From E3 2017: Highlights from Gambitious’ lineup

Devolver Digital may have its name on the parking lot it rents out each year, but it always ends up host to a variety of games and publishers. Gambitious Digital Entertainment was one of them, hosting a wide variety of games on the lot. Here’s what I saw:

Machiavillain
Like Aven Colony from earlier in the show, Machiavillain was a base-building game I did surprisingly well at despite having basically no experience with the genre. Inspired by the film Cabin in the Woods, Machiavillain sees you building a monster house in the woods with the goal of drawing in unsuspecting humans to feed your group of horrors.

The game begins by making you choose your initial group of monsters. You’re given a small pool of candidates to choose from, each with their own stats, strengths, and weaknesses. Once you’ve got your crew, it’s time to start building your house. First I had to gather stone and lumber, however, of which there was plenty. I set them all to work on gathering supplies, mining most of the surrounding rocks and trees for all they were worth before settling in to start construction.

As I was only just getting started, I couldn’t make anything particularly fancy. A small wooden cabin was the most I was able to produce given the small space available for me to build on. From there, the next step was to start sending out letters to draw people in. I was advised to pay attention to each of my monsters’ aptitude for the task when assigning who would be writing the letters. The more stars each unit has for each task, the more effective they are at performing it. The mummy I had turned out to be the most skilled in writing, so I set them up to handle that, while everyone else continued gathering resources and further building out the house.

The house constantly has to grow. Apart from allowing the house to be more deadly to any unsuspecting visitors, your monsters need bedrooms to rest in, kitchens to store and prepare food in, and so on. They need rest and nourishment just like anyone else, after all. Gotta treat them well if you want them to do their jobs. Really like that detail. It was difficult to start expanding the house because of how little room I had to expand, but I was able to establish a kitchen and bedroom easily enough.

By the time people started dropping by the house, I had just about everything I needed. All I had to do was sit and wait for them to head inside so I could strike. The game alerts you once people are coming so that you can have your monsters hide, though with only one person coming in at a time, it was always easy to take them down before they’d have any chance to even think of running.

The demo finished after racking up a few victims, but the developers quickly took a moment to show off a late-game house to see how complex things can get. Where I had a small, modest cabin, the file they showed me had a full-on mansion. All sorts of menial tasks had been automated, allowing them to focus on more pressing jobs; certain monsters even had entire rooms to their selves to confer additional bonuses. It was impressive to see, but staggering to think of all the work one would have to put in to build such a place.

It’s for that reason I usually avoid games like this, because from afar, they always seem like they throw you into the deep end of the sheer complexity of their systems right from the get-go. Machiavillain felt pretty easy to get the hang of, though, so maybe it’s just better about introducing inexperienced folk like myself or I’ve been wrong about these games on the whole.

Machiavillain is out on PC this fall.

Outreach
Outreach had my attention as soon as I learned it was a wander game, doubly so for it being set in space. Set in 1986, Outreach follows cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin what should have been a simple routine mission. Only when he arrives on the space station, the place is empty. Paper, cassette tapes, mugs, and so on float about each room, but there’s no one to be seen. Both Yuri and his operator back on Earth constantly express bewilderment at how empty the place is. Something’s off. A tape reveals there was some strife between crew members, but nothing that gave any indication as to where everyone went.

With no one around, Yuri’s told to continue on with the mission anyway. First thing was to photograph some plant samples they’d been growing on the station. Afterward, with no signs of anyone around still, he’s told to head to a different section of the station. To get there, however, he has to head outside and climb around to the other entrance.

Moving around feels tense in this section. Outreach tries to mimic actual movement in space by essentially making the character propel themselves off whatever’s around him, making him slowly move forward. Inside, you can stop yourself at any time to reorient yourself. Out in space, however, if you’re a touch off with your trajectory, you’re out of luck.

It wasn’t too difficult to get around, thankfully. All interactable objects are marked in orange, which makes spotting what points to jump to a breeze. But even then, it was hard not to be a bit on edge. Even when I was confident I was going to successfully make it to the next handhold, I couldn’t help but worry I hadn’t aimed correctly and was going to bounce off the station. Doubly so since I did make that mistake once. It’s further compounded by how slowly Yuri moves along each handhold. Makes mistakes feel that much more deflating given how long and involved the trek is. Once I reach my destination, the demo ends.

Outreach is out on PC sometime this year.

Milanoir
Milanoir is an isometric twin-stick action game. It follows Piero, a recently releases convict who’s looking to get back at the man who framed him. The game takes heavy inspiration from ‘70s crime movies, the developers said, the art and music definitely evoking that era.

The demo took me through a couple stages. The first was set in an apartment complex wherein I had to sneak my way toward Piero’s target. The stealth is rather rudimentary, with most guards not even noticing my presence before I knock ‘em out. Didn’t take long for things to pop off, though, the entire complex erupting into chaos as the target makes their escape.

Armed guards and knife-wielding thugs made up the majority of the opposition, each going down with a couple bullets. I’m just as fragile, however, unable to take more than a few hits before dying myself. I learned this the hard way due to making some mistakes while trying to hide behind cover. I thought I was safely crouched behind a crate, but my position didn’t line up quite right and I kept leaving myself open to enemy fire. I’m not sure if it was just a case of myself not paying enough attention or the game not making it clear enough when I was behind cover, but I didn’t run into any such problems during the rest of the demo, thankfully.

I eventually fight my way out of the complex. The level then transitions to a car chase sequence, both myself and the target exchanging fire on the road. All the while, other cars attempted to ram me off the road, requiring me to swap between targets to stay alive long enough to survive the battle. Where fighting through the apartment complex was relatively tame, this sequence was far more frantic. That’s especially true for co-op due to how much faster everything moves when you’re able to cut through enemy numbers so quickly.

Milanoir is out sometime this year on PC.

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