Zoe and Kian return in a long-awaited sequel, Sherlock Holmes returns to solve more crimes, and a game full of shadows that's set in the 1920s
June 23, 2013
The story so far: The dual themes of this year’s E3 coverage are Shadows and Special Powers. Today’s games reflect those two themes as well!The Return of Zoe in Dreamfall: ChaptersI was delighted to catch up with our old friend Ragnar Tǿrnquist. The prolific and prodigiously capable Ragnar has used his Special Powers to help create such games as Anarchy Online, The Secret World, and of course The Longest Journey and its sequel Dreamfall. Last fall, Ragnar left his long-time studio, FunCom, to found Red Thread games. Why? To help all of us return to the worlds of The Longest Journey, of course. Yes, one of our favorite series ever is coming out of the shadows at last! To launch the new game, a Kickstarter campaign was held. It was massively successful, almost doubling its goal of $850,000. The new game, called Dreamfall Chapters, will be co-written by Dag Scheve, who co-wrote Dreamfall. Many of the original voice actors will be returning, including (I was so happy to hear) Roger Raines as Crow.Ragnar promises that Chapters will wrap up Zoe’s story as well as some of the other dangling threads from the last game. The format of the game will be in full 3D, but will still be point-and-click.Zoe and Kian will be playable characters.The game will take place on Stark, Arcadia, plus a third realm, The World of Dreams.He hopes for release around November 2014 on PC, Mac, Linux and PERHAPS on consoles.Of course we’ll be following this one closely!Switching FocusFocus Home Interactive was showing two games at the show that intrigued me. Sherlock Returns!Frogwares has been creating a very successful series of six Sherlock Holmes mysteries for years. Its most recent title, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, pushed the limits of the point-and-click format and was lauded by critics and players.The creative team is attempting to build on the success of Testament by pushing the envelope even further with their upcoming title, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.For the first time in the series, Frogwares is abandoning its own house-built game engine. For this game they licensed the legendary Unreal engine, and the visual results are sumptuous. Imagine Victorian London recreated with all the power a first-class 3D engine has to offer!The game consists of eight cases, and the overall mission statement the game creators are working with is this: They want the player to become Sherlock Holmes.The demo I saw involved The Cast of Black Peter, which is based on a canonical Sherlock Holmes novel. You (and by “you,” I mean Sherlock) have to discover who murdered the title character, who had been pinned to a wall with a whale harpoon.This time around, Sherlock has a Special Power: “Sherlock Vision.” When using it he can, quite literally, see things that others cannot.Throughout each case you will examine crime scenes, search for clues, analyze evidence, interrogate witnesses and suspects, and come to conclusions. Each case will have three to five possible solutions, with additional moral choices that Sherlock must make. By the end of the story, the eight cases will have some kind of connection.The game should be available by Q1 2014 for PC, XBox, and PS3.One last thing, as a special bonus observation from your most shallow of correspondents: I can report that the Sherlock in this game is perhaps the most ruggedly handsome Sherlock I’ve ever seen.Contrast: Eerie and BeautifulFocus is also working with a very small studio (eight people) in Montreal called Compulsion Games. The team is quite experienced, but Contrast is their first title as a studio.Contrast is a gorgeous game set in the 1920s in a “semi-European” city. Its style is heavily influenced by film noir, Art Deco, and German Expressionism. In other words, it’s seriously yummy visually.The story-driven game is about a troubled little nine-year old girl named Didi. But you don’t play as Didi. Nope, you play as her imaginary friend. This game is heavily marked by this week’s dual themes of Shadows and Special Powers. Dawn, Didi’s imaginary friend, is a beautiful young woman who doesn’t let the fact that she’s not actually real get her down. This is largely because she has the ability to help Didi solve problems.Didi’s special power is that she can actually turn into a shadow. It’s a very cool mechanic: To make it work, you simply have to get Didi into a spot where she’s brightly lit, then press a button, and presto! She’s a two-dimensional shadow. This is a vital Special Power, because as a shadow, she can explore the world in two dimensions. Let’s say Dawn needs to get up to a high balcony, but there’s no actual way to reach it. If there’s a shadow on the wall leading up to the balcony, she can turn into shadow and run up the shadow!What this means is that Contrast is an adventure puzzle platformer. Sam Abbott, Compulsion’s PR and Community Manager, told me that the game was inspired by Portal. I hasten to add, though, that the game is most definitely NOT a “Portal Clone.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with a game being a Portal Clone; there have been several worthy titles that could be described as that.)Story-wise, it’s clear that poor little Didi has some big problems. She seems all alone in the world. She’s not an orphan exactly, but her mother (a sexy cabaret singer) and her father (a musician), like all other people in the game other than Dawn and Didi, only appear as shadows. I assume this mysterious truth will be explained by the game’s end. But in the meantime, like Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth, Didi is a tough little girl who uses her imagination to help her survive difficult circumstances.I got to play a few minutes of the game, and it’s one of those hybrids that I really think will appeal to adventure lovers of all stripes. The game should ship by the end of the year for PC, XBox, PS3 and PS4. The expected price point will be about $15! But Wait.. There’s more!I have lots more to tell you about in upcoming installments of my 2013 E3 Report! Stay tuned!