This year’s EB Expo continued the event’s shift away from gaming-specific content towards being a general pop-culture fair. It included the usual big-name video gaming exhibitors – all three platform holders (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo), major publishers such as Ubisoft, and hardware companies such as Logitech and Razer. It also offered a range of exhibitors from related fields, including science-fiction fan groups, artists and craftspeople, and the return of last year’s highlight, the Lego enthusiast group Sydney Brick Show.
More thoughts after Vault Boy:
The highlight was the atmospheric, thrilling Dishonored 2 — I played as new protagonist Emily, grown up in the years since the first game took place. Dishonored 2’s rich worldbuilding was on display from the demo’s opening sequence, a roller-coaster-like ride to the gates of a clockwork mansion. Inside, the mansion is occupied by human and clockwork guards, servants, and even a pair of very surprised guests waiting in an antechamber; its rooms are shaped and reshaped by pulling levers. Its villainous master watched — and commented on — my progress, at one point even taunting me for going the wrong way.
When the situation turned nasty, Dishonored 2 handed me a toolkit combining stealth, speed, and sheer power. A crossbow bolt to the head scrambled one clockwork robot and turned it against its allies, before I finished it off with a hail of bullets and sword strikes. I defeated another by stealth-moving to close quarters, then slashing it to ribbons. Before my time with the demo ran out, I was trying to figure out a way past a Wall of Light – a force field that disintegrated anything passing through1.
Finally, the decoration of the Dishonored 2 booth deserves a mention. The walls were hung with in-universe posters – from advertisements to stern admonishments by the city’s duke – and I was greeted by staff cosplaying as Emily, two guardsmen, and a character I didn’t recognise. Very cool!
After playing the original Gravity Rush on Vita, I found Gravity Rush 2 to be comfortably familiar. Its premise was familiar, as I sent gravity-defying superheroine Kat bounding across – and over – vaguely European-looking streets. Its art and music were familiar: vibrant colours and comic-book-style cutscenes. Its controls were familiar. What was different was combat. Upon seeing combat in GR2, my first instinct was dismay; it was the weakest part of GR1, to the point where I shelved the game after a frustrating boss battle. GR2 revisits this to add several new elements – an auto-aim reduces frustration, a tap of the touchpad will cycle Kat’s fighting style through agile, regular, and powerful modes, and human and mech enemies have been added to the game. I also suspect that the game benefits from the Vita -> PS4 transition, which brings a larger screen and less fiddly controls. If and when I buy a PS4, Gravity Rush 2 will be high on my list.
I liked what I played of Batman: The Telltale Series (about half an hour of Episode 1), with the caveat that it’s difficult to evaluate long-running narrative games on a showfloor. After playing Telltale’s recent Tales from the Borderlands, the basic mechanics were familiar — a mix of dialogue choices, QTEs, and cut-scenes — and I liked what I saw of the script, for instance, Catwoman’s shifting emotional response during an early meeting with Batman. Worth keeping an eye on.
“That’s interesting…” moment: Realising that the excited commentators at an eSports event (hosted by Logitech) sounded exactly like the horse races.
The Lego on display was impressive. This is Hogwarts:
Weta Workshop, which designed props and costumes for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is a regular on the Australian con scene – I first recall encountering Weta over a decade ago, at a Supanova (anime/movies/pop culture) convention in Sydney. Here is their Eowyn figurine:
Out of all the cosplayers present, my favourite was an elaborate Big Daddy from Bioshock, complete with a drill that spun when the helmet lights changed colour from green to red. It was so elaborate, the person inside needed help to remove the costume afterward!
The Expo also contained quite a few stalls manned by independent creators, such as Gemwaith International (steampunk accessories and chain-mail pouches), Button Fox Crafts (costumes and soft toys), and Rocky Hammer Creations (art prints – including many cute Pokemon sketches). Finally, it included several science-fiction enthusiast groups (Star Trek, Dr Who, and Star Wars) and a LARP group, Rooty Hill-based Scy’kadia.
- Looking up how Walls of Light worked in the original game, and assuming they work in the same way in both games, apparently I could have passed by throwing enough junk to make the Wall run out of fuel. ↩