Popping the EGX cherry! – 2018

Or it’s less catchy title, “How the hell did you get to 34, finish a degree in Games Computing and never go to a gaming convention when you’ve been to so many anime ones?”.

I’ve attended plenty of MCM/ComicCon events and a few collectormania or smaller style geekfests but never a show specifically for video games. Now I’ve a site and business cards of my very own (fancy one? pop to the Contact page and let me know!) Could I step out of the shell and play some exclusives at the same time? Will I end up just silent or tripping over words constantly? Read on!

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Always make sure you pack the essential car supplies!

The NEC is both super easy to navigate and a bugger to drive around. Don’t rely on your Sat Nav when you reach the centre location, if you try to get to McDonalds that’s nearby you’ll find occasionally roads closed. Following the signs worked out and better and after a quick bag check we’re in! A big queue and a big screen. This sets the standard for the show for me I think but a damn site more interesting than most queuing.

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Oh we don’t enter through that side of the area. The walls have parted and we’re let in!

Nintendo has a huge screen and already we’re informed the queue for Let’s Go Pokemon Eevee and Pikachu is 2hrs 30mins at the very least. A disappointed person behind us asks a rep if this is the same setup as yesterday and he admits the demo is even longer so the queue is probably going to be worse. Today it’s apparently due to the game being a 20min demo rather than 10. Ok then, I had mentally prepared for queuing and we seem to be in a good spot to see the Nintendo stage anyways. We had a list of games to play today and this was at the top. I’ve been waiting daily for the bundle to appear on the Nintendo site since it was announced so let’s go see if the game is worth it.

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When you’ve numerous huge speakers around you, every smash sounds amazing

I’m British so queuing is in my nature. Turns out isn’t too bad actually as we can see a massive screen and watch some people be pulled up on stage to play Smash Ultimate (previously on the list but another 2hour queue scrubbed that fast) It looks amazing, a port of the WiiU gem but with added polish and a few extras. One simple but ridiculously cool touch is that before each round the black screen lights up with the fighters eyes and then the loading screen of who’s who. The longer we queue the more it dawns on me how awesome it is to see how diverse this place is. Nintendo has always attracted all sorts of players fitting to the family focus first and expanding out but this was so amazing. We were queuing with some furries infront (tails and head petting) while a parent behind us was busy explained to her kid that queuing later to play Fortnite was stupid. The winner of the Smash game got a nice metal trophy and goodies! Kudos Nintendo!

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Also the Chikorita event happened in the queue and yep…30 and no shiny for me *sad violin*

The queue just never ends but thankfully Nintendo’s stage crew put on one hell of a show. “Old is gold”, I agree Mr Showman! How they successfully showed Fortnite being played by 4 players and not sound and look boring is beyond me. Mario Party got a look in though and that’s been on my list since I found out they were dropping the stupid “everyone moves at once” mechanic. It looks like a return to form through and through. Single players independently taking turns, dice rolls, strategy, racing to stars and lots of mini-games. All of this while looking amazing. I’ve gotta say I’m looking forward to it! Which is good as this line is sloooooow. While queueing we could look around and I did get a good look at Total War Three Kingdoms while queuing and well… that’s a Total War game. Looks like Total War and that’s great. I’ll admit it’s just not my cuppa tea so I watch the battles and can enjoy the spectacle but that’s about it. The last one I enjoyed was Shogun 1 and I switched to Civ and never looked back. Still this game looks fantastic and I know one person who will want a new PC to run it.

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Too early for WAR for me!

The queue stretches on and we see a custom PC stand with some fantastically bizarre custom PC builds and simply stunning Hellblade cosplay. The longer we queue the more it dawns there are actually a lot of amazing cosplayers here! Batman nemesis Penguin looked particularly amazing, the Predators are terrifying and Darth Maul was epic!

