Gen Con 2008 Coverage

Gen Con has been a bit light on the video gaming front this year. If not for Dragon Age, I might have chalked it up as a bust after my first pass of the show floor. Taking a second look, there are a few games worth checking out thanks to a bevy of Euro RPGs developers and the always plucky Atari giving them a way into North America.

Kings Bounty, Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir and Champions Online, covered here, are just the start. Keep an eye on this space as the weekend marches on!

King’s Bounty: The Legend

At first glance, King’s Bounty appears to be yet another Heroes of Might and Magic clone sailing to North American shores. Looking deeper, I realized that while it does do turned-based battles on a grid, there’s also a healthy amount of overland travel in real-time and plenty of RPG elements to keep you searching for new treasure and quests. Think Warcraft 3 style navigation until you run into an enemy, when you’re transported into an arena where your two armies fight it out in a turn-based battle.

What struck me was how deep the non-combat elements are. More than just a few skill choices and a climbing stat column; there are loads of different equipment combinations to juggle and skill trees to choose from. Even better, what race you marry can affect your equipment bonuses – choose an Elf and good luck getting much benefit from a Dwarven Warhammer. Even having a child will give you an experience bonus.

Currently slated for Fall of this year, King’s Bounty is definitely one I’ll be keeping an eye on.

- Shawn Andrich

Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir

Every time I think I’ve lost interest in this series, some sexy new expansion feature pulls me back in. In this case, being able to build my own party from the ground up before starting the game is a welcome departure from pre-generated party members. Throw in the Baldur’s Gate-style camera and it’s like playing Icewind Dale in 3D.

I also like the new conversation system which will allow me to respond with different party members on the fly if I need a little more intimidation or a lot more charm. This even comes into play during multiplayer sessions, allowing all players to vote on different dialogue choices.

Assuming the story holds up and the combat remains interesting throughout, I think there’s enough here to justify a purchase this winter.

- Shawn Andrich

Champions Online

Champions Online looks fantastic from about 60 feet away, especially after shuffling past the disappointment contained in most of Gen Con's video game exhibitors. Anything looks great after Legends of Norrath, but a new spin on the comic book MMO genre is enough to perk up my spirits. After work on Marvel Universe Online fell apart in 2006, Cryptic bought the rights to the Champions pen-and-paper system from the early 80s. Their plan is to take an established system for role-playing superheroes and build upon that with the lessons learned from their previous game, City of Heroes. What they're demoing at Gen Con is a pretty good start.

While Cryptic talks up the game's non-conventional character creation system -- based more on individual powers than pre-packaged classes -- each demo station featured a pre-built toon that grossly out powers the puny trash mobs in the zone. It's fun to bash the bad guys and interact with the environments, but there isn't a lot of info yet on quests and additional zones. Unlike City of Heroes, Champions Online won't go heavy on the instanced areas, letting players work together in larger areas. The cell-shaded graphics add 4-color personality that was missing from CoH, but still need a little work. When it's finished, though, Cryptic aims to have an fast paced action MMO for comic book fans on both the PC and 360, and they're shooting for Spring 2009.

- Cory Banks

Comments

Thanks for the write-ups, guys! I'm glad to see that King's Bounty hasn't fallen into the vaporware abyss.

As an old-school Heroes of Might and Magic fan, I'm really looking forward to it. The way equipment and bonuses work sounds like it'll really lend itself to creating unique armies and inventive strategies. Some might complain about the Warcraft-derived art style, but I'm really glad they didn't go in the direction of having bland, teensy-tiny units on a huge battlefield (*cough* HOMM4 *cough*).

Shawn on NWN2 expansion wrote:
Assuming the story holds up and the combat remains interesting throughout, I think there’s enough here to justify a purchase this winter.

I'm actually hoping that the story elements are de-emphasized. The scripted, heavy-handed way it was told in NWN2 and its expansion didn't exactly scream "role playing".

