Another year, another EGX…! Now I know what you’re thinking… “But Joe, didn’t you guys already go to EGX this year..?!”; to that, I say why yes dear reader! EGX Rezzed that is! However, through the support of our readers and hard work we’ve been putting in, we finally received press passes for the larger EGX up in the Birmingham NEC, a massive, sprawling complex filled to the brim with games galore! Note that this article is as much a review of EGX 2018 as it is a walkthrough of my experiences with the event. With that out of the way… Let’s get right down to it!
After a surprisingly cosy night’s sleep at our AirBnB, me and my colleague Clarice headed off to the venue – Looking like something straight out of London Gatwick, I was pleasantly surprised to see the pathways leading up to the EGX halls decorated with gaming advertisements – Most prominently, Kingdom Hearts 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Dragon Quest XI; it was a small detail that just added that little bit of childlike hype to me as I eagerly paced down towards the queues – Speaking of queues, we had arrived around an hour early, and we were still rather far back in the queue – The entirety of which was contained within a large hall with a single, large ticket booth, and an absolutely colossal set of screens blaring out hype coverage that our fellow games press, Eurogamer, had been contracted to create for the event, showing off titles like My Hero One’s Justice, JUMP FORCE, Soul Calibur 6, Spider-Man, Kingdom Hearts 3 and much, much more – I will say, however, that after two days, you do tend to just blank out the dialogue of this footage; something that can’t be blamed given it was a rather high quality and heartfelt production from the Eurogamer guys! I will say, however, it would have been nice to have seen some additional banners and posters for games at the event.
Finally, the huge aircraft hanger doors opened, and we were given our first glimpse of EGX in all of it’s majesty – A series of gargantuan halls filled with flashing lights, massive displays, and pumping music! Our first target? Kingdom Hearts 3. We figured, given the hype for these games, the two biggest and most prevalent titles on the guest list, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, would have been the best titles to rush to first – Despite our efforts and sprinting, however, we managed to arrive at the Square Enix booth with a 30 minute queue ahead of us… It was a lot better than some of the queues, however! I finally had my chance to get my hands on Kingdom Hearts 3 early, playing the Toy Box and Rock Titan Boss Demos that popular Kingdom Hearts YouTubers had been given access to prior – I began by soaking in the rendition of Dearly Beloved, before a surprisingly military-like member of staff suddenly shouted “YOU’VE GOT TWENTY MINUTES!!!”.
It was a bit of a shock, having this beast of a man come around the corner and shout right besides you, but I let it slide the first time as I delved into my showdown with the Rock Titan – I’ll give Kingdom Hearts 3 one thing, the game looks far better than any footage could possibly show – Environments are lushly detailed, weather is rendered beautifully, Sora, Donald and Goofy all look friggin’ crisp, and the gameplay… Oh boy the gameplay… Sora’s movements are fluid, snappy and responsive, however it does feel a bit odd when Flowmotioning up a wall and suddenly turning left or right – The demo was set between Beginner and Standard, so it was extremely easy, however it was so so satisfying to smack around Heartless with Sora’s KH3 moveset; combos are now surprisingly floaty (Something I feel should be altered), with his ground combo actually rarely touching the ground, despite it being… You know… A ground combo. Summons (Or rather Links) now no longer provide you with invincibility, giving them more risk to counteract the greater versatility offered – In the demo, we were given access to Wreck-it-Ralph and a horde of Dream Eaters to Link with, with Wreck-it-Ralph freezing enemies in place with illuminated turret blocks before blasting them apart, and the horde of Dream Eaters initially beginning with Meow Wow’s stomp attack before rising into the air like a balloon, exploding into a mass of Dream Eaters that act like a wave of pure damage – Both of which were very nice to see, and especially with the Dream Eater horde, was a feast for the eyes and didn’t result in any noticeable slowdown from the targeted 60fps.
Magic now takes a greater role in battles, with magic attacks looking more beautiful than ever – Fire scorches the terrain around you, whilst Blizzard can leave a trail similar to Kingdom Hearts 0.2, and Thunder has been somewhat repurposed to allow you easier Finish commands to unleash when surrounded by enemies; Finish commands are earned a bit too easily in my opinion, and deal a bit too much damage, but this may be a result of the difficulty mode we played on. Toy Story looks, as many have noted, even better than the films the world is based off of, with Woody and Buzz both being rather helpful in combat and providing well-needed insight and commentary into the world of toys! I did notice some odd stillness when talking to characters outside of cutscenes, however this is something I assume will be addressed before release.
