El Shaddai, Faxion and Planet Crashers at E3
The UTV Ignition booth at E3 held some of the most variety in an indie game booth that I saw this year. They are creating and/or publishing at least 10+ games right now that look nothing like each other on almost every platform from console, PC to iOS. In my visit to their booth, I got to see a closer look at three titles from UTV.
The first game I saw is called El Shaddai. I’ll have to admit, El Shaddai looks nothing like anything I’ve played before. It is a Japanese-style single player, action console game for PS3 and Xbox 360. The thing that stood out to me most was the incredibly unique art style in this game. It has a very painterly, abstract art look with minimalist, stylized touches that made it visually stunning to see. The combat was a fast and flashy mix of action fighting game and platform jumping maneuvers that has variable difficulty from easy to hardcore for more experienced players. The story of the game centers around fallen angels called the Grigori. The hero is a human, Enoch, who’s job is to find and defeat these fallen angels on earth. The ongoing angel theme quickly became a cute running joke seeing as how I was there as a “gaming” angel. El Shaddai is set to release on July 26.
My second stop at the UTV booth was to see the persistent world MMORPG, Faxion. Heaven and Hell are pitted against each other in this return to an old-school style PVP-focused MMO. The factions in the game fight over areas themed after the seven deadly sins. Faxion has a stylized, cartoon-y visual look and a great sense of humor that pokes fun at itself often. The game has three general classes to choose from: fighter, mage and healer, but uses a multiclassing system to allow you to customize your character to be totally unique. Faxion uses a free-to-play business model that allows players to purchase vanity items as well as time-saving items that can speed up character progression. Personally, I’m sold on a set of pink angel wings that I must have. There is also an offline skill leveling system that can help busy players stay competitive. The story of Faxion’s development is pretty impressive considering it was built in 15 months with a team of only 23 people. So, at release, the focus was to build a solid foundation game and to connect with the community and let them help the team decide where to focus future development. For players who loved games like Everquest back in the day, I think Faxion with its overland boss mobs will be a welcome addition to the MMO space. One concern, though, that I have with PVP-centric games is the potential for griefing. The death system in Faxion seems to address this pretty well in that the death penalty is small and when you respawn you are in a safe space that allows you to quickly get back to what you were doing or go back to a safe city without being spawn camped. Faxion is available to download and play now.
The last game I saw was a super cute browser and iOS game called Planet Crashers created using the Unity engine. The focus of the game is automated character duels. You equip your character with any number of skills and gear, including wacky weapons like a giant pencil or carrot, then send them in to fight an opponent while you watch and see who wins. You can battle against friends, duel random players or fight a computer-generated opponent. An interactive component of clicking to pick up coins that pop out of the characters during battle is currently in development. Your account is cross-platform compatible so you can play in your browser then move to the iPhone, iPad or iPod while you are away from home. The developers also hope to be able to add Facebook integration eventually. The art style is very cartoon-y and the characters have almost a bobble-head feel. The planets that you battle on are a fully 3-dimensional circle that have a variety of different themes and interactive environments. One example is a cheese themed planet with a mouse that pops out at you and interrupts battle. Eventually you will be able to customize your planet and use it to grow and develop resources that help your character. Planet Crashers should be available before the end of the year.