I like what I see so far, though. Coming from a Gold Box background, being able to create my own party from scratch is necessary to have it feel like a real D&D game to me. I also like the way they're delegating responsibilities in multiplayer mode. If they can make that work well, it could become a must-buy for the wife and me.

Nice coverage - really looking forward to hearing about Dragon Age!

The original King's Bounty was made by New world computing and was actually a precursor to HoMM. I used to play it for hours on my friends old Mac, it was a really fun game.

King's Bounty is a game that, after watching the demo, needs to be digitally distributed for me to get it. It looks like good fun for a quick romp but not so good I'm going to go out of my way to find it, y'know?

This may be my inner Trekkie talking, but are the Cryptic people talking a whole lot about Star Trek Online?

I didn't even think to ask about the Star Trek Online while I was at their section of the floor. All they had from the game that I could see was video that looped over and over. It looked pretty cool though. I am sure you can find it on the net if you looked. It's just way to late for me to even try right now though.

We are leaving at 9 am. Sad day. The weekend was a total blast. We got a bunch of pictures of the GWJ contingent that showed up to the Con. Hopefully everyone will get a chance to post some of them in the forums over the next couple of days.

Rat Boy wrote:
This may be my inner Trekkie talking, but are the Cryptic people talking a whole lot about Star Trek Online?

Like Gaald said, the only indication of Trek was a video looping on a 36" (or so) flat panel, mounted about fifteen feet above the show floor. It sort of threw me, as there were already quite a few space-based games (EVE, Beyond Protocol, and at least one other Tabula Rasa-esque title).

Gaald is a CYLON!

Bad Chris wrote:
Gaald is a CYLON!
He's a cyanide based insecticide?

No Bad Chris is a CYLON!

I am going to have to find a way to complete a full game of that one day.

Dam dirty Cylons.

Gaald wrote:
No Bad Chris is a CYLON!

Your both Cylons if you ask me. I am merely a human trying to eek out an existence in a reality that exists with you two frackin toasters. Who woulda thought you could have 4 Cylons in your presence and not notice.

You know what this thread needs? It needs more foam shuriken.

wordsmythe wrote:
You know what this thread needs? It needs more foam shuriken.

Even without any context that comment summons up visions of awesomeness.

wordsmythe wrote:
You know what this thread needs? It needs more foam shuriken.

Well as my friend Huggy (pronounced 'Uggy') would say: is you talking at me? Do I need to use my little foam shotgun on you?

cmitts wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
You know what this thread needs? It needs more foam shuriken.

Well as my friend Huggy (pronounced 'Uggy') would say: is you talking at me? Do I need to use my little foam shotgun on you?

Nerf Shotgun FTW. Maybe some foam swords too. .....what were we talking about??
So who is the final Cylon??

PCman wrote:
cmitts wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
You know what this thread needs? It needs more foam shuriken.

Well as my friend Huggy (pronounced 'Uggy') would say: is you talking at me? Do I need to use my little foam shotgun on you?
Nerf Shotgun FTW. Maybe some foam swords too. .....what were we talking about??
So who is the final Cylon??

Oh we already had the swords. forgot to mention them. We are talking about Ca$h & Gun$ with the Yakuza expansion.

It went down like this.... Nine friendly gamers sitting around a table piled high with cash. On that fateful day there were 6 pistols, 3 swords and 2 Shuriken. When the dust settled I think 4 people were left standing and once again the gun proved migthier then the sword.

Not to be picky, but what happened to the rest of the coverage?

Quite frankly, there wasn't much else to talk about. Full impressions of Dragon Age and a long interview with the lead writer on the game will be on this week's podcast.

There are a couple games I saw at the show (Saga, the RTS MMO for example) that I plan to play more on my own and write something a bit more in depth later.

Certis wrote:
Quite frankly, there wasn't much else to talk about. Full impressions of Dragon Age and a long interview with the lead writer on the game will be on this week's podcast.

Great! I'll look forward to that.

I thought we were a general gaming site. Where's the review of Red Dragon Inn II?