter early access on the PC gaming platform Steam in September.

It’s almost axiomatic that games based on the Alien movies are either masterpieces or disasters. 

From what I saw, Aliens: Dark Descent, due out in early 2023, may well sit at the right end of that spectrum. 

Like Moonbreaker, it takes a top-down view of sci-fi action, as you carefully position your little troopers on big, industrial landscapes. 

But, as the name suggests, it’s altogether darker. This is a war of attrition: you versus hundreds of slavering monsters in the shadows.

There were plenty of smaller games on show, too. 

News Tower is the one that’s stuck most firmly in my memory. It’s a management simulation in the spirit of, say, Theme Park or the recent Two Point games. 

Sure, a snatched half-hour with an unfinished game isn't quite scientific conditions, but it's enough to form first impressions — good and bad

Sure, a snatched half-hour with an unfinished game isn’t quite scientific conditions, but it’s enough to form first impressions — good and bad

The whole thing becomes a bit of a blur, but I think I spent time with about three to four dozen upcoming releases, of varying degrees of completeness

The whole thing becomes a bit of a blur, but I think I spent time with about three to four dozen upcoming releases, of varying degrees of completeness

But the thing you are managing, in this case, is a newspaper in Depression-era America.

You get to construct a delightfully animated office building, but also to play at being the worst kind of person in the world — an editor — corralling stories on to front pages. 

I intend to pounce on it, to live out my most perverse fantasies, as soon as it enters early access.

Dorfromantik is a game that’s already out — on PCs. 

The most wowing moment of Gamescom occurred elsewhere; in a single, elegant swoop from the skies above America to ground level, where the developer demonstrating Railway Empire 2 proceeded to lay a track between two frontier towns

The most wowing moment of Gamescom occurred elsewhere; in a single, elegant swoop from the skies above America to ground level, where the developer demonstrating Railway Empire 2 proceeded to lay a track between two frontier towns

Although, at Gamescom, we learned that it will soon be released on to the console that suits its brand of gameplay best: Nintendo’s Switch.

I spent a good 20 minutes with it in my palms, dropping tile after tile to make beautiful, rural landscapes. 

No other game at the conference was so engrossing, making the sweaty bustle around me simply fade away.

But the most wowing moment of Gamescom occurred elsewhere; in a single, elegant swoop from the skies above America to ground level, where the developer demonstrating Railway Empire 2 proceeded to lay a track between two frontier towns.

Then we were off again, gliding to the canyons of Colorado, to check on the fruits of our enterprise there. Whoosh! And, indeed, choo-choo!

So I ended up falling in love with a giant train set, on sale next year.

Ich bin sehr cool, as they say in Cologne. Sehr cool. 

CAN VIDEO GAMES MAKE YOU LESS EMPATHETIC?

In a recent study, researchers looked at the three games participants played most, and noted if they were of a violent nature (such as shooting game Call of Duty) or non-violent (such as Fifa).

They tracked the brainwaves of participants using electroencephalography (EEG).

At the same time they completed a ‘stop-signal task’ which contained male and female faces looking either happy or scared.

The study found gaming was linked to lower empathy and emotional callousness.

Researchers believe this is because it inhibits people’s ability to process emotional facial expression and control their responses as a result. 



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