This year at E3, DualShockers had the chance to check out several upcoming titles from European publisher Focus Home Interactive. While many of these presentations were behind closed doors, we were able to get a great in depth look at the gameplay of six Focus Home Interactive titles currently in development.
All of these games look good in their own right, so we wanted to dive a bit deeper into each title they showed off to us so you’ll know what the on-the-rise French publisher has in store for the rest of 2018 and 2019.
The Surge 2
The Surge 2 was the first Focus Home Interactive title that I checked out at E3 this year. The Surge, which was touted as a sci-fi Souls-like, released in May of 2017. I enjoyed it quite a lot, even though it had its fair share of issues. From the early gameplay of The Surge 2 that I saw behind-closed-doors, I could tell that developer Deck13 has definitely taken feedback from the original into account in order to craft a title that is tighter, but more expansive than the original.
That being said, The Surge 2 does come with a few radical changes, like the addition of a character creator on top of the already deep augment customization. While the first game took place within an abandoned CREO facility, this title is changing things up by being set in a large urban center called Jericho City, which has been quarantined.
The demo I saw began with the playable character wandering in a forested area outside of Jericho City, looking to turn on a device that will repel a giant monster to a central location to fight. For the most part, The Surge 2 looks like an improved version of the original, with the risk-reward limb targeting system functioning largely the same. Several new weapons, drones, and abilities have been implemented, which should make the combat a lot less samey and even increase the speed of combat.
Goddess Helena, the boss fought in this demo, was also much more humanoid, fast and versatile than the bosses in the original. If this is a signal of things to come, The Surge 2 seems like it will be a more fast-paced adventure that will keep players on their toes. This, in addition to the more colorful environments, character customization, and improved AI makes me fairly certain that The Surge 2 will deliver more of that sweet sci-fi Souls-like action.
I was very intrigued by GreedFall when it was first revealed over a year ago, so I was pleased to finally see the game in action at E3. While Spiders’ games have been mixed bags in the past, I could tell that a ton of passion and creativity was always put into them. From what I saw of GreedFall, I saw that Spiders is really leaning into its unique “historical” fantasy world building and extremely deep RPG elements so the game can become the studio’s magnum opus.
The short demo I saw gave me a good taste of everything GreedFall will have to offer: deep political dialogue, open-world exploration, a large skill tree, and varied combat. The game’s style is clearly inspired by Baroque art, and its 17th-century setting revolving around colonialism is not one often explored by games. The game’s story also has a very diplomatic feel to it due to the dialogue-heavy set up and the fact that players will eventually have to side with one of five factions.
Each faction also offers up one companion character for players, with story scenes and other world events playing out differently depending on who you are playing with. After the political talks at the beginning of my demo, the characters set out, giving me a glimpse of the game’s beautiful looking open world. There are several ways any situation can be handled. Most conflicts can be resolved with either diplomacy or stealth, but the developers opted to show combat and the game’s deep RPG elements during this demo.
Combat functions similarly to RPGs like Vampyr, but players have a wide variety of weapons and skills to choose from in order to craft a unique playstyle. There are over 14 weapon types and 100 skills in the game’s skill tree, so GreedFall seems like it will offer tons of player choice and customization on a level not seen in Spiders’ previous games. Then are tons of fantasy elements and creatures spliced in along the way as well, which should add some interesting flair to both GreedFall’s world and combat.
It can sometimes be tough to get a great feeling for what an RPG can offer from an admittedly short 30-minute demo, but what I’ve seen of GreedFall leaves me highly optimistic. Its setting is both intriguing and original, its RPG elements look deep and engaging, and the game overall seems to look a bit more polished than Spiders’ previous outings. While this developer has been hit or miss in the pass, I could see GreedFall becoming a huge hit for Focus Home Interactive if everything lines up.
Call of Cthulhu
While I am usually not a huge fan of horror games, I was captivated by what I saw of Call of Cthulhu at E3. By focusing more on psychological horror and investigative RPG gameplay from its pen-and-paper roots, Call of Cthulhu seems like it will draw in people like me who aren’t as into the genre and expose us to the deep and disturbing Lovecraftian mythos.
Call of Cthulhu follows the story of Edward Pierce, an investigator looking into the recent deaths of the Hawkins family, notable people on the quaint Darkwater Island, eventually finding something much more horrifying. The gameplay demo I saw had Edward and a fellow officer exploring a decrepit mansion that had ravaged by a fire. When scrutinizing a certain area, players can uncover and see past events, though these visions will supposedly become more and more corrupted as Edward’s sanity wanes.
Other RPG elements have also made their way into Call of Cthulhu. There are multiple dialogue choices in each encounter that can lead to different situation and eventually different endings. Additionally, there are certain skills players can improve during the course of the game that will open up new things to do in the environment or help spot new items. Towards the end of my demo, Edward was able to use a crowbar spotted due to his increased skills in order to unlock a secret passage that would normally be gated behind a puzzle.