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The clickers in the backpacks made them genuinely unsettling to be around (in a good way)

LET’S GO! First things first, I get handed the dreaded ball controller which you hold in one hand, has an analogue stick that you click in for an A button and a hidden B button on the top. There’s a wrist band but also a hoop you put your middle finger through to stop you losing it or throwing it into the screen. At the start I find I’m accidentally tapping B a few times but something magical occurs shortly after, it quickly feels amazingly natural to play Pokemon like this. It’s super easy to move around with the stick and clicking it to read signs or interact is a doddle. You can even curve throwing the Pokeballs to attempt a better catch but I’m not sure how easy it is as i couldn’t catch anything with that technique. You level up your party Pokemon by catching in a similar way to Go which makes sense as the random encounters are only catchable rather than grinding. There are trainer battles though which are great and feel very much like classic Pokemon Stadium. The walking around seeing wild Pokemon (no random encounters) in a Tales of style IS BRILLIANT.  The game over all is very nostalgic and yet polished in a modern way. Was it worth queuing 2.5hrs? I’m not sure it was, however did I spend the rest of the week and even now feeling an itch to play more of it? yes. Yes and oh yes.

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I’d best not fill this page with Let’s Go pictures but sufficed to say. It’s amazing.

FREEDOM TO WALK AGAIN! We’ve missed out on some stuff but the ‘happy hour’ times are now so let’s get some merch from Insert Coin. Oh all the lucky bags are just XS or S. Nevermind it pays to come on a Thursday I suppose. Well we should get some official EGX merch and wait… IS THAT HOTLINE MIAMI BOX SET FOR £5!? I’ve wanted that since LGR showed his copy off ages ago! oh and £2 for a bag to put it in, ok still that’s a souvenir for someone. The more we walk around the more I notice a strange obsession with selling socks as merch everywhere. Still that being said there is so much I could buy here. Especially the official Bethesda and Blizzard stuff. I talk Alex into buying himself a T-shirt and feel I’ve shopped enough for myself in the process. We walk around to Bandai Namco and see Ace Combat 7. Time to get cameraman Alex to play something. It seems less like fast paced action and more like Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. While he had a go on this I turn around and take some time to watch Soul Caliber 6. Surprisingly it looks a lot less focused on ridiculous fanservice when in action than the footage previously showed (Which is a good thing by the way). A few posters and interesting Assassins Creed Odyssey swag lying around but onwards there are games to play!

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Quick stop at this brilliant charity to drop off the change jar’s contents!

Time to go check out Just Cause 4! I keep forgetting this is coming around soon and I’m super glad there’s a new one as 3 was such fun (check a review here). Another amazingly simple and brilliant fact of EGX, most of these stages have seating! In fact Just Cause 4 has some really cool seats. Odd thing to notice but hey your surrounded by pulsing lights, sounds and excitement it’s good to stop every now and then. So we take a moment to pause and wait, who’s that on stage, is that?! ITS ONLY SIMON MILLER! THE MILLER! Amazing. The day just improved 50 steps. The guy is a legend. I’ve still a “you don’t know the score, you don’t know the truth” t-shirt. He’s apologising about not having enough merchandise caps and is doing a great job of keeping people interested but my phone buzzes a reminder to get on with the To-Do list and off we go.

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There were plenty of amazing stands where the setup just looked brilliant alone!

Hello SEGA and no queues but people hanging around and playing games! Perfect. Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight & Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight look like Persona dancing games alright. I’ve yet to play Persona 5 and although Persona 3 had some good music it was Persona 4 that was the soundtrack I remember the most. Glad the games are being localised but Team Sonic is why I’m here. It’s a Sonic game so it’s a given but the racing games have been brilliant enough to be ported in part to Disney Infinity as well. A spot and a controller. Character select and this demo seems quite generous with choices but rather than Sonic let’s get some DARKNESS going! Nice to see Shadows car from his DARK game is here still. First impressions with the game aren’t great, there is a lot going on with this all at the same time. I imagine the team mechanics work well with multiplayer humans but with the AI I’m not so sure. It feels a lot like the first Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing rather than the brilliant Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. It just feels more a step backwards for me. Still there are lots of characters and plenty of zoom so maybe when I’m not sitting with my face close to the screen it will be more enjoyable.

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DARKNESS I AM DARKNESS! SPEED IS THE DARKEST DARKNESS!

