Gamescom, the European cousin to E3, was in full swing this past week.

After being spoilt with an amazing E3, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Gamescom, especially with the Sony conference noticeably absent this year (as it will likely use the Playstation experience later this year to make announcements). Although I did miss Sony’s presence, Microsoft quickly made up for this with some great announcements and gameplay trailers from their upcoming releases. Not only did Microsoft wow us with a great conference, we also got to see some really good indie games from the show floor. With Gamescom 2015 coming to an end, I gathered my thoughts on what I found most exciting.

1. EITR. The pixelated love child of Diablo and Dark souls.

EITR is what would happen if the developers of Diablo and Dark Souls got together and decided to develop a new game. The game is an isometric hack ‘n slash game with a similar feel to Diablo, but with the deep fighting mechanics (and deadly boss battles) for which the Dark Souls series is known for. Not only does EITR combine aspects of two of the best games in recent years, but it does so using gorgeous pixel graphics.

Unlike most Hack ‘n Slash games, the developers for EITR decided to implement a “favour” system instead of your stock standard levelling up. Favours drop in the same way as loot does. The difference is that favours are gifts from the gods and grant the Shield Maiden – the main protagonist of the game – passive bonuses while in her possession. These favours have a chance to be destroyed should she be killed. Players can alternatively consume these favours for lesser, permanent gains in the form of level increases. The players continually have to weigh up the risks when deciding how to use these favours.

Combat is fluent and strategic. The Shield Maiden is able to effortlessly switch from slashing with her sword, blocking an incoming blow and then firing an arrow into her opponent. She can be equipped with a weapon in each hand, a weapon and a shield or her bow. Changing weapons on the fly is crucial in EITR as battles are intense and require making quick and effective decisions in order to beat your opponents. Equipment will make use of gems which will allow the Shield Maiden to imbue her equipment with special abilities.

EITR looks set to be a very brutal, challenging and special game which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

2. Mafia III. Say hello to my little friend.

Pinstripes and wing-tipped shoes have always been the hallmark of the Mafia series of games, this is about to change in Mafia III and I couldn’t be more excited.

Mafia III takes place in the deep south of New Orleans 1968. With the Vietnam War in full swing, protest and violent racism a part of everyday life, this was a time of civil unrest and hate towards your fellow man. It is against this backdrop that we are introduced to Lincoln Clay, the new protagonist in Mafia III.

Lincoln is half black and half white, grew up an orphan and is constantly looking for a “family” to be part of. After returning from the war, Lincoln finds this “family” that he so longed for in the “Black mob”. The dream of a new family is quickly shattered after Lincoln finds them murdered by the Italian mob. He decides to take revenge by wiping them out thus leaving a power vacuum in New Orleans, one he tends to fill with his own new family. This new family consists out of lieutenants that Lincoln can recruit to his cause they are; Cassandra and her Haitian gang, Burke and his Irish and Vito Scaletta (the protagonist of Mafia II) leader of the new Italian mob. Each of these lieutenants will grant Lincoln special abilities, as long as they are looked after and share in your ever growing empire. Should this not be the case, they will not hesitate to stab you in the back.

Not only do I love the era which they chose for Mafia III, the raw nature of the backdrop could make for a very intriguing and interesting tale. This is one game I will definitely keep an eye on.

3. Halo Wars 2. Two great developers join forces.

It was announced at Gamescom that Halo Wars (the troubled, but generally beloved), real-time strategy game set in the Halo universe would be getting a sequel in 2016.

Not much was shown except for a short announcement trailer. What has gotten me excited for Halo Wars 2 is that Creative Assembly, known for their great Total War series of games will be developing the game alongside Halo developer 343 Industries.

Between the great story telling that 343 Industries are known for and the real-time strategy experience of Creative Assembly, there is no doubt that Halo Wars 2 is in good hands.