While neither developer Cyanide nor publisher Focus Home Interactive have really dipped their toes in horror before, Call of Cthulhu is poised to be a solid first outing. The interesting premise and RPG elements have hooked me, someone who doesn’t usually try out horror games, so I’m fairly confident it will do the same for others.
While this Fall is extremely crowded with new releases, Call of Cthulhu’s thick and eerie atmosphere and RPG mechanics should keep the game on the radar for both fans of Lovecraft and those who have never dabbled in the occult before.
Farming Simulator 19
(Written by Micheal Ruiz) Focus Home Interactive and Giants Software have found an odd amount of success with the Farming Simulator franchise. Who would have thought that Farming Simulator 17 would garner a million players in its first month? Giants Software is attempting to capture that same magic with the next iteration, Farming Simulator 19, with new features and implementations that players will enjoy.
The most noticeable addition is its overhauled graphics engine. When we were shown the comparisons between the last iteration and Farming Simulator 19, the differences were very apparent. Where the previous games have been pretty flat, the graphics in the upcoming sim are vastly improved with better shadows and textures that give the game a more realistic look. Just from that, Farming Simulator 19 is a bit more appealing.
When speaking with the developers, something they pointed out was the wildlife you may encounter during your farming career. While they don’t affect your crops, they do provide a bit of realism to the game. When I asked if animals like birds would affect your cultivation process in any sort of way, they explained that while that is the realistic thing to do, it isn’t fun to have to do a ton of micromanaging.
Farming Simulator 19 looks to be a pretty big leap for those who have been playing since the beginning and also has some appeal for those who would be new to the franchise.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
A Plague Tale: Innocence from Asobo Studios is a much quieter and more claustrophobic feeling adventure than the rest of Focus Home Interactive’s E3 2018 lineup, but it was also the title from them that stood out the most to me. If the story and fire based puzzles can work in tandem as well throughout the whole game as they did in this demo, there is both a captivating and emotional experience in store for players with A Plague Tale: Innocence.
The game follows a girl named Amicia and her younger brother Hugo as they try to survive the plague and the Inquisition during the middle ages. Rats are your worst nightmare in A Plague Tale: Innocence, and are the biggest obstacle players will have to overcome. At the beginning of the hands-off gameplay demo, Hugo was sick, but still enjoying himself as they followed an aqueduct with another orphan.
Unfortunately, things became much grimmer when the trio came upon a giant field of dead bodies, riddled with thousands of rats and soldiers from the Inquisition. If you try stepping in this sea of corpses without fire or a good source of light, the hordes of rats will quickly devour you. Tons of rats are present on screen at all times, and the game never struggled to keep up with it during the demo, which is an impressive technical feat.
Most of the puzzles and encounters were fire based as well, whether it consisted of setting an object on fire to open a pathway, or smoldering an enemy’s light source so they would be eaten by rats and would not catch the runaway orphans. Sadly, these tactics hurt innocents too, a man begging for his life was mauled to death by rats when I scared them away with flame towards him in order to survive.
The chapter of A Plague Tale: Innocence I experienced at E3 was enthralling, emotional, and kept me on the edge of my seat as I worried for the lives of these orphans in a cruel world. Hopefully, the game can keep this level of tension throughout its runtime upon release and not have that be overshadowed by any supernatural elements, which seem to be teeming under the surface.
A Plague Tale: Innocence was the most memorable title I saw from Focus Home Interactive at E3, and I can’t wait to see more of this game before its release next year.
Necromunda: Underhive Wars
While turn-based strategy game Necromunda: Underhive Wars is still looks like in the early stages of development, what I saw looked like a vastly improved version of Mordheim: City of the Damned, and has the potential to become a standout strategy game upon its release, mixing both real-time and turn-based mechanics in a grimy but interesting world based on a Warhammer tabletop game not yet explored in video games.
During my time with the game, two of its developers walked me through Necromunda; Underhive Wars’ multiplayer. Before the match, each player chooses a gang, and can customize each character with special armor, equipment, and weapons before jumping into a match and placing your soldiers around the map. Fitting in with the game’s world, which is made up of several large man-made towers, the maps is Necromunda: Underhive Wars have a ton of verticality to them.
Once you get in a battle, the match plays out similarly to Mordheim: City of the Damned, though developer Rogue Factor has worked on speeding up the game flow. Players can move characters independently, traversing the environment and setting up traps as long as they have action points to pull from. You can also fire upon enemies; if two player-controlled characters run into each other, things play out in a more traditional tactical turn-based style.
The vertical environments allow for quick ambushes and escapes, and the real-time elements help this strategy game stand out from the juggernauts in the genre. Necromunda: Underhive Wars also employs a fair bit of dice rolling and other tabletop actions, which one can see played out in a combat log during in battle.
Necromunda: Underhive Wars looks like a much more refined version of Mordheim: City of the Damned set in the Warhammer universe, so fans of that series and strategy game enthusiasts looking for a unique take on the genre should definitely keep an eye on this game.