The plan for games is paused and it’s time to find a spot against a wall to sit for some lunch (granted there were a lot of hot food and seating areas it’s just we brought ours) *PRO TIP FOR ANY EXPO – always bring a sandwich, water, pop and some ibuprofen. It’s at this point exhaustion sets in and sitting feels like bliss. We watch more cosplayers going past and some interesting Warhammer looking card game being played opposite. After this it’s time to go back to the EGX merch stand as Alex has decided he wants a Hotline Miami box set after all. Almost all sold out it seems “people are buying 5 at a time”, the saleswoman says while I think “at £50 on eBay each I wonder why”. We wait while a guy brings more out of storage and get a look at the Monster stage. Aside from scheduled “taster” timers they seem to be giving haircuts and either promoting Call of Duty Black Ops 4 or a nightclub? Alex now has his box we check the list and try to decide what to do now? The list brings us back into reality and it’s back to Nintendo.

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A lot of people playing a lot of Overwatch faster than I could keep up with

UNTITLED GOOSE GAME IS ON THE BIG SCREEN! There is something about this game that I absolutely adore like a fanatic. It could be seeing the developers discussing it at shows or the simple origins and expansion into a viral hit but it’s fantastic to see so many people cheering and going wild for this. There’s even a queue to play it on Switch (the only way to have a go at this show) which I’m ok with. We queue this time between 3 people discussing Call of Cthun D&D characters with a book and 2 guys with foam hands talking excitedly about anything they can see. Finally it’s time. It’s just the best. The game is just as it looks. Responsive, well made, a welcome break from bright bold colours to pastel calm, funny, quirky and I need this in my life. The rep seems convinced it’s getting a physical release and limited editions just from the fact the queue for it had to be worked out at the last-minute (they didn’t have a plan for one at setup). I’m obviously more sceptical but the take away from playing the game was that it’s amazing and should they release special editions I’d snap them up (still need that PAX merch dang it) It was also awesome that everyone walking away from playing the game seemed to leave a with sense of “oh that’s actually really good” about it. Me to, obviously.

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You know you have a winner when even the promo team are having a blast!

The more it starts to dawn on me. Actually the whole event is incredibly wholesome. We head over to the Fallout Vault setup and I soak in the atmosphere that everyone is here for fun times and good vibes. It’s so odd that even when you come away from a game you didn’t like that much nobody is overly negative. It’s so refreshing we decide its time for a pic with the Pipboy. I chose not to upload the image to the competition though as although it is lovely, age has taught me I have no room for a massive statue. Meeting the legendary Neil Gorton was a brilliant way to top off the fallout feels. We decide that as much as I knew I’d likely regret this we should have one quick trip to EGX Retro.

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“Comeback tomorrow Alex. I’ll be a while”

OMG I NEED ANOTHER DAY JUST FOR HERE. I think my second wind came to me and so much goodness on hand to play for free. Just delicious arcade machines, pinball machines, retro consoles, retro computers and IS THAT A SATURN WITH SONIC R OH YESSSSSSSSSSS! After a few “just a quick go” on a terrible Pacman port on Atari, the best game of Zool on Amiga and a longing glance at an Outrun arcade machine it was time to move on.

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“Honey I joined a cult” it already on Steam Early Access to!

I consult the list and realise we’ve still to see the tentacle sessions and my word I wish I was as talented as these developers! There were so many amazing brilliantly passionate ideas and games on show. No energy left to play any we simply walked around them enjoying the wonder and I know I was kicking myself for only booking a single day. As we made our way to PQube’s stand for games (Razed is defo on my list now in a big way) tiredness starts to strike harder and the realisation of a drive home dawns. It’s a shame we had to go but the knowledge there is multiple days worth of fun and games here tells me I need to come back with a vengeance next year!

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Watch out for this guy….

So yes EGX is amazing, you really need comfy shoes as the queueing is a challenge for the big games but I can see why people book all 4 days off for this. Some titles that were there definitely deserved it. Oh and on a personal note, I still suck at giving out business cards for this site. I managed about 3 people and talking in person is not one of my strengths. Regardless of my foibles, a big thank you to anyone who chatted to me, sorry if I seemed a bit of a nervous mess (I was) and if your on the fence for EGX just go next time. The atmosphere, the games, the people. It’s just so refreshing to be reminded, “GAMES AND PEOPLE IN GENERAL ARE GOOD”.

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Same again next year yeah?

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