4. Scalebound. Dragons + Awesome music = One amazing looking game.

It has been a while since we have heard anything about developer Platinum games Xbox One exclusive Scalebound. There wasn’t a lot of information available on what exactly Scalebound was, that is until we were treated to a gameplay trailer at Gamescom.

Scalebound is an action RPG and follows the two protagonists; Drew, a mortal 20 something human who would not look out of place in our modern world and his ally Thuban, a huge dragon (yes you read right a dragon!). The two of them are inexplicably bound together (if Thuban dies so does Drew). This bond is indicated by the scales that cover one of Drew’s arms. While the relationship between the two is a pivotal part of the story, it is also the basis for the multiple game mechanics. As Drew and Thuban grow to understand each other, more complex interactions (on both traversal and combat) will open up to them. The best part, you will eventually be able to ride Thuban.

Being a 20 something, Drew obvious always carries his headphones with him. During the gameplay trailer, Drew switched on his earphones right as he was about to enter a battle. The fluent, quick-paced combat paired with the frenzied beat of The Prodigy’s “Wild Frontier” blasting through his headphones just felt right. It seems that music will be a welcome part of battles. The combat looked great, as is always the case with Platinum games developed titles.

Drew is able to give Thuban directions and orders; however he is also able to act independently. Even though Thuban is a formidable fighter, Drew also has some tricks up his sleeve. Drew can use his scale-covered arm to “scan” opponents for more information on them. He is also able to use his arm to unleash energy attacks from far, and even heal Thuban with that same energy. Players are also able to upgrade Thuban in appearance and abilities; this allows them to customize him to their gameplay style.

Scalebound is shaping up to be a great exclusive for The Xbox One, and one that might convince gamers who have not yet purchased the console to get hold of one.

5. Star Wars: Battlefront’s Fighter squadron mode. Large-scale dogfights.

We knew we would see more of Star Wars: Battlefront, what we saw of the new Fighter squadron mode just made me look even more forward to its release.

Fighter squadron mode asks the age old question, would you fly a Tie fighter or an X-Wing (the correct answer is always X-Wing). The mode pits players against each other in 20- player dogfights. These dogfights are comprised out of both human and bot pilots. This, of course, makes for chaotic fights as laser fire and missiles fill the skies.

The gameplay trailer showed one of these chaotic dogfights taking place in the skies above Sullust- a barren planet with pools of lava flowing over its surface. Rebels are tasked with destroying an imperial shuttle before it escapes while the Imperials need to defend the shuttle ensuring its escape. The trailer showed the player taking control of X-Wings, TIE fighters, A-Wings and TIE interceptors, each ship handles different and even have different load outs. The larger X-Wings are equipped with laser cannons, homing proton torpedoes and a shield, while the more nimble TIE fighters are equipped with laser cannons, homing missiles, but not shields. Lacking the shield of the X-wing the TIE fighters have a boost ability to quickly speed out of trouble. Players are able to divert power from their boosters (increasing speed) to weapons (allowing laser cannons to fire longer) on the fly. Finding the balance and knowing when to divert power where is critical in surviving the chaos.

I also need to mention that the game looks and sounds amazing. From the – true to the movies -laser effects to the familiar screech as TIE fighter pass you, the game just feels like you are playing in the movie universe. The best part of the trailer was the Millennium Falcon power up, that allows players to pilot the Falcon for a short time. While watching the trailer the kid in me just couldn’t stop from getting excited. Each time a new trailer or information is released about Star Wars: Battlefront my hype for the game just increases.

Gamers might have wanted a new X-Wing vs. TIE fighter game, but the new Fighter squadron mode is the next best thing.

I was surprised to see Microsoft making great use of the fact that Sony decided to skip this year’s conference. Everything they had announced had me excited. A large amount of good indie games on the show floor just cemented my option that indie games are keeping the industry alive, as good AAA titles taking longer to release. Although some might see Gamescom as a lesser E3, I really think that this year proved once again that Gamescom can be just as good.

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