Moving away from Kingdom Hearts, our next objective was to reach the Spyro Reignited Trilogy – Scooting over to Sony’s booth, the queue times were surprisingly more relaxed, and even had a person in a Spyro fursuit running around to provide some excellent selfie opportunities! I do feel for the guy though… He must have been sweltering! Sitting down at the booth, Clarice was given a nice comfy armchair and I was given a whole sofa to stretch out on! The staff also didn’t mind if I put my feet up which was wicked! Spyro looks as amazing as ever, with the game looking like it’s trying to reach +30fps, with areas faithfully recreated from the original titles, new voice acting for all of the discoverable dragons, and general UI changes and updates; enemies are also as expressive as ever, with many of them having multiple unique ways to perish to Spyro’s flames, and, especially with water, the texture quality across the board was overall phenomenal. One element I wish was toggleable, however, is definitely the motion blur – It’s not too bad, but it certainly had a negative effect on my experience.
Shuffling onwards from Spyro, we then decided to navigate towards some of the indie titles on show – A lot of reoccuring titles from EGX Rezzed were here, alongside a number of new titles from different indie devs, however I did notice in the Leftfield Collection area, a lot of the indie games there seemed to be operating on literal strings alone, with crudely drawn advertisements for their games – It would have been nice if EGX had some sort of method to support these developers to get them the eye-popping displays they deserve… However I assume it’s part of the aesthetic?
Another large part of any event like this is the merch, and hoo boy was there merch in spades – Dozens upon dozens of stalls, all selling things from body pillows to engraved bullets, to gaming chairs, to… Heated gel packs for your back..? It was a bit odd… Saying this, we did manage to visit our friends over at Numskull, where we rather appropriately dropped £60 on merch alone… From that, we bought a Spyro Incense Burner and a set of Spyro Pins! Expect videos on both of these in the coming weeks… It was so good, in fact, that Luke sent us back with another £60 to drop on another Spyro Incense Burner, a few Destiny 2 cups, and some other smaller merch! From the smaller stands, we also nabbed Exploding Kittens NSFW Edition, so regardless to say we left the first day rather happy…!
As the second day dawned, we arrived again at EGX to dash straight off towards our second target. Super Smash Bros Ultimate. This one was the big hitter for the Nintendo fanboy inside of me, being able to face off in two matches against complete strangers, I was pleasantly surprised with the UI and graphical updates made to the game, alongside the rock-solid performance and handling of Ridley – I managed to even score a win, which was great for me being a total casual when it comes to Smash! From there, we then decided to wait in line for Super Mario Party, where we were given a set of 5 minigames to face off in… Saying this however, I don’t actually have much to say regarding Super Mario Party! If you’re in need of a seriously fun party title on your Nintendo Switch, or if you’re already a fan of Mario Party titles, trust me – This title has you covered.
Unfortunately, two of the larger stands at the event were near-inaccessible to us, being Metro Exodus and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, primarily due to the ridiculous queues for both titles – Both queues were over 3 hours long, meaning we would have had to have committed to a third day of dashing to the front of queues first thing in the morning… I can only feel for those who had to wait. One title, though, that we managed to access without any sort of serious queue (Despite it becoming absolutely packed soon after) was Starlink: Battle for Atlas – Yes, that one game with Star Fox in it! We managed to get our hands on the Nintendo Switch version of the game along with the parts and ships provided in the base versions (Including the infamous Arwing), and I’m pleased to report that the game exceeded my expectations – Given they were admittedly rather low, it was a pleasant surprise to get a feel for the great quality of these ships – The constructions fit onto the controllers via a special grip, and parts clip onto the ship’s base with a surprising amount of stability – So much so that I had to put in a bit more force than I would’ve liked to rip off one of the ship’s guns! The gameplay itself is fairly simple – Fly to A, do B, collect C, analyse D, beat E and call it a day; whilst I’m sure more variety is in the base game, it does show signs of repetitiveness possibly after a good few long sessions – The graphical aspect of the game as well, in Docked mode, was also somewhat lacking, with some muddy graphics and bad textures here and there… But for a game on the scale of Starlink, it’s more than excused.
Finally, one more area of interest at EGX was the PC Gaming area, with large amounts of support from Intel, Aorus, Corsair and Elgato – Example streaming decks and outlandish PC builds were displayed left, right and centre – Some with amazing watercooling setups, some in orbs, and some in completely custom cases! With the most expensive setup there being worth a whopping £15,000 it was a sight to behold for a PC gamer like myself! EGX was a sight to behold, no matter if you were a paying customer, press, or an employee at the event – With so many titles on offer and with so many exclusive previews to view, if you’re a gamer, casually or at heart, EGX is well worth your time – My only real gripes with the event have to do with it’s setup and arrangement for press, as I do feel that a press-only day would have allowed press to experience everything in the show, lessen queues for paying customers, and given stage employees that extra chance to ensure everything is in tip-top condition for the mass of people that attended.
All things considered, EGX 2018 was an amazing experience that I’m unlikely to forget for the next coming years; I give the event my own personal rating of: