The EB Expo is an annual gaming event held at Sydney Olympic Park, traditionally featuring a mix of AAA games and local indies. For me, that makes it a great opportunity to venture beyond my traditional stomping ground, PC strategy games.
This year’s event appeared far more focused on the major brands. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft were all there, along with publishers such as EA, Ubisoft and Warner Brothers. Compared to previous years, there were fewer indies present — a bit of a disappointment, as chatting to each year’s indies is one of my favourite things about the show.
This year’s highlight was a Lego exhibition, organised by the same people behind Sydney Bricks (the Sydney Lego User Group). Seriously, check this out – it’s a retro arcade constructed out of Lego, complete with a little diner:
This is Lego Plants vs Zombies:
Apart from that, the exhibitors at the Expo were a mix of platform holders, publishers and Australian distributors, peripherals companies, and a few other odds and ends, such as anime and manga stalls. The New York Times stall failed to return this year, although the Australian Defence Force did make an appearance.
Here are the games I saw:
Nintendo’s booth was packed with people of all ages. I spent a little hands-on time with Xenoblade Chronicles X, which shares its predecessor’s striking landscape and auto-attack mechanics. (Unfortunately, the demo was set early in the game, and hence one of the new features – giant mechs – weren’t available.)
While there, I also completed the demo of Yo-kai Watch, a 3DS game that a Nintendo team member compared to Pokemon. Personally, it reminded me of Level 5 stablemate Ni No Kuni – another game built around sending cute monsters into battle. Combat mechanics are built around the 3DS touchscreen – monsters’ abilities are activated via tapping coins, sketching patterns, or ‘spinning’ a wheel. The idea has potential – let’s see how well it works in the full game.
At the Sony booth, I saw lots of PS4s and, unless I missed them, no Vitas! This is a change from last year, when the Sony booth highlighted a number of Vita titles such as Minecraft and Counterspy. I did spend a little time with Tearaway Unleashed, which was recognisable as the cousin of the charming Vita game.
After my time with Demon’s and Dark Souls, Dark Souls III felt comfortably formulaic. There are undead castle guards comparable to dreglings & hollows, and elite knights. There’s a bridge guarded by a dragon. There’s a boss, the Dancer of the Frigid Valley, who resembles a giant knight with elongated limbs and a flowing, loping, gait. There are shields, Estus flasks, and frequent deaths – I couldn’t even make it to the boss, although I watched several other players who did. It’s a Souls game, all right – here’s some footage from Tokyo Game Show, played by somebody much better than me:
I also had the chance to try Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Playing Evie, one of the two available protagonists, I climbed walls, fought guards, and — new to Syndicate — used a grappling hook to move across rooftops. After meeting a friendly NPC, I was able to infiltrate the White Tower of the Tower of London… only to step too close to guards and flub the resulting fight. Oh, well. This trailer illustrates the Tower sequence:
While the Fallout 4 presentation was built around old footage, it did whet my appetite for the game. I love the main theme, reminiscent of Fallout 3:
After several years of wondering what amiibo and Skylanders were, I experienced my first “toys to life” product at the Expo – Disney Infinity 3.0. For me, it stood out as a novelty: replacing the Han Solo figure on the receiver with a Darth Vader figure switched my in-game character as well. As a game, it seems fairly well-regarded.
After all the years since I played Guitar Hero II on PS2, it was a pleasure to hop on stage to try Rock Band 4. Not a cheap game, though.
Rocket League was exhilarating, although I wonder what sort of legs it will have – playing 1v1 matches didn’t seem to offer much scope for tactics.
Finally, the Expo was my introduction to World of Tanks. I did not last long!
I attended the Expo using a media pass supplied by the